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Am I a Software Pirate?

These days we seem to be hearing the term software piracy more frequently within the IT community. I think the initial response to the term causes most people to deny their responsibility in the matter. No one wants to admit that they are a software pirate. Software piracy sounds like such a harsh term, but what does it really mean? In layman’s terms, it simply implies using software in a manner that is against the license agreement. 

The legal definition of Consumer Software Piracy is: The unauthorized use, possession, downloading, duplication, distribution, or sale of copyrighted computer software. The funny thing is, this has been the definition for a very long time but people have never really grasped the concept of paying publishers to use software. Oftentimes, people buy software thinking they own the software and can use the software in any way they like. The truth is, when software is purchased, the buyer agrees to accept the terms and conditions of the license agreement and must use the software as specified therein. The software is not owned by the purchaser. The purchaser only owns the the rights to use the software as specified by the license agreement. The software is treated as intellectual property as defined by copy right law. For more information have a look at this online legal dictionary entry from 2001. It’s been there for quite a long time but some folks haven’t been paying attention.

Of course, today we seem to be engaged in a controversial battle, mainly between software publishers and mid-size to large organizations. It’s an interesting dynamic with the phases listed below:

  1. End users have been over using (nice way to say pirating) software since the beginning of time.
  2. Organizations put SAM on the back burner.
  3. Software publishers accept that some people use their software without paying but both the sales volume and sales price is so high that the loss was outweighed by the gains.
  4. The economy hits a long downturn and organizations cut their software purchasing expenditures.
  5. Software publishers force organizations to pay for usage rights for consumed entitlements through litigation.
  6. Organizations begin to implement SAM programs to manage software as an asset.

Most folks don’t intentionally break license usage agreements but it’s still illegal. The issue is less about being a software pirate and more about making sure that your organization has a solution in place to manage software assets.

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Dana has been working in the IT industry for over 15 years, mostly with Microsoft System Center CM2007/SMS and recently with Software Asset Management (SAM) technologies and processes. Dana got his start with technical writing by submitting Systems Management Server (SMS) 2.0/2003 articles to Swynk.com back in 2000. He continued that effort with myITforum. Dana also published two SMS books entitled Distributing Software with Systems Management Server 2003 and The Start to Finish Guide to SMS Software Delivery.

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