Giorgos Keramidas keramida at ceid.upatras.gr
Thu May 25 15:37:10 EEST 2006


On 2006-05-23 15:59, Chameleon <cham_gss at hotmail.com> wrote:
> http://financial.kathimerini.gr/?page=news_home_details&new_id=7703

     ,     BSA.
.   post       BSA-inspired :

[   http://keramida.wordpress.com/2006/05/25/software-piracy-and-bsa/ ]

Software Piracy and What the BSA Wants You To Believe
*****************************************************

  Giorgos Keramidas
  May 25th, 2006

The online version of `Financial Kathimerini'[1] includes on May
23 2006 an article[2] that is roughly translated to English
below:

# Greece first in software piracy in EU, with a percentage of 64% in 2005
# ***********************************************************************
#
# Greece remains for another year in the first place of countries
# where pirated software is used in EU, with a percentage of
# piracy of 64%, as announced by Business Software
# Alliance. According to the world-wide research of IDC for 2005,
# 35% of the software installed in 2005 was illegally copied.
#
# In Greece, the percentage of illegally copied software was 64%,
# resulting in economic loses of about 125 million euro. Ranking
# first, for the third consecutive year, among the countries of
# the expanded EU, Greece has failed to reduce the percentage of
# pirated software installations; Greece and Turkey are the only
# countries which have a piracy percentage of more than 50%,
# according to the BSA.
#
# The 2% percentage increase of Greece is much higher than the
# average percentage of the EU countries (which is 28%). It even
# exceeds the average of Middle East countries.
#
# Mrs. Archontoula Papapanagiotou, a legal advisor and
# representative of the BSA in Greece, commenting on the results
# of the study, noted that: "As citizens, we must stand with
# greater responsibility against software piracy and understand
# that intellectual property affects many aspects of our lives,
# both at home and work. The percentage of software piracy in
# Greece indicates that a great deal of our lives is exposed to
# the dangers inherent in pirated software".
#
# "Moreover, the Greek state has to concentrate immediately in
# more strict efforts to fight software piracy and protect
# intellectual property. Actions must be taken that will
# contribute in major ways to the economic growth of the country
# and create new job positions. It is sad and embarrassing for
# our country, the place where civilization was born, to be
# first-ranking today among those offending intellectual property
# rights", emphasized Mrs.  Papapanagiotou.
#
# The study was conducted in 97 countries. Almost half of them
# (51) were the ones where a decrease in software piracy was
# noted, and only in 19 of these countries a percentage increase
# was found. The world percentage of software piracy did not
# change much between 2004 and 2005, as advanced markets like the
# USA, western Europe, Japan and certain Asian countries dominate
# the software market, keeping the worlds average percentage of
# software piracy almost unchanged.
#
# "The progress that has been made in fighting software piracy in
# many of the developing markets is encouraging", stated Robert
# Holleyman, the president and CEO of BSA. "Nevertheless, more
# than a third of the copies of software installed in 2005 has
# been illegally obtained and this means we have to increase our
# efforts to fight software piracy around the globe".
#
# A decrease in software piracy was noted in 19 of the 26
# Middle-East and African countries which were included in the
# study, with a percentage decrease of 2% or more in 12 of
# them. In Central and Eastern Europe, software piracy has seen a
# decrease in 15 out of 18 countries studied today.
#
# Positive changes have also been noticed in developing countries
# like, Russia, India and China. Most importantly, in China and
# Russia the percentage decrease for pirated software was 4%,
# while Indias percentage was 2% less than 2004.
#
# The total, worldwide profit losses caused by software piracy
# are estimated to $34 billion, including an increase of around
# $1.6 billion from 2004. In countries with large software
# industries, the relatively low percentage of software piracy
# may still incur severe loses. For example, in the United
# States, which have the lowest percentage of software piracy
# (21%), the losses were estimated at $6.9 billion. The countries
# with the greatest losses caused by software piracy are China
# (with an estimate loss of $3.9 billion, and a piracy percentage
# of 86%), France (with an estimate loss of $3.2 billion and a
# piracy percentage of 47%).
#
# Among other things, the IDC study showed that:
#
#   * The greatest decrease in software piracy was achieved in
#     China (4%), Russia (4%), Ukraine (6%) and Morocco (4%).
#   * The countries with the largest software piracy percentage
#     in the world are: Vietnam (90%), Zimbabwe (90%), Indonesia
#     (87%), China (86%) and Pakistan (86%).
#   * The countries with the smallest percentage of software
#     piracy are: the USA (21%), New Zealand (23%), Austria (26%)
#     and Finland (26%).
#
# The results of a previous study of IDC/BSA showed that the if
# the worldwide percentage of software piracy was decreased by
# 10% and reached 25%, this change would offer 2.4 million new
# job positions, resulting in profits of $400 billion for
# economic growth and $67 billion in taxes. In Greece, estimates
# show that a 10% decrease of software piracy would result in
# profits of 351 million euro for the countrys economic growth,
# will create 1.300 new job positions and will increase the
# income of the local software industry by 223 billion euro.
#
# Business Software Alliance represents the software industry and
# the affiliated hardware vendors. BSA has been active in Greece
# since 1992, aiming at informing and protecting the general
# public from illegal uses of software.  Members of BSA are
# companies like Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Avid, Bentley Systems,
# Borland, CNC Software/Mastercam, Internet Security Systems,
# Macromedia McAfee, Microsoft, PTC, SolidWorks, Sybase,
# Symantec, The MathWorks and UGS. Members of BSA Hellas are the
# companies ALTEC , Anodos Inc., AutoDesk Hellas, Singular
# Software, Infoquest A, Microsoft Hellas AEBE, Pouliades &
# Associates AEBE, Rainbow Computer Inc, Sunsoft EPE, Syntax
# Pliroforiki AE, opnet Solutions A.E.

