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Piracy and the Home Computer - Part 2 of 3

written by: •edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 4/20/2009

This article explains the four kinds of software piracy: counterfeiting, internet piracy, retail piracy and over-installation.

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    The Four Kinds of Software Piracy

    There are basically four major kinds of software piracy: Counterfeiting, Internet Piracy, Retail Piracy, and Over-Installation.

    Counterfeiting is the deliberate illegal duplication of copyrighted material with the intent to sell and make the copy look like the legitimate original. This can be duplicating the: material and the packaging accompanying the VCR tape, book, game, CD, video, or software such as manuals, registration cards, or licensing agreements.

    Internet Piracy is downloading copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder. Typically, internet piracy for the home computer user is with the use of a P2P(peer-to-peer) program and with downloads that are available at websites that offer the material in exchange for an uploaded program. There is much discussion and debate about P2P or file sharing programs or services in relationship to copyright infringement. There are good uses of P2P programs such as social networking communities using file-sharing programs to share information posted by internet users with others, across unrelated websites. These internet users give their permission for the information they posted to be shared among different websites. P2P networks, where software needs to be installed on individual computers, allow users connected to the internet to link their computers with other individual computers around the world. These networks are established for the purpose of sharing files. Typically, users of P2P networks install free software on their computers, which allows them: to find and download files located on another P2P user's hard drive and to share with those other user's files located on their own computer. Unfortunately, sometimes these information-sharing systems have been used to engage in illegal activity. Some of the most common crimes associated with P2P networks are:

    • Copyright Infringement: It is illegal to distribute copyrighted music, movies, software, games, books and any other copyrighted works without permission from the copyright holder.
    • Child Exploitation: To receive, send or distribute child pornography is illegal. Sometimes children can be exposed to pornography when a child predator mislabels files deliberately so they can lure the child.
    • Computer Hacking: P2P networks can expose your computer and files to millions of other users on the network and also expose your computer to infectors. If the P2P program is not properly configured for security, you may unknowingly open up the contents of your entire hard drive for anyone to see and possibly download your private information.

    Grokster, iMesh, Kazaa, LiveWire, and Morpheus are all P2P programs that allow internet users to connect directly, to the computers of other internet users, for sharing files. These files can be music, software, pornography, infectors or anything else. For all practical purposes, P2P can be used for unrestricted public distribution of copyrighted and illegal material. There is much controversy whether P2P services are responsible for copyright infringement of legitimate music and software files by their subscribers. In June 2005 the US Supreme Court found Grokster liable for the actions of consumers. Grokster was found to have encouraged users of their P2P program to download and trade copyright protected material without restriction and without paying (free sharing) even though consumers agreed to the EULA that said the user is totally responsible for any copyright infringements or violations. The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 made software services liable for copyright infringement by their subscribers when they encourage subscribers to violate copyright protections.

    Before you register your copy of any software, you are required to indicate that you have read and understand the EULA. Since there are no guidelines, restrictions, or standards for the content or language of EULAs, companies can include a statement to the effect that the end-user is solely responsible for any illegal activities and the consumption or exchange of copyrighted materials. Remember that computers and the internet are tools that can be used for any reason – good, bad, or deceptive. Whether you download a copy, or take a copy from the retail store, failure to pay for any item or comply with end user licensening agreements is theft.

    Retail piracy can be: exchanging tapes, CDs or DVDs with friends or co-workers, buying a software upgrade without a legitimate copy of the program already installed, or buying non-retail software (non-profit, education, government versions) without a valid license for the specific use.

    Over-installation can be: allowing more computer stations to use the software, at the same time from a server, than you paid for in the license agreement, installing software on more computers than is allowed in the license agreement, or a new computer seller installs software without, or in violation of, the license agreement to make the computer for sale more appealing to customers.

    Software manufacturers tried copy-protecting software but this did not substantially prevent piracy and was inconvenient for consumers. Software activation or registration is being used in the hope that in time it will prove to reduce software piracy by allowing only legitimate copyrighted software adhering to the EULA to function correctly.

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    Shareware vs. Warez

    Shareware has been an option for quite sometime. Shareware does not try to stop software piracy. Shareware is dependent on the honesty of the consumer, by requesting that a registration fee be paid directly to the copyright holder, when the consumer uses the software regularly or when the free-trial time period expires. Warez is not shareware. Warez is commercial software made illegally available to the public.

Piracy and the Home Computer User

Is it possible for the home computer user to unintentionally steal from the internet? This series highlights the most common temptations and how to avoid them.
  1. Piracy and the Home Computer - Part 1 of 3
  2. Piracy and the Home Computer - Part 2 of 3
  3. Piracy and the Home Computer - Part 3 of 3