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Almost half of the world's PC users have installed illegal software, and the worst offenders come from developing economies like Mexico, according to a survey from the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
The study found that 47% of users acquired their software illegally, even though more than 71% - including computer users in the developing world - say they support intellectual property rights and protection.
Illegally installed software typically refers to the practice of buying a single license for a program and then installing it on several machines, or downloading programs from peer-to-peer networks.
China leads in terms of software piracy among its PC users, followed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Ukraine, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Mexico.
The study found that significant majorities of pirated software users in developing markets incorrectly believe that these illegal means of acquiring software are in fact legal. Furthermore, they believe software piracy is common and think it is unlikely that software pirates will be caught.
"It took hundreds of millions of thieves to steal US$59bn worth of software last year. Now we have a better understanding of what they were thinking," said BSA president and CEO Robert Holleyman. "The evidence is clear: The way to lower software piracy is by educating businesses and individuals about what is legal and ramping up enforcement of intellectual property laws to send clearer deterrent signals to the marketplace."
BSA released detailed findings from the study on its official blog, BSA TechPost. Ipsos Public Affairs conducted the research for BSA by surveying some 15,000 PC users in 32 countries. This included 400-500 in-person or online interviews per country.
As previously reported, Latin American piracy rates increased one percentage point overall in 2010, with 64% of software purchased being illegal copies, according to the BSA Global Software Piracy Study 2010.
According to the study, Venezuela led the region in piracy with a rate of 88%, one point higher compared to 2009, followed by Paraguay (83%); El Salvador, Bolivia and Guatemala (all at 80%); and Nicaragua (79%).
Due to their market size, Brazil and Mexico topped the list in terms of the value of pirated software sold in 2010, at a respective US$2.62bn and US$1.20bn.