The use of unlicensed software remains constant but costs UK economy £1 billion

Unlicensed software with a commercial value of £1 billion was installed across the UK last year.

A survey by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) found that from 2008 to 2009, installations of unlicensed software on personal computers in the UK remained at 27 per cent, giving the UK the sixth lowest piracy rate in the world.

The US had the lowest rate at 20 per cent and Georgia the highest at 95 per cent. According to analysts IDC, this is equivalent to the illegal use of £1 billion worth of software.

The survey also found that the global piracy rate increased from 41 to 43 per cent, largely due to fast growing, higher piracy markets in China, India and Brazil, as they increased their share of the overall software market. For every $100 worth of legitimate software sold in 2009, an additional $75 was stolen.

Michala Wardell, chair of the BSA UK Committee, said: “Although the UK has one of the lowest piracy rates in the world, 27 per cent is nothing to be proud of. £1 billion is an awful lot of money to lose in a recession, and ultimately this will have an impact on the software industry and the UK economy.

“This study makes it clear that industry and government's efforts to reduce software theft in the UK are of vital importance. As we emerge from the most severe global economic recession in 20 years, we will continue to engage with government, businesses and consumers about the risks of stealing software – and the true impact that software piracy has on the UK's economy.”

The US department of justice has also announced that federal agencies have seized 700 pieces of counterfeit Cisco hardware worth more than $143 million in the last five years. The investigations resulted in the conviction of 30 people in an initiative targeting the illegal distribution of counterfeit network hardware manufactured in China. Nine other individuals are awaiting trial and eight are awaiting sentencing.

Matt Fisher, director at FrontRange Solutions, said: "The fact that the annual piracy rate has not moved over the last year should be a cause for concern for organisations everywhere. During the recession, audit rates rose substantially and, despite signs of recovery, we fully expect this to continue rising in 2010.

"Both organisations and software vendors need to do more to lower this consistently high level of piracy. As organisations look to grow once more, they need to ensure they are fully compliant, as a resulting fine from an audit is the last thing they need in a still precarious economy. Software asset management vendors also need to be doing more to guarantee their products are not being used illegally. Only when both parties step up their efforts will we see improved growth in IT, and this figure finally starts to lower significantly."

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