European IT businesses are losing $3.5 billion a year through software piracy, claims the anti-piracy group Business Software Alliance (BSA). This figure makes Europe the region with the highest proportion of unauthorised software in the world.
The Alliance published the figures as it launched a stepped-up awareness campaign to combat the growing problem.
Global losses through illegal software use totalled $12 billion last year, estimates the BSA, with eastern Europe, particularly Russia and Bulgaria, identified as among the worst offenders.
The BSA's European managing director, Emilia Knight, said to a press conference yesterday: "The message is very clear. Pirates will be prosecuted." This message will be broadcast via a new advertising campaign to raise awareness of the issue throughout Europe. Other plans include intensified lobbying of governments to introduce tougher legislation to outlaw piracy.
European governments should listen, because piracy costs them a total of $2 billion in lost tax revenues, claimed BSA spokesperson Derek Gray, also European managing director of Adobe. And he quoted a recent study by management consultancy Price Waterhouse that estimated that almost 88,000 IT-related jobs could be created if piracy were stamped out.
According to BSA figures, about half of piracy is committed by consumers and corporate end users and 25 per cent by retailers loading unauthorised software on to their machines. The other quarter is made up of counterfeit packages and distribution of pirated code over the Internet.
The most difficult challenge, the BSA admitted, was to change consumers' perception that copying software is not a crime.
The Asia-Pacific region loses about $4 billion a year to piracy, while north America loses $3 billion.
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