I like the Pirates of the Caribbean as much as the next person. I’ve enjoyed the ride version when visiting Disneyworld. I saw the first of the movies, and liked Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack character.
And what the heck, what can you do about piracy anyhow?
Back in the old days, when Palo Alto Software had fewer than 10 employees and somebody first posted a copy of Business Plan Pro on a public database, our development manager was incensed. How could they do that to us? Didn’t they realize it was stealing? He was in his twenties. He was young, the Internet was young.
We learned, slowly, to do what we could to prevent it, but not to get too bent out of shape. We rationalized that the people who hacked our stuff weren’t going to buy it anyhow. We added what checks and balances we could, without getting into those onerous heavy protection schemes that we hated as much as anybody else.
Eventually we beefed up our serialization and activation, following in the footsteps of the major software companies.
I don’t read much about software piracy these days, but there was a study released last week — more on that below — so it made me look again. I came up with what I consider "amazing" facts about how bad it really is.
Before I get to the study, I decided to share some facts about piracy as measured by one software company, Palo Alto Software. I know this one example very well because I’m president and founder. It’s been around for 19 years, has 40 employees, and no outside investment.
I include the background because I think sometimes people justify software piracy with the image of Microsoft and the like, huge companies worth billions of dollars, housing thousands of employees on large high-tech campuses. That’s not this company.
Our main product, Business Plan Pro, is in its 11th version now, so as you might expect, we’ve developed an activation system to control piracy. When you buy you get a serial number, and then you either call a toll free number or go the Web to activate that number. It takes a few seconds.
Which brings me to what I consider "amazing facts" about piracy as measured by this one specific case. Our database counts the times that any specific serial number is used for an activation. When a serial number is spread around and copied, activation stops but the counting continues.
The number that has been attempted most has been attempted more than 50,000 times. Yes, that means that it has been downloaded illegitimately and installed and sent through the activation process by more than 50,000 people who didn’t pay for it.
That number plus the second and third numbers have been attempted more than 100,000 times combined. Does that sound like piracy still happens?
So this comes up because today I caught a report from the IDC Global Software Piracy Study. Apparently, even though we hear less about it these days, software piracy is still there. The study covers all packaged software that runs on personal computers, including desktops, laptops, and ultra-portables. This includes operating systems, systems software such as databases and security packages, business applications, and consumer applications such as PC games, personal finance, and reference software.
So it remains in 2006 that for every $2.00 worth of software purchased legitimately, $1.00 worth was obtained illegally. In half the countries, however, that ratio was reversed; for every $1.00 of software purchased legitimately, nearly $2.00 worth was obtained illegally. Additionally, in the highest piracy countries — those with piracy rates of more than 80% — for every $1.00 spent on PC hardware, less than seven cents was spent on legitimate software.
While the worldwide weighted average piracy rate is 35%, the median piracy rate is 62%, meaning half of the countries studied have a piracy rate of 62% or higher. In just under one-third of the countries, the piracy rate is higher than 75%. Although some high profile countries — China and Russia — saw significant drops in piracy, they also commanded a higher percent of the worldwide market, and this consequently prevented the worldwide average from dropping.
Yeah, thanks, I guess. What, me worry?