€4.4 million worth of illegal software was installed on personal computers in Malta last year, according to the BSA study. And the research suggests one reason may be that too few people understand the many ways of acquiring illegal software.
It is illegal, for example, to buy a single license for a software program and then install it on multiple computers in an enterprise. Yet, a surprising percentage of business decision-makers – 43 percent in developed economies – assume the practice is entirely permissible.
Yet, public opinion comes down firmly in favor of intellectual property rights, according to more than 15,000 PC users polled for the piracy study.
However, the surveys suggest many PC users are using unlicensed software without even knowing it. Beyond the example of buying a single license and then installing a program on multiple computers, more than one-third of PC users believe it is legal to download software from peer-to-peer networks (36 percent) or borrow software from a friend or co-worker (39 percent).
There is a clear need to address the underlying confusion about how to acquire legal software. In many cases, people want to do the right thing, but they are confused about how to get it done.
For the end user, there are clear risks to using illegal software — intentional or not — which can end up costing much more than legitimate software would have in the first place. These include exposure to malware, viruses and other problems that can compromise security, a lack of technical support, and the legal and reputational risks of violating copyright laws.
But the implications extend beyond the ramifications for the individual or business. Software theft undermines legitimate business activity for software-related distribution and service firms, and creates competitive imbalances as companies that use illegal software benefit from an undue cost advantage over those that abide by the law. And, as with any underground activity such as piracy, there are impacts on jobs, tax revenues, and spending that harm the broader economy.
Successful anti-piracy programs should, therefore, include a heavy focus on public education. Businesses and consumers alike must better understand the most reliable channels for acquiring legal software and the consequences of using software without a license. The implementation of software asset management practices is also a valuable way to assist businesses with managing their software purchases, utilization, and maintenance, and something that government, industry, and businesses in Malta can all help to promote.
However, some progress on addressing software piracy has been made in Malta in recent years. The BSA reported a drop of two points in software piracy (from 45 percent in 2009) meaning that the current rate now stands at 43%. What’s more, BSA’s presence in Malta has become more apparent and effective over the last year with prominent media coverage of the campaign and its communication letters to companies and businesses to raise awareness of the risks involved in using unlicensed or pirated software and with requests for a software compliance declaration. This has also proven very effective and a number of legalization agreements have been reached with companies, from different industry sectors, which have legalized any shortfall they had in their computer software licenses. As a result, a substantial number of enquiries are now received regarding software licensing, together with requests for assistance in the compilation of in-house software audits and reports.
Nevertheless, Malta still has to deal with a piracy rate of 43 percent which is 8 percent above the rate of the European Union. As such, there is still much more to be done in order to reduce software piracy and realize the long-term economic benefits of a vibrant software and IT sector.