Reading stuff like this in the mainstream media, makes me wonder
if people are really buying the very thinly veiled threats for a
reign of terror which BSA is trying to establish with
announcements like these.

Pseudo-scientific Studies are Not Very Useful
=============================================

There is certainly a pseudo-scientific aura around the article,
mostly due to the spurious, liberal use of words like "study" or
"research". Posting announcements in a casual, leisurely manner
is not exactly a scientific manner of proving ones point though
-- even if the announcement is made in mainstream media
(especially if the announcement is made through mainstream
media).  Unfortunately for BSAs spokesmen and spokeswomen,
sprinkling a page of text with percentages and using fancy words
is not a good way to make a point that can stand even the most
minute of criticisms. This is exactly what the translated text
above tries to do though. Through a torrent of percentage
numbers, we are supposed to believe that BSA has studies software
piracy around the entire globe and has magically come up with how
many of us are thieves. So, in their uncorrupt, glistening, white
software-saint robes, they throw these unsupported numbers at our
faces, to prove that 1/3 of all humankind are treacherous fools,
who keep the entire world from going forward (see uses of the
words "progress" and "growth" near the end of the article), and
heres our numbers to prove this.

As usual, there is absolutely no information about where and how
BSA got hold of these numbers. Their pseudo-scientific "research"
can only be considered yet another track-load of unsupported
rumours, until they clearly and transparently describe the exact
method of gathering the dataset for their statistics, so that
another, independent organization can also repeat the same
research. Thats the only way a claim can move from the huge,
gray area of "bullshit" to the rigidly controlled, reproducible,
logically sound region of "scientific research". BSA has not done
this, Im afraid, so their numbers should not be considered as
scientifically sound proof of the widespread use of pirated
software around the world, until they clearly provide all the
research details for everyone to see and judge for themselves.

Dangers of Pirated Software
===========================

Part of the statement of Mrs. Archontoula Papapanagiotou
includes:

  "The percentage of software piracy in Greece indicates that a great deal of
  our lives is exposed to the dangers inherent in pirated software."

I agree that illegally copied software does pose a threat
wherever it is used.  This is true because the "cracked" versions
of legal software many people use may have, in general, two sorts
of problems:

  * Problems that are also present in the original, uncracked
    copies.

