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Software The Almighty Buck

BSA Creates Piracy Statistics 675

JakiChan writes "According to this story on Yahoo! news the BSA commissioned a study that decided that 39% of all business software is pirated, down from 40%. The decline is attributed to the BSA's enforcement techniques. 'The piracy rate was calculated by comparing the researchers' estimates on demand with data on actual software sales.'" In other words, some guys sat in a room and decided that people probably wanted to buy ten copies of software, but only five were sold, so the piracy rate must therefore be 50%. By a similar process we can calculate that 99% of all ocean-front homes are pirated.
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BSA Creates Piracy Statistics

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  • by da3dAlus ( 20553 ) <dustin.grau@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:11AM (#6114547) Homepage Journal
    79% of all statistics are made up on the spot. My math professor always said so, so it must be true.
    • Oh, you can use statistics to prove anything that is even remotely true...
    • by McWilde ( 643703 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:20AM (#6114662) Homepage
      Wow! That's up 13% from last year.
      • by fredrikj ( 629833 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:56AM (#6115022) Homepage
        I see you're trying to increase it further, so I'll counter with some true statistics to bring the number down:

        2/3 of the human body consists of water
        17% of the sides on regular dice are two-eyed
        0% of all prime numbers are even (tricky)

        And finally...
        25% of all statistics provided in this post are false
        • by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:06AM (#6115122)
          The human body is 50 - 65% water depending on age and weight. Children's bodies can be as much as 75%. 2/3 = 66.6666666%, so this statistic is incorrect.

          Regular dice have six sides with one through six spots. That means that each regular die (singular for dice) has one side with 2 spots, which is 1 out of 6, or 1/6 or 16.66666666% - not 17% - you were close, but incorrect.

          That's two of the four statistics which works out to 50%, which means your final statistic is also incorrect (it's not 25% of your 'factual' statistics are incorrect) which means that in reality 75% of your statistics are incorrect.

          Thanks for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts for you.
    • by imtheguru ( 625011 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:54AM (#6115014)
      Any statistic not accompanied by a margin of error is worthless, my math professor always said.

      The last US presidential exit polls said the same thing.
    • by The Spoonman ( 634311 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @12:21PM (#6116454) Homepage

      They have to, since they don't actually go after larger businesses, only the tiny, five-or-six-person mom and pop shops.

      When I was unfairly let go from my previous employer, I decided to hit 'em hard by contacting the BSA. As I was the Network Manager, I could tell them about pretty much every piece of pirated software, and I did. I went to the BSA site and filled out a report documenting hundreds of missing licenses for MS Office, MS Exchange, a number of Adobe products, and a few from Macromedia (all of their big vendor companies). I even documented how Lotus SmartSuite is installed on about 300 computers, yet we only had 4 legal copies, not to mention all the small shareware-type shit (like SnagIt and WinZip) that was installed on almost every PC without one legal license in the place.

      I documented the "plan" we had in case of audit...it seems you can refuse them entry the first time they drop by for a visit, but they come back later that day with sherrifs and a warrant to force the issue. More than enough time for use to ghost a pirated-clean image on all the machines (using a pirated copy of ghost, of course). We even went to the trouble to compile a list of every machine that had pirated software so we could quicly decide which ones would need ghosting first.

      Finally, I documented the little utility one of the members of the IT staff was forced to write ("it's written, or you're out of a job") to bypass the licensing restrictions of MS Terminal Services. I even gave them a link to the company's website where they could download it (it was up there so the salesmen could get it at home).

      And, what happened? Nothing. For three months I called every week to see what the status was, and was told each time that there was nothing new to report. It was in the hands of the member companies. Finally, I was told that one of the member companies had decided not to pursue.

      When I asked why, I was told they didn't have a reason, but it could be because: "the member company may already be investigating or negotiating with the company, the company may have some kind of site license, or the member company may have some other kind of relationship with the company in question." None of these were the case (I still have contacts in the IT department).

      No, the truth is, the BSA simply can't walk into a large company and tell 500 people to get off their machines for a day while they're audited. It's logistically impossible. So, they advertise lots and lots of threats, send out "truce" notices, and make a lot of people worry about nothing.

  • by zptdooda ( 28851 ) <{deanpjm} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:11AM (#6114559) Journal
    "And for software, because every PC is a software copying machine, since inception we have had a problem."

    He has a point, but it must be strange looking around and having a paradigm of fear/distrust spin on what he sees.

    Reminds me of this saying "If a pickpocket meets a saint, he sees only his pockets".

