Despite the fact that the software piracy rate dropped by 1 percent in 2004, losses due to piracy soared $4 billion, to $33 billion, according to a global study released this week.

More than a third (35 percent) of the software installed on personal computers worldwide was pirated in 2004, down from 36 percent the prior year, according to a global software piracy study conducted by research firm IDC for the Business Software Alliance. The report noted that for every two dollars' worth of software purchased legitimately, one dollar's worth was obtained illegally.

In 2004, the world spent more than $59 billion on commercial packaged PC software, up from $51 billion in 2003. But over $90 billion was actually installed, up from $80 billion the year before.

IDC said the increase in piracy losses, to $33 billion was, in part, the result of the fact that the PC software market grew over 6 percent and the U.S. dollar fell against many of the world's currencies.

IDC said the countries with the highest piracy rates were Vietnam (92 percent), Ukraine (91 percent), China (90 percent), Zimbabwe (90 percent) and Indonesia (87 percent). The countries with the lowest piracy rates were the United States (21 percent), New Zealand (23 percent), Austria (25 percent), Sweden (26 percent), and United Kingdom (27 percent).

While the United States had the lowest piracy rate of all countries studied at 21 percent, it also had the greatest losses -- $6.6 billion. That amount is almost double the amount lost in the country with the second highest losses, China, at $3.5 billion.

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