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piracy

Contributor(s): Rosalind Blanchard

Software piracy is the illegal copying, distribution, or use of software. It is such a profitable "business" that it has caught the attention of organized crime groups in a number of countries. According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), about 36% of all software in current use is stolen. Software piracy causes significant lost revenue for publishers, which in turn results in higher prices for the consumer.

When you purchase a commercial software package, an end user license agreement ( EULA ) is included to protect that software program from copyright infringement. Typically, the license states that you can install the original copy of software you bought on one computer and that you can make a backup copy in case the original is lost or damaged. You agree to the licensing agreement when you open the software package (this is called a shrink wrap license), when you open the envelope that contains the software disks, or when you install the software.

Software piracy applies mainly to full-function commercial software. The time-limited or function-restricted versions of commercial software called shareware are less likely to be pirated since they are freely available. Similarly, freeware , a type of software that is copyrighted but freely distributed at no charge, also offers little incentive for piracy.

Types of software piracy include:

  • Softlifting: Borrowing and installing a copy of a software application from a colleague.
  • Client-server overuse: Installing more copies of the software than you have licenses for.
  • Hard-disk loading: Installing and selling unauthorized copies of software on refurbished or new computers.
  • Counterfeiting: Duplicating and selling copyrighted programs.
  • Online piracy: Typically involves downloading illegal software from peer-to-peer network, Internet auction or blog. (In the past, the only place to download software was from a bulletin board system and these were limited to local areas because of long distance charges while online.)
This was last updated in September 2005

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