    The other subjective view is where they attribute the reported 1% decline to their own efforts. Sounds more like either statistical fluctuation or just a noisy unstable way of measuring year to year.

    • Not only with that statement, but the very means they use to 'calcuate' the piracy rate. They're assuming a 39% piracy rate basically because 39% of people who demand (stated that they want to or will buy or who actually buy) software didn't buy a copy. They're assuming that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE is a pirate.

      There's lots of stuff I want that I don't buy. For instance, I really, really want a decked-out 2 processor G4 Macintosh with all the goodies, 4 GB of RAM and 300 GB of Hard Drive space. But I haven't bought one. By their logic, I'm PIRATING that Macintosh right now. ;)

      • by zptdooda ( 28851 ) <{deanpjm} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:33AM (#6115425) Journal
        Woah - thought crime. Lock me up now.

        You're right, I hadn't thought of that. Their method is _so_ nonsensical and immeasurable that it should be disregarded outright. Producing a number out of that process is being disrespectful to numbers.

    • by Lordofthestorm ( 675024 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:06AM (#6115129)
      Before reading this I would like to say that I am not recommending pirating or know anyone that pirates.

      Having said that,
      The BSA's reviews are misleading for several reasons, but one that I never see mentioned is that pirating actually results in MORE software sales, not less.

      How is this?

      I've 'heard' of the following happening fairly regularly.
      1. Person decides they want to try out a particular piece of software who has no knowledge (high school, hacker, middle age, etc - anyone).

      2. Person sees what software they can get for free over the various channels.

      3. Person downloads several different types of software to try them all out.

      4. Person decides on a favorite.

      5. Person proceeds to use software.

      6. Person decides to use software for a business related function where revenue will be generated or their work checked.

      7. Person buys software.

      Note, in many cases, a lot of software purchases come from people who would not have otherwise had the desire to learn a piece of software (say music creating warez), or the funds to buy a professional piece of software (say windows 2k server, or office etc) but was able to develop the skills to use them. Once they can use them, then it isn't a stretch to purchase the software because you have the skills.

      Pirating, in some cases may deprive software companies of revenue. But in many others pirating actually helps distribute knowledge about the software and increases the computer knowledge of the software in questions.

      One of Microsofts chief marketing advantages is that their software is easily cracked. Why? Because everyone uses it - I would think that most students would especially fall into this category since they can't afford the products or are too young to have the means (high school/junior high) but kids who grow up using Microsoft products will buy microsoft products.

      In fact, if fewer people pirated software, the market for software would be much smaller because fewer people would know how to use the software, and who pays $100 + to buy something they don't know how to use?
      • First, you leave out that most software packages have demos. You can try out most software packages without piratng them.

        Second, you also neglect that even if the situation works as you portray it, many smaller companies and OSS are hurt by this very pirating. Pirate A wants to edit an image. HE goes and gets a pirated copy of Photoshop and uses it. He would never buy Photoshop, because it is extrrmely expensive. But if he did not pirate PhotoShop, he may have used the Gimp, or Paint Shop Pro, or some
    • by ghostlibrary ( 450718 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:26AM (#6115359) Homepage Journal
      "And for software, because every PC is a software copying machine, since inception we have had a problem."

      Yes, I'm sure their software sales would be way higher if no one had a PC.
  • What is worse... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icemax ( 565022 ) <matthew_d_stone@ ... ail.com minus pi> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:11AM (#6114561) Homepage
    A meaningless statistic or the (Government/Big Business/Your Boss) believing it?
  • by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:11AM (#6114562)
    By a similar process we can calculate that 99% of all ocean-front homes are pirated Yarrr. There be many a pirate on the high seas.
  • Did they... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scalli0n ( 631648 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:12AM (#6114569) Homepage
    Who's smoking crack here? There's no way to calculate how many times I downloaded Bryce off Kazaa or something like that, piracy is un-measurable!
    • Re:Did they... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:40AM (#6114869)
      And what does 40% even mean?

      A 5-person shop now may buy one copy of MS Word, and make 4 copies because they can't afford 5 full copies. That does NOT mean that MS has lost the sales of 4 copies. It means the company was willing to fork over the cost of one copy of Word for 5 users to use it.

      Now let's assume that software wasn't copyable at all (BSA and Microsoft just had an orgasm), and compliance with licensing agreements was perfect and the computers themeslves magically enforced them 100% accurately. That same company may now very well buy NO copies of MS Word, and go to a cheaper product because the cost of 5 copies of the product is not an acceptable value for the product they get.

