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back to article UK's '£1.2bn software pirates' mostly 'blokes under 34'

The BSA is again bemoaning the lack of deterrents for software piracy after the commercial worth of unlicensed programs in the UK for 2011 remained at £1.2bn, unchanged on the previous year. This equates to a piracy rate of 26 per cent as more than one in four applications installed on users' machines was illegal, the software …

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Meh

Out of curiosity, are they basing this number on anything other than the imaginary sum of money they really wish would materialise out of thin air into their pockets? Because, while I don't doubt that there are a good few infringements going on, I do have serious doubts that there's any effective way of converting them into anything even *remotely* like an extra 1.2 billion quid spent on software licences...

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Entirely fictional Money

I'm fairly sure my brother-in-law Dave has downloaded about £2.4million worth of stuff that he wouldn't actually buy, in fact I'm fairly sure he only actually uses/watches about 1% of what he torrents.

I don't get it myself, I just don't have the time to look for stuff that I'm never going to use or watch just for the sake of downloading it.

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More importantly from an economic point of view, where would most of the claimed £1.2 billion go, to Adobe/MS perhaps? Not in the UK's balance of trade advantage I'm sure.

A more useful thing would be for more home-grown (or open source) software to be used, that way the "missing" £1.2B can be spend on UK jobs & services.

If it ever existed in the first place.

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It's fasinating how so many people are so quick to assume they know better than people who have actually carried out research. The report has a four page summary of their methodologies and they have been reviewed by two independent experts. They adjust for different sales prices (e.g. OEM, changing exchange rates for foreign bought software), they explain why the costs of a unit of software in their calculations is *below* what you would pay if you bought the software retail. The software load figures are based on surveys and because piracy is illegal, their estimates may well be *below* what they actually are in reality.

As to your doubt that the figure is anywhere "remotely like" an extra $1.2bn, the estimate legal spend on software last year in the UK was over US$5.5bn, so is a 20% rate of infringement so unbelievable?

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@h4rm0ny

The disbelief is not that 20% of software in use is not correctly licenses, but that (a) stopping this would not necessarily lead to 20% more income (a lot of expensive unlicensed software would not be bought, but cheaper alternatives used), and that (b) any such increase in income won't necessarily help the UK economy as a whole.

So while it may help some of the BAS' member's businesses, that is not the same as helping the UK was a whole as a significant proportion of such income would go overseas.

Where would the £1.2B come from? Its not like the UK has lots of spare cash in the cupboard, so other UK business & services would lose out. Robbing Peter to pay Paul?

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Re: @h4rm0ny

"The disbelief is not that 20% of software in use is not correctly licenses, but that (a) stopping this would not necessarily lead to 20% more income (a lot of expensive unlicensed software would not be bought, but cheaper alternatives used), and that (b) any such increase in income won't necessarily help the UK economy as a whole."

Ah, I see. Yes, their methodology (I have actually read the paper) does not appear to account for diminished use from having to pay for it. That would certainly have some effect. How much is a bit of an educated guess. I would imagine most of the unlicenced software by businesses is going to be actually in use. Certainly there'll be the odd copy of photoshop, dreamweaver, etc. on a PC that was never really used and installed just because someone brought it in etc. I freely agree this is an educated guess now, but I think the large majority of unlicenced software will be in use. At home, it's a different matter - people fill up their PCs with all sorts of stuff just because... but work PCs (especially outside of technical roles such as most El Reg. readers have) usually just have what they need. So how much of what is in use could be done without or a free alternative found?

Unlicenced software is probably more prevalent amongst smaller companies (at least outside China.) Big companies recognize the risks of trying to cheat on large numbers of licences and it's not worth their time to cheat on small numbers of licences. It's the company of 40 people with the director who thinks it will never happen to her where they probably run off unlicenced copies of Office or Windows, etc. These companies don't usually have the resource to find alternatives. The more savvy ones will realize they could save money by grabbing Open Office (for example), but expertise with that is less common which makes it more risky (or perceived as), plus some people will prefer MS Office (most for now, maybe in the future it will reach parity). My hunch having worked with such places is that most would stump up the money, though not all would.

