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Essay/Term paper: Software piracy: a big crime with big consequences

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Technology

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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." http://www.spa.org/piracy/okay.htm.
October 12, 1996.

"Copyright Protection Campaign."
http://www.spa.org/piracy/pi_back.htm. 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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