The global trade in pirated soft-ware, from knock-off versions of Microsoft Windows XP to Adobe Acrobat, hit nearly US$29 billion last year, an industry trade body said in its annual survey yesterday.
Since the Internet boom, software firms and media conglomerates have seen a rapid increase in piracy of their products as online file sharing networks and "warez" trading sites make it easier to exchange all manner of copyrighted material.
At US$29 billion, the value of pirated software accounts for nearly 60 percent of the US$51 billion global software market, trade body the Business Software Alliance (BSA) said.
The BSA has spent large sums to curb the practice by business and consumer software users of installing unlicensed software duplicates from operating systems to design programs. It has also worked with police to crack down on groups that traffic in pirated software.
In April, law enforcers in Britain, Germany and the US dismantled a series of pirated software distributors and seized US$50 million in illegal software.
While few dispute the piracy problem is growing worse, the BSA said its piracy tally in previous years may have been slightly inflated.
It changed its methodology and research firm in the past year, opting this year to look at what pieces of software are on the typical computer user's machine to determine a piracy figure rather than devise a figure based on PC shipments and past buying trends.
The BSA came under some criticism for its previous tallies because it couldn't clearly spell out how much of a fall-off in sales was the result of piracy and how much was due to the availability of legitimate alternative products, such as open source software commonly called "shareware."
The BSA's new research firm, IDC, estimates the global piracy rate last year was 36 percent, roughly 2 percent above the BSA's revised 2002 figure.
The BSA's previously reported global piracy rate in 2002 was 39 percent.
While the piracy rate may have been inflated, the monetary value of previous tallies was artificially low as they failed to account for the number of pirated operating systems and PC games in circulation.
The BSA said the Asia-Pacific region, Eastern Europe and Latin America continued to be the biggest piracy hotspots in the world, with more than half of all software installed on machines there being pirated versions.
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