Piracy Extends Beyond Software to Digital Content

Nearly 30 percent of business people could be classified as pirating software using a variety of electronic methods, according to a survey by the Software & Information Industry Association and KPMG.

Of the 1,004 business people surveyed, more than half of the business users said they are unaware of corporate policies governing intellectual property that may be in place. According to the study, 54 percent of business users indicated they do not know if it is permissible to redistribute information from online sites they subscribe to, while 23 percent said they believe it is permitted.

“This survey tells us that the serious nature of software and content piracy is not clearly communicated to Internet users in the workplace,” said Barbara Carbone, National Industry Director for KPMG LLP’s Software and Services practice. “The business community needs to do a better job of educating its employees about Internet use, or risk fines, lawsuits or other incidents that can arise from conducting business in a digital workplace.”

Education, or the lack thereof, does appear to be the biggest problem. Most users of Internet content and software products said they were unaware of the proper legal use of such products, according to the survey, yet 69.5 percent reported they have used the Internet to acquire software and 22 percent subscribe to business information services.

“Theft is still the heart of the issue, and software and information companies must be on the alert for those who would steal or borrow their most valuable assets: their intellectual property,” said Roger Carlile, the partner in charge of KPMG’s Forensic & Litigation Services practice.

While individuals may consciously and illegally download software, 12 percent of those surveyed claim that no one gets hurt when software is shared. Their behaviors tend to moderate with respect to redistribution of software; fewer than 10 percent of consumers and 16 percent of business users admit to redistribution, more closely aligning with their expressed beliefs.

Another intellectual property issue that could have a much stronger effect as an increasing number of online services turn to paid subscription programs is the redistribution of subscription content. According to the survey, this is a much more frequent problem than software piracy. Nearly half of those who access unauthorized subscription services report having redistributed content at least once, but only 7 percent report redistributing content more than once a week.

In addition, 21 percent of business users indicated they have downloaded digital content from information services to which their employer does not have a paid subscription. Fully one-third said they receive content once a week, and one-sixth at least once a day. Forty-six percent of the content is received from business colleagues.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 81 percent state that they would not violate copyright laws.
  • 48 percent agree that everyone who uses the Internet violates copyright laws at some point.
  • 41 percent say that there should be stricter regulations to protect copyright laws at some point.
  • 38 percent say that all information on the Internet should be free.
  • 61 percent claimed that they would never share software downloaded from the Internet without appropriate licensing.
  • 67 percent say that any newsworthy article, in print or via the Internet should be fully accessible without a fee attached.

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