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Software piracy a big crime with big consequences

Software Piracy: A Big Crime With Big Consequences

Imaging for a moment that you come across an advertisement

saying you can meet up with an individual who will break into a

store, disarm all of the alarms and will hold the door open for

you as you walk inside and take anything you wish. This criminal

offence occurs every day on computer systems around the world

including the internet. This is a very serious problem and is

very difficult to circumvent. Every computer user is both

tempted and immersed in software piracy in its many forms. One

of the most disturbing facts behind this crime is that many

people who participate in the distribution of commercial software

don't even know they are committing a crime. Software piracy is

a very serious and widespread crime that must be acknowledged and

dealt with.

Software piracy is the unauthorized duplication and or

distribution of copyrighted programs. There are two ways to be

involved in software piracy. The first is facilitation.

Facilitation is the deliberate copying of copyrighted software

and distributing it. An example would be an MIT student named

David LaMacchia. This individual served and maintained a

computer that was connected to the internet that offered it's

users more than one million dollars worth of software 'free of

charge.' Mr. LaMacchia was caught by the authorities and was

acquitted of this piracy due to the lack of legal standards for

this crime. Another example is off local bulletin board systems.

Many are run out of the offenders homes with just a phone line, a

computer and a modem. Here members of this service can send and

receive pirated software (otherwise known as 'warez') as their

own pace and leisure. There are not just one or two of these

bulletin boards around there are in fact many. Most reside in

large cities and the offenders are in most cases minors. As the

computer gains a more stable hold on our society these bulletin

boards are replaced by the ones that are linked to the internet.

By this individuals can anonymously put out copyrighted software

for the use of any anonymous user of the internet such as the

type of system that Mr. LaMacchia ran. The second way to be

involved in software piracy is to be on the receiving end. These

individuals can be anyone. All they need is a computer and

access to a computer. In this an individual willingly breaks

copyright law and retrieves by whatever means copyrighted

software. In effect this individual steals the software for

their use. Again in this case the offenders are usually minors.

Keep in mind that is it not only minors that are committing acts

of software piracy, many adults and especially companies and

corporations still pirate software but they do so at a very

little profile.

There are many ways that an individual can commit software

piracy. Six different methods are of the most evident ways to

pirate software. The first and most common method of software

piracy is called 'End User Copying' or 'softlifting.' This type

of piracy is the out right copying of a program and giving it to

a friend or a colleague. An example of this is an individual

just bought a brand new computer game from the store. They liked

it so much that they made a copy and gave it to a friend. The

second form of piracy is what is referred to as hard disk

loading. This is where a computer dealer or company copy and load

unauthorized copies of software onto the hard disks or the main

storage facility on the computer they will sell. This is a more

commercial aspect of software piracy and many of these companies

use this as an incentive to sell their machines by making more

software for the machine available to the customer. The third

method is becoming more popular as many more people are getting

connected to the internet. This is the downloading or sending

copyrighted/illegal software via a modem to a public or private

bulletin board system or the internet. This type of piracy is

usually at no charge to the end user and is usually open to many

people. The fourth type of software piracy is known as

counterfeiting. This is the illegal duplication and sale of

copyrighted/illegal software. This can be a very complex and

sophisticated way of piracy. This can include a relatively

significant effort to duplicate the original packaging, logos and

other anti-counterfeiting techniques such as holograms. This

type of piracy can also be very unsophisticated by the copying of

the software and placing different of different labels on the

copied media and then just blatantly selling it to whomever they

choose. This is not just the distributing of pirated software

this is the selling of the software with a motive for undue

profit. The fifth method of software piracy is over computer

networks. A network is a series of computers physically linked

to one or more main computers called servers. Each server stores

the software for all the computers it serves. Each time a

computer accesses the server for a program it copies the program

on to the local computer for use. This in itself is legal but

the owner of the network must have licenses for each copy of a

program that is being used otherwise this is copyright

infringement. The sixth and final type of software piracy is

known as 'Software Rental.' This is where software is "rented"

to individuals who typically copy the software to their

individual computers and return the original rented piece of

software to the renter. This method of piracy is not as common

as the rest due the nature of the distribution but it does exist.

The Software Publishers Association (S.P.A.) have sued the owner

of a store located in Winnipeg called 'Microplay' for the renting

of software to its customers. This type of piracy does exists

but it is usually halted soon after it starts. These are the

many ways that software piracy can be and is committed. Even

though there are many more methods of piracy, these six are the

of the most evident and can be dealt with.

If software piracy is a crime why do people do it? Well

there are many reasons why individuals commit software piracy.

On the whole many otherwise good citizens are not aware of the

crime that they are committing. Weather it is just careless

ignorance or the lack of awareness to the law these people are

committing a crime and may not be aware of it.

"I am motivated by the belief that some

capitalist pig create the goods therein, and

thus they should be free to the people." (Laberis)

This interpretation is the most common especially among minors.

