Piracy killed the radio star, insists the BSA

The BSA must be good for something. Truth just doesn't happen to be one of them.

Data compiled from IDC by Ars Technica

It turns out that all of the world's problems could be resolved by stamping out piracy, or so goes the story from the Business Software Alliance. The BSA--"Be prepared (to intimidate people into slobbering submission)"--never met an alleged software pirate that it didn't hate, and believes that piracy has a huge negative impact on the global economy, including the U.S. economy, as Ars Technica reports. In fact, it paid (commissioned) IDC to come up with the following numbers:

If the amount of software piracy in the U.S. were to be reduced by 10 percentage points over the next four years, IDC believes the end result would be $41 billion in economic growth, $7 billion in additional tax revenues, and the creation of over 32,000 new jobs. In countries with higher rates of piracy, the impact would be even greater.

Maybe, maybe not. The real question for the BSA is this: since the software industry apparently can't solve the piracy problem by kicking in the doors of small and medium-size businesses based on tips from disgruntled ex-employees, perhaps it would do better to encourage its members to go open source, obviating the incentive (and ability) to pirate software.

After all, if you're giving the software away anyway, there's nothing left to pirate. It's impossible to pirate support or services (like Red Hat Network). These involve moving parts. They're not just bits. They're service. Service can't be pirated.

But no, the BSA exists to propagate the 20th century's mode of selling software. I don't agree with piracy. I think it's wrong. But I also believe that the BSA's numbers are both inflated and overly optimistic. Let's say the BSA was able to force the full price of Microsoft Windows on the people of Indonesia. Does this necessarily mean they would all pay?

No. Instead it likely means that they'd be priced out of the market and would end up using open-source alternatives.

In sum, perhaps we need the BSA to do its job well. Doing it well would lead to more open source. Or changing its job to focus on upgrading its members' business models would do the same. The one thing that doesn't work is trying to force the world back into the 20th century. At least, not in the ineffective way that the BSA currently pursues this goal.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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