Software piracy is an untold issue that is affecting many companies for decades back.
Over the past few years, rapid growth and new achievements have been witnessed globally in information technology. Due to this, there is great expansion and progression of the software companies.
However, as the software industry is expanding, so as the criminal activities such as software piracy. The software industry is overwhelmed by piracy for more than decades. Advancement in technology has made it easier to reproduce the same copyrighted software and distribute it somewhere else.
What Is Software Piracy?
Put simply, software piracy is a crime that is defined as illegal downloading, selling, copying, sharing, or installation of copyrighted software.
Most software nowadays is purchased with a single-user license, which means it can only be used by single authorized users on one or multiple devices until the same user uses it. Further, making copies of it and sharing it among friends or someone else violates the license terms and conditions.
In other words, software piracy means unauthorized reproduction of any copyrighted software. Such unauthorized reproduction of any software is done for various reasons, for example, personal use within friends and family members, business purposes, or even selling copies of it.
Though piracy of copyrighted software is illegal, still it is one of the lingering issues. The software piracy ratio has increased rapidly with the number of growing computers. Due to such activities, there has been a negative impact on software companies and loyal customers who purchase their products.
Here Are the Different Forms of Software Piracy That You Should Know
Software piracy is among the worst problem of software companies. And, some different forms of software piracy that you should know are like:
- Internet piracy
- Hard-disk loading
- Software counterfeiting
- Unauthorized use of academic software
1. Internet Piracy
In this technology-driven world, internet piracy is among the fastest and easiest way to get pirated software.
Many websites offer free software downloads in different ways. Even users also like to download software from the internet as they don’t have to visit any store and if it is free, it’ll attract more users.
Nonetheless, this technique has been easier, but internet piracy has also increased, which happens in different ways, such as uploading or downloading illegal pirated software copies through the internet.
2. Hard – Disk Loading
Hard disk loading is another form of software piracy where any individual or company sells computers loaded with illegal software copies into the hard disk to encourage users to purchase their products.
However, this type of software piracy is quite common, and because of that, we recommend that buyers confirm with their vendors that preloaded software on the machines is legal and licensed. If the vendor doesn’t correspond or doesn’t provide documentation, it is best to avoid dealing with that vendor.
Softlifting is the type of software piracy in which software is illegally copied and distributed among friends, businesses, or duplicated, against the terms and conditions of that software’s license agreement.
However, most users or even organizations do it knowingly or unknowingly, and hardly anyone cares about it. Because of such acts, the software industry loses billions of dollars every year that impacts software companies’ profitability.
Sometimes, it is also called End-User Piracy because software copy is usually purchased for some machine, and later it is installed on various machines that go against the copyright law.
As the name implies, someone who purchases software makes several copies of it and provides it on certain rent. Though this type of piracy isn’t seen, it exists.
5. Software Counterfeiting
Software counterfeiting is software piracy where original copyrighted software is duplicated illegally and sold to seem authentic to users. Further, this counterfeited software includes all the accompanying manuals that come with legit software, and usually, they are below the retail price of that original software.
Though it is cheap and easily available, it is quite risky because, many times, such counterfeit software contains malware that can harm your system or business. It is among the high-rise software piracy types that many organizations actively try to stop this type of activity.
6. Unauthorized Use of Academic Software
Academic software used in public schools, universities, and other educational institutes cannot be sold or used commercially. However, many software companies sell academic software that is labeled to use for-profit purposes.
And making use of such academic software or selling it for personal profits is under the violation of software policy, and it is also considered one type of software piracy.
What Are the Major Reasons Behind Software Piracy?
Software piracy is among the major issues that are continuing for several years. Though, the reasons behind software piracy often differ from country to country. For example,
- There is no law regarding the protection of software in many countries, and in some other countries, software protection law is rarely enforced, if it exists.
- Many software buyers have the mentality that once they purchased the software, they got the whole right on that software and can copy and distribute it to anyone as they’ve paid the price.
Let’s get into detail and find out what are some major reasons behind software piracy:
1. Lack of Public Awareness
Usually, software industries distribute software with copyright information through proper software licensing agreements seen during the software installation process. But, that is also true that software users don’t read it and move on with other installation steps. Because of this, many users misuse the software.
For example, installing software on your computer and making one copy of it to give it to your friends or someone else, without realizing it is against the copyright law and illegal.
2. Price of Software
The price at which software is sold is often the reason behind software piracy. Countries whose economic condition is low have higher software piracy compared to those developed countries.
Further, many studies like BSA (Business Software Alliance) global software piracy study conclude that software piracy is often high in developing countries as software products’ price is too high. People look for alternatives that lead to software piracy.
3. Law Enforcement
Another major reason is the lack of law enforcement, or else it is not taken seriously (if it is already established.)
For example, in North America and Western Europe, it is taken seriously, and usually, people are aware of copyright rules and laws. It means people know that it is strictly followed. Any individual or business organization found guilty of copyright infringement can be sentenced to jail for up to 5 years with a penalty amount of $250,000.
