Utah Worst in Software Piracy Rate

More than a third of the software programs installed in Utah homes and businesses are illegal copies, providing the state with the highest piracy rate in the country, a new study shows.

The study by industry watchdog group Business Software Alliance (BSA) estimates rates 33.7 percent of the software used in the state is illegal, compared with a nationwide average of 25.1 percent. Utah's rate is the highest followed by Mississippi, at 32.1 percent; and Wyoming, New Mexico, and Nevada, each with 31 percent. Virginia had the lowest piracy rate, at 16.2 percent.

"One conclusion we have come to ... is that we need to redouble our education and enforcement in the Utah market," said Bob Kruger, BSA vice president of enforcement.

The study, based on 1999 data was released at a time, when copyright issues involving software, music, and even movies have spurred a national debate. Online music-swapping service Napster was in court this week arguing it should be allowed to help its 32 million users download music - much of it copyrighted - directly from each other's computers. The case is key in the recording industry's fight against online piracy.

Like the music industry, the software industry is seeing more unauthorized copies traded online, Kruger said.

But that does not explain why Utah's rate is so high, he said. Only a handful of piracy cases have been prosecuted in Utah in recent years, and Kruger said he does not know why such a great percentage of software used in the state is illegal.

BSA determined its state-by-state piracy rates by comparing the number of computers purchased in each state in 1999 with the number of licensed software programs purchased, said David Fay of International Planning & Research Group, which conducted the study for BSA.

Comparing actual computer and software sales to industry norms is really the only way to gauge the extent of the problem, Fay said.

"You can't really survey people and ask them how much of the software they use in illegal," he said.

He said computer games were not included in the study. Only business-related programs such as word processing, spreadsheet or scheduling software were taken into account.

"The findings of the study are a bit of a surprise because it hasn't been our experience that the piracy issue is any worse here than it is anywhere else in the United States," said Nathan Gage, manager of anti-piracy programs for Novell Inc.'s U. S. and Canadian operations.

Still, piracy remains a threat for Novell, which makes networking software. The Provo company has had an anti-piracy group for 10 years and has 25 full-time employees worldwide devoted in fighting the problems.

The findings of the BSA report mirror the results of a study last year by software giant Microsoft Corp. It estimated that 33.6 percent of the software installed on computers in Utah is pirated, compared with 27 percent nationally.

Although Utah's rate in the BSA study is the highest, the cost to retailers - 153 million - is only the 21st largest of all states, because of Utah's smaller population.