      Software piracy isn't like shoplifting a pair of socks. When you steal the socks, the store has lost the property and the sale of that property. When someone copies software who would never in a million years actually buy it, the software company has NOT lost a sale or property.

      Same thing with movies and MP3s... I've downloaded some stuff for free that no way in hell I would have EVER forked over a nickle to buy. If there were no downloads of those items, I would have done without rather than purchased them.

      Yes, some piracy does result in lost sales of product.... but not all of it by a long shot. Is piracy wrong? Of course, but it is a fiction and disinformation for BSA, RIAA, or any other group to suggest that each pirated copy of something represents a lost sale. That is BS that needs to be flushed.
      • Re:Did they... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <[theaetetus.slashdot] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:40AM (#6115498) Homepage Journal
        Hear, hear!

        I will readily admit to 'pirating' copies of Bryce (for instance). I am not a graphic artist, nor designer, nor am I ever going to use the software in any way related to my job. I just happen to like playing with rendered landscapes for my own amusement and desktop pictures.
        Did Bryce lose a sale? Nope. I never would have paid for the software, and I never will - particularly not at their multi-hundred dollar price point.

        However, there may be a benefit here - some of my friends, graphic artists, have seen Bryce on my computer and since gone out to buy copies... sales that Bryce would never have seen if these people had not gotten a chance to try the software.

        I'm actually more in favor of free "LE" versions of software - crippleware - with most of the features but not all, enough to be usable as a hobby and give you a chance to learn and like the program and persuade you to buy the full version... or not if you don't need it/can't afford it.

        -T

      • BSA's whole premise for existence is that there is rampant piracy going on. They'd never admit that the piracy rate was more like 1-2%, because the companies that fund the BSA would consider that "acceptable" and realize that the BSA exists only to pay for itself. The BSA needs to be a FUD-monger to ensure it's own existence.

        The BSA would HATE for strong copy protection to be enforced, because it would shrivel up and die shortly thereafter. If the software vendors would release crippleware versions of t
    • by notque ( 636838 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:42AM (#6114895) Homepage Journal
      Everything is measurable. 92.31% of people say so.
  • It has to decrease (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:12AM (#6114573)
    Otherwise the BSA is a worthless entity. Notice that they didn't say it decreased a lot, there's still much more work in the Fight Against Piracy, so please keep funding us, Mr. Gates. Eventually they'll stamp out piracy, honest, so can they please have another 100 million USD?
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:01AM (#6115069) Homepage
      Notice that they didn't say it decreased a lot, there's still much more work in the Fight Against Piracy, so please keep funding us, Mr. Gates.

      This is the funny part. in the super gigantic corperation I work for/in if such a statistic were real I would see a part of it. over the past 2 years I preformed 2 software audits at random. my first software audit was the first in this state that anyone can remember. and I checked both currentl computers and the closet full of discarded ones that supposedly had "Comapny secrets" on them deemed by some idiot CIO...

      Other than the once in a while violation of winzip being past it's 30 days and no registration key I found almost no software copyright violations. one person had on one of the really old machines a copy of claris works from home. everything else met our licensing.

      So, the BSA IS a worthless entitity... their wild-ass guess... err.. estimate... is so far off they stink. Yes I know that smaller shops probably have a much higher level of copyright violation, but in my time as a freelance consultant to many small machine shops, accounting firms, and Credit Unions I only saw a small amount such as ... same Windows 95 Key used on 2 machines, Office installed on 3 machines from the same CD set... (Mind you these people are STILL running office 97 and are very happy with it.. something that must royally piss off microsoft.)

      that I was able to correct for the owners of the companies for less than $1000.00 (old software is dirt cheap if you know where to buy the used copies..)

      I routenely tell all my clients that if they get a BSA letter, they call ME first their lawyer second and third, throw it in the trash with the rest of the useless junk mail.
    • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:35AM (#6115441)
      I'm glad they are using the metric of demand verses sales. On the surface, it looks like hey have reduced piracy by having more people properly buy licenses for all their closed source software. This assumption can be wrong. I feel that properly intertepeted, it clearly shows that with the rise of open source, piracy decreases. Competion which breaks a monopoly does reduce the piracy of a monopolists product. An affordable product that works better does reduce the demand for a high priced alternative. The very real legal risks in the EULA of closed source software are a great reason not to pirate the closed source. OSS products now are low cost and low legal risk. Did sales increase or demand drop? They must be hiding the fact sales did not increase to meet the demand otherwise they would have been proud to report it.

