Associated Press

Brussels, July 8:

O&O Software, with only 28 employees, has built a $3 million-a-year operation developing award-winning tools for users of Microsoft Windows, such as defragmenters, data rescue and system security. It is impossible to say how much bigger it might be after six years in business without the plague of software piracy, which a new study says accounts for more than a third of computer software sales and costs legitimate businesses $29 billion. At least some O&O sales are being lost, for sure. “We even have customers who try to register” pirated software copies, says O&O spokesman Frank Alperstaedt, “Sometimes they know they’re illegal, sometimes not.” Berlin-based O&O is one of dozens of global high-tech companies, including giants like Microsoft, IBM and Apple, joining in a ‘call to action’ against the trend by focusing attention on the growing scale as well as the costs to government and society.

Industry groups say the long-festering problem is worsening due to increased availability of illegal software on the Internet, faster download speeds, a lack of adequate legislation and lax enforcement. A survey released yesterday, conducted by the US-based market research firm IDC, found 36 per cent of computer software installed last year was counterfeit or pirated. The piracy rate was lowest - 23 per cent - in North America, where losses were more than $7.2 billion. That was about the same, $7.5 billion, as in the Asia-Pacific region, although the piracy rate there was more than double at 53 per cent, reflecting smaller sales.

Piracy was most expensive in the European Union, where a 37 per cent rate cost software publishers more than $9.78 billion, according to the survey conducted by the US-based market research firm IDC. Open-source advocates call such figures exaggerated, since there’s no way to say whether someone would have actually gone out and paid full price for the software if he didn’t have access to an illegal copy.