The Business Software Alliance, a trade group that represents the major software makers, says that more than half of all Web users have downloaded software they have not paid for.
In a study of 1,026 Web users released Wednesday, the group found that 57 percent of respondents never or seldom pay for copyrighted works they download. And 12 percent admitted to pirating software.
"What we found is a disturbing behavioral trend that violates copyright laws and costs billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs every year," BSA CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement.
Respondents apparently harbor contradictory impulses. The study also found that an overwhelming majority of people think that software companies should be paid for their work and support efforts to protect intellectual property.
The group said factors contributing to software theft include the increasing number of Web users, greater bandwidth, the proliferation of Internet auction sites, and the sense of anonymity people have while on the Net.