Software Piracy

Software piracy ranges from making a copy of your friend's software to evaluate it, to a company’s mismanagement of its software licenses. Software piracy is the illegal distribution and/or copying of software for personal or business use. Whether these acts of piracy are committed with intent or not, they are still illegal and punishable by law.

Ownership of software

All software is owned by the software company. When you purchase software, you purchase a license to use the application in compliance with the End User License Agreement that is included with the software.


  • End User Piracy is copying software without buying the appropriate number of licenses. This includes:
    • Businesses that buy volume licenses, but under-report the number of computers using the software or fail to add licenses as new computers are added.
    • Businesses that host software on a server, enabling employees to download the software, without limiting or monitoring the number of copies.
    • Businesses that buy individual software packages, but copy the software on more computers than are permitted by the accompanying licenses.
  • Gray Market Piracy occurs when software intended for a particular channel is distributed in a different channel. This includes:
    • Academic versions of software, which may be distributed only by Authorized Education Resellers to authorized educational end users, and may not thereafter be distributed.
    • OEM software, which is software bundled with a specific hardware or software offer, and may not be distributed separately from that bundle.
    • Not For Resale (“NFR”) software, which may not be re-distributed.
  • Hard Disk Loading is the practice of installing unauthorized copies of software onto computer hardware prior to sale. Although many computers are preloaded with legitimate software via agreements between computer manufacturers and software publishers, some suppliers illegally install software to help sell machines.
  • Internet Piracy occurs when copyrighted material, or procedures or tools used to subvert such material, is illegally distributed through the use of online services, including the following:
    • Providing access to software or serial numbers that permit installation of the software through downloads, burned CDs, or in the original packaging where:
      • The provider is offering a copy; even back-up copies may not be distributed.
      • The product offered was previously distributed in violation of an authorized distributor, reseller, OEM, or other contract with the software manufacturer.
      • The product is an academic, NFR, or OEM version being offered in violation of applicable agreements.
      • The product being offered had previously been used to obtain an upgrade to a newer version.
      • The product is an unreleased or beta version.
      • The provider offering certain software products in quantity is not an authorized reseller of those software products or otherwise licensed to reproduce or distribute the software products.
    • Linking to or distributing tools that subvert or undermine the copy protections or time-out functions of software, or that enable any of the items in point 1.
  • Bootlegging is illegally making and distributing copies of software, commonly in the form of backups, CD-Rs, or "a copy for a friend." Normally, a license allows one backup copy of the software to be made, provided the backup copy is not installed or used on any computer. It does not allow for multiple copies to be made, and in no event may a backup copy be sold.
  • Counterfeiting is illegally making copies of software and distributing them in packaging made to appear similar to legitimate software product packaging.