Internet Software Piracy: A Growing Problem While the Internet vastly increases opportunities to sell products and services, it also creates new opportunities to steal software. Indeed, software theft and distribution threaten to undermine the tremendous innovation, jobs and revenue that the Internet promises. Until recently, unauthorized copying of software required physical exchange of floppy disks, CDs or other hard media. But, as the Internet continually gets easier, faster and less expensive, software piracy does the same.

The Internet allows products to move from computer to computer, with no hard media transaction and little risk of detection. Some piracy schemes may even involve computers without the owner's knowledge. Piracy that once required an understanding of complex computer codes can now be done with the click of a mouse. And nearly 100 million Americans now have Internet access, according to recent estimates, supplying software pirates with a growing market. The Scope of the Problem The problem is immense. One in every four software programs in use in the United States is illegally copied.

And in some other countries, more than 90% of software is pirated. Not all of this illegal activity is committed as part of organized piracy schemes. Countless people around the world, in workplaces and in their homes, unwittingly commit the crime of software piracy every year. Software makers lost nearly $3. 2 billion to piracy in 1999.

As for piracy's impact on the U. S. economy overall, in 1998 it cost 109, 000 jobs, $4. 5 billion in lost wages and almost $1 billion in tax revenue.

Of course, what can never be fully calculated is piracy's stifling effect on innovation - for if developers can't get paid for their work, why should they do it New Internet developments mean the problem is likely to worsen. Faster transmission speeds and technological advances ar making it possible to compress very large files, including software applications, music, movies and other content. What's Being Done About Piracy The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has established a business outreach program to educate consumers and businesses about software piracy and its consequences, and encourage companies to see software management as good business - and an activity necessary to avoid the expense and embarrassment of illegal software procurement. Enforcement has stepped up for those who don't respect the law. Congress has passed new legislation to strengthen copyright protection and combat software piracy, including the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Department of Justice in 1999 announced the Intellectual Property Rights Initiative, which includes several domestic and international efforts to increase the prosecution of intellectual property crime and promote respect for intellectual property rights.

BSA is using its full authority under these laws to move against known pirates. web >.