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Study: Mississippi No. 1 on pirated software list

It isn’t something most put much stock into, but the fact that a recent study identified Mississippi as being top on the list of states that use pirated business software applications has led many to think about the problem.

“You need to make yourself legitimate,” said Bill Moak, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi. “Some people justify pirated software by saying that software is too expensive and that they can’t afford it, but would they use the same argument if they needed a loaf of bread and ran out without paying for it? It’s the same thing. You’re stealing someone’s legitimate property that is for sale, and software piracy is just as much of a theft as shoplifting.”

The study, commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), was conducted by International Planning and Research Corp. The study found that 48.7% of business software used in Mississippi is pirated. Pirated software costs the U.S. $1.8 billion in retail sales of business software applications and more than 111,000 jobs. BSA estimates global software piracy ran to nearly $11 billion last year.

“It’s interesting to me how people justify it,” Moak said of pirating business software applications. “But would you apply the same logic if it were any other type of good?”

Bryan Kerr, senior partner of Mississippi-based software manufacturer Prominent Technologies, a producer of banking software for community banks, said he’s baffled by the incorrect perception people have about software.

“Part of that is it’s not a physical thing they can put their hands on,” Kerr said. “There’s not a physical link there. Another thing is it’s just easy for people to do. People don’t realize that copying software is stealing.”

Bobby Lloyd, CTO of Pileum, a Jackson-based IT consulting firm, said the percentage of pirated business software applications used in Mississippi seemed a bit unbelievable.

“But with the price of software soaring and the bad economic times, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me,” he continued.

Lloyd said there is nothing particularly sinister occurring in Mississippi. It’s just that with such a large number of small businesses in the state and the lack of software policies at most, finding pirated software is bound to happen. Lloyd expects the percentage of pirated software used in the state to drop over the next few years.

“Through the existence of the BSA as well as Internet registration and licensing policies, it will be harder to get away with it,” Lloyd said.

Kerr agreed. Microsoft, he said, has already made strides to combat piracy of their software. He added that his company, too, puts in strong protection measures for their software.

“If you think about it, you’re cheating the software makers out of 48% of that revenue that could’ve been put into research and development and revenue that could have gone back into the economy had it not been stolen,” Kerr said.

Lloyd routinely works with companies that have concerns about pirated software, and he said concerns are growing as a result of the higher liability associated with it. The civil fines, for example, are $150,000 per incident.

Lloyd said the best way companies can prevent being fined is by putting in place IT policies that dictate how software is acquired and installed and by abiding by those policies.

Kerr said many people buy one copy of software for their office and give it to their entire office, not realizing that that’s wrong. Every computer should have its own licensed software, he said.

“Selling pirated software is not only illegal, but it hurts legitimate businesses in Mississippi,” Moak said. “It can result in lost wages, taxes and jobs. It’s tantamount to stealing any other type of item.”

In the words of the BSA…

The BSA encourages businesses and consumers to take the following steps to ensure legal use of software:

• Adopt a corporate policy on compliance with copyright laws,

• Audit company computers,

• Document software purchased and understand licensing agreements,

• Beware of prices that are “too good to be true,” and

• Educate management and employees of their obligations under copyright laws.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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