Piracy stats flawed: open source proponent

A Canadian open source advocate has questioned the credibility of an industry’s group claim that reduced software piracy rates can improve the global economy.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) Wednesday released the results

of an international study conducted by research firm IDC that examined the issues around software copyright infringement. The partners said they correlated the economic impact that IT has on local economy with piracy rates reported by the BSA through its annual reports. In Canada, the results are published by the BSA’s local counterpart, the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft. Microsoft, Adobe and Apple Computer are all members of these groups.

According to the study, which examined 57 countries, reducing the piracy rate 10 per cent could add 1.5 million jobs, increase economic growth by US$400 billion and generate US$64 billion in new taxes. In Canada, the BSA study estimates that a 10 per cent drop in piracy rates could generate 16,000 high-tech jobs and US$8.3 billion in additional local industry revenues. CAAST’s most recent reports said 38 per cent of software bought in Canada has been illegally copied.

Russell McOrmond, an Ottawa-based Internet technical consultant with Flora Community Consulting and a proponent of the Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) movement in Canada, dismissed the BSA’s findings. He said the way CAAST and the BSA calculate piracy is fundamentally flawed because it relies on estimates of PC shipments by province, the amount of software required and then compares it against software shipment data from BSA member companies. Open source software isn’t accounted for.

“”This is no way to count from secondary sources the piracy rate,”” he said. “”If there was only one business model in the industry, then their numbers would make sense. But one of the things the BSA is, for obvious reasons, wanting to ignore is that there’s two competing industries within this sector.””

BSA president Robert Holleyman defended the association’s methodology, which is used by International Planning and Research (IPR) to conduct the software piracy reports on its behalf. Holleyman said members believe the results are actually conservative compared to the amount of piracy that actually goes on.

“”It does try to take into account the full array of application software being used, and the IPR researchers believe that that does take into account the existence of some open source applications,”” he said. “”That will increasingly be part of what we focus on, to make sure it captures that completely, but I believe it does for the most recent data.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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