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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
software theft
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legal The unauthorised duplication and/or use of computer
software. This usually means unauthorised copying, either
by individuals for use by themselves or their friends or, less
commonly, by companies who then sell the illegal copies to
users. Many kinds of software protection have been invented
to try to reduce software theft but, with sufficient effort it
is always possible to bypass or "crack" the protection, and
software protection is often annoying for legitimate users.
Software theft was estimated for 1994 to have cost $15 billion
in worldwide lost revenues to software publishers. It is a
serious offence under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act
1988, which states that "The owner of the copyright has the
exclusive right to copy the work.".
It is estimated that European software houses alone lose $6
billion per year through the unlawful copying and distribution
of software, with much of this loss being through business
users rather than "basement hackers". One Italian pirating
operation employed over 100 staff and had a turnover of $10m.
It is illegal to: 1. Copy or distribute software or its
documentation without the permission or licence of the
copyright owner. 2. Run purchased software on two or more
computers simultaneously unless the licence specifically
allows it. 3. Knowingly or unknowingly allow, encourage or
pressure employees to make or use illegal copies sources
within the organisation. 4. Infringe laws against
unauthorised software copying because a superior, colleague or
friend compels or requests it. 5. Loan software in order that
a copy be made of it.
When software is upgraded it is generally the case that the
licence accompanying the new version revokes the old version.
This means that it is illegal to run both the old and new
versions as only the new version is licensed.
Both individuals and companies may be convicted of piracy
offences. Officers of a company are also liable to conviction
if the offences were carried out by the company with their
consent. On conviction, the guilty party can face
imprisonment for up to two years (five in USA), an unlimited
fine or both as well as being sued for copyright infringement
(with no limit) by the copyright owner.