SME pirates costing Australia $1.2bn

Macnamara, who is the chairman of the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA), estimated that for every piece of software installed legally in Australia in 1999, a further two illegal installations occurred.

In fact, the BSAA estimates that 33 per cent of all software installed in Australia is illegal - 6 per cent higher than in the US. Furthermore, the industry group estimates 60 per cent of software used in the graphic design, CAD (computer aided design), printing and publishing industries is illegal.

Macnamara said a recent survey commissioned by the BSAA found 32 per cent of Australian software developers felt they had lost revenue due to software piracy. In fact, the survey suggested software developers alone had been robbed a total of $300 million in 1999.

The same survey also estimated that the local reseller channel had lost a total of $286 million over the same period, with 53 per cent of distributors, resellers and retailers believing they had been robbed of up to 30 per cent of their revenues by software pirates.

Macnamara quoted consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers' recent estimate that software piracy was indirectly costing the Australian economy $1.2 billion per year.

He said most software piracy occurred in small-to-medium businesses. Typically, larger corporations were willing to spend money on software licences for all employees and firewalls to prevent downloads off the internet, whereas smaller businesses did not have measures such as these in place, he said.

The BSAA recently met with a House of Representatives standing committee to discuss possible changes to federal copyright legislation. Macnamara said the BSAA proposed to the government that legal copyright legislative procedures be streamlined and that ISPs be prohibited from providing links to sites clearly offering pirated software.

Macnamara said the BSAA relied heavily on tip-offs, which had increased significantly since the industry body introduced a $5000 reward. The BSAA typically handed out between 10 and 20 of these cash rewards each year, he said.

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