What is Software Piracy?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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Software piracy, otherwise known as copyright infringement, is one of several forbidden actions that may be taken by the end user of a particular piece of software. Virtually all software programs today carry an end user license agreement, or EULA. Upon installing the software, the end user must agree to the EULA, or click-through-license, before the software will install. The EULA lays out conditions under which the software may and may not be used in keeping with copyright protections. Piracy involves breaking the EULA agreement on one or more conditions.

Some common examples of this act are:

Making counterfeit copies for sale: While piracy laws differ from nation to nation, this particular infringement is illegal in most countries. Obscure exceptions might exist for uncommon circumstances in certain countries, such as modification of a program for benefit of the disabled, but in general, duplicating software for the purpose of selling it is the classic definition of this act.


Making counterfeit copies to give away: Though the United States recognizes "fair use" protection, which can allow protected work to be shared in a restricted manner as an allowable infringement, software piracy goes beyond "fair use." A less interpretive counterpart to fair use is "fair dealing," recognized by nations like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada and the United Kingdom. These laws attempt to protect the rights of the end user and the good of society, counterbalanced by the rights of the copyright holder. A protected work that is shared with a neighbor might be considered fair use in some jurisdictions, but lines can be somewhat vague and varied as to exactly where protections end and piracy begins. Generally speaking, anything that extends beyond personal use is commonly forbidden by the EULA and can bring legal questions into play.

Hard-disk loading: Another form of software piracy is selling a computer system with illegal software already installed. Generally, the buyer does not receive manuals, license agreements, or even the CDs or diskettes containing the original program.

Internet sharing: Software that is neither freeware nor shareware cannot be legally disseminated online. However, many software programs are readily available over P2P (peer to peer) networks, via binary newsgroups or in chat rooms. This is referred to as warez and has commonly been cracked to make it usable by anyone without restrictive copyright securities in place.

Renting software: While libraries and educational institutions can purchase special licenses to rent some types of software, renting software in general is illegal and a form of software piracy.

Unrestricted client access: Installing software on a server without a network license and allowing clients to access that software.

OEM/Unbundling: Selling OEM (original equipment manufacturer) software separate from the hardware it comes bundled with is another form of software piracy.

Using personal software for commercial purposes: Many software programs are free for personal use, but require a license for commercial use.

Using shareware beyond the trial period without paying for it: According to most shareware EULAs, a user must either pay for shareware or uninstall it after the trial period to avoid software piracy.

Tampering with the copyright of any software, including freeware: Even freeware can be the subject of piracy, when the copyright is illegally changed or the program is illegally modified then redistributed. The redistributed product does not require an original price tag to qualify as pirated software.

Arguably, the most controversial form of software piracy relates to what many people consider simple 'personal use' — buying a software program, then installing it on more than one personal machine. Some software licenses prohibit this, a restriction that many consumers see as corporate greed, especially where 'non-optional' programs such as operating systems are concerned. In many cases this has aligned otherwise law-abiding citizens with hackers and crackers when they seek ways around the specific copyright security provisions that they see as unfairly restrictive.


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Post 2

The short answer is yes.

Post 1

Is it considered piracy if you download pirated software without knnowing it is pirated, and not sharing, duplicating or modifying it in any way?

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