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Thoughts on the 2013 BSA Global Software Survey

Can I be honest? I read and reread the latest report from BSA and I felt like something was missing.

Why was I feeling this way? Was it the fact that we had to wait two years since the last report? Was it my inner cynic wondering if the BSA waited until June 24 so it could release (bury?) the report when no one would pay as much attention (it has been issued in early May over the last several years)?

Then I really noticed the change of focus and tone in this latest report. Did you notice that the report does not use the word “piracy” even once?

Seriously – go check (and read the press release, too) – I’ll wait. OK, you’re back. No mention of piracy at all. Instead of the “global piracy rate,” we get the verbal gymnastics of “the global rate at which PC software was installed without proper licensing.” This change is mirrored on the BSA website, too. If you are looking for the “Anti-Piracy” tab you will see that it has been replaced by “Compliance/Enforcement.”

This year’s report (covering 2013 data) is titled, “The Compliance Gap – BSA Global Software Survey” Compare this year’s survey with previous studies:

  • Shadow Market: 2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study
  • Eighth Annual BSA Global Software 2010 Piracy Study
  • Seventh Annual BSA/IDC Global Software 09 Piracy Study

Look at the headline of the press release announcing this year’s report: “Security Threats Rank as Top Reason Not to Use Unlicensed Software, BSA Survey Finds.” It is a very different tone than previous headlines like, “Well Over Half the World’s Computer Users Admit Pirating Software, BSA Study Finds,” and “Emerging Markets Drive Software Piracy to a Record $59 Billion in 2010, BSA Reports.”

We can understand this shift. The “P” word is a loaded term and we’re careful about how and where we use it, too. But it does seem strange for the BSA to totally ignore it in the report that has been so central to its place in the industry. The report kicks off by focusing on the findings that:

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  • 62 percent of IT managers “cited security threats from malware as the chief reason not to use unlicensed or mis-licensed applications”
  • Only 48 percent of IT managers are “very confident that their company’s software is properly licensed”
  • 42 percent of workers “say their companies either do not have a policy on licensed software use or they don’t know [if there is a policy]”

The report continues its focus on compliance and “what enterprises can do” in terms of software asset management (SAM) and programs like its own Verafirm program.

It is only halfway through the report that there is any discussion about the “global trends in unlicensed software use” and we learn not much has changed since the last report:

  • 2013 global rate of unlicensed use: 43% (up 1% from 2011)
  • 2013 global commercial value of unlicensed PC software installations: $62.7 billion (down from $63.4 billion in 2011)
  • 2013 region with highest overall rate of unlicensed software: Asia-Pacific – 62% (2% increase from 2011) – commercial value $21 billion
  • 2013 region with lowest overall rate of unlicensed software: North America – 19% (unchanged since 2011) – commercial value of nearly $10.9 billion (roughly the same – $10,853 million in 2013; $10, 958 in 2011)
  • 2013 Western Europe rate 29% (down 3% from 2011) – commercial value of $12.8 billion (down from $13.7 billion in 2011)

The end result is that the BSA is recognizing that piracy represents a business development opportunity (as have large software vendors like Microsoft, Adobe and Symantec – all BSA members, by the way). Rather than focusing on “theft” and “illegal use,” it is focusing on the fact that infringers “may be a victim of software piracy.” [If you are interested in some of the history behind Microsoft’s evolving approach to piracy, be sure to check out our recent webinar with Alex Kochis – former Anti-Piracy Director at Microsoft.] By softening its approach to piracy and focusing on the FUD around cybersecurity risks, the BSA eases the path to participation in Verafirm and encourages more companies to sign up.

While the BSA is shifting its focus and asking enterprises to police themselves, our customers are taking a proactive (and profitable) approach to unpaid software by identifying and tracking who is using their software without a license. Our CodeArmor Control customers have taken a similar approach by softening their messaging to unpaid users. But they are implementing dynamic messaging to unlicensed users, and are able to escalate their responses from a simple notification that “you may be the victim of software piracy” (along with a link to their ecommerce site) all the way to restricting access to program functionality. Their focus is on converting unpaid users into customers instead of trying to defeat piracy through licensing and takedown notices. Combined with our customers using CodeArmor Intelligence, our customers generated more than $300 million in new license revenue in 2013.