Big Content: Arrest half the world, officer. They all did it.

Anti-piracy outfit the BSA has issued one of its studies which include the usual statistical nightmares which are designed to frighten politicians into locking up more citizens.

The study claims that half of PC users are pirates and have installed unlicensed software.

BSA’s ninth annual Global Software Piracy Study has shown a sharp increase in software piracy, especially among emerging economies.

The group said that in the UK, according to TechWeekEurope, more than one in four programs users installed in 2011 were unlicensed.

Of the 15,000 computer users from a total of 33 countries around the world, 57 percent admitted to using pirated software, up from 42 percent the year before.

The BSA estimates that the global annual cost of software piracy has reached $63.4 billion.

But the UK is below the global average, with just 27 percent of computer users admitting they have acquired software illegally last year. As far as the BSA is concerned that means that the industry lost £1.2 billion.

The BSA said that the UK is in a double dip recession and thinks that it is important to protect the creative industry’s intellectual property and its contribution to the economy. But the BSA did not seem to think that the recession was the cause of piracy and that its products were now too expensive for people to afford.

It also ignored the fact that the more expensive software is, the more likely it is to be pirated. This is born out by the fact that piracy is more common in developing countries where users are broke.

Instead, it claims that the penalties for piracy are too light. Its figures show that more than three quarters of UK PC users surveyed do not think the risk of getting caught is an effective deterrent to software piracy.

The BSA is calling for a stronger damages law, including double damages, to stop the increase in illegal software use. This is the same mantra it has trotted out for ages and it is fairly clear that it does not work.

That has not stopped Julian Heathcote Hobbins, general counsel at Federation Against Software Theft, calling for the government to bring in new laws which will make it easier for Big Content to lock up pirates.

However, there is another side to the problem which Big Content has not worked out yet. If half the world are pirates then democratically they are in the majority. If a “crime” is that common then it probably is not a crime in the first place. Big Content needs to look at the prices of its content before it starts blaming users for finding cheaper ways of getting it.