      Let's face it, demand is down for closed source. OSS is a legal alternative to high prices and piracy. Good job BSA convincing us casual copying is bad and helping draw excelent free publicity to the open source movement. It's the best publicity stunt you have done for us. Thank You Very Much!
  • by Clay Mitchell ( 43630 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:13AM (#6114579) Homepage
    They like to make up numbers. Same as "one pirated song costs us $X amount of dollars". I wonder how much of that piracy is highly priced productivity tools - Photoshop, Flash, 3DSMax, Visual Studio, etc etc, stuff that people can't really afford, so they are technically losing money, since it wouldn't have been bought in the first place.
    • by Blkdeath ( 530393 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:40AM (#6114868) Homepage
      They like to make up numbers. Same as "one pirated song costs us $X amount of dollars". I wonder how much of that piracy is highly priced productivity tools - Photoshop, Flash, 3DSMax, Visual Studio, etc etc, stuff that people can't really afford, so they are technically losing money, since it wouldn't have been bought in the first place.

      Though I'm guilty of using that argument myself, I only attribute it to my MP3 collection. I just don't have the cash lying around to purchase $5,000 worth of CDs, and right now I don't have the space to store all of them (half the time, the liner notes are more interesting than the CD, but I digress).

      The difference being; I'm not making a product / money off of my MP3 collection. I use it for my personal enjoyment, period. When people download high-end image / video / audio editing applications, there's a good chance that they've got monetary interests. If that's the case, why should they have the right to make money using pirated (not duly paid for) tools?

      I'll grant you it's a case of bad versus worse, but there is a legitimacy to the piracy claims and certainly people making money freely off somebody elses hard work has to be a limit.

      • The difference being; I'm not making a product / money off of my MP3 collection. I use it for my personal enjoyment, period. When people download high-end image / video / audio editing applications, there's a good chance that they've got monetary interests. If that's the case, why should they have the right to make money using pirated (not duly paid for) tools?

        There are lots of people who *do* use some of those programs for personal enjoyment. Photoshop is one of them -- some serious amateur photographers/desktop publishers want to be able to edit their photos digitally 'just like the pros do.'

        What about people who are pirating the software to learn? I know...ermmm...some people... who pirated professional software development packages when they were younger in order to learn software development to obtain employment skills, and later when he became employed as a developer he PAID for those tools by buying a full copy of the latest version. What about that guy? :)

      • by ccweigle ( 25237 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:06AM (#6115134)
        They like to make up numbers. Same as "one pirated song costs us $X amount of dollars". I wonder how much of that piracy is highly priced productivity tools - Photoshop, Flash, 3DSMax, Visual Studio, etc etc, stuff that people can't really afford, so they are technically losing money, since it wouldn't have been bought in the first place.

        Though I'm guilty of using that argument myself, I only attribute it to my MP3 collection. I just don't have the cash lying around to purchase $5,000 worth of CDs, and right now I don't have the space to store all of them (half the time, the liner notes are more interesting than the CD, but I digress).

        The difference being; I'm not making a product / money off of my MP3 collection. I use it for my personal enjoyment, period. When people download high-end image / video / audio editing applications, there's a good chance that they've got monetary interests. If that's the case, why should they have the right to make money using pirated (not duly paid for) tools?

        I'll grant you it's a case of bad versus worse, but there is a legitimacy to the piracy claims and certainly people making money freely off somebody elses hard work has to be a limit.

        That's one point. Here's another, sticking to the high-end software slant ...

        When you pirate high-end software you couldn't afford, that's also one less sale of the low-end clone.

        Say you need some image manipulation software, but you can't afford Photoshop. What if you could have afforded something else, say Paintshop Pro? We all know you can afford Gimp. Pirating a copy of Photoshop you couldn't have afforded anyway hurts noone? No, it hurts lots of people, including the competitors (you could argue it especially hurts the competitors, since you were their target demographic) and the handling/distribution company of their is one.

        Not that it excuses music piracy, but in general there's no "competitor" to that song you like. It's liked for its individuality. I'm leaving sound-a-like bands, covers, remixes, live-albums and such out of the argument. If there's some one particular recoding of a piece you want, it's not that case that you can get the 95% of the full performance you needed most for less by turning to a competing artist.
  • Piracy is fun! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by joeszilagyi ( 635484 )
    All companies should pirate more software, to increase profit margins by keeping overhead costs down. Soon, all companies will be as successful as other honest firms such as Enron.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:14AM (#6114591)
    Wouldn't 1% be within the margin of error? Especially since 39% is only an estimate[1]. For all we know, it actually went up 1%.

