, SINGAPORE, May 12- Software piracy in the Asia-Pacific region continued to grow last year, a study said, driven by the rapid growth in computer sales and the availability of bootleg programmes online.
The annual survey by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and industry research firm IDC showed that in 2008, an average of 61 percent of the region\’s software were unlicensed.
The figure was up from 59 percent the previous year.
This led legal software vendors to lose 15.26 billion US dollars, up 8.3 percent from 14.09 billion dollars the previous year, according to the study.
The global average of unlicensed software worsened to 41 percent in 2008 from 38 percent the previous year, causing losses of almost 53 billion dollars, the study said.
"This increase in the average piracy rate is attributed to the mathematical outcome of more rapid growth of PC (personal computer) markets in economies of higher piracy rates," said Jeffrey Hardee, BSA\’s vice president and regional director.
"Even if piracy were to go down in every high-piracy country, their growing market share for PCs could drive the regional average up."
Widespread use of the Internet was another factor behind the increase, the study said.
"The availability of pirated software on the Internet, which ironically is facilitated by increasing broadband penetration in the region, is also a major concern," said Hardee.
Software includes operating systems, systems software like databases and security packages and application software like office packages, finance and tax packages and PC computer games.
Bangladesh was the biggest culprit in the region last year with a piracy rate of 92 percent, followed by Sri Lanka at 90 percent and Pakistan at 86 percent, the study showed.
Japan had the lowest rate, at 21 percent, followed by New Zealand at 22 percent and Australia at 26 percent.
In China, the average piracy rate dropped to 80 percent last year from 82 percent in 2007, the study showed.
The improvement in China is due to "more vigorous enforcement and education," it said.
BSA is an industry group that works for copyright protection and counts among its members some of the world\’s biggest technology companies, including Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Adobe.