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Software pirates' worst enemy: Y2K

Analysts believe organizations in countries using pirated, unsupported software will be in big trouble at the turn of the millennium.

    A software pirate's worst enemy might not be the long arm of the law, but the Year 2000 computer glitch.

    Analysts believe organizations in countries using pirated, unsupported software--located mainly in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe--will be in big trouble at the turn of the millennium.

    Back to Year 2000 Index Page Companies using bogus copies of software will be hard pressed to find software vendors who will provide upgrades and patches for unlicensed products.

    Philipe de Marcillac, senior vice president of global research, International Data Corporation, said software piracy makes the Y2K issue problematic in emerging markets. If you didn't pay for the software in the first place, you can't demand that the developer upgrade it, he said.

    The problem of software piracy exacerbates the Y2K problem in regions of the world where large companies and government agencies use and copy pirated software on a massive basis. For instance, in a Business Software Alliance survey released last July, the Middle East and Africa had a piracy rate of 65 percent, second only to Eastern Europe, which had a piracy rate of 77 percent.

    The Washington-based BSA--a group supported by major software firms such as Microsoft, Novell, and Lotus--said that 40 percent of all business software applications used worldwide are pirated, which means Y2K problems affecting pirated software may very well have an impact in the United States, according to analysts.

    Karine Elsen, a BSA spokesperson, pointed out that the Y2K bug isn't the only problem pirated software users face. "They will have problems getting support for any kind of upgrade or patch for a bug."

    The Year 2000 problem, also known as the millennium bug, stems from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year. Many computers now must be modified or they may mistake the year 2000 for the year 1900 and may not function, causing widespread disruptions in services in the transportation, financial, utility, and public safety sectors, some observers warn.

    Not all is lost for those using pirated software and facing the Year 2000 challenge. In fact, users of PC pirated software may have it easier than they think.

    "Most of the piracy market is PC," said Tom Olsen, an analyst at IDC. "If you go onto a public Web site today you can go and download a patch without identification a lot of times."

    However, he was quick to point out it isn't as easy when you move out of the PC area. With larger registered server systems, he said users could run into problems.

    BSA member companies are aiming to help ease potential problems by creating Web sites designed to specifically address Y2K issues and offering help desk and technical support via telephone and printed material.

    "We will do whatever it takes to help users get their computers get legal," Elsen said.