This week the Business Software Alliance published a new study which purports to estimate the economic gain from a ten percent reduction in piracy of business software. For Canada, the BSA claims that the reduction would create over 6,000 new jobs and generate billions in GDP and tax revenue. Given such impressive claims, it is not surprising that some media reported on the study and the BSA's emphasis on new laws and tougher enforcement.So long as we're counting jobs and returns, what about the additional profits and jobs created by not paying for software? I'm sure the BSA would prefer that businesses find better margins elsewhere, but it's economically illiterate to suggest that if you raise one sector's overheads (in the form of software licenses) to provide more revenue to another sector (software companies), that the former's jobs and profits won't be lost to pay the latter.
Yet the organization now admits the estimate is just based on the economic gains from a ten percent increase in proprietary software spending. Notes a BSA spokesperson: "what the study is looking at here is really if you're reducing the piracy rate and increasing the legal software market by 10 points, this is what you'd see in terms of economic return." The BSA admits its estimate is based on the presumption that every dollar "saved" by using unlicensed software would now be spent on proprietary software. I termed this approach "shockingly misleading" given that I don't think anyone can credibly claim that there is a direct dollar for dollar correlation between piracy and proprietary software spending - many shift to open source alternatives when confronted with the issue and others cut back on spending altogether given the new costs.
Of course, there's a less risky way to avoid software license fees: switch to a free computing environment, like the Ubuntu GNU/Linux OS, which I'm happily using right now to type this blog post, and which is the most robust, easy-to-install, easy-to-maintain OS I've ever used.
Fun /. comment from Noitatsidem: "The Business Glass Alliance announces for every 10% increase in tornadoes over 6,000 new jobs would be created and billions in GDP and tax revenue would be generated."