China leads the World in software piracy, according to the software industry ‘advocacy’ group, the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

According the results of a study of 15,000 users in 32 countries, the Chinese had a software ‘pirate rate’ of 86%, followed by Nigeria with 81% and Vietnam with 76%.

Interestingly, India, which too is suspected to have very high piracy levels, showed up towards the bottom, with a reported ‘pirate rate’ of just 28%. In fact, according to the survey, a smaller proportion of Indians admitted to engaging in software piracy than citizens in the US, the UK and Japan.

It must be noted that the survey was based on voluntary disclosures and some of the reported numbers may be lower if the respondents in a particular country were more liable to lie about his or her alleged piracy.

Indeed, as a representative for BSA pointed out, India’s software piracy rate — as measured by prevalence of unauthorized software — is at 64%, significantly higher than Japan and other developed markets.

“It is the number of respondents admitting that they acquire software illegally which are much lower in India than in Japan,” she pointed out.

Software piracy indicates that the software — including songs, movies, computer applications, operating systems etc. were not paid for. Pirated software is usually downloaded by websites located in countries where software licenses and copyright are not recognized.

According to the findings, nearly half, or 47% of the global PC users resort to some level of piracy.

It found that large majorities of computer users in the developing world regularly acquire software through illegal means — such as buying a single license for a program and then installing it on multiple machines, or downloading programs from peer-to-peer networks — even though they express support for intellectual property principles.

The pirate rate (proportion of users admitting they resorted to piracy) was found to be high in East and South-East Asia. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea accounted for 6 slots of the top 10 pirate infested countries in the survey.

It also found that “significant majorities” of software pirates do not realize that they are, in fact, committing piracy.

“At the same time, they believe software piracy is common, and they think it is unlikely that software pirates will be caught,” BSA said.

Though in countries like India, companies are more likely to stick to the law than individuals, the overall finding of the survey was that companies and individuals tended to think alike, when it came to software piracy.

Software piracy tends to be higher in lower income countries, as software tends to be priced at the same level across the World, making them prohibitively expensive in poorer countries. Many companies, however, are starting to offer lower prices in low-income countries to tide over the challenge.

Many people oppose the concept of software piracy, while others have built up the free software movement. Also known as Open Source software, such works are free to be downloaded and redistributed.

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