In its latest report, a software industry group says that 29 percent of programs used in Israel are unlicensed, a rate that is the lowest of any country in the Middle East and comparable to the rate in most of Europe.
Despite the move to cloud computing and free online software (like Google’s suite of online apps), software piracy is still a major issue for the industry, according to The Software Alliance (formerly BSA), a group established in 1988 by Microsoft that monitors illegal use of software. In its latest report, the group says that software piracy costs the industry more than $51 billion a year.
The report, called Seizing Opportunity Through License Compliance, ranks regions and countries for the rates of legal vs. pirated software in use. Israel compares well with all other countries in the Middle East and Africa; in only three other countries (UAE, Reunion, and South Africa) were less than half of the programs in use licensed; all other countries in the region showed piracy levels of 50% or more. Among European countries, Israeli software users were more honest than those in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Iceland and Malta, and only slightly less honest than users in places like Switzerland (23%), Netherlands (24%), and Belgium (23%).
Over the past three years, the piracy rate in Israel has been slowly but steadily shrinking. In 2013, 30% of programs in use in Israel were pirated – lower than 2011’s 31% rate and 2009’s 33%.
Among countries in North America, Israel compared well to Canada, with a 24% piracy rate. The United States was the least piracy-ridden country, with a 17% rate. The average piracy rate among all Central and South American countries was 55%, in Asia 61%, and in Eastern and Central Europe 58%. The world “champs” in piracy were Libya and Zimbabwe, where 9 out of 10 commercial software programs were pirated. In China, 70% of programs in use in 2015 were unlicensed – and responsible for the biggest drain on industry proceeds, with the pirated programs worth over $7 billion. Iran does not appear in the study.
The data for the survey was gathered by anonymous surveys and polls conducted in 116 countries, joining public data on sales, numbers of computers in use in a country, and the amount of money spent on software.
Although software piracy sounds like an “old tech” issue, far from the cutting edge of cloud-based apps, software as a service, big data tech, and the other innovations in computing from the last decade, the Alliance believes that it is more relevant than ever because pirated software is often riddled with malware, which spreads over the Internet. “Malware is a huge problem for organizations — and one of the main culprits is unlicensed software,” says the group. According to its research, “the higher the rate of unlicensed PC software, the higher the likelihood that users will experience potentially debilitating malware.
“The findings highlight that a significant hidden cost associated with using unlicensed software is the possibility of unwittingly opening up an organization to cyber risk in doing so,” said the group. “The findings also argue for instituting first lines of defense: ensuring that no illegitimate or unlicensed software is acquired by anyone, and that software is regularly updated and security patches are installed as soon as they are received. Failure to do so can cause serious problems.”