    [1] The article says: "The study estimates that 39 percent of business software products in use last year were not legally obtained"
  • by stud9920 ( 236753 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:15AM (#6114600)
    ....it's only 12%, but some of the were real big percents.
  • Point of view (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vengeance ( 46019 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:15AM (#6114610)
    I've come to believe that you can learn a lot about a person or organization based upon their treatment of others. If one's mind is a world of sexual perversion, one sees child pornography in the innocent bathtime photos parents take of their kids. If one's mind is a prime example of a money-grubbing, to-hell-with-everyone-else attitude, one sees piracy in every PC.

    In this case, it's apparent that the BSA and it's leaders are rapacious, greedy, amoral takers of other people's goods. They should be put away for their own safety and ours.
    • by Brushfireb ( 635997 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:29AM (#6114764)
      And In this case, you are probably right. However, this is not really a person-specific trait, but rather an organizational culture thing.

      There is a great tendency for organizations to develop a certain mindset (either positive or negative), and then they hire in people that exhibit that mindset in some way, and fire/get rid of those that dont "fit in". In the HR world, its known as hiring "right types", and you can usually determine the companies opinion on this by looking at how they operate.

      Over the course of time, people in the organization start to believe everything that their co-workers and bosses are saying to them, and hence, they develop views in sync with the company/organization. In this case, I would bet that the BSA, since one of its primary goals is to destroy piracy, they only hired in, and then hightened/enhanced this strange, rapacious behavior. I can almost guarantee you, however, that inside the company this is the norm.
  • by dfn5 ( 524972 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:17AM (#6114626) Journal
    If they did their stats similar to the stats over at distributed.net [distributed.net] I think it would be alot more accurate. And it would also spur competition amongst the piraters. I think it would be cool to see who could pirate the most.
  • As a pirate (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:17AM (#6114627)
    I would like to apologise for the heinous crime of software copying. I promise to mend my ways and return to a good pirate lifestyle of murder, rape and pilage on the high seas
  • by privacyt ( 632473 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:18AM (#6114635)
    Couldn't piracy also have fallen because of the sharp rise of open source software?
  • Pirating? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deflagro ( 187160 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:18AM (#6114640)
    I don't steal things, I just borrow them from strangers for as long as I need them. The eyepatch is purely for aesthetic reasons....
  • Free Software (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaptCanuk ( 245649 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:19AM (#6114657) Journal
    What of software that is released in the free software market? Wouldn't increased free software usage also decrease the overall percentage? Oh wait, I'm sure they didn't bother checking free software usage so they can keep piracy percentages at a relatively similar number to before the inception and mass utilization of free software. When someone downloads an average linux distribution, how many packages of free software do they get? That's certainly got to be adding to the numbers and decreasing the overall true number of piracy (i.e. pirated copies of software/all copies of software used). I'm sure they consider the usage of single-license software on more than one machine pirating, so this falls under "all copies of software used".

  • by Farley Mullet ( 604326 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:21AM (#6114668)

    . . .but it seems to me that in any proper study you make reference to margins of error (which the Yahoo! story didn't mention), and I find it hard to believe that the reported 1% drop falls outside the margin of error.

    This is all really silly.

  • Just 1%? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kinnell ( 607819 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:21AM (#6114672)
    So with all the activation technology they've introduced, amnesties and what not, all they could manage was a 1% reduction? Is it just me, or does this seem to suggest that their efforts are pointless, and are probably a huge waste of effort and money for both the developers and the end users?
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:22AM (#6114690) Journal
    is that US congress will use this kind of stuff to make policies.
  • Free software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phantasmo ( 586700 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:24AM (#6114707)
    I would attribute any real decrease in piracy to the fact that many Free software projects "matured" very recently. I walked into a meeting for the NDP [publicpower.ca] riding executive in my area and heard half the room raving about how amazing OpenOffice.org is, and these people are not geeks. The other day AbiWord was raved about in Toronto Computes [canadacomputes.com], a paper that usually focuses on proprietary software (and gives only a nod to Apple).

    Microsoft has just started letting people use Office at home if their employer owns a copy. Free software is ready for business, and MS knows it.
  • by jhines0042 ( 184217 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:26AM (#6114724) Journal
    Its purely to stop people from being able to use the software without calling Microsoft!

    Rob Enderle, a technology analyst with Forrester Research, added that while music and movies remain stand-alone products, software is increasingly packaged with technical support and regular updates. He said a pirated copy is sometimes worthless without those services.

    Because when you call in they check to see if you have a registered copy!

    Eventually, they'll have so many bugs that copying will be worthless and nobody will use their software at all!

