Computer Software Piracy and it\'s Impact on the International Economy


The PC industry is over twenty years old. In those twenty years,
evolving software technology brings us faster, more sophisticated, versatile and
easy-to-use products. Business software allows companies to save time, effort
and money. Educational computer programs teach basic skills and complicated
subjects. Home software now includes a wide variety of programs that enhance the
users productivity and creativity. The industry is thriving and users stand to
benefit along with the publishers. The SPA (Software Publishers Association)
reports that the problem of software theft has grown, and threatens to prevent
the development of new software products. Unauthorized duplication of software
is known as software piracy which is a "Federal offense that affects everyone”
("Software Use..." Internet). The following research examines software piracy
in its various forms, its impact on the end user and the international industry
as a whole, and the progress that has been made in alleviating the problem.
Software piracy harms all software companies and ultimately, the end
user. Piracy results in higher prices for honest users, reduced levels of
support and delays in funding and development of new products, causing the
overall breadth and quality of software to suffer” ("What is...” Internet). Even
the users of unlawful copies suffer from their own illegal actions: they receive
no documentation, no customer support and no information about product updates
("Software Use..." Internet).
The White Paper says that while virtually every software publisher
expresses concern about their software from unauthorized duplication, over time,
many have simply accepted the so-called "fact" that such duplication is
unavoidable. This has created an atmosphere in which software piracy is commonly
accepted as "just another cost of doing business" ("With the Growth..."
Internet).
In a brochure published by the SPA it is stated that a major problem
arises from the fact that most people do not even know they are breaking the law.
"Because the software industry is relatively new, and because copying software
is so easy, many people are either unaware of the laws governing software use or
choose to ignore them" ("To Copy or not to Copy" Internet).
Robert Perry states that much of the problem of software theft arises
from the way the software industry developed. In the past, when a software firm
spent millions of dollars to write a program for a mainframe computer, it knew
it would sell a handful of copies. It licensed each copy to protect its
ownership rights and control the use of each copy. That is easy to do with only
a few copies of a program. It is impossible for a software company to handle
five million copies of there latest program (27).
Software piracy is defined as any violations of software license
agreements. In 1964, the United States Copyright Office began to register
software as a form of literary expression. The Copyright Act, title 17 of the
U.S. Code, was amended in 1980 to explicitly include computer programs. Today,
according to the Copyright Act, it is illegal to make or distribute copyrighted
material without authorization, the only exceptions are the user\'s right to
make as an "essential step" in using the program (for example, by copying the
program into RAM or on the hard drive) and to make a single backup copy for
"archival purposes." No other copies may be made without specific authorization
from the copyright owner (title 17 section 117).
A SPA press release shows that in December 1990, the U.S. Congress
approved the Software Rental Amendments Act, which generally prohibits the
rental, leasing or lending of software with out the express written permission
of the copyright holder (“Retailers Agree...” Internet). “It doesn\'t mater
whether the transaction is called ‘rental, ‘buy-back,\' ‘try before you buy,\'
preview,\' ‘evaluation\' or any similar term. If the software dealer does not have
written permission from the copyright holders to rent software, it is illegal to
do so.” said Sandra Sellers, SPA vice president of intellectual property
education and enforcement (“SPA sues...” Internet.”)
NERDC information services researched that the copyright holder may
grant additional rights at the time the personal computer software is acquired.
For example, many applications are sold in LAN (local area network) versions
that allow a software package to be placed on a LAN for access by multiple users.
Additionally, permission is given under special license agreement to make
multiple copies for use throughout a large organization. However unless these
rights are specifically granted, U.S. law prohibits a user from making duplicate
copies of software except to ensure one working copy and one archival copy
(NERDC Internet).
Without authorization from the copyright owner, title 18 of U.S. Code
prohibits duplicating software for