InforDesk - anti-piracy initiative: Piracy FAQ

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Piracy FAQ


 Is it legal to install an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) version of software on a computer other than the one on which the software came?

No. OEM software agreements specifically cover software that is pre-loaded onto hardware for sale; it is a violation of the license with the software publisher to sell this software without the hardware.

Can I install work software at home if instructed to do so by my supervisor?

That depends. Some licenses permit the installation of two copies: one at work, one on a home or traveling (e.g. laptop computer) — normally with the note that each copy is to be used by the same person and that the two are not to be used simultaneously.

Can I purchase a single licensed copy of a piece of software and load it onto several machines?

No. This is known as "softlifting" and is not allowed according to the terms of most license agreements. This means you are not allowed to "share" software with friends or co-workers, nor install software on home/laptop computers unless the license specifically allows for secondary use.

Can I rent a piece of software from a store?

No. U.S. copyright law prohibits the rental, leasing, or lending of software without the express permission of the software publisher.

Can I legally copy my friends' software?

No. Software is protected by federal copyright law, which says that you can't make additional copies of software without the permission of the software publisher.

If I was instructed by my employer to install illegal software onto company computers, who could be held liable?

Under "vicarious liability" stipulations of the U.S. Copyright Act, an employer is liable for acts committed by its employees when those acts are within the scope of their employment duties. (Vicarious liability is when one person is liable for the negligent actions of another person, even though the first person was not directly responsible for the injury. For instance, a parent sometimes can be vicariously liable for the harmful acts of a child, and an employer sometimes can be vicariously liable for the acts of a worker.)

Another theory of liability is the doctrine of contributory copyright infringement, whereby a party who does not do an infringing act but who aids or encourages it is liable for the infringement. If you were instructed by your employer to install software on your company's computer(s) in violation of — or in excess of — the software licenses, you may want to inform your employer of their obligations under the copyright law. If your employer is not responsive or you choose not to inform your employer of the violation, you should report the violation to Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), at, or the Business Software Alliance (BSA), at

What are the maximum criminal penalties for copyright infringement?

In the U.S., an infringer could be fined up to $250,000 and face a jail term of up to five years.

Do people actually go to jail for copyright infringement?

Yes, they do.

What is counterfeit software? How can I tell if it is counterfeit?

Counterfeit software is hard-copy software that has been reproduced by someone other than an authorized distributor. It may look just like the real thing, but it is often pretty easy to identify as not the real McCoy. If you are offered extremely cheap software, look for some of these warning signs that you might be buying or receiving pirated products:

* The software lacks proper documentation.
* The manual is photocopied or missing.
* The software does not look authentic. For example, the software, product packaging, or accompanying materials are of inferior quality or include handwritten labels.
* The serial number/CD key is printed on the CD, sleeve, or jewel case.
* One CD contains multiple applications (especially if they are from different companies).
* The price of the software is far below retail price.

Who benefits from copyright law?

Everyone benefits. By protecting the investment of computer software companies in software development, copyright law encourages software companies to invest in coming up with new, creative, and innovative products. These companies dedicate large portions of their earnings to the creation of new software products, and need to gain a fair return on their investment if they are to continue the cycle. The creative teams who develop the software — programmers, writers, graphic artists, and others — can only receive fair compensation for their efforts if the software is commercially viable. Without the protection given by our copyright laws, they would be unable to produce the valuable programs that have become so important to our daily lives: educational software that teaches us much-needed skills; business software that allows us to save time, effort, and money; and entertainment and personal productivity software that enhances leisure time.

What do I get out of purchasing my own software?

When you purchase authorized copies of software programs, you may receive user guides and tutorials, quick reference cards, the opportunity to purchase upgrades, and technical support from the software publishers. With authentic InforDesk software, your programs are safe, stable, and backed by a partner you can trust. For most software programs, you can read about user benefits in the registration brochure or upgrade flyer in the product box.

What are the risks of buying or using pirated software?

Buying and using pirated software is risky for corporate and individual users. Aside from the legal and ethical consequences of using software for which the developer does not receive compensation, your organization forfeits some practical benefits. Those who use pirated software:

* Increase the chances of buying software that does not function correctly or may fail completely
* Forfeit access to customer support, upgrades, technical documentation, training, and bug fixes
* Have no warranty to protect their investment
* Increase their risk of exposure to viruses, spyware, or adware that can destroy (or, worse, publish to criminals) valuable data
* May be subject to significant fines for copyright infringement
* Risk damage to their reputation and good name and, in the case of organizations, negative publicity that could cause irreparable harm to the business

What exactly does the law say about copying software?

The law says that anyone who purchases a copy of software must adhere to the conditions of the user agreement that the software publisher associates with it. Companies and individuals who use unauthorized software may face not only a civil suit for damages and other relief, but also criminal liability, including fines and jail terms.

At my company, we pass disks around all the time. We all assume that this must be okay since it was the company that purchased the software in the first place.

Many employees don't realize that corporations are bound by the copyright laws, just like everyone else. Unauthorized use of software may expose the company (and possibly those individuals involved) to liability for copyright infringement. As a result, more and more corporations concerned about their liability have written software usage policies. Employees may face disciplinary action if they make extra copies of the company's software for use at home or on other computers within the office. A good rule to remember is that there must be one authorized copy of a software product for every computer upon which it is run.

What are the penalties for having more software programs loaded onto company computers than the company has licenses?

Although the circumstances are different, having too few licenses is treated by the law in much the same way as having no licenses. Under federal copyright law, the infringing user may be liable for up to US$150,000 for each software program infringed. The law also permits the software publisher to recover court costs and attorneys' fees it spends to sue the infringer and to destroy all the illegal software found at the company. In cases of willful piracy, criminal penalties may also be assessed against the company.

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