Colleges a Gateway to Software Piracy

With students downloading everything from music to software, college campuses are becoming a breeding ground for software piracy, according to a study.

Nearly two-thirds of students surveyed say the would potentially download pirated software and a majority of academics say downloading software is a real problem on campus, notes the report from the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the trade organization for the commercial software industry. Students also say they don’t think their professors discourage software theft.


How often do you pay for the commercial software
programs that you download?
Students Professors Administration
Every time 11% 47% 36%
Most times 21% 22% 16%
Seldom 26% 16% 30%
Never 42% 16% 16%
Source: Ipsos

“Students aren’t being told, ‘Downloading unlicensed or illegal files is a mistake,'” says Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of BSA. “There have been positive advancements in P2P technology, but its misuse raises concerns. Education is ever more important to changing these behaviors. With P2P use on the rise, student and educator attitudes toward illegal downloading and file-swapping, if ignored, have the potential to become a gateway for increased software piracy on thousands of college campuses.”

In August 2003, the BSA reported that software piracy cost the United States $1.9 billion last year, up from $1.8 billion in 2001. And that rate reportedly resulted in 105,000 lost jobs. Industry analysts generally agree that piracy depletes available funding for software research and development, causing layoffs in the industry and billions of dollars in lost wages and tax revenues.

But the BSA also reported this summer that the U.S. has shown a small decline in software piracy rates. The U.S. piracy rate dropped two points from 2001, going from 25 percent to 23 percent.

And around the world, software piracy is showing some signs of being on the mend.

A BSA study shows that worldwide, every country except Zimbabwe has reduced its piracy rate since 1994, the first year the study was done. And software piracy has declined around the world, decreasing 10 points over the past eight years. The piracy rate for commercial software dipped down to 39 percent in 2002, compared to an all-time high of 49 percent in 1994.

But analysts worry that if the trend to download and share files on college campuses isn’t checked, then those rates may increase again.

The new BSA survey, which was commissioned by the BSA and done by market research firm Ipsos, shows that more than two-thirds of college faculty and administrators say it’s wrong to download or swap files. However, fewer than one-quarter of students at those same colleges say it’s wrong.


Concerns with Unlicensed Software
Students Professors Administration
Viruses 28% 11% 4%
Against law or policy 25% 57% 61%
Quality or functionality 16% 1% 0
It’s stealing 11% 21% 25%
Other 7% 3% 4%
Not concerned 7% 2% 1%
Source: Ipsos

The study notes that 23 percent of college and university students have downloaded software with only 32 percent paying for it all or most of the time. Another 69 percent have downloaded music, with only 8 percent of them paying for it all or even most of the time. And 26 percent have downloaded movies, with only 4 percent paying for it all or most of the time.

“Our concern is that two out of five students report using P2P file-sharing programs to download commercial software and they are doing so more often than in previous years,” Holleyman says. “Students can now distribute large files, like software, over the Internet much faster.”

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