Lower PC prices and improved Internet access around the world have resulted in the unintended consequence of increasing trafficking of counterfeit and stolen software applications, according to the latest study by the Business Software Alliance and IDC.

Despite the best efforts of law enforcement and industry watchdogs, the total value of pirated software moved through online sites, such as eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), increased 43 percent in 2009 to more than $51 billion in commercial value.

According to IDC, piracy rates increased in 19 countries in 2009, up from 16 in 2008.

The IT researcher analyzed what it described as 182 discrete sets of data from a total of 11 countries and concluded that the largest factor driving software piracy was the surge in total PC shipments.

In fact, new PC sales in Brazil, India and China accounted for 86 percent of the total worldwide shipment growth in 2009, creating an even larger pool of would-be counterfeiters and crooks for software companies to fend off.

"Software theft hurts not just software companies and the IT sector, but also the broader economy at the local, regional and global levels by cutting out service and distribution firms," John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC, said in the report. "Lowering software piracy by just 10 percentage points during the next four years would create nearly 500,000 new jobs and pump $140 billion into ailing economies."

The BSA and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) have teamed up with local and federal law enforcement agencies to ratchet up the heat on software pirates in the past couple years.

Those efforts have resulted in prison sentences for a handful of the most egregious offenders and compelled eBay and other online retailers to revamp their security and background procedures.

Software piracy in the U.S. alone accounted for more than $8.4 billion in counterfeit software sales.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.