  * Problems that are the result of the changes made while
    "cracking" the software.

This is probably the only point where I can whole-heartedly agree
with what has been stated by the BSA. Software that is obtained
legally, through a well-known, verifiable source, may still have
problems. These problems are either bugs that the vendor knows
about, or bugs that are new. In either case, the legitimate user
of software can (normally) ask for support from their vendor and
there should be documented ways of obtaining this sort of
support. Usually, there are.

So, there are valid reasons why you shouldn'tt use pirated
software. These reasons are, in short:

  * Illegally "cracked" software may have problems that are
    unique to the cracked version, not present to legally
    obtained, official copies.

  * By using pirated software, you are forfeiting your right to
    ask for and obtain support.

The rest of the published statements include a great deal of
stuff that I do not agree at all with, though.

Non-sequiturs Are Fun but Useless
=================================

The most important problems with the BSA "study" shown above is
that is contains several non-sequiturs -- all of them posing as
genuine arguments against software piracy, while they are really
nothing more than hogwash. The ones I could easily spot are:

  * Buying legal software copies = more job positions will be
    created

  * In Greece pirated software is used = loses of 125 million
    euro

  * Fighting software piracy = economic growth of Greece

1. The first of those assertions is blatantly false for several
reasons. BSA wants you to believe that buying software will
somehow, for some curiously magical reason, generate new job
positions for some sort of people. Im not sure if this is the
right kind of people the BSA had in mind when they fell for this
fallacy, but let us assume for a moment that they refer to new
job positions in the software industry. How exactly is that going
to happen?

Remember that we are interested about software that is actively
being pirated today. This means that this particular piece of
software has already gone through the stages of development,
testing, quality assurance, it has been sold to some customers
and eventually ended up being illegally copied by some other
user. Since all the people involved in its production, sales,
marketing and customer support are already there and they do have
a job, why is it so obvious that having more users pay for it
will instantly create new jobs? What sort of jobs would these new
ones be? I am really not so sure. BSA seems to be convinced and
certain about it though. So much that they feel confident to use
these "new jobs" as the basis of one of their arguments against
software piracy.

2. The second thing that I immediately noticed and recognized as
pretty naive, if not deliberately designed to trick the reader
into believing something false -- which would be far more evil
and unforgivable in an article appearing in mainstream press --,
is the sentence:

  In Greece, the percentage of illegally copied software was 64%,
  resulting in economic loses of about 125 million euro.

I dont know if this is quoted literally from something the BSA
has written, since it doesn'tt look to be a quotation in the
original article. Whoever wrote this seems to imply that this is,
somehow, a reasonable estimate for the software people would buy
and pay for if they were not copying software illegally. Since
there is no evidence that shows how, why or when this conclusion
was reached, Im afraid its quite impossible to check the
validity of this amount of money. Has anyone really done a valid,
documented, legally sound research that the exact number of
software pirating users are "N", and then somehow derived from
this number of "N users" the real number of users who would still
use the same software if it cost them major money, finally coming
up with the 125 million euro estimate? Where is all the evidence
that supports this particular figure (or any other number in the
article, for that matter)?

3. A third part, related to Greece like (1), which I find totally
   absurd is:

  "Moreover, the Greek state has to concentrate immediately in
  more strict efforts to fight software piracy and protect
  intellectual property. Actions must be taken that will
  contribute in major ways to the economic growth of the country
  and create new job positions. [...]" emphasized
  Mrs. Papapanagiotou.

I do agree that the Greek state has to support anti-piracy
movements, that it has to support the use of free software
alternatives, that it has to keep struggling for open formats,
open standards, to fund research and aim for a high level of
innovation happening in the academic, corporate and public
sectors. I just dont see how all this is related to the agenda
of BSA, which is still trying to convince us that the
distribution and use of pirated software is somehow related to
the number of jobs available in Greece right now or in the
future. I also dont see how spending more money will contribute
to the economic growth of a country that already owes a hell of a
lot of money. But I am not an expert economist. Perhaps the BSA
know better than me, and spending enormous amounts of money for
software licenses is going to get Greece out of its debts.  For
some reason, I really dont think so.

