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by Franki

The BSA (Business Software Alliance), which counts companies like Microsoft, Dell, Apple and HP as members, has been claiming that 33 billion dollars in revenue was lost due to software piracy ni 2004.

That some revenue is lost to piracy is without a doubt true, but many are somewhat doubtful about method by which the BSA reached this figure. In short, according to the Economist (subscription required) the BSA worked out it’s piracy figure by using surveys to determine how many programs the average user has in each area, they then compared that total to the amount of software actually sold in that area and used the difference to reach the $33 billion figure. There are so many problems with that reasoning, that you start to wonder if perhaps the BSA is just a collection of marketers, lobbyists and lawyers working furiously together to further the goals of their member companies. For starters, take me for example, I have, Firefox, NVU and Thunderbird on all of my machines. All of those are free Open Source programs, and yet they would count as “piracy” using the above calculation. When you consider that over 65 million people have downloaded Firefox alone, that, it makes you wonder how the BSA could tout such a figure and do so with a serious face. They also apparently jump to the conclusion that the people really guilty of pirating software would rush out and buy it were they unable to use their illegally gotten software. I find that assumption dubious to say the least. So I guess the moral of this is that we can all help the BSA tout bigger software losses if we all adopt and encourage Open Source software.

The second chapter in this woeful story relates to the current software patent issue dividing the EU. The BSA released figures that once again have been twisted to serve the interests of it’s members, nearly all of whom are huge companies. Their claim was that software patents benefit small and medium sized companies (SMEs) as much as large enterprise. Rather then go into all of the detail here, I will instead direct you to Ingrid Marson’s article at ZDnet where the saga has been explained more clearly and in more detail then I could hope to achieve myself. One comment I would make is that the BSA is behind much of the current lobbying in the EU in favour of software patents and their figures have been quoted by at least one MEP over there as reasons why software patents should be legally approved. That the figures are hopelessly inflated in the BSA’s favour is apparently not worth considering.

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