More people use pirated software in Australia than in Sweden -- home of a popular pirate site -- according to a report by research firm IDC.
A separate telephone survey of 1100 Australians conducted last month by Galaxy Research and commissioned by Microsoft Australia, found up to 64 percent would use pirated software for personal use.
Of the 82 percent of respondents that owned a computer, more than half (59 percent) draw no distinction between pirated and genuine software.
Some 47 percent reported they are unsure or are unable to verify if their software is legal.
Microsoft Australia business consumer product manager Steve Johns said users are jeopardizing computer security by using pirated software.
"While the survey found that virtually every [respondent] considers it important to keep their computer safe from viruses and online threats, people are putting themselves at risk by using pirated software," Johns said in a written statement.
A security consultant based in Sydney speaking on the condition of anonymity said pirated software distributed through the "most popular" torrent trackers are "often virus-free."
"The nature of [BitTorrent sharing] means that a lot of bad applications that contain malware or viruses are not shared... and die off," he said, adding that security holes may still be present in pirated software that has had its patch update services or tamper protection disabled.
Software updating can be used by vendors to issue security fixes, feature upgrades and to check for pirated versions.
The 2007 Global Piracy Study, the latest joint research from IDC and the Business Software Alliance, found that 25 percent of software in Sweden is pirated, compared to 29 percent in Australia.
The operators of Swedish torrent-hosting site The Pirate Bay were charged by local authorities last month under copyright law after a series of long-standing legal battles with media industry authorities.
Peter Sunde, co-founder of torrent hosting site The Pirate Bay, told Computerworld US creative commons licensing is more appropriate for the Internet than traditional copyright laws.
"I do see things that can work in a copyright, but for commercial aspects. It's very important to not infringe on personal life due to copyright. Creative Commons and other licences are a better way than today's copyright laws, however, I do feel that Creative Commons is not reaching far enough," Sunde said.
Further BSA research claimed an additional 3929 jobs and A$672 million (US$435.1 million) in taxes would be created if Australian software piracy fell by 10 percent from 2008 to 2011.
Microsoft has launched its Office Genuine Advantage tool to help Australian Microsoft Office users to validate their software. The tool can be downloaded through the company's automatic updates service and will issue a pop-up alert if a pirate copy is detected.
The company said the tool will not affect the operations of pirate Microsoft Office applications.
This story, "Swedes Harbor Pirates, But Don't Use Their Warez" was originally published by Computerworld Australia.