Broadband fuelling software piracy

18 Mar 2004

The rapid growth of broadband in Europe is likely to drive up the rate of software piracy in Europe, a leading anti-piracy expert has warned.

The expert, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, is employed as an internet investigator by the Business Software Alliance, a watchdog group representing the world’s leading software firms. He said that the advent of low-cost broadband in countries like the UK, France and now Ireland was bringing with it an increase in illicit file-sharing and downloading activity.

“It’s an ever-growing problem,” he noted. “When Ireland goes broadband we’re going to see a massive jump in the problem.”

For the past few years, the rate of software piracy has dropped dramatically in most developing countries. In 1996, when the BSA began its anti-piracy drive, Ireland’s piracy rate was around 70pc. It’s now 42pc – which is still above the European average of 35pc – but the downward trend looks like being reversed both here and elsewhere in Europe.

“In France and the UK, we’ve seen an increase in the number of computers being hijacked by malicious code such as Trojans and a big jump in the number of software piracy cases being identified,” said the investigator.

He added that although it was not yet possible to quantify the increase, there was an unmistakable trend. “We’ll continue to see a rise in illicit activities.”

He was speaking at the launch in Dublin by the BSA of an online educational resource about responsible internet use for students of Ireland’s post-primary schools. Called Netrespect, the material was developed in consultation with the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE). Netrespect will cover ethics, the value of creative works and the positive impact of copyright and the technology industry on Ireland’s economy.

The official launch of the programme – which has been piloted in some schools since last August – will be backed by a marketing and direct mail campaign aimed at encouraging teachers of civics and transition-year courses to introduce new ideas and ethics-based discussions in the classroom.

Speaking to at the launch, Shona Jago, communications manager, BSA EMEA said the materials were not going to be forced upon teachers and schools; rather the campaign was seen as a first step in a long-term effort to change the attitudes of computer users – particularly schoolgoers – towards illegal sharing and use of intellectual property.

“We have found that for a large number of companies education messages do work and we are definitely seeing an impact,” she said.

The campaign seems to represent something of a step-back from the aggressive enforcement policies that have been the hallmark of the BSA’s strategy to date. Jago said the focus now was firmly on “education, education, education” and that legal enforcement would employed as a tactic of last resort against persistent offenders and those organised crime elements that are being attracted by the big profits to be made in software piracy.

A particularly worrying development, she added, was the appearance of more and more hoax e-commerce websites purporting to sell big name software at knock down prices. Consumers are handing over credit card details, unaware that they buying from an unauthorised source and leaving themselves open to credit card fraud and viruses. As a result, the credibility of e-commerce as well as balance sheets of software firms were being hit.

By Brian Skelly