More than one third of all American Internet users have downloaded commercial software online, yet have failed to pay for all the copies they have made, according to a survey released by the
Business Software Alliance
(BSA), an organization of which Apple is a member.
The Business Software Alliance is dedicated “to promoting a safe and legal online world.” Besides Apple, members include Adobe, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, Borland, CNC Software/Mastercam, Macromedia, Microsoft, Symantec and Unigraphics Solutions.
The BSA survey of 1,026 Internet users found that nearly half have downloaded commercial software at some time, and that 81 percent of them haven’t paid for all the copies they made. In fact, 57 percent of those who have downloaded software either seldom or never pay for the copyrighted works they download, according to the study conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. Twelve percent say they have committed software piracy.
The survey was conducted among a national cross-section of U.S. households in the Ipsos Internet panel, which is a nationally representative panel of 30,000 households across the United States. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.
“This is the first time we’ve identified end user attitudes about online theft,” Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of BSA, said in announcing the survey results. “And what we found is a disturbing behavioral trend that violates copyright laws and costs billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs every year.”
Though many may not realize they’re breaking the law, it’s clear that a large number of Internet users who download software make “situational” decisions about whether to pay for it or not, he said. When asked if they would consider downloading a commercial software program to save money — even if it might be an unlicensed or pirated version — almost half of them say it would depend on the circumstances.
Interestingly, the survey also showed that 95 percent of Internet users surveyed think software creators should be paid for their work. And 85 percent believe strong intellectual property protections are crucial for protecting the revenues companies depend on to fund research and development.
Still, Holleyman said the “alarming degree” of online consumer piracy points to the need for enhanced education and enforcement programs aimed at maintaining a safe and legal online world for both consumers and software creators. For this reason, BSA has deployed new tools such as MediaForce’s automated solution, which crawls the Web to detect infringing copies of BSA, said Bob Kruger, BSA vice president of enforcement .
The organization recently began using MediaForce’s MediaSentry system to patrol the Internet for unauthorized copies of software programs on peer-to-peer systems, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, Web sites, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites and newsgroups. In the three months since MediaSentry has been incorporated in BSA’s enforcement program, more than 8,500 notices have been sent to software infringers’ Internet service providers (ISPs). That’s 5,200 more notices than BSA sent in all of 2001.
What’s more, BSA has formally introduced the MediaSentry investigation system, which lets the organization expand and manage its investigative efforts more effectively by automating a large portion of its notification and compliance program, Kruger said. The system enhances BSA’s online investigations by “crawling” the Internet for infringing copies of BSA member software programs and providing BSA investigators with a comprehensive system for acting upon the results, he explained.
Kruger said that several factors contribute to the pervasiveness of software piracy online, including the growing number of Internet users, increases in bandwidth and transmission speed, the popularity of Internet auction sites, and the heightened sense of anonymity when consumers commit piracy at home. While people may understand that software developers depend on licensing fees to create their works, “they don’t appreciate how their own conduct undermines this creativity,” he added.
“We need to explain how their actions contribute to lost jobs and lost investment in new and innovative products,” Kruger said. “A big part of stopping piracy is correcting the misconceptions.”
BSA is boosting its education efforts aimed to enlighten users about software ethics and compliance, he said. The organization recently partnered with Weekly Reader to create an educational curriculum about piracy and safe software use for U.S. and Canadian elementary and middle school classrooms. Last year, BSA was also awarded a federal grant to raise public awareness about cyber crime, with particular emphasis on school-age children.