    [/troll]

    Sorry, it had to be done.
  • by zbowling ( 597617 ) * <zac@zacbowl i n g.com> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:28AM (#6114756) Homepage Journal
    First of all... Look everyone its down 1%!!!! Whoopdi-do-da-day..... Second.... My company (Verizon) uses about 99% non-pirated software. Only about 80% desktops are Windows and the servers are running Linux and Unix and we are using mostly Java-based software. We have a few MS servers running around but they are only for test purposes. Every single piece of software in our company has a licence. We are very strick on that. In fact, every company I've ever worked for has been the same way. These stats are blouted.... I can see maybe your mom and pop ISP [onlineisp.net] might have a few unlicenced copies of Office installed on a few machines, but I'm sure no one really cares.
  • by TheKodiak ( 79167 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:29AM (#6114759) Homepage
    It overcounts one way: many people do without software that they want - and undercounts another: many people pirate software they don't actually have any interest in. Presumably, they're hoping the two errors will cancel.

    Interesting that they came up with a piracy rate of 95% in Vietnam - given their probable margin of error, it's entirely possible that MORE THAN 100% of software in Vietnam is pirated. People in Vietnam WRITE software, just so they can steal it from THEMSELVES.

    Kudos to the writer of the story, though, for NOT passing along the hugely overinflated "lost profits" number the report obviously included:
    Though piracy rates have decreased, the amount of money lost has risen partly because software prices have gone up, according to the study.
  • by ottffssent ( 18387 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:33AM (#6114803)
    Ok. Have to remember, in reading future BSA press releases that

    "It is welcoming news to learn that the worldwide software piracy problem has improved significantly..."

    and

    "However, it's critical to recognise that the industry is facing a spiralling Internet piracy problem."

    are not mutually exclusive statements. I wonder if that trick would work in board meetings. "Cost projections have improved significantly" sure sounds a lot better than "Costs are spiralling out of control"!
  • by groomed ( 202061 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:39AM (#6114860)
    It's largely a matter of who you want to believe. The BSA stats aren't any more inaccurate than the RIAA stats on music piracy, Symantec stats on virus/worm damage, or ISP/pundit stats on the cost of spam.

    For a group of people eager to believe that the "spam plague" allegedly costs us all billions, it is more than a bit hypocritical to summarily dismiss whatever numbers the BSA or the RIAA come up with.

    It's all a matter of what you love to hate. When you're decided on that, the numbers will follow.
    • Is that what this group believes?

      I'm pretty sure we all find spam to be terribly annoying, but I for one don't think it costs me much more than time and energy... Granted, I'd rather NOT have to expend those in an effort to keep my penis from growing so large it frightens everyone I meet.
  • Acronyms (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zog The Undeniable ( 632031 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:40AM (#6114874)
    At least we now know what the "BS" stands for in "BSA".
  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:40AM (#6114878) Homepage Journal

    I guess I was slacking last year. I'll do my best to get that back up to 41% next year. I PROMISE!
  • by Zog The Undeniable ( 632031 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:43AM (#6114903)
    Though piracy rates have decreased, the amount of money lost has risen partly because software prices have gone up

    So software ISN'T only expensive because of rampant piracy then? Must be profiteering after all.

  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:45AM (#6114921) Homepage
    "Here here. This meeting of the BSA will come to order. First order of business, Bradly will bring us up to date on overall sales."

    "Well, overall sales have seen a decline since the stock market crash and the attacks of Sep.11. We also saw declines during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. This can be attributable to one thing: Piracy."

    "How do you suggest we get our sales back up."

    "Well, Bob in accounting kicked around some figures for how many units must be sold for Microsoft to meet its 100% margins, and apparently we're currently 40% below that target."

    "Same as last year. Let's call it 39% just so that people think we're doing something. Now, how do we sell that much software?"

    "That's the ingenious part of my plan. MS's 100% margin is based upon the case of their complete ownership of the market and complete compliance with their new Software Licencing 2.0 scheme... err, paradigm."

    "Yes..."

    "So obviously without viable commercial alternatives to Windows, the %100 figure represents the ideal, natural state of the market."

    "Go on."

    "What is the difference between the ideal sales market and the real market? Why, piracy of course. Whether it is pirated copies of Office or pirated SCO code, it all comes down to illegal piracy. Pirates pirating pirated piracies. Pirates. Pirates! Pirates! Piraaaaaates!"

    "Bradly, you're locking up again. Come on back to us Bradly. Bill, would you slap Bradly please."

    "Gladly."

