Software piracy has declined around the world, decreasing 10 points over the past eight years, according to a new study.

The piracy rate for commercial software dipped down to 39 percent in 2002, compared to an all-time high of 49 percent in 1994. The Business Software Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based international association of software publishers, also notes that piracy in the United States has hit a low of 23 percent -- the lowest rate in the world today.

''It is welcoming news to learn that the worldwide software piracy problem has improved significantly since the release of the first study,'' says Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the Alliance. ''We attribute this trend to the industry's success in implementing educational programs, working with governments to strengthen copyright laws and emphasizing good software asset management business practices that contribute to a safe and legal digital world.''

The study shows that worldwide, every country except Zimbabwe has reduced its piracy rate since 1994, the first year the study was done.

Despite the decrease in piracy, however, the losses associated with it are mounting.

Worldwide dollar losses due to piracy increased from $10.97 billion in 2001 to $13.08 billion in 2002, a 19 percent increase generally attributed to higher software prices.

The Alliance study shows that the Middle East and Africa, as a region, are showing the highest rate of improvement. The region had an 80 percent rate in 1994, but that number dropped to 49 percent in 2002. The most improved country is the United Arab Emirates with a 50-point drop, taking them from 86 percent in '94 to 36 percent last year.

Eastern Europe holds onto the infamous rank of having the highest piracy rate. It came in with 85 percent eight years ago and today shows a 71 percent rate. Despite being at the top of the list, it is the fourth most improved region.