On the other hand, concentrating on fighting software piracy by
using free software whenever possible, I think will have a
greater, far-reaching effect in the economy of Greece, which as a
country, as a whole, already spends hilarious amounts of money
for software licensing costs.

More Absurdities & Unsupported Claims
=====================================

Then I read the entire article more carefully. This revealed a
magnificent amount of things that range from mildly silly to
outrageously absurd:

  * Civilization was born in Greece, we cannot be pirates.

  * The total, worldwide profit losses caused by software piracy
    are estimated to $34 billion

  * If worldwide percentage of software piracy is decreased by
    10% and reaches 25%, this change will offer 2.4 million new
    job positions

  * This will also result in profits of $400 billion for economic
    growth and $67 billion in taxes

  * In Greece, a similar decrease of 10% will result in profits
    of 351 million euro for the countrys economic growth

  * It will also create 1.300 new job positions

  * It will increase the income of the local software industry by
    223 billion euro

I find it very obvious why these claims are either blatantly
false or just unsupported FUD, but they may sound convincing to
some people, so it is important to see why and where they fail:

  1. "It is sad and embarrassing for our country, the place where
  civilization was born, to be first-ranking today among those
  offending intellectual property rights", emphasized
  Mrs. Papapanagiotou.

First of all, let me say: I agree that, if there was any way to
verify the claims of BSA about the huge list of percentages they
claim as results of their "research", ranking high on such a list
is sad and embarrassing. Before we let our feeling of grief
overtake us though, we must honestly ask ourselves. What other
source do we have for verifying these claims, apart from BSA? If
we dont, then how do we know that the numbers aren'tt just
fantasies conjectured out of thin air by someone in BSA who has
an agenda to push for? If the numbers they published are not
true, then how do we know our position is really the one BSA
wants us to believe it is?

Most importantly, what sort of twisted logic is the one that
assumes civilization was "born" in Greece. It is one thing to
state that Greece has contributed to the current civilization and
a very different thing altogether to claim that "civilization was
born" in Greece. Anyone who descends from people who were only
slightly if at all affected by Greece, anyone who also descends
from other great civilizations who have paved their way through
history conquering new scientific fields, opening new pathways
for the advancement of human knowledge and offering in their own
way -- much like the Greeks have done too -- would be rightfully
offended and angered by this single statement. Why do we have to
believe that this ethnocentric statement, bordering on the verge
of racism, somehow means that Greeks are the holier than thou
people who are not pirating software? Sure they are doing
this. Sure they can. Like everyone else, I guess...

The important thing is not to find out why Greeks, who are
"magically" more civilized than others, are seduced by software
piracy. What is really important is to find out why software
piracy still finds its way into Greece, to find out the real
causes of software piracy and then strike at those.

  2. The total, worldwide profit losses caused by software piracy
  are estimated to $34 billion

More "magic numbers". No hint at what the actual source of these
number is.

We are supposed to trust BSA that it is telling us the truth, and
that they have somehow divined -- perhaps using mind-reading
techniques, or some other elite trick -- how many of the users
who are currently installing pirated, illegally obtained copies
of software would honestly still want to use the same overpriced
piece of software and truly pay for it.

Tricky, isn't it?

  3. If worldwide percentage of software piracy is decreased by
  10% and reaches 25%, this change will offer 2.4 million new job
  positions

2.4 million new job positions is a lot. A great, thrilling number
of new jobs.

Why and how would this be related to the current number of users
who install pirated software, though?

Are we supposed to believe that the same people who lack the
exuberant amount of cash necessary to buy expensive software
today, will somehow just "get a job" when they spend more money
than they can afford on software licensing costs?  Why?

