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According to the U.K.-based Business Software Alliance (BSA), on an annual basis, piracy costs the global software industry $12 billion. BSA believes that one in four software packages used within business is an illegal copy and that software companies are losing between one-quarter and one-third of their revenues due to this piracy. Piracy rates vary from country to country with piracy rates in China and Vietnam as high as 90 percent. Even with that statistic and the amount of money that software companies are losing due to piracy, software piracy is often seen as a victimless crime. Unlike stealing money from a cash register in a store, when software is copied, there is no person who is obviously losing money from the act. The actual victims are faceless individuals who may be thousands of miles away. Often the pirates know nothing about the company whose software they have copied. The victim is a corporate name that perhaps can be associated with a Web site. What is important is the software and its functionality, not the company nor the effort that went into creating the software. Companies such as Microsoft spend time and money to track down and file lawsuits against organizations and individuals who traffic in illegal software. Unfortunately, they can only easily go after the larger software pirates. It is much more difficult for them to catch people who make individual copies to “loan” to friends or who loan their legal versions to friends so that they can “trial” the software before purchasing it. However, some companies do employ people to search the Internet for Web sites that are marketing illegal software or to locate illegal copies housed on the Internet. One way for the software companies to stem the tide of this piracy is to associate faces, individuals and stores with the software. In other words, “put a face” on the software in hopes that the pirates will understand that they are stealing money from people, not from a faceless company. Associating people with a product has been used by charities for years to increase the amount of money that is donated. Donors feel more compelled to give because they have been introduced to the people that their donation will help. Some pharmaceutical companies have used employees in their marketing campaigns in order to put a human face on their development efforts. They are people developing life-saving products for individuals. Some computer companies, such as Gateway, have also used real employees in their advertisements. Why shouldn’t software companies do the same? Would this technique stop all of the software piracy? No, but it might help to educate the pirates to the reality that they are harming people — people just like themselves.

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