So would it be the full $1.2bn? Probably less than that (though keep in mind the reasons why their figures for piracy could be underestimates). But I think it would be in that region.

About whether the increase in income not necessarily helping the UK economy as a whole, that is probably true. But I don't think it's ethical to take an attitude that because it's another country, it's more acceptable to rip them off. I mean that's China's attitude at the moment with software.

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Re: @h4rm0ny

Indeed, an alternative way to spin this result would be:

"UK residents benefit from 1.2 billion quid's worth of software they don't have to pay for, thus improving our national standard of living at the expense of rapacious American corporations."

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Re: @h4rm0ny

A small design start-up isn't going to have the >£7k it needs to buy legal copies of Adobe CS and Office for everyone. But not having the tools means no work is done, and there's a hole in the UK's economy which that start-up might have been able to fill.

So yes - dodgy software is completely illegal. But when licenses are too expensive the high cost of entry and the regular update taxes wring money out of the economy and literally keep talent out of work.

Does the lost productivity add up to more than £1.2 bn? With piracy, probably not.

Without piracy - that would be an interesting thing to check.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @h4rm0ny

"So would it be the full $1.2bn? Probably less than that (though keep in mind the reasons why their figures for piracy could be underestimates). But I think it would be in that region."

You can think that if you want, but I think it would be in the region close to zero. There are plenty of open source alternatives if companies are prepared to cut loose from their Microsoft shackles.

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Mushroom

Blergh

"so many people are so quick to assume they know better than people who have actually carried out research"

Clown.

Based on the assumption that every piece of software pirated is a lost sale. Which it isn't. If people couldn't pirate windows, what's to stop them using Ubuntu instead? Which also might hurt say, legitimate sales of Office because people might use OO instead of buying office.

Same with movies. If somebody downloads a movie maybe say they download Aliens because they're only 18 and they've never seen it before, then they think well hmmm I should really go out and buy the quadrilogy this is awesome, your piracy math gets all messed up.

http://www.ted.com/talks/rob_reid_the_8_billion_ipod.html

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Re: @h4rm0ny

"A small design start-up isn't going to have the >£7k it needs to buy legal copies of Adobe CS and Office for everyone."

No, but they can easily afford the £0 it would cost to buy legal copies of GIMP, Inkscape and OpenOffice.org for everyone. In case you missed the memo, using proprietary software is not mandatory -- no matter what Microsoft, Adobe and co. would have you believe.

"But not having the tools means no work is done, and there's a hole in the UK's economy which that start-up might have been able to fill."

But they do have the tools! They can use Open Source software, or even (shock, horror) manual methods. You know -- the way people used to do things before computers were invented.

If you don't want to pay for software, that's fine by me -- as long as you use software that people don't actually mind you not paying for.

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Meh

@h4rm0ny

"As to your doubt that the figure is anywhere "remotely like" an extra $1.2bn, the estimate legal spend on software last year in the UK was over US$5.5bn, so is a 20% rate of infringement so unbelievable?"

If you pay attention to what I actually *said*, you'll realise that my point of contention was not the rate of infringement but the feasibility of converting those infringements into an extra 1.2 billion UK£ of software licencing spend. At a time when UK.gov is talking about "efficiency savings" and public sector bods are being raked over the coals for excessive spending on IT (not to mention having funding slashed) and efforts to help create/grow small business are being stepped up, do you seriously think there's going to be a concerted government sponsored effort to create a massive increase in spending on software licencing? Particularly on products where the vast majority of the profit will be a net flow of money *out* of the UK?

Oh, it is to laugh.

Let's assume that the full cost of licencing for the 1.2 billion licenses is accurate (just for lols). Let's also assume that it's all in business use (also for lols, and also something I'm not particularly prepared to believe). Larger businesses that need such products will tend to benefit from the equivalent of the MS Volume Licence agreement, so that's not full cost. They're also aware that they get scrutinised regularly so a majority of them *should* be smart enough to realise that getting busted for unlicensed software is more expensive than investing in sw management & audit systems. Same for public sector bods (at least in the current climate). So you're looking at SMEs. Given that they're currently being pimped as the key to solving the current economic woes here, any expectation that a sw supplier has of demanding full-whack licence costs for their software has to go out the window - because the response will be "Can't afford it, we're closing down/moving to FOSS" at which point the only likely input from UK.gov is "Well, the BSA needs to support growing UK businesses, how about you offer a goodwill discount?"