  4. This will also result in profits of $400 billion for
  economic growth and $67 billion in taxes

Even more "magic numbers". Where did those $400 come from? Even
if we do believe that the total profit loss is $34 billion, then
the 10% of this is $340 million, which is way lower than $400
million. Is the BSA rounding numbers to make them "easy to
remember" here? Have they also rounded other numbers of the same
study?  Do they always round numbers upwards, to make things
sound worse than they really are?

These are just a few of the questions that may spring from such a
seemingly innocent statement. I dont think they are easy to
answer. I am also reluctant to think that they increase my
tendency to accept whatever BSA-inspired statements have to
say. If they can cook numbers to exaggerate about the profit
gains of stopping software piracy, they can also exaggerate a lot
about the alleged percentage of software piracy they have
"discovered" through "research".

Another important aspect of this particular statement reveals a
much more sinister characteristic of what the BSA spreads
around. Their goal is, in this case, not to help people use
safer, more robust software, but to increase taxes.  Now, it is
obvious that government offices and the state depend on a certain
amount of taxes for keeping a steady flow of incoming money. This
is not strange, and is acceptable in most of the developed world
today. But does this solve the problem at hand, in any way? The
original problem -- the fact that users choose to copy software
illegally, because they cannot afford the already overpriced stuff
they would have to buy otherwise -- is not going to be solved by
adding more taxes on top of what we have today. Im completely
astonished at the way BSA suggests that more taxes and about $400
billion more money spent on software would solve this
problem. No, Im afraid thats not a solution.

Free software, on the other hand, is a solution. It does not
encourage piracy, because it is freely available. It does not
cost $400 billion, because it is freely available. More
importantly, if the state itself uses free software, it doesn'tt
have to charge everybody else with $67 billion, to pay for the
cost of the software it uses!

  5. In Greece, a similar decrease of 10% will result in profits
  of 351 million euro for the countrys economic growth

I can even begin to enumerate the reasons why this looks like a
statement pulled off some magicians hat.

First of all, the total loss from illegally copied software in
Greece, if we are to believe the statements of BSA itself, was
125 million. Near the beginning of the same article, we can read:

  "... In Greece, the percentage of illegally copied software was
  64%, resulting in economic loses of about 125 million euro ..."

If this profit loss of 125 million was reduced by 10%, how on
earth would the money we gain suddenly raise from 12.5 million to
351 million euro? Or are we supposed, yet again, to believe that
BSA is only slightly exaggerating to round up the numbers to the
closest convenient figure? Is this a joke or something?

  6. It will also create 1.300 new job positions

Keep the magic numbers coming! Please!!!

There is no need to actually explain what these 1.300 new jobs
will be. We can all guess, because we are all expert economists,
expert software industry professionals, so no explanation is
really necessary.

There is absolutely no reason at all to believe that by selling
several thousand more licenses, the companies that produce
software will suddenly start hiring more people. They dont need
those extra people. They already have their development, testing,
quality assurance, sales, marketing, and support teams in place,
because they have already: finished developing the software
versions that are on sale, they have already sold several thousand
copies, they already support their legitimate users, etc. and so
on.

Im not sure why BSA wants us to believe the companies will start
investing more money on hiring people just because they sold a
few more copies. This is not the way companies work. They are not
charity, not-for-profit organizations. They will probably try to
cover the extra users with their existing infrastructure and only
if this proves difficult will they actually hire new people.

So spare us the guesswork, BSA, please...

  7. It will increase the income of the local software industry
  by 223 billion euro

This is strange, indeed. I repeat a quote straight from the BSA
"study", which was included in the article of Kathimerini:

  "In Greece, the percentage of illegally copied software was
  64%, resulting in economic loses of about 125 million euro."

The profit losses from software piracy in Greece alone were 125
million euro, if we are to believe what BSA says. How does this
end up being a source of income that can easily generate 223
billion euro? This is almost 20 times higher than the current
losses. Even if everyone in Greece suddenly decided to throw away
all their illegal copies of software and buy the "real thing"
from a software vendor, this would probably generate profits of
125 million. Where do the other 234,875 million come from?

Is this yet another attempt from BSA to impress us by its magical
ability to conjure numbers out of their magical hats?

