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The Nature and Incidence of Software Piracy: Evidence from Windows

In: Economics of Digitization

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  • Susan Athey
  • Scott Stern

Abstract

This paper evaluates the nature, relative incidence and drivers of software piracy. In contrast to prior studies, we analyze data that allows us to measure piracy for a specific product – Windows 7 – which was associated with a significant level of private sector investment. Using anonymized telemetry data, we are able to characterize the ways in which piracy occurs, the relative incidence of piracy across different economic and institutional environments, and the impact of enforcement efforts on choices to install pirated versus paid software. We find that: (a) the vast majority of “retail piracy” can be attributed to a small number of widely distributed “hacks” that are available through the Internet, (b) the incidence of piracy varies significantly with the microeconomic and institutional environment, and (c) software piracy primarily focuses on the most “advanced” version of Windows (Windows Ultimate). After controlling for a small number of measures of institutional quality and broadband infrastructure, one important candidate driver of piracy – GDP per capita – has no significant impact on the observed piracy rate, while the innovation orientation of an economy is associated with a lower rate of piracy. Finally, we are able to evaluate how piracy changes in response to country-specific anti-piracy enforcement efforts against specific peer-to-peer websites; overall, we find no systematic evidence that such enforcement efforts have had an impact on the incidence of software piracy.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 13002.

Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:13002

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  1. Felix Oberholzer-Gee & Koleman Strumpf, 2007. "The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 1-42.
  2. Brett Danaher & Michael D. Smith & Rahul Telang, 2013. "Piracy and Copyright Enforcement Mechanisms," NBER Chapters, in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 14, pages 25-61 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, . "Levels of Economic Activity across Countries," Working Papers 97001, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  4. Silva, Francesco & Ramello, Giovanni B, 2000. "Sound Recording Market: The Ambiguous Case of Copyright and Piracy," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(3), pages 415-42, September.
  5. Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1989. "An Economic Analysis of Copyright Law," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(2), pages 325-63, June.
  6. Andrew Burke, 1996. "How effective are international copyright conventions in the music industry?," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 51-66, March.
  7. Shane Greenstein & Jeff Prince, 2006. "The Diffusion of the Internet and the Geography of the Digital Divide in the United States," NBER Working Papers 12182, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lakhani, Karim R. & von Hippel, Eric, 2003. "How open source software works: "free" user-to-user assistance," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 923-943, June.
  9. Joel Waldfogel, 2011. "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie? The Supply of New Recorded Music Since Napster," NBER Working Papers 16882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Oz Shy & Jacques-Françlois Thisse, 1999. "A Strategic Approach to Software Protection," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(2), pages 163-190, 06.
  11. Bezmen, Trisha L. & Depken II, Craig A., 2006. "Influences on software piracy: Evidence from the various United States," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 356-361, March.
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