And that's for those organisations that don't hire someone smart enough to mention that, if you've got in-house support worth a damn, FOSS can often meet all the requirements with far less in the way of licencing issues. (GIMP/Paint.NET/Inkscape can do a good bit of graphics work if you know how to use 'em right, Scribus can do layout work a la InDesign, Open/LibreOffice will do your office productivity stuff, etc etc). Are they drop-in replacements? No. So you'll be looking at training for the new products. But then you had that with the office 2k3-2k7 transition anyway. And training on using FOSS is a one-time expense for the package, compared to the recurring licence fee for the equivalent.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Underpants

"Oh, it is to laugh."

What does that even mean?

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Re: Underpants

It means you haven't read enough Pratchett, is what it means :P

(More helpful answer: I first saw it used in one of the more recent Pratchett books but I couldn't tell you which one. However, it appears to be a mangled translation of a French expression that means something like "don't make me laugh".)

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Surveys don't mean jack.

I think people don't believe it because of spin and what research? Surveys? A survey is no use whatsoever and can only really give an indication.

I worked for the NHS before privatisation and out of 10 PCTs in a major city reporting on the Pandemic. 1 made up the numbers and was openly doing it because the department of Health were idiots for asking (And said so in a conference call to the cabinet), 2 didn't have staff or time to fulfill the numbers, 1 didn't care so made it up and the one I was in charge of had antiquated equipment and we couldn't make the daily deadlines each day.

Legally responsible and paid organisations (not some voluntary survey) doing the survey work and you are already a maximum 50% accurate before you even put on the political "make your point" spin factor. Not really someting to base policy on, but the Govt did.

However if you read the methodologies on paper it was a roaring success with every PCT coping well and having both money and staff to cope. And a total complicance with the plans set out by the Dept of Health. So don't believe what is written on paper when attached to things like this.

In reality my city's ten PCT's told the 'cabinet office' they were morons (my directors words to the conference call) and decided to do their own thing in the interest of their boroughs population health needs. Not some white hall (doesn't know what hte real world is) and their plans for running it. Which had been made up a 2 weeks in advance, after they threw out the tried, tested and organised five years plans that had been agreed.

That was also verified by experts and funnily enough what made the papers didn't mention that CEO of PCTs were disagreeing with the Dept of Health across the board. And that the plans they had in place originally were not thrown out by the Government in favour of some back peddling and rubbish workings out on a bar mat in cabinet.

I would be shocked if this country turned that 1.2billiion into real money by stopping downloads. Sweden didn't see it materialise when they did it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @h4rm0ny

> No, but they can easily afford the £0 it would cost to buy legal copies of GIMP, Inkscape and OpenOffice.org

> for everyone

Assuming the people they are hiring know how to their job in GIMP, or you can afford for them to be non-productive whilst they learn how to do stuff they already know how to do in PhotoShop.

A friend of mine makes a living as a graphic designer. The software on his iMac at work is licenced, the stuff on his G5 at home isn't. Adobe has lost nothing, he wouldn't buy Creative Suite for himself; chances are he'd just use the work machine for his own stuff.

I use Vegas Pro for the little bit of video editing I do, personal stuff, I don't make money off it. Would I buy Vegas Pro? Nope, can't justify it. I'm toying with buying the cut-down Studio version of Vegas, which I wouldn't have done if I hadn't been using the Pro version for free.

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@AC 12:07

It's not always as simple as "Oh, personal use shouldn't matter".

Your graphic designer mate, for example, is probably actually allowed to use CS on his home machine using the same licence as is present on his work machine. The Adobe licences I've seen for work machines allow 1 non-concurrent-use installation on a personal machine. Not much use if you can't initially get work to pay for it, but better than nothing. If he's using a shonky copy at home, it's more than likely because he hasn't bothered checking the licence terms.