As the quote suggests many believe that major software moguls

such as Bill Gates (the owner and founder of Microsoft) already

have more money than they need so it is alright to steal from

them as 'they do not need the money' or they believe that their

single actions can not hurt. For this many 'software pirates' do

not believe that what they are doing is wrong. Another reason is

for shear greed. Either they do not have the ability to pay for

the software they use or they do not feel that they should. As

was stated earlier minors are the most likely to commit software

piracy. Many do so to the challenge the law and for rebellion as

glorified with the rumours and stories of 'hackers.' On the

technical side software piracy is relatively easy to commit. All

one needs is a computer and some type of removable means of

storage such as diskettes or CD-ROM's. It takes seconds to

transfer data which takes care of the time problem. Also unlike

the copying of audio of video cassettes there is not quality loss

in the copied product. When an individual copies a piece of

software they copy an exact duplicate of the software all the

features that the copied software contains with absolutely no

quality loss therefore making it an attractive means of both

acquiring and distributing illegal software.

There are to consequences to software piracy. Piracy not

only hurts business but it hurts the legal owners of software.

By stealing software the creators of the software cannot recover

their losses nor can they make their program better.

"Piracy harms all software publishers, regardless

of their size. Software publishers spend years

developing software for the public to use. A portion

of every dollar spent in purchasing the original

software funnelled back into research and development

so that better, more advanced software products can be

produced. When you purchase pirated software your

money goes directly into the pockets of the pirates

instead." (Microsoft)

This excerpt is from a booklet released by the Microsoft

corporation and is about software licensing and piracy. This

excerpt accurately displays the truth. Not only is the offender

hurt by pirating but every that has legally purchased the product

is being affected as well. By pirating software you do not get

the support that would normally come with a program. Nor do you

get the manuals that explain the proper use of the program. But

the consequences can be also legally severe. An organization

called the Software Publisher's Association (S.P.A.) has devoted

their time to cracking down software piracy commercially and on

the internet. The S.P.A. is the leader in software piracy

prosecution. They organization campaigns for individuals to

report piracy to them and then on behalf of the companies that

are affected the S.P.A. takes legal action against those they see

that are committing a gross violation of the copyright laws. One

such business was a company in Winnipeg called Microplay. As I

mentioned before the S.P.A. on behalf of its members sued the

owner and proprietor of Microplay for the rental of software to

its members. As of yet a settlement has not been reached. This

is just one action of many that the S.P.A. spearheads. Don't

think that major companies and business are affected by the

crackdown on software piracy. The fact on Canadian copyright law

infringement is not specific to software piracy. This is very

dangerous because the first incident of piracy that is taken to

Canadian law courts has the potential to be acquitted such as the

case of David LaMacchia in the United States. Since the

LaMacchia incident the United States have set down harsh and

binding consequences to software piracy. A first offence can

call for at least five years of imprisonment and/or a two hundred

thousand dollar fine. And that is just for the first offence!

If you are convicted as a facilitator or have been convicted for

software piracy in the past you can face up to ten years in

prison and/or fines of up to two hundred and fifty thousand

dollars per convicted infringement. Canada is expected to adopt

somewhat similar consequences in the near future. Stiff

penalties will not stop all piracy but it is a start and with

harsh prosecution of infringements and high consequences piracy

can hopefully be curbed on the small scale.

There are ways to prevent being caught with pirated

software. First of all buy software from reputable dealers only.

The less reputable the dealer the less chance of the product

being legitimate. Do some research on the product you are about

to buy. Not only will it save money from buying useless products

but it will inform of what types of things to expect with the

package. Third make sure that the product had some type of copy

protection weather it be a registration number or some type of

anti-piracy logo or hologram. Plus make sure all software came

with a set of licensing documents. These documents outline the

proper usage of the product and warranty information. Then make

sure that once the software has been purchased that it has been

registered with the company that created it. Buy doing this

technical support, updates and discounts on other programs can be

attained with out any problems or hassle.

Software piracy is a fact of life. It is a crime that

occurs at every second of the day and in every country in the

world. By ignoring copyright law, intellectual property is being

misused. By ignoring the problem it can only get worse. The two

greatest ways to defeat software piracy is by education and

prosecution. By educating the masses in a time of computer

globalization assurance of knowledge about software piracy will

increase and ignorance will hopefully be abated. Frank Clegg

(Director for Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft) said it

best, "stealing software is like stealing anything else. It is

wrong!"(Computing Canada)

Works Cited

"To Copy Or Not To Copy."

October 12, 1996.

"Copyright Protection Campaign." October 12,


Laberis, Bill. "A Crime That Pays." Computerworld. 29.2 (1995):


Microsoft. "Microsoft Licensing Policies: Answers to Frequently

Asked Questions." Microsoft Corporation, 1996.

"The Piracy Problem." Computing Canada. 21.12 (1995): 12.

Source: Essay UK -

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