Software Piracy A Big Crime With Big

Software Piracy: A Big Crime With Big Consequences Essay, Research Paper

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, 1996.

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.


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