Similarly, you using a shonky copy of Vegas Pro for home faffery...well, if it took you time to learn how to use it, you could've just as easily spent that time learning to use VirtualDub or something else. Similarly, you could've tried a trial of the package whose licence cost was within your reach, instead of just deciding that you should jump for the full cracked version. (It's worth noting that in the past I've done the same thing, but about 5 years or so ago I realised, with some surprise, that not only could I afford licences for any commercial software I actually need to use - because I don't need much, and thus far the pro version of Manga Studio's the most expensive SW package I've bought - but that for a lot of what I do there are decent FOSS packages that I can use jsut as well. About the only thing I can say for having been passed a dodgy copy of Photoshop years ago is that it meant I learned how to use Photoshop rather than CorelDraw...)

As for the "lost productivity" argument - it only works if you were hired specifically to do advanced design work using Specific Tool X. Gimp or Paint.Net aren't drop-in replacements for Creative Suite. However, for the majority of uses of Microsoft Office in an SME environment (or even in non-regimented large environments, ie where Sharepoint etc isn't mandated) Open/LibreOffice is damn near a drop-in replacement. GIMP & Paint.NET are fine for people who need to tinker with the occasional image but aren't preparing weekly/monthly publications for print. Scribus is fine for basic layout work. There are a variety of free (some FOSS, others not) PCB & CAD tools that are commonly used in HE environments specifically because grant holders don't particularly *want* to pay an AutoDesk tax for CAD tools if they can help it.

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Mushroom

That is amazing research, well done who ever got them results.

I was sure the pirate industry was run by over 60 year old female women. Such worthwile research

Now we know...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Female women

As opposed to other types of women?

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Facepalm

Pirates

I once chaired interviews for a music technician at a FE college. 12 candidates rolled in, 9 of them sat there and told me how they could get their hands on e.g. Propellerhead software for nothing, "which would surely help our budget 'cos colleges don't have much money, right?". The interviewer to my right was busy making notes with his FAST pen he picked up at a recent conference...

These 9 were all under 25; the other 3 were older, by the way.

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IT Angle

Re: Pirates

Obviously piracy is bad (mmkay?) but the real facepalm here is voluntarily trumpeting your misdemeanours in a job interview!

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Headmaster

Re: Pirates

*snigger* yeah, I know. Maybe it's just musos... mind you, they failed the practical test as well. They could tell a guitar lead from a headphone lead, but failed to identify the TOSLINK and XLR cables, and had variable success identifying the ISA sound card.

Of the three older candidates, one was a 32 yr old female who just about passed the practical but failed on the classical music theory test, the 35 yr old man couldn't tell what any of the cables or cards were and the guy we did employ in the end was just 25, the only one trained in the USA, he knew what e.g. legato and adagio meant, could restring a guitar (he even asked left or right handed), knew Reason(tm) inside out, a total f***ing musical genius. I jumped through hoops to get him into the country - thankfully the evidence I could provide to the home office, including the offers to install pirated software on college PCs, proved that there were no suitable UK candidates for the post. I was well pleased to have him on the team.

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Anonymous Coward

If he couldn't tell TOSLINK from XLR

then God only knows how thick he thinks his cock is.

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Meh

Blah blah blah copyright maths http://blog.ted.com/2012/03/20/the-numbers-behind-the-copyright-math/ blah blah blah.

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Paris Hilton

Data?

I'm curious to know what the value of the software is based on.

Is it full-price, just released or discounted or what?

Is some bundled elsewhere asa a freebie?

And how do they know how much is pirated?

Paris - as I haven't a clue how big the problem is

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Re: Data?

They go into this in in their report. The prices are all below retail value. They are weighted according to sector, country, exchange rate, bulk purchases, etc. Piracy rates are calculated from survey data. They did research on about 15,000 business units. But because it's survey based (looking at their report, imo), if anything their piracy rates are going to be under-reporting.

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Linux

With the BSA on your team...