Why Free Software is a Better Answer
====================================

What BSA fails spectacularly to mention is that all their rants
and FUD about "huge losses" is that all their fancy statements
about software pirates, thieving crooks who are being a huge
impediment to "progress" and "growth", all their rhetoric is
useless and meaningless when applied to free software.

Nobody can label you a pirate for using free software; it is
freely available for anyone to use, after all.

Nobody can accuse you about stopping progress if you are using
free software.  The entire Internet today runs and is supported
by free software, like Linux[3], the BSD systems (FreeBSD[4],
NetBSD[5], OpenBSD[6] and DragonflyBSD[7]), Apache[8], BIND[9],
and many others.

Academic research can use free software without limitations. It
is only free software that really allows people to share their
research findings without limits, to co-operate without the
constant slow-down and cost in time, money and people that some
times results from the lack of proper software, proper licenses
for that software or resources for training people in expensive
vendor-based courses every time a new version comes out.

Most importantly, the citizens and public sector of government
offices can also benefit immensely by using free software.

The sort of software BSA really evangelizes is closed,
proprietary, it carries along a multitude of patents, licenses,
non-disclosure agreements, and all sorts of hidden immediate or
long-term costs. It is hard to make this sort of software
available for all citizens of a country, without paying huge
amounts of money.

In direct and vivid contrast to this, free software is available
freely for everyone. By supporting and using free software
everyone can search for, locate, read and share documents and
publications of the government, official texts of the state,
without being constantly afraid of being labelled a "pirate" or
"thief". This is beneficial for both the state and its citizens
too. In free countries, where all the citizens can access, read,
share and openly discuss the public, official documents of the
state, both the citizens and the state have chances to improve,
be educated, informed about their rights, their responsibilities
and the plans for future growth.

Free software allows all this. Free software makes all this
possible.

Why Does BSA Fail to Mention Free Software?
===========================================

Having said all that, it is truly amazing that BSA (or the media)
fail to mention free software when software piracy issues are
presented. I can only think of two possible explanations:

  * They dont know about free software, what it stands for and
    what it offers

  * They do know about free software, but their sponsors dont
    want people to know about it.

In the first case, which is the smaller evil of the two, we can
only suggest that BSA does its homework better the next
time. They shouldn'tt spread [22]FUD as liberally as they do until
now, but they should really strive to prevent software piracy by
presenting all the options a software user has.

In the second case, I dont think there is anything we as
end-users of software products can do, other than dismiss all the
FUD of BSA as useless ranting aimed solely at gathering more
money for their sponsors. As much as they would like the public
to believe that they are the Software Anti-Piracy Knights in
Shining-Armor who protect everybodys well-being, who fight
against the thieving, scheming, treacherous pirates, they are
nothing more than an extension of the marketing department of
particular companies.

Regardless of what the truth behind all the BSA rants is,
everyone should know that an alternative to using illegally
copied software does exist, here, now, today; it is called free
software. Software that has no strings attached; software that
provides most of the features of pirated software, and even more;
software that can support and does support large portions of the
largest network ever, the Internet; software that liberates and
empowers the user; software that does not limit, lock-into
particular vendors or even versions; software that does not
threaten our security, our financial prosperity; software that --
as a result of being free -- encourages, promotes, makes
possible, supports and creates innovation, progress, and
co-operation; software that -- because it is free -- does not
cost immense amounts of money and does not put a huge strain on
developing countries; software that is open for everyone to
review, improve, extend and customize, without limits; software
that can create development, support, education-related jobs;
software that is documented, extensible, customizable, tunable,
but above all...

Software that is free as in freedom!

References
**********

[1] http://financial.kathimerini.gr/
[2] http://financial.kathimerini.gr/?page=news_home_details&new_id=7703
[3] http://www.linux.org/
[4] http://www.freebsd.org/
[5] http://www.netbsd.org/
[6] http://www.openbsd.org/
[7] http://www.dragonflybsd.org/
[8] http://httpd.apache.org/
[9] http://www.isc.org/index.pl?/sw/bind/




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