The software industry is facing a "spiralling Internet piracy problem" that threatens to reverse a global trend that has seen the thieving of commercial software decline over the last eight years.
In its latest annual study [pdf] the Business Software Alliance (BSA) claims that software piracy has decreased 10 points (from 49 per cent to 39 per cent) since 1994, thanks to increased education and tighter legislation.
It notes that every country - except Zimbabwe - has reduced its piracy rates since 1994, the year in which the study was first commissioned.
In the US, piracy rates have hit an all-time low of 23 per cent, the report said, making it the country with the lowest piracy rate in the world.
The UK, though, saw its piracy rate nudge up 1 per cent last year to 26 per cent.
"It is welcoming news to learn that the worldwide software piracy problem has improved significantly since the release of the first study," said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of BSA.
"However, it's critical to recognise that the industry is facing a spiralling Internet piracy problem. In the future, if the industry is to continue its success in reducing the problem further, then clearly, more robust education and advocacy initiatives will be required."
Earlier this year the BSA claimed that clamping down on software piracy could help "jumpstart the world's stagnant and struggling economies" by creating new jobs and business opportunities.
The report claimed that cutting global piracy levels from 40 per cent to 30 per could lead to the creation of 1.5 million new jobs, increase economic growth by $400bn and generate $64bn in new taxes. ®