Could a 10 per cent reduction in the level of software piracy help create 13,000 jobs and boost economic activity by £5.4bn by 2013?
That's the hotly disputed claim being made by anti-piracy lobby group the Business Software Alliance.
Its research suggests that reducing the current level of unlicensed software running on PCs by 10 per cent would create a ripple-through effect, generating additional spending on IT, which in turn would lead to extra tax revenues.
"The entire economy can benefit from lowering software piracy in the UK as aggressively and as quickly as possible," said Michala Wardell, BSA chairwoman.
The BSA estimates that 27 per cent of all software running on PCs is pirated.
But those figures do not necessarily reflect the complexity of licensing software, said Jon Collins of analyst group Freeform Dynamics.
"I don't personally believe that most organisations go out of their way to be deliberately malicious in the use of unlicensed software," he said.
Software licensing has become a Gordian knot for IT leaders because of the complexity of today's IT environments, thanks to globalisation, outsourcing and technologies such as virtualisation - which is exacerbated by "constantly changing software platforms", he added.
It could be the case that more effective software asset management would show that firms are over-licensed for software, reducing the amount of money going to vendors, Collins said.
However, Matt Fisher, the UK operations director at IT service management vendor FrontRange Solutions, said the BSA's figures did chime with his experience of software asset management programmes, but he questioned its tactics.
"The issue I have with the BSA figures is that in talking about the economic impact at a national level, they don't really mean much to the CIO or the board," said Fisher.
"What I'd like the BSA to do is explain the benefits to end users of properly managing their software assets."
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