In today’s digital age, the cost of software piracy is a critical concern that extends beyond mere financial losses.

This article delves into the multifaceted effects of internet piracy of software, not only on the software industry but also on the global economy and technological innovation.

Understanding the cost of software piracy is essential for developing effective strategies to combat this growing challenge and foster a sustainable digital environment.

Software Piracy: A Clear Definition and Its Various Forms

Software piracy is the unauthorised use, duplication, distribution, or sale of legally protected software.

It violates copyright laws and intellectual property rights, depriving software creators and companies of their rightful earnings and potentially exposing users to legal and security risks.

Let’s break down the different forms of software piracy:

  1. Illegal Downloading: This is perhaps the most recognised form of software piracy. It involves downloading software from the internet without paying for it or obtaining the necessary licenses. Websites offering “free” versions of paid software are typically hubs for such illegal downloads. This practice is akin to stealing a product from a store – it’s taking something without paying the creator or owner.
  2. Cracking: Cracking refers to the modification of software to remove or disable features that are considered undesirable by the person using it, especially copy protection features. This often involves the use of a ‘crack,’ a piece of software or a set of instructions used to remove copy protection from software or to unlock features from a demo or time-limited trial. Cracked software is often distributed via peer-to-peer networks, illegal download websites, or through other illicit channels.
  3. License Sharing: License sharing occurs when software is installed on more devices than the license permits. For instance, if a software license is for a single user, installing it on multiple computers for use by several people constitutes piracy. This also includes situations where software is purchased by an individual or organisation and then distributed among multiple users who did not pay for it.
  4. Counterfeiting: This form of piracy involves creating unauthorised copies of software and packaging them to look like genuine products. These counterfeit copies are then sold as if they were legitimate, often deceiving consumers who believe they are purchasing a legal product.
  5. Using Unlicensed Software: This happens when individuals or organisations use software without having a proper license. It can be either intentional (knowingly using pirated software) or unintentional (using software without being aware that a license is required or that the existing license has expired).
  6. Softlifting: This term refers to the practice of purchasing a single licensed copy of software and then installing it on multiple computers, despite the license terms prohibiting such actions. This is common in corporate environments where software is installed on more company computers than the license agreement allows.

Each of these forms of software piracy has its own nuances, but they all share the common thread of being illegal and unethical practices that harm the software industry and can have serious legal consequences for those involved.

Unveiling the Staggering Cost of Software Piracy: A Global Perspective

Here are some key statistics and insights about the cost of software piracy:

  1. Asia-Pacific: The Epicenter of Software Piracy (2017): The Asia-Pacific region recorded the highest rates of unlicensed software, with Bangladesh at 84%, followed by Pakistan and Indonesia at 83%. Japan had the lowest rate at 16%. The commercial value of unlicensed software in this region was a staggering $16.4 billion.
  2. Global Losses to Software Industry (2015-2017): Between 2015 and 2017, the software industry lost $46.3 billion to piracy. Although there was a decline in the unlicensed software rate from 39% to 37%, the widespread use of unlicensed software continued to inflict significant financial damage on software providers.
  3. Unlicensed Software in the USA: In the United States, 16% of the software on personal computers was unlicensed as of 2018, costing the software industry around $9.5 billion.
  4. Detection and Resolution of Unlicensed Software (2019): It took organisations an average of 243 days to detect an unlicensed software package. Dealing with the consequences, such as malware infections, took up to 50 days to resolve and cost an average of $2.4 million.
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These statistics highlight the extensive financial impact of software piracy, not just on the software industry but also on the global economy.

The high rates of unlicensed or illegal software in various regions, especially in the Asia-Pacific, and the substantial economic losses underscore the need for more effective measures to combat software piracy.

Hidden Cost of Software Piracy

The hidden cost of software piracy is a multifaceted issue that impacts not just the software industry but the global economy and society at large.

While the immediate financial losses in terms of dollar losses are evident, the broader, less visible consequences are profound and far-reaching.

Let’s delve into these hidden costs, incorporating the specified terms for a comprehensive understanding.

  1. Stifling Innovation and Development: Software companies, from skilled coders to large corporations, invest significantly in research and development. However, when a software pirate distributes unlicensed PC software, it cuts into the revenue of these companies. This reduction in funds means fewer resources for innovation, leading to a slowdown in technological advancements. The industry loses billions, not just in immediate revenue but in the potential for future groundbreaking developments.
  2. Job Losses and Economic Impact: The software industry is a major employer globally. The costs of online piracy, including the circulation of counterfeit software programs, lead to significant job losses. This not only affects the individuals and their families but also has a ripple effect on the broader economy. Industry estimates suggest that the reduction in jobs due to piracy leads to decreased consumer spending power, impacting other sectors.
  3. Increased Security Risks: Counterfeit software often lacks the robust security features of legitimate software, making it a breeding ground for malware and viruses. This exposes users to heightened cyberattack risks, data breaches, and loss of sensitive information. The cost of managing these security issues is substantial for both individuals and businesses.
  4. Legal and Compliance Risks: Utilising pirated software exposes individuals and organisations to serious legal risks. Companies caught using unlicensed software face hefty fines, legal fees, and significant reputational fallout. The legal compliance costs and potential penalties for businesses can be substantial.
  5. Impact on Customer Support and Service: The revenue losses due to software piracy indirectly affect the quality of customer support and services. Software companies, facing reduced profits, may need to scale back on customer support resources, leading to longer wait times and decreased satisfaction for legitimate customers.
  6. Undermining Intellectual Property Rights: Software piracy, a common form of intellectual property theft, sends a damaging message. It suggests that it’s acceptable to use and distribute someone else’s work without permission or compensation. This undermines the efforts of copyright holders and can discourage new talent from entering the industry.
  7. Global Trade Implications: Software piracy, especially in piracy hotspots, can have significant implications on international trade. Countries with high piracy rates may face trade restrictions or sanctions, affecting their economies and international relations.
  8. Educational and Ethical Impacts: The prevalence of software piracy, particularly the allure of cheaper price points for counterfeit copies of software, can influence societal attitudes towards intellectual property and legality. This is especially true among the younger generation, potentially shaping how future professionals and consumers view ethical practices and legal compliance.
  9. Commercial Software Piracy: This specific form of piracy involves the unauthorised reproduction and distribution of commercial software. When copies of software circulate without proper licensing, it not only leads to direct revenue losses but also contributes to the overall cost of software theft, which is borne by the entire industry.
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Check out the linked article to learnwhy is software piracy illegal.