...Linux doesn't need an advertising budget

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Re: With the BSA on your team...

If only that were true. BSA, FAST et al hate Free Software.

(Although it was kinda good getting raided as a 100% Free Software shop, just to see the look on the FAST guy's face when we said we did nothing to prevent people copying software from their workstations and would probably encourage it. Apparently, if you order two dozen motherboards, cases and HDDs and one boxed copy of Windows, you get raided.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: With the BSA on your team...

What do you mean raided? They have no legal right whatsoever to search your premises. We get a letter from them every year asking can they come and audit us and we always say no. Not because we have any unlicensed software because we don't allow it, every bit is paid for but it's the principle of having these people come and 'audit' you.

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Black Helicopters

Re: With the BSA on your team...

If you accept the Microsoft Windows EULA, I believe that gives them (or their representatives) authority to audit your premises any time they like, with or without notice.

I could be wrong though, it's been a long while since I last read or accepted a Microsoft EULA.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: With the BSA on your team...

Yep ! You're right unfortunately. We're on the receiving end of an MS audit we can't refuse. If more people actually read the EULA and thought about what they were agreeing to then perhaps those people might think twice about using Microsoft software and products from similar vendors. It's 'cos of this ignorance that MS is the industry standard.

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WTF?

Re: With the BSA on your team...

It doesn't matter a damn what Microsoft put in their EULA. The law of the land allows the police [with warrant, or to prevent commission of a serious crime] and HMRC [if they bloody well feel like it] to enter your premises against your will. Anyone else [including the mighty Microsoft] needs a court order.

Try telling them to bugger off, next time they turn up.

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Linux

Re: With the BSA on your team...

"Anyone who uses software they haven't paid for should face hefty consequences," said Julian Swan of BSA EMEA compliance marketing."

He seems to imagine his organisation owns all free software too and has a right to charge for it.

Talk about deluded.

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Re: With the BSA on your team...

Ironically (for Alannis Morrisette values of irony), the one time I had to threaten an employer with reporting them for copyright infringement, it was when they were trying to sneak some GPL'd code into their product without attribution and omitting the GPL licence and source. One more reason both I and they were happy to see the back of each other.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: With the BSA on your team...

Microsoft's EULA is worth fuck all in the UK.

It would be thrown out of court under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and they know it.

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Re: With the BSA on your team...

Well, it wasn't really a "raid" so much as a hard-sell sales pitch for some licence-auditing software they were selling. Being Windows-only, it wasn't going to be of any use to us anyway .....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Raids

In the UK the BSA or FAST can persuade the police to get a warrant to search premises. I have seen it happen. They turn up first thing on Monday morning and they take away any computers belonging to the business that might have unlicensed software on them.

The directors will then find themselves in court... However if you are co-operative and reasonable they usually will be as well.

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g e
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FAIL

More crappy stats

And yet again Piracy being equated to REAL LOST SALES for all those poor starving software houses.

I notice they didn't mention business licensing piracy, maybe that wishful cash cow got turned into burgers so now it's blokes under 34 instead.

Fail. Well, it's the BSA, innit.

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Paris Hilton

Sir

"China has the highest piracy rate at 77 per cent"

All other factors aside, this is obviously why China is struggling so much in the global economy.

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Re: Sir

I appear to be having a slight screen dislocation error, that icon was supposed to be a joke alert!

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Re: Sir

Well, if they were pirating their own software, your comment would indeed be insightful. But given they are pirating Western products for the most part, your comment is merely ill-informed.

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Re: Sir

Hi Harmony, you appear to have missed the general tongue-in-cheek tone, and also the "that icon was supposed to be a joke alert!" notice.

I know they are mostly pirating Western products, or retro-engineering them and making new ones just like the Wests'. My point was that it seems to have given them an edge in the global economy.

Our lawmasters will be splitting hairs with the MPAA for years whilst Chinese conglomerates quietly buy us all up.

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Linux

"Anyone who uses software they haven't paid for should face hefty consequences"

That'll sort out those blasted Linux users!

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Thumb Up

A good idea.

