Greece heads the list of European countries for software piracy, according to a global study released yesterday. The study was conducted by US-based market research firm IDC and commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the international lobbying group of software companies aimed at countering piracy. The study shows that the software piracy rate in Greece is 63 percent, much higher than the European Union average, including the recent newcomers. The value of the illegal software market in Greece for 2003 was estimated at 70.8 million euros ($86.9 million). The average software piracy rate in the European Union is 37 percent. IDC estimates that software firms lose over 8 billion euros each year from sales of pirated software products in the European market. According to the BSA, «the results confirm that software piracy continues to be a major challenge in the European Union, with IDC indicating that the problem is getting worse.» As Beth Scott, vice president of BSA for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, noted: «Unfortunately, this demonstrates the region is failing to capitalize on the benefits that even a 10 percent reduction in software piracy could bring by 2006 – including 250,000 new jobs and (additional) tax revenues in excess of 18 billion euros.» The IDC study on software piracy in 2003 includes for the first time such important segments of the software market as operating systems, consumer software and local market software. «The inclusion of these categories paints a broader, more accurate picture of the software piracy problem,» BSA said in its regional press release for the European Union. The value of the global market for commercial software that run on PCs amounted in 2003 to more than $50 billion. Yet, the value of programs installed on PCs is estimated at $80 billion. In other words, for every two dollars spent in acquiring legal software, more than a dollar was spent for the purchase of pirated software. The global piracy rate – that is the number of pirated software units divided by the total number of software units used in 2003 – was 36 percent. According to the BSA, «there exist, unfortunately, a number of factors leading to an increase in the piracy of software products. Those include the economic crisis in certain areas of the world, the great increase in the number of PC users in emerging market countries – mainly consumers and small companies – and the increasing availability of pirated software, especially through the Internet and on a peer-to-peer basis.» More than 700 million people had access to and used the Internet at the end of 2003. It is projected that by 2007 their numbers will increase to more than a billion users, many of whom will be located in emerging markets. The number of Internet users in China alone is expected to rise by about 90 million in the next three years. At the same time, online piracy is facilitated by higher data transfer speeds, allowing users easier access as well as the possibility of downloading larger programs, including software, much faster. Today, 70 million homes have broadband access to the Internet and by the end of 2007, the number is expected to have increased by 100 million. IDC concludes that while the value of the global software market will amount to more than $70 billion within the next five years, from $50 billion today, if rates of piracy remain constant, the retail value of pirated software products will exceed $40 billion.