Software Piracy Laws

Written by Kevin Tavolaro
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Contrary to what you might have learned online, the celebrated "24-Hour Rule" of intellectual property law is nothing more than a myth. This fictional rule, widely believed by many, supposedly states that you can legally download or otherwise obtain unlicensed commercial software, on the condition that you either delete the program or purchase it within 24 hours. Copyright offenders often cite this rule as justification for their illegal activities, as it is said to boost consumer confidence, by allowing users to try out software before purchasing it. While the rule does not exist, it is so accepted among offenders, that it is even posted as a disclaimer on many warez sites.

Although the 24-Hour Rule has no basis in reality, there are many real legal procedures in place to deal with the problem of software piracy. US copyright law includes several options for pursuing and punishing software pirates. Although there are numerous consequences that can result from certain types of offenses, financial liability applies to nearly all matters of copyright infringement. As software piracy continues to deplete industry profits, it is becoming increasingly common for manufacturers to attempt to recoup their massive losses from the handful of violators who are actually caught.

Software Piracy Law Penalties

If an individual or group is found guilty of copyright infringement involving pirated software, the original copyright holder can then start to recoup its losses directly from the offender. According to the US Copyright Act, the offending party is liable for all damages, and must also pay the copyright holder any profits that might have been attributable to the piracy. This can include any money earned from the sale of bootleg programs, as well as money saved or profits earned due to the assistance of the unlicensed software. Cyber-thieves can also wind up owing copyright owners as much as 150,000 dollars for each work infringed upon.

A frequent type of violation occurs when business loads licensed software onto its network server without ensuring that it is not utilized by more users than it is licensed for. These types of violations can occur accidentally, such as when a company does not have efficient license management protocols. They can also happen intentionally, such when a company attempts to cut corners by purchasing a single-user license for a program, yet makes it accessible to all workers through the network. This kind of fraud in particular has brought charges against many organizations, as it entails a high possibility of detection. A software manufacturer can usually detect potential license violations from the information provided by any employee requiring technical support. Manufacturers track product registration, and when a worker requests technical help for a server-based program that had only been licensed to a single user, it is a clear indication of unlicensed use. Organizations guilty of violating license agreements may have to pay as much as 150,000 dollars for every instance of infringement. The organization may also be required to turn its servers and computers over to the copyright holder, or in some cases to legal authorities.

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