Sixteen percent of people in Japan have copied computer software illegally while at work, according to a survey by industry groups, including the Association of Copyright for Computer Software.

The poll of 1,200 people, conducted in October during an information-technology exhibition and released Monday, was the first to focus exclusively on individuals.

An earlier poll by a U.S. copyright protection group found that 31 percent of software available in Japan in 1999 had been illegally copied.

On Wednesday, the Tokyo District Court ordered a Japanese cram school operator to pay 85 million yen in damages to Microsoft Corp., Apple Computer Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. for illegally copying their software products and using them as teaching materials.

It was the first-ever ruling in Japan concerning the illegal use of computer software.

In the latest Japanese poll, 16 percent of respondents obtained illegally copied software through disks and other media, while 13 percent said they have passed on such software to others. Also, 37 percent said they had heard about or seen the illegal copying of software at work.

As for reasons, 50 percent said they needed the duplicate because they had to work at home, 30 percent said they copied software because they wanted to try it out and 17 percent said they just wanted to save money.

While 95 percent knew the programs are protected by copyright, 34 percent said copying small amounts of software can be tolerated, and 9 percent said it should be left to the user’s discretion.

An ACCS official said the survey showed that illegal copying takes place on a much wider scale than expected.

The association plans to distribute a copyright protection manual to companies this summer, the official said.

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