software theft

software theft

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.

Some people mistakenly think that, because it is so easy to make illegal copies of software, that it is less wrong than, say, stealing it from a shop. In fact, both actions deprive software producers of the income they need to continue their business and develop their products.

Software theft should be reported to the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST).

See also Business Software Alliance, software audit, software law.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Federation Against Software Theft has warned against complacency in the fight against the illegal use of software, following the announcement of the latest BSA Global Software Survey.
Latest research from the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has revealed that while 63% of UK office workers are concerned about the negative effects of software theft to the economy, only 34% would speak up about illegal use.
Globally, the study finds that piracy rates in emerging markets tower over those in mature markets -- 68 percent to 24 percent on average -- and emerging markets account for an overwhelming majority of the global increase in the commercial value of software theft.
American Superconductor (NSQ:AMSC), which supplies components and systems for wind turbines, has announced that it is taking civil and criminal actions in China against Sinovel, the wind turbine manufacturer which had been its largest customer, over alleged software theft.
The Federation Against Software Theft has cautiously welcomed the findings of the Hargreaves Review into Intellectual Property and Growth, but concerns remain over the uncertainty of what exactly will be taken forward and how quickly.
Emerging economies now account for more than half the global value of PC software theft, USD 31.
SAP and Oracle, which dominate the global market for software that helps businesses run more efficiently, are battling in court to determine the amount of damages for software theft by SAP.
Our report makes it very clear that governments around the world must redouble their efforts to combat software theft," he concluded.
BSA has approximately 50 hotlines around the world for callers to seek information about piracy and to report suspected incidents of software theft.
The EDAC's Anti-Piracy Committee is working with companies in the same field to investigate all aspects of EDA software theft, including: availability, detection and identification of unauthorized use, and vulnerabilities and lost revenue.
The sentiments were echoed by Julian Hobbins at lobby group the Federation Against Software Theft and Investors in Software (FAST IiS).
Saudi Arabia is also recognised as a problem region by the Federation Against Software Theft (FACT) in relation to DVD and music piracy.

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