Investment in properly licensed software pays huge dividends. According to a Business Software Alliance (BSA) study, even just a 1% increase in the use of properly licensed software could add R2-billion to the South African economy.

The use of genuine software benefits the economy as a whole, says Alastair de Wet, licence compliance manager at Worldsview Technologies, the South African distributor of BSA founder member Autodesk.

“Using properly licensed software is like putting premium fuel in your car – as the analogy goes if you put in premium fuel you will get better performance, and more output, from your software,” says De Wet.

The analysis covers 95 countries and one of the major findings is that properly licensed software creates an average of three times more value for national economies than pirated software.

“Another finding which we found interesting is that the greatest dollar-for-dollar return on investment in fully licensed software appears in emerging markets where software piracy in extremely prevalent,” De Wet says.

Reducing exposure to viruses and other security vulnerabilities is yet another benefit of licensed software – this means fewer system malfunctions, downtime and IT repair costs.

“Piracy is a moral issue rather than a pricing one. There are many software alternatives to most commercial software products but customers still chose to pirate the ‘gold standard’ products rather than buy the cheaper alternatives,” he adds.

Finally the study shows that if governments are looking to stimulate growth, using properly licensed software offers a huger return on investment. Governments should establish strong and modern IP laws that protect software and other copyrighted materials on PCs and mobile devices. They should also lead by example by using fully licensed software.

This finding is of particular interest to South Africa, De Wet points out. The Copyright Act that applies in South Africa was written in 1978, several years before many of the software vendors even came into existence, which has resulted in software design not being protected.

Subsequent updates to this Act have not really remedied the fact that the Act does not incorporate software in its definitions as well as the fact that some of the requirements in the Act are not specific to software.

Changes to this Act that look specifically at software would be a huge step forward. This would make it easier for software vendors to enforce their rights in South Africa. A state-funded body to support these efforts and assist in enforcing them would be another massive step forward for the software industry in South Africa.