Study: More than half of computer users pirate software

The study estimated that the total value of illegal software reached record levels last year at $63.4 billion, up from $58.8 billion in 2010.

Robert Holleyman, BSA's president and CEO, told The Hill that the growth in piracy is driven by China and other emerging economies. 

"This story is really becoming a story of huge gaps between what you see happening in mature markets in the U.S. and the U.K. and in emerging economies like [Brazil, Russia, India and China]," Holleyman. 

But he said most of the blame lies with China and its weak enforcement policies.

"At the end of the day it's really China that's driving this global impact," he said.

The piracy rate in emerging markets last year was 68 percent, compared with only 24 percent in mature markets, according to the study.

But not all emerging economies are the same. Last year, Indian consumers bought $33.79 in software for every personal computer in the country; Chinese consumers bought only $8.89 in software per computer.

Holleyman said the solution is to put pressure on China to crack down harder on software piracy.

"The solution is pretty straightforward. In most places, there's no sheriff in town," he said. "There's a perceived absence of a risk of getting caught."

He said the United States should insist on including intellectual property protection provisions in all new trade agreements.

Holleyman argued that software piracy destroys jobs, raises prices for consumers and has a "ripple effect" across the rest of the economy. 

"Imagine a world where 57 percent say they shoplift. There would be a massive uprising by legitimate consumers," he said.