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Software Piracy

Author: Krzysztof Wilczynski

The Copyright Act of 1709, tried to establish a balance between the needs of those who make a living from books (writers, printers, and publishers), and the interests of the reading public. These two interests, were far from identical. In other words, the act was an attempt to limit piracy. Although the terms of the act were later amended, its impact over history was revolutionary.

Software piracy is in other words "software theft" and accounts for billions of dollars of losses for the computer industry every year. Prices, jobs, and development efforts are all affected by it. Below you will find some examples of how this crime is executed.

Copying and distributing software

Many people are unaware that making a copy of software they bought in a store for a friend is a crime. Not only is such an action a crime, but also, it ultimately raises software prices for honest consumers.

Making multiple installations of a product.

Now that software is primarily being shipped on CD-ROM media it is simpler than ever to install the product on more than one machine. This is especially common in businesses, as people often just don't understand that they need to buy a license for each product installed on a computer. Since computers are relatively new for most people, the confusion that surrounds the technology is somewhat of a legend. For example, many of people like to think that letting a friend copy their software is as harmless as lending them a copy of a novel they bought. Although lending someone a copy of book is perfectly harmless and legal, photocopying the book and giving it away would constitute a crime. The basic rule is when media is duplicated, and given away, you are breaking the law-- and that is exactly what you are doing when you make copies of your software. Much of the confusion is related to the unawareness of the following:

When you acquire a software program, you’re not buying the program itself, you only buy the right to install and use the software on only one computer. As soon as another copy is made (without an additional license), the law has been violated.

Professional Piracy:

1. Counterfeiting.
Counterfeiting is the professional duplication and sale of copyrighted software in a form designed to make it appear to be legitimate. One such recording may contain more than 100 products on a single media.

2. Hard disk loading and unbundling.
With this particular type of activity it is very easy to fall victim to software piracy. Dealers often load unlicensed software on to new or second hand computers as a cheap way of adding extra sales incentive to their product. Software unbundling occurs when a dealer sells a software product without hardware, even though the software program is only licensed for sale with particular hardware ("bundled"). In order to make sure you do not unknowingly acquire illegally loaded or bundled software, make the dealer you are purchasing the product from provide original disks, documentation, and most importantly licenses.

3. Downloading of copyright protected software via electronic services.
With the advent of the Internet (and once popular Bulletin Board Systems, or BBS), and its increasing popularity, downloading is quickly becoming the principal means for acquiring software. However, not all of these transactions are legal, and as the technology grows, more and more illegal FTP and WWW sites are appearing, serving up billions of dollars worth of software to pirates around the world. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is actively involved in monitoring these pirate sites, and most owners of subscription bulletin board services pay close attention to assure their sites remain legal.

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