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Software piracy costs in Europe in 1994 amounted to £4.2 billion. This is an increase of 22 per cent over the previous year's figures.
This is one of the Business Software Alliance's (BSA) findings in its annual survey of 25 European countries. The figures are despite successful prosecutions against software pirates resulting in custodial sentences and heavy fines imposed on directors in Finland, Spain and the UK. Software piracy in Europe continues to be a major problem, with the rate of pirated software in use across the region running at an average of 58.6 per cent.
BSA is a worldwide organisation with active anti-piracy initiatives comprising education, public policy and enforcement in over 60 countries.
In the UK, BSA works with the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), which operates the Software Crimeline and offers a reward of up to £2,500 for information leading to a successful legal action against software piracy.
According to the survey, Turkey, Romania and the former Soviet Republics top Europe's software piracy league table with piracy rates of 95 per cent; Greece, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland's rates all exceed 80 per cent. The lowest levels include the UK and Finland at 43 per cent, and Switzerland at 35 per cent.
BSA's European counsel Evan Cox says: "The laws prohibiting unlicensed copying are clear, and the industry has spent millions of dollars on education. Our educational efforts will continue, but we will need to put more and more emphasis on tough enforcement."
He adds: "Police, prosecutors and judges seem to be recognising more and more that software theft is a serious problem that deprives the local economy of jobs and tax revenues."
FAST chief executive Geoff Webster says: "The survey results show the effectiveness of our work in combating UK piracy, but at 43 per cent, the figure is still high and we need to continue our efforts."