Global rates of software piracy held steady last year, and actually declined in 51 of the 97 countries, according to a study from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and IDC.

The third annual piracy study by the pair also showed the rate of piracy rose in 19 of the nations surveyed.

The study pegged the value of losses to software makers at US$34 billion - $1.6 billion more than the losses in 2004, according to the study.

"We did see in the majority of countries that piracy went down, especially in some of the emerging countries," said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of BSA, an industry group that represents commercial software and hardware makers around the world against piracy and copyright infringement.

"We want to take the results where we're seeing progress and translate that in the countries where we're not seeing progress."

The 21-page study, which was released Tuesday, found encouraging examples of a dip in piracy rates, particularly in countries such as India, China and Russia.

China saw a four-point drop, from 90 percent to 86 percent; Russia saw a four-point drop as well, from 87 percent to 83 percent. And in India, piracy rates slipped marginally from 74 percent to 72 percent.

The global rate remained unchanged between 2004 and 2005 because developed markets such as the U.S., Western Europe, Japan and a handful of Asian countries dominate the software market - and their combined piracy rate hardly moved, according to the study.

"I think it's less of a problem in the U.S. because there has been a very active enforcement and education program in the U.S. for many years now, and the penalties for using pirated software in an organisation are very steep," Holleyman said. "Most businesses [here] realise it's just too risky to use pirated software."

In many countries where piracy rates are high, those risks aren't as high because of a lack of enforcement, he said.

An earlier IDC/BSA study indicated that if a drop in the piracy rate of 10 points to 25 percent would create as many as 2.4 million jobs, add $400 billion to worldwide economic growth and generate $67 billion in tax revenues, according to the study.

"We're going to fight for the goal of eliminating piracy, but we also recognise the need to see year-over-year progress," Holleyman said.