According to the Business Software Alliance the following constitutes piracy :
What is Software Piracy?
Software piracy is the unauthorised copying or distribution of copyrighted software. This can be done by copying, downloading, sharing, selling, or installing multiple copies onto personal or work computers. What a lot of people don’t realise or don’t think about is that when you purchase software, you are actually purchasing a license to use it, not the actual software. It is that license that tells you how many times you can install the software, so it’s important to read it. If you make more copies of the software than the license permits, you are pirating.
Think of piracy like this – you came out with a brilliant software program which is going to make you a lot of money. You’ve spent years fine-tuning and perfecting this program. Not to talk about the money and hours you’ve invested. At last you’re ready and submit the patent, set up a manufacturer and eventually get the product to the market and masses. Initially all goes well and return on your investment starts coming in. The product is so good and in such high demand but your sales are dropping. In spite of all your efforts to secure your income out of this product, some bugger went and by-passed your efforts and is selling copies of your hard work for half the price.
Let’s look at a “closer to home” scenario – you bought a computer from your neighbours son, who seems to be pretty good with computers. It seems like a good deal with all the needed software already loaded. The most common ones are from Microsoft which normally includes Windows (the operating system without which a computer does not work) and the latest copy of Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint and the likes). You don’t know, or you don’t care where the software comes from, except that it’s there where you need it.
One of your kids, or someone elses, or yourself load some (pirated) movies or music from a flashdrive onto the computer, or a friend/colleague copy some work for you to have a look at. Your computer contracts a virus which slowly but surely destroys the installed software. One day the computer just refuse to start up, or all sorts of strange things start happening. The seller offers to reload everything, but by this time you have done too much work on the machine just to loose it all. The next logical step is to take it to a computer shop.
These guys identify the virus (if they’re any good), clean it up and are forced to reload the operating system. Now, there are two ways to go about this – a fresh install (from scratch) or a system repair. In both cases a valid install code is needed. This you won’t have. You never got it and you never will because the person who sold you the computer does not have a valid installation code. The codes he / she used was pirated / stolen.
This does not mean that the seller necessarily “stole” it, but he / she got it from an illegitimate source. The computer shop (if they can be trusted with your system) can’t help any further and your machine is utterly worthless. The only thing that remains is your data. Again, if the computer shop can be trusted, your information should be safe.
An important technical detail that we should remember here is in order to repair a “broken” Windows installation, the original install code must be used tied to the original version of Windows. If the computer had a specific (i.e. professional) version, a home version key cannot be used – it must be identical.
Blame can be thrown around at random but as with any criminal law, ignorance is not a valid excuse. Computer shops that make themselves guilty of loading software and activating this with a key that was meant for someone else, make themselves guilty of fraud and theft. If you as an end-user paid for a software product and did not receive the official validation code with the original media, you should immediately follow this up with your supplier. If the supplier cannot produce and supply the items in question, they should be reported to Microsoft, Adobe, Corel or whomever the original license keeper might be.
One point that consumers should always keep in mind, check your receipt. If you paid for software it should be noted on your invoice. The old adage holds true – if it’s way cheaper than any of the competitors, it’s probably fake or stolen.
The website Polity also published a report by the institute of security studies which looks at “The Complexity of Counterfeiting and Piracy in Africa”.
And finally, if you think you are a victim of software piracy, it can be reported here.