    SMACK

    "Oww. Thanks. So because of this discrepancy, we should make it illegal to not meet our sales target. Then everyone from local law enforcement to the FBI will be out there trying to help us meet our sales goals. If we play our cards right, we can even be entitled to compensatory damages from the governments of the world who, after all, represent the population who is doing this pira... illegal activity (p..p..pirates. Pirates!)."

    "Brilliant work Bradly. We'll get back on track towards Government 2.0 in no time."

    "Thank you Mr. Ballmer."

  • by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:47AM (#6114943)
    The increasingly powerul anti-piracy measures being taken (BSA 'military-strike style' audits, WinXP activation etc.) can only be a good thing for Free software, surely? By increasing the effective cost of using non-free software, they make free software more attractive.

    The only useful purpose the BSA serve is to provide silly stories like this to make me laugh on a dull mid-week afternoon. Thanks!
  • by NetDanzr ( 619387 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:48AM (#6114953)
    I may be dead-wrong here, but this is how I would create an estimate for software demand if I were a BSA researcher:

    1. I'd estimate the number of companies and the number of employees that require the work with computers. This is a tedious, but relatively straight-forward process, and Yahoo! business profiles would be everything I needed.
    2. I'd take this number, and assign to it the same number of operating systems, word processors, e-mail programs, antivirus programs and maybe something else. I'd also arbitrarily determine the share of people why may need to use a spreadsheet and a presentation program, etc...
    3. I would come up with a number for the aggregate usage of the appropriate software. Then, I would create a formula to calculate the average age of computers in companies (based on their accumulated depreciation and depreciable life), and calculate what share of computers needed to be replaced last year.

    I'd do all this, and make a huge mistake. I would not consider that some of the users would opt for freely downloadable software, such as Open Office or the office suite from Software 602, and that some other users would migrate their old software onto new computers (the way I still do it with MS Office 97). As a result, my estimates for demand, and thus the estimates for software piracy would be vastly overblown.

  • by sporty ( 27564 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:49AM (#6114968) Homepage
    Ok. Some facts.

    1. The economy is/was in a downturn.
    2. BIG corps can more easily afford to ride this out.
    3. BIG corps usually can afford licensing of software etc etc...

    Now, assuming a lot of tiny tiny companies haven't sprouted that would pirate software, wouldn't it be somewhat obvious that software piracy would be down?

    Just playing devil's advocate.
  • Laughable (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bazzargh ( 39195 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:50AM (#6114979)
    the actual white paper is here [bsa.org]

    It starts from the premise of looking at software industry growth rates from 1996 to 2001 and predicting that even without piracy reduction, the growth of the software industry would be *greater* (in percentage terms) from 2002 to 2006.

    Obviously after the bubble burst the IDC guys spent the last of their stock earnings on crack.

  • BSA? (Score:5, Funny)

    by djeaux ( 620938 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:53AM (#6115005) Homepage Journal
    Well, I opened my s-mail this morning & had my annual pledge card from the Boy Scouts of America. Then I open Slashdot & see that the BSA is conducting a study of software piracy. Talk about cognitive dissonance!

    Must be all those 12-17 yr old boys working on their computer merit badges...

  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baloo Ursidae ( 29355 ) <dead@address.com> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @09:58AM (#6115036) Journal
    Before the BSA starts talking about hijacking stuff, perhaps they need to talk to these people [scouting.org] about infringing on names.
  • Here's a tip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:01AM (#6115074)
    Okay BSA, here's a tip:

    When the fruit of your efforts is less than the margin of error, it's time to rethink your strategy.
  • by FroMan ( 111520 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:04AM (#6115112) Homepage Journal
    We can assume by this that the BSA will be disolved in 39 years. Its really not a bad business plan for the lawyers, in 39 years most will be retired by then with nice hefty stacks of cash. They just have to say each year that they are being successful by 1% and that way the group corporations will keep paying them. When they finally get 39 years from now they'll be rich and really haven't done anything.

    Or put another way in more slashdot terms:

    1. Get corporations to pay lawyers to do stuff.
    2. Lawyers harass legitimate purchasers of software.
    3. Lawyers claim 1% success a year.
    4. ??? (loop back to #2)
    5. Profit! (and retire when no more %'s to go)

    Now isn't that cynical.

    In reality I'd say software piracy is a problem. I don't know how many times here I've seen folks claim that they pirate software because its so darn expensive. Well, sometimes there is a reason that software is expensive, it takes time and money to do right. Then folks will say that software is buggy and not done right so they shouldn't have to pay for it. Well, don't use it! Novel idea huh? It sickens me how often folks think that deserve stuff without paying for it.

