Bangalore: India could see economic benefits worth $3.1 billion or Rs12,555 crore through expanded revenues and better productivity, add $208 million in taxes, and create 44,000 fresh jobs, if it reduces use of pirated software by 10 percentage points by 2011, a lobby group for software firms has said.
The claim by Business Software Alliance or BSA is based on a study it commissioned and was conducted by research firm International Data Corp. in January.
A previous study by BSA had estimated that India lost $1.25 billion in 2006 to software piracy, up from $367 million in 2003.
In 2007, India, a country of more than 1.1 billion people, spent $16.1 billion on information technology or IT—mainly on computers, peripherals, network equipment, packaged software and IT services. That spending accounted for 1.6% of gross domestic product, supported more than 34,000 IT firms with more than 766,000 software service workers, and helped generate $1.1 billion in IT-related taxes, as per BSA.
Lowering PC software piracy delivers economic benefits because other sectors derive revenue from working with, installing, servicing, and reselling software. “Most of the benefits from lowering piracy stay within the country. The drop in PC software piracy will have ripple effects on the IT services and distribution sectors, besides impacting the Indian software industry,” said Robert W. Holleyman, president and chief executive officer of BSA.
India’s software piracy rate is more than double the global average of 35%, standing at 71% at the end of 2006. Holleyman estimates that the piracy rate would have lowered only marginally for 2007. “Going by the trend seen so far, India’s software piracy rate could be 69-70% in India by the end of 2007,” he said, adding final estimates for 2007 are awaited.
In an earlier study by BSA, India ahead of competing economies in the Asia-Pacific region Vietnam (88%), Indonesia (85%), China (82%), and Thailand (80%) based on piracy rates of 2006.
But India has been sluggish in lowering its piracy rate from 74% in 2004 to 71% in 2006 when compared with China that reduced its piracy rate 90% in 2004 to 82% in 2006. This has been a concern for the BSA officials in India who are targeting a 10 percentage point reduction in piracy.
“Given India has world-class software development skill, if the piracy rates were lower, India could have a much more robust local packaged software market,” said Holleyman, adding that it is key for the government and industry to take it up as a national priority.
A recent Union Budget announcement increasing excise duty on packaged software from 8% to 12% is seen as a blow to efforts in reducing PC software piracy, according to industry insiders.
Ravi Venkatesan, chairman of Microsoft India Pvt. Ltd said the increase in the levy would raise software prices. “The hike in the excise duty makes it difficult for software manufacturers to maintain a competitive price-point. The increase in price means that illegal software gets an unfair advantage,” he said.
Microsoft, the top PC software vendor in the world by revenues has already taken up cudgels to fight software piracy, by launching several programmes to create awareness about the ill effects of piracy across the country.
“Access to original software is one of the most critical elements to reducing piracy in India and we have undertaken the initiative to provide original software online and telephonically, which helps ensure easy availability of software to consumers and educate discerning consumers about the value of original software,” said Brian Campbell, director of the so-called Original Software Initiative at Microsoft India.
Campbell blamed the lack of enforcement of law and inaction on the part of law enforcers as one reason for widespread piracy in the country. “India has some of the strongest copyright laws in the world, however, the gap today lies in the enforcement of these policies and laws. Strong (intellectual property) rights protection is critical for the growth of the software industry, particularly niche producers targeting software (at) the Indian market,” he added.
Last December, Microsoft had announced that it had filed one lawsuit in India against resellers for allegedly selling counterfeit Microsoft software through online marketplace.
BSA, which has initiated 200 cases against companies in India the last two years, is in the process of selecting national and state champions who will take up the anti-piracy effort aggressively across the country.
Holleyman called for training for law enforcers, specialist courts and strong enforcement from state level police groups. He feels that IT laws including cybercrime laws need to be more aligned with the international norms for effective fight against software piracy.