Global piracy of business software is down, but the amount it costs software makers is up.
Pirated software is sold openly in many Asian countries
According to figures collected by the Business Software Alliance, global piracy rates declined last year to 39%.
But the lost revenue this represents to firms making the software being pirated rose 19% to more than $13bn.
The UK bucked global trends as its businesses used slightly more pirated software than in previous years.
North America and Western Europe have the lowest global piracy rates. Only 24% of business software in the US is pirated compared to 35% in Europe.
But for the first time in seven years the number of UK firms using pirated software has risen.
Figures gathered by anti-piracy group the Business Software Alliance show that 26% of the software used in the UK companies is pirated. Last year the figure was 25%.
GLOBAL PIRACY RATES
Middle East/Africa - 49%
Latin America - 55%
Western Europe - 35%
Eastern Europe - 71%
Asia Pacific - 55%
North America - 24%
The BSA put the rise down to companies trying to cut costs as the hi-tech slowdown bites.
"There may possibly be an issue with the current economic recession with some people under-licencing to make precious IT budgets go further," said Richard Saunders, former chairman of the BSA.
He said that the growth of broadband net access was also making it easier to download stolen software.
The rise in the UK is set against a broader background of falling piracy rates around the world.
The Middle East/Africa has shown the most significant reduction in the amount of pirated software.
In 1994 when the BSA began measuring piracy rates, eight out of every 10 business software packages in Middle Eastern and African nations were pirated. Now the rate is 49%.
This region is also home to the nation showing the greatest fall in piracy rates. The United Arab Emirates has trimmed piracy to only 36% in 2002 from 86% in 1994.
Ups and downs
According to the BSA figures, the second most improved region was Latin America which saw its piracy rates drop 23 points to 55% between 1994 and 2002.
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In Latin America, Guatemala seems to be doing the best job of combating piracy as it saw a 33 point drop in piracy over the last seven years to 61%.
The amount of business software pirated in Asian and Pacific Rim nations is dropping too with some countries, such as Japan, recording a huge drop, 66 points, in piracy rates.
But some nations in the region, such as China and Vietnam, remain black spots with piracy rates in excess of 92%.
Mr Saunders said the BSA still had a lot of work to do to educate companies about their legal responsibilities and respect for copyright and to get them treating software like any other asset.