Almost one in every two business applications used worldwide during 1996 was pirated according to industry figures published last week.
The report, from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Software Publishers Association (SPA), estimates that of the 523 million new business software applications used worldwide during 1996, 225 million were pirated.
This represents a 20% increase over the 1995 estimate of 187 million units.
Despite the fact that piracy levels continued to rise, the estimated revenue losses suffered by the worldwide software industry dropped 16%, to $11.2 billion (#7 billion). The BSA and SPA attributed this decline to lower software prices.
Western Europe's revenue losses from software piracy were estimated at $2.5 billion, a marked improvement of $1billion over 1995 - in addition, the average software piracy rate fell from 49% to 43%.
The UK improved upon last year's piracy levels by 4%, giving it the lowest software piracy rate in Western Europe. However, with the rate at 34% this still means one in three software packages in use in the country are illegal with total revenue losses estimated at $337 million.
Emilia Knight, vice president and managing director of the BSA in Europe, commented: "Piracy is an endemic problem that not only spells long-term trouble for developers of all sizes, but which could also inhibit Europe's ability to compete internationally and retard the growth of IT industries and our economy."
Software piracy is not the only computer crime that's on the increase.
Recent reports have shown that cargo theft is the latest trend in high-tech related crime.
According to police in San Jose, California, there have been around 50 IT-related cargo thefts and robberies in the last few years and that figure looks set to grow.
US police said that crime groups are now targeting the IT industry because that's where the money is.
In 1994 and 1995, record prices for computer chips made them popular with thieves, now hijackers are targeting hardware, notably keyboards, monitors, and disk drives.
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