    Its really a simple idea folks. If you are unwilling to pay the price for something, you don't get to have it. It doesn't matter if you don't like the rules, they are the rules.

    Which brings me to another point. OSS or free software. Use it if you don't want to pay for commercial software. No one is forcing you to use commercial software. Simpley owning a computer does not give you the right to use commercial software without paying for it. However, there are a lot of folks out there that write software that you can use for free. Use that.

    Whining that your favorite game only runs on a certain platform isn't an excuse to pirate the software. There are many emulators, use those if you absolutely need to run the software. Otherwise tell the company that you want a version that runs on your platform.

    Quit whining that life gets hard when you have to use OpenOffice.org to read word files and it isn't perfect. You look like a fool when you whine that something isn't up to your standards because its buggy so you won't pay for it then use it anyways.
  • by germinatoras ( 465782 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @10:34AM (#6115439) Homepage

    By a similar process we can calculate that 99% of all ocean-front homes are pirated.

    Of course they're pirated! I mean, think about it - smooth sailing conditions, easy access to major waterways for a quick escape, plenty of places to dock your ship, and lots of booty in those million-dollar homes. What self-respecting pirate wouldn't take advantage of that opportunity?

  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt&nerdflat,com> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @11:04AM (#6115746) Journal
    As everyone is well aware, the full extents of piracy can only be estimated. Since these estimates are based on extrapolation of real data, there is fair reason to believe that estimates made by informed individuals could and should reflect some notion of reality, but because they are extrapolations, they must be accepted as potentially being off by an unknown amount. Although we can reasonably assume that any unknown variance is extremely unlikely to be substantial, it is supposed to still be understood it is equally likely to not be entirely insignificant either.

    The bottom line is that these guys are claiming to have discerned a 1% drop in an area of the piracy chart that must inherently be extrapolated from real world data. Given that even the interpolated statistics based on the real world data would already have a margin of error of more than 1%, there's no F-ing way that you can discern a 1% variance in data they haven't even measured.

    How convenient that the first two letters of the association's acronym are BS.

  • by MalachiConstant ( 553800 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @11:09AM (#6115799)
    With these methodologies you have to wonder...

    Here's some conspiracy thoughts:

    Somewhere deep in the bowels of BSA headquarters there's a group of people who have this all planned out.

    BSA Drone #1: Okay, first year we'll say piracy dropped a small amount thanks to our efforts. This will convince the companies and congress that our efforts are successful, but we need more help.

    BSA Drone #2: Right, then during year 2 we'll get some more laws passed and get people used to more extrememe copy pretection.

    BSA Drone #1: Right! They bought into the XP activation, now we can roll out the next step.

    BSA Drone #2: Which is...?

    BSA Drone #1: Tying activation to a bank account! It's the only way to be sure they're not pirates! Then when we have that in place we'll report a drop of 5% and complain loudly about OSS making it impossible to do audits.

    BSA Drone #2: So stage 3 is requiring all government and big business customers to go 100% closed source. Brilliant!

    BSA Drone #1: Let's get a taco.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <`charleshixsn' `at' `earthlink.net'> on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @01:22PM (#6117038)
    I'm pretty sure that Linux use is increasing faster than that.

  • My two cents... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stonewolf ( 234392 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @01:56PM (#6117392) Homepage
    I got laid off so I got a business license and started trying to make a little money on the side. (Any one want a Mexican Samuri Sword?)

    About a week after I got my license I got a nasty letter from the BSA. It made a lot of threats. Said that they had the right to inspect my place of business (my home) and gave be a "chance" to get all my software license up to date before they came to tear my compters apart.

    My reaction was fairly normal. I ignored them. A couple of weeks later I got another nasty letter. This time I made sure my door locks were solid. I made sure I could find my ammunition and guns in the dark. And, I took every bit of software that I had from BSA members and threw it out. I am now 100% pure open source software.

    After reading through a couple of BSA letters and discussing them with a lawyer it becomes obvious that most small business can't afford to *own* software made by BSA members. The legal liability for missplacing a software license is greater than the value of the business. Misplace a license, lose your house, your savings, your kids college fund, your ability to buy perscription drugs...

    Stonewolf
  • by mooman ( 9434 ) on Wednesday June 04, 2003 @11:57PM (#6121234) Homepage
    What I found particularly ironic was at a prior company that I worked for, several employees felt perfectly at home copying pirated software (games, Office, etc) while at the same time going to great lengths to add copy-protection to the very software we wrote and sold.

    I guess pirated software was okay as long as it was *someone else's* profits that were being ripped off..

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