Software piracy has reached epidemic proportions worldwide! In no other medium or industry is the theft of intellectual property more rampant. According to the book, A Gift Of Fire, “Billions of dollars of software is copied illegally worldwide every year.” Being relatively new technologies, the software and internet industries have yet to create a good foundation for the deterrence of theft. But as the courts see more and more cases involving piracy and theft of software, we are happily seeing a trend towards the judicial intolerance of such crimes. Our lawmakers are also jumping on the bandwagon, with legislation such as amendments to the copyright act and with pressure on foreign nations for stricter controls of intellectual property.
Piracy: A Definition
According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), “The term "software piracy" usually refers to the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted software programs.” This definition is quite narrow, as there are many more ways to violate a copyright or software license agreement.
Unauthorized duplication and sale is the primary way that software is stolen today. Duplication may take the form of floppy disks or, with the advent of cd writers, a cd. In many countries where copyright laws are not enforced or non-existent, one can buy cd’s full of software from many different vendors for only a fraction of the cost of the originals.
These duplicated disks can usually be bought through second hand computer stores or certain web sites but mostly they are now sold through online auction sites. A recent study from the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) “found that more than 90 percent of the software auctions it surveyed were offering pirated products.”
The second way to pirate software, which is quickly overtaking the duplication of disks, is to make the software downloadable from the internet. Many of these sites have software (which they call ‘warez’) before it is even officially released to the public. Warez sites gleefully claim they give access to thousands of titles which any user can download, hassle free and at no cost.
Some companies actually allow customers to download versions of their programs that are use or time limited. Once the amount of uses or specified time is up, the customer either deletes the program or pays for it. Once it is paid for, the customer then receives an activation (serial) number that allows normal usage of the program. Software pirates are sometimes able to decipher these activation codes or find a way to hack around them, and then post this information to their warez sites.
Still another way to obtain software without paying for it is to overuse the license. This primarily applies to businesses, large or small, that buy one copy of a software package with a license to use it on a specified amount of computers or with a specified amount of users. The theft occurs when...