A new study by the Business Software Alliance and research firm IDC says an astounding 41 percent of all PC software installed worldwide has been pirated.
The 2008 mark is up from a rate of 38 percent in 2007, marking the second year in a row the worldwide piracy rate has grown and coming despite a drop in piracy in more than half of the 110 nations studied. Only 16 countries in the study actually experienced a increase in piracy but the overall rate is up because the PC market itself grew fastest in countries that suffer from the highest levels of piracy; in China and India, for instance, the rate of software piracy has actually declined since 2004 but the explosive growth of the PC user base in those countries has resulted in an increased in the regional, and thus worldwide, piracy rate.
The BSC puts the estimated retail value of the pirated software at $53 billion, an 11 percent increase over the previous year and the first time "revenue losses" to software companies has broken the $50 billion mark. The report estimates that for every $100 of software sold through legitimate channels, another $69 is pirated.
The worst offenders include Georgia, which brings a mind-boggling 95 percent piracy rate to the table, followed by Bangladesh, Armenia and Zimbabwe with rates of 92 percent and Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Moldova, each with a not-even-remotely-respectable rate of 90 percent. At the opposite end of the scale, the United States has the lowest rate of piracy at 20 percent, Japan and Luxembourg come in at 21 percent, then New Zealand at 22 percent and Austria at 24 percent. Despite that, BSA CEO Robert Holleyman told Reuters, piracy remains a major problem in the U.S. because more software is sold there than in any other country in the world. "The U.S. has the highest single dollar loss," he said.
In spite of the rampant piracy, worldwide PC software sales experienced healthy overall growth in 2008, up 14 percent over the previous year to a total of $88 billion. The Business Software Alliance's full report on worldwide PC software piracy in 2008 is available here. (PDF format)