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Report: Software piracy dips


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LONDON (Reuters) -- Corporations cracked down on pirated software last year, trimming the glut by a percentage point, an industry report said on Tuesday.

The rare bit of good news comes at a tough time for software and media conglomerates. They are battling to stem the black market trade of cut-rate or free software, music and movie copies available online and on the street.

Industry lobby group Business Software Alliance (BSA) said the worldwide software piracy rate fell last year to 39 percent from 40 percent.

"We're pleased with the results, but we're still facing a piracy situation where nearly four in ten pieces of business software is used without authorization," said Beth Scott, BSA vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The BSA has spent huge sums to try to reduce the installing of unlicensed software duplicates in areas such as word processing and spreadsheet programs to avoid paying the license fees.

The modest improvement brings to an end two straight years of piracy escalation. The industry had blamed the burgeoning traffic in copyright-protected materials on Internet file-sharing networks and on so-called "warez" trading sites for the recent upsurge in unlicensed software duplicates.

The 2002 figure is 10 percentage points below the 1994 level, the point at which the industry first confronted the problem in a united front, suggesting the group's anti-piracy lobbying and education initiatives are showing results.

Fight not over

The group warned its fight was not over as it estimated piracy cost the industry $13 billion in lost sales, $2 billion more than in 2001.

The group added that weakness in the dollar contributed greatly to the inflated monetary value, and thus, it chose to single out volume of unlicensed software as the clearest indication for piracy.

The world's largest software markets North America and Western Europe continued to have the lowest piracy rates. Between 1994 and 2002, the U.S. piracy rate dropped to 24 percent from 32 percent and in Western Europe to 35 percent from 52 percent.

Pressuring governments

By contrast, Eastern European nations, including Russia and Ukraine, plus the Asia Pacific region, led by China and Vietnam, are the big culprits, with piracy rates at 90 percent or higher last year.

The BSA has also pressured governments to bolster piracy enforcement and laws with limited success.

For example, the European Union's Copyright Directive, a law requiring European Internet service providers to more actively police their networks to shut down piracy activities, has stalled on the state level. Thirteen of the 15 member states have yet to ratify it six months after the passing of the deadline.

The BSA counts Microsoft Corp, Apple Computer and Intel Corp. among its 22 members.



Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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