"Anyone who uses software they haven't paid for should face hefty consequences,"

I agree, things like freedom from malware and viruses. Having a stable, rock solid operating system and the safety of being able to check for yourself everything that you put onto your box.

The comfort of knowing that you won't be left stranded if the supplier of your software goes down the drain, and so on.

I don't think that is what he had in mind but these are some of the things you can get when using Gnu/Linux.

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overpriced crap

Honestly I'm not surprised a lot of people pirate software. I'll look around the web for some software to do a simple task, something that given a week or so I could probably code myself. (i'm just lazy) only to find them charging rediculous prices for it.

I mean hell, I saw one piece of software charging over £100 and all it was, was a GUI interface to an opensource dll, it was rediculous. And the worst part is there's a lot of software doing this.

I know it isn't just the overpriced garbage people are pirating though, sometimes its actually good software getting pirated (still overpriced though) like photoshop, 3dsmax, poser etc. Honestly I don't see the point, why pirate the software when you can hurt them more by using the free and legal counterparts. paint.net / gimp instead of photoshop. Daz3d instead of poser, milkshapes / blender instead of 3dsmax.

Software piracy will probably drop as mroe and more opensource projects start to encroach on the overpriced counterparts. Honestly how a company can push to charge a couple grand when there's comparable software for free I don't know but *shrugs*

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Re: overpriced crap

I do agree. Photoshop is a cracking bit of software, but I can see why it does often get pirated, very expensive upgrades... and a very expensive looking at 2.5k for a top end variant if you need some of the other applications for the first version. Then if you don't upgrade, your next upgrade is much more expensive. CS5.5 MC to CS6 MC is £500, CS5 MC to CS6 MC is £1000... answers on a postcode as to who knows why? PS Extended itself is a £1k, and £400 upgrades.

I really like the idea of the Adobe Creative Cloud... but for casual users £46 per month, if you sign up to a year contract, or £70 otherwise is way too expensive.

If you're looking to train up, and learn PS, which is the defacto standard and aren't in Full Time education... you're gambling a lot of money on being able to learn it. I'd be stoked if Adobe did a PS Extended, for home users which knocked in around the £200-300 mark... that would sell well as well, or a Photoshop sub for £20 a month, or similar.

Piracy in some ways has done Photoshop well, it would not nearly be as ubiquitous as it is without it... and despite it, it's still the major name in the market and they make a killing of all the business licensing. Though, I'm really yet to see Adobe properly go after people for pirating Photoshop...

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Anonymous Coward

Bitchin' for more laws...

... in Blighty because them pirates they be so bad in China. Or something. Yearly moan-tripe from BSA, how nice. Next!

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Bronze badge

contribution to the economy

Stopping piracy in your own economy is a negative contribution to that economy. Even piracy of software produced in your own economy but especially software produced in someone else's.

The more people using a piece of software productively (paid for or not) the more production there is. The problem (as ever) is making sure enough gets paid to produce the software in the first place.

77% damn clever those Chinese.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm gonna...

..produce some VB crap-app and market it for £1Bn per copy. When I see a few hundred copies floating around on TPB I can then legitimately claim that piracy is costing UK businesses (i.e. my business) 100's of £Billions in lost revenue....at least that's how the BSA works it out...

or better still - (s0mebody should actually do this one...)

Create a web site that offers advice and information similar to the BSA web-site, and charge £1Billion to register. Due to the 'freetard' nature of the BSA site you can legitimately claim that the BSA themselves are costing you (and hence UK business) hundreds if not thousands of £Billions in lost revenue.

I wonder if that will finally wake them up to their dodgy 'free copy = lost revenue' bollocks.

:-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm gonna...

yar har fidly di being a pirate is alright to be.

Here are some statistical figures which are just as factual as the BSA figures. 90% of pirates would never have bought the software at all. Of all pirates, 20% will try the software and then decide its worth buying.

So piracy is actually making them a couple million. Remove piracy and they'd sell 120 million worth of software (if you assume the 10% buy the software now there's no piracy) but with piracy, that extra 10% puts the software sold up to 240 million.

The more you know.

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