On the other hand, countries of Africa and Asia have higher software piracy rates as the law isn’t strict, nor do they have implemented it.
4. Social & Cultural Issues
Social and cultural issues also play a big role. For instance, there is a strong correlation between software piracy and cultural or social factors.
Such issues differ from one country to another and the attitude of the user towards the software usage. For example, if it is common that once you purchase the software, simply distribute it among others. Then in such places, it’ll be seen as common practice instead of looking at it like any illegal activity.
5. Easy Availability on the Internet
Internet usage is quite common these days. Millions of people use the Internet daily due to the convenience it brings. But along with such benefits, many issues also come forward, and software piracy is among them.
Due to high-speed internet connection, it has become easy to distribute software over the internet, also called Internet Piracy. For example, nowadays, it is quite easy to download easily available software from various websites, illegally attaching computer games through emails.
Risk of Using Pirated Software – Why Your Organization Should Avoid It?
There are many different risks of software piracy besides copyright issues to business organizations as well as individuals. For instance, pirated software doesn’t come with any warranty that includes all the robust security measures to protect themselves from lingering threats.
Further, threats like software not functioning correctly dramatically increase as many pirated software have risk getting exposed to data loss and malware. Though, some common risks of using pirated software are like:
1. Devices Crash or Lead to Permanent Damage
Many computer users look for an easy alternative, which means many go for counterfeit or pirated software products thinking it is cheap or free and no one will know what they are using.
However, such software product does come under violation of the copyright act of software organizations. But users also forget that they are also putting their devices like computers or tablets at risk of exposing to security threats that sometimes even damage their devices.
Also, this pirated software is more prone to cause damages to devices that lead to a crash or sometimes cause permanent, irreparable damage.
2. Malware Attacks
Apart from copyright laws and damage to your device, it has a high possibility to infect your device with malware. It means you’ll put yourself out to get attacked by those cyber crooks as unlicensed software has greater malware attack risk.
Some other risks you can face due to unlicensed software are the ransomware attack that locks you out of your system until you don’t pay the ransom, identity theft, ad fraud, theft of banking and credit card details, and more.
Further, if you’re among those who like downloading free software through sites, you are among those whose devices and networks are more than 50 percent at risk of getting attack by such malware attacks.
Many times pirated software is malfunctioned and may not work as effectively as it should.
For instance, Cloud-based Office 365 or touch screen compatible Microsoft 10 isn’t accessible through pirated software. Likewise, you won’t be able to know who has developed that software and from where it is coming as it is obtained illegally.
Pirated software is mostly cracked, and usually, their code is also altered, making it different from the existing software. It means if you are using pirated software, then you are more likely at the risk of losing files, crashing, and even other files getting corrupted.
Therefore, using such software should be avoided as it can deteriorate your work quality.
4. No Updates
Pirated software doesn’t receive any updates that mean software that you’ve installed on your device remains open to new lingering threats.
Whenever any software is published, it usually starts getting issues over time due to advancement in technology or any other issue. And it is the responsibility of those software companies to provide regular updates in the form of different versions.
So, if your software isn’t licensed, it won’t receive regular updates that keep you safe from various threats.
5. No Access to Customer Support Service
Pirated software isn’t the original software, and the software developers don’t support them.
It means, if you come across any issue because of the software, you won’t get any support or help from their customer support department that is mostly provided by all the genuine software companies like chat and email support due to any issues.
6. Pirated Software Often Comes with Unexpected Add-Ons
Whenever you download or install pirated software, there are high chances that software will have some add-ons that you didn’t expect. Usually, these add-ons are also infected with malware that can further disrupt your work and devices.
Security Measures to Prevent Software Piracy Issue Within Your Organization
To ensure your company don’t face issue due to software issue, some of the preventive measures you can take are like:
- Develop a clear and precise software policy for your organization that everyone must follow it. According to BSA policy, it should explain well how employees can legally get the software. Further, provide that software policy statement to every employee within your organization.
- Make every employee sign an anti-piracy statement that says if anyone gets caught using pirated software, they’ll be fined and responsible if the company gets fined for civil damages or criminal penalty due to usage of that pirated software.
- Pay attention to a warning message if any arise during software download or installation.
- Ensure your staff keeps records of product name, serial number, version of every installed software on every computer.
- Make unannounced auditing.
- Carefully read BSA (Business Software Alliance) guides that explain Software Management.
- Compare the number of licenses with the number of installed software.
- Obtain all the needed licenses for compliance.
- Explain the importance of avoiding unlicensed software to your employees.
At first, licensed software may seem like an expense, and you may get lured to using pirated software.
However, it is always best to get licensed software because it ensures your work and durability are not compromised in any form. And it’ll work to its full potential while keeping your data and device protected from any threats like malware or virus.
Further, you should also make sure that you are implementing proper measures within your organization to prevent any usage of pirated software that can lead to any potential damage.
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Satinder Chaudhry is an experienced Software Consultant with extensive experience in the security industry. Skilled in Data Analytics, PKI, Code Signing, and Software Development.