Study: 41% of all PC software installed is pirated
The study claims that the piracy rate actually fell in most of the 110 countries studied, but because PC shipments grew the most in countries like China and India with high piracy rates, the number jumped from 38% in 2007 to 41% in 2008.
The biggest problem with studies like these is that they try to put a dollar amount on the "losses" from piracy. In this case, the report suggests that software companies lost out on $53 billion due to piracy. But that's only true if every single individual that installed a bootlegged copy of your software would have purchased it otherwise. I'm pretty sure that's not true.
While part of the reason piracy is rampant in countries like China is because of lax enforcement of copyright laws, the average household income certainly plays a role as well. People in developing nations generally can't afford to purchase licenses for expensive software like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. Of course, the solution to piracy might not be to convince everyone to pay up, but to convince people that open source and free alternatives such as GIMP and OpenOffice.org can meet their needs. Then problem solved. Microsoft and Adobe might not make as much money, but they can't claim they lost that money to piracy.
Yes, yes, I know. There are some things that Office and Photoshop and other commercial applications can do that GIMP, OpenOffice.org and other open source alternatives don't do as well. But I'm tired of seeing these reports which assume that the only alternative to piracy is to purchase the software, music, or movies.