Almost a half of all PCs in operation worldwide use pirated software, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
The industry body came to the number after tasking research firm Ipsos Public Affairs with a poll of 15,000 users in 32 countries, albeit a tiny fraction of the more than one billion clients used across the planet.
It found found that the lion's share of illegal software purchases were made in developing economies – buying single licences and loading them onto multiple systems or downloading from peer-to-peer sites.
The highest instances of pirated software were in China, followed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Ukraine, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Users in good old Blighty were in the bottom third of the dishonesty stakes, with only 30 per cent of those interviewed using – or at least admitting to using – illegal programs.
Japan, where the BSA has just secured a $5.7m settlement with a computer software planning and production business – the largest on record – was just above the Brits in the league of shame.
The defence of pirated software users in developed countries was ignorance of the law or a join them rather than beat them mentality.
"It took hundreds of millions of thieves to steal $59bn worth of software last year. Now we have a better understanding of what they're 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." ®