Solutions to Combat Software Piracy

Combating software piracy is a multifaceted challenge that requires a combination of technological, legal, educational, and organisational strategies. Here are some effective solutions to address this issue:

  1. Enhanced Security Measures: Implementing advanced security technologies like digital rights management (DRM), encryption, and watermarking can help protect software from unauthorised use and duplication. These technologies make it difficult to crack and distribute pirated software.
  2. Regular Software Updates: Frequent updates with new features and security enhancements can encourage users to obtain legitimate software. Updates can also include mechanisms that check for the authenticity of the software and disable pirated copies.
  3. Legal Enforcement: Strengthening legal frameworks and increasing enforcement against piracy is crucial. This includes imposing stricter penalties for piracy and providing adequate resources for law enforcement agencies to tackle software piracy effectively.
  4. Awareness and Education: Educating users about the legal and ethical implications of software piracy is vital. Awareness campaigns can highlight the risks associated with using pirated software, such as security vulnerabilities and potential legal consequences.
  5. Affordable Pricing Models: Offering flexible and affordable pricing models can make software more accessible to a broader audience, reducing the incentive to use pirated versions. Subscription-based models, discounts for students, and tiered pricing can cater to different user needs.
  6. Software Licensing Management: Companies should implement robust software licensing management systems to monitor and control the distribution and usage of their software. This includes tracking the number of installations and ensuring compliance with licensing agreements.
  7. Collaboration with ISPs: Collaborating with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to monitor and reduce the distribution of pirated software over the internet can be an effective strategy. ISPs can play a role in identifying and shutting down websites that distribute pirated software.
  8. User Authentication and Verification: Implementing strong user authentication and verification processes can prevent unauthorised access and use of software. This could include multi-factor authentication or requiring periodic online verification of the software license.
  9. Integrating Advanced Digital Piracy Monitoring Services: Services like Bytescare play a crucial role in ensuring software security and legitimacy. Bytescare offers an advanced digital piracy monitoring service, ensuring that software remains secure and is used legitimately. By integrating the strategies discussed with Bytescare’s specialised services, comprehensive protection against piracy can be achieved, safeguarding creators’ rights and ensuring users have access to genuine, secure software.
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By employing these strategies, the software industry can effectively combat piracy, protect its intellectual property, and ensure that users have access to secure, reliable, and legal software products.


The cost of online piracy of software is a critical issue, with a significant percent of software installed globally being unlicensed, leading to industry billions in losses.

Worldwide damages from software piracy, including license overuse and illegal distribution, underscore the urgent need for effective software piracy protection.

Protecting Java software and other applications from piracy is vital. Implementing robust anti-piracy measures and educating users about the consequences of software piracy are key steps in mitigating these losses. Understanding how software can be protected from piracy is essential for safeguarding the industry’s future. 


What is the rate of software piracy?

The rate of software piracy varies by region and country. According to BSA reports, it’s estimated that around 37% of software installed on personal computers globally is unlicensed. However, this rate can be significantly higher in certain regions, reflecting the widespread nature of this issue.

Is software piracy really a big problem?

Yes, software piracy is a major problem. It not only causes significant financial losses to software developers and companies but also poses security risks to users who download and use pirated software. Additionally, it stifles innovation and technological advancement in the software industry.

Does piracy hurt the economy?

Absolutely. Piracy has a substantial negative impact on the economy. It leads to billions of dollars in lost revenue annually, which translates into job losses and reduced economic growth. The software industry is a significant contributor to the global economy, and losses from piracy affect not just the industry but also the broader economic landscape.

Is software piracy legal?

No, software piracy is not legal. It is a violation of intellectual property laws and can result in severe legal consequences, including fines and imprisonment. Piracy involves the unauthorised use, duplication, distribution, or sale of copyrighted software, which is illegal in most countries.

What are effective ways to prevent software piracy?

Effective ways to prevent software piracy include implementing robust digital rights management (DRM) and encryption, regularly updating software with new features, and educating users about the legal and ethical implications of piracy. Offering flexible pricing models, strengthening legal enforcement, and using software licensing management systems are also crucial. Collaboration with ISPs to monitor piracy and implementing strong user authentication processes can further safeguard software. Engaging with the user community to promote the value of legitimate software is equally important.