I think you are right that most people who can - and I would add who actually USE a particular program - are more than willing to pay for it!
But let's take, for example, Adobe Photoshop. Of all the copies of that program that are downloaded daily, how many of the people who download it are A) able to purchase it, and B) really going to use it?
I have heard, and can't really refute, the argument that the small-scale bottom-feeding freelancer who downloads photoshop via "unofficial" channels, if s/he is hired one day to work for a company, is most likely to choose Photoshop as the image editing software for the company's advertising department, and thus cause Adobe to make a multi-license sale, but that is not going to be a very large percentage of all those people who are downloading it.
I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that probably 90% of the people who download Photoshop not only are never in a position to cause their boss to buy even one copy, but after fooling with it enough to see that there is a pretty steep learning curve involved, simply leave it in their Program Files folder and forget about it. (And go download some other wildly popular program that they will probably never even learn to use!)
So Adobe's flagship product, like all its products, and like just about every other piece of "commerical" software, including the Windows operating system itself, is freely available to the general public at no cost, and there is not really anything that the software companies can do about that.
I know that there are all kinds of plans and schemes and task forces and digital millennium pronouncements, and that has been the case for some time, and I imagine will continue to be the case for some time, and no doubt all that provides the people who are involved with a very real psychological benefit.
But there is not really any way to change that downloadable reality.
You mentioned honesty, and a lot of the discussions I have seen on this subject, especially those where most of the participants are from the US or Europe, will sooner or later get into the subject of intellectual property, and ethics as related to that. For many people, to download Photoshop without paying for it constitutes theft - the theft of intellectual property. That is, for them, a core value, it is part of their cultural context, and the laws in the US reflect that cultural norm, that core value.
But you might discuss the subject with someone from a different culture, and their view could be completely different! To that person, honesty might not even enter into the picture. Their concept of honesty might be completely different from yours - and both views equally irrelevant to the ones and zeros that populate the download directories all over the globe!
Although some governments have tried, and continue to try, dividing the web up according to cultural tradition, value systems, and legal jurisdictions, or isolating particular populations from the larger body of internet citizenry, does not seem to be working out, and I do not intend that to be a diss against the very bright and talented people in any particular country who have done such hard work on those kinds of projects, nor those who are just as talented and work just as hard on "copy protection."
It is just that there are many, many people who use the internet, many, many people who click mice, and whatever programmatic strategy I might come up with to, for instance, prevent you from viewing web pages that reside on servers outside of say, Malaysia, somebody somewhere in the world is going to develop a workaround for that, and make that workaround available to you, even if your computer literacy stops at checking your email and a couple of favorite websites.
Similarly, whatver scheme I devise to prevent you from being able to run a copy of Photoshop that you download from a website not authorized by Adobe to offer the program for download, somebody somewhere is going to come up with a workaround for THAT, and so on.
The web, unlike laws, or beliefs, or cultures, is universal! And it is that universality that is presenting entire industries with the challenge of developing new ways of doing things on a very fundamental level, in order to adapt to these new realities.
Meanwhile, the open source Gimp project continues to steadily improve, and come closer to being a truly realistic replacement for Photoshop, and a larger percentage of people who download the GImp are actually going to use it, despite its learning curve, and the ones that can DO support it.
There is already a Gimp product, Gimpshop, that openly seeks to resemble Photoshop more closely, and I think that we can expect to see that march apace, and in a couple of years, Gimpshop will attain or surpass Open Office in its "open source alternativehood," precisely because as you say, most people are willing to support good software - Whether they would consider it dishonest to download Photoshop or not, those with the skills would definitely embrace the opportunity to be part of a project whose goal is to produce image editing software that is BETTER than Photoshop!
In other words, that very universality of the web that challenges all those traditional business models has the potential, in my opinion, to form itself into a new and, to use one of my pet peeve born-cliche memes, "reality-based" model.