Friday, February 09, 2007

Types of Software Piracy

Source: The StarInTech, 30 May 2006, pg 29 - An article being part of the Ops Tulen 2006 antipiracy campaign organised by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

Additional link for software piracy: WiseGeek - What is Software Piracy?

Don’t be caught in the piracy trap

This is the second of a six-part weekly series brought to you by the Business Software Alliance. The articles are part of the OpsTulen 2006 antipiracy campaign organised by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

AS WE have discussed the impact and unravelled the myths of software piracy last week, it is time to look at the different types of software piracy, and how we can differentiate genuine from fake products. While many know that copying and distributing copyrighted software illegally is considered piracy, not many are aware that possessing software that has been illegally copied or using software against its licensing terms is also piracy. There are several types of software piracy:

Casual copying

This is a most common method of piracy, where copies are made of the genuine version and distributed among friends and colleagues in a casual office environment (against the end-user licence terms), and it is also called “softlifting."

Tip: Ensure you keep the genuine software CD-ROM or diskette in a safe locked central location with a single identified person accountable, i.e. the IT or finance manager.


This happens when one copy of licensed software is purchased and loaded in more than one computer system without proper licensing and monitoring of the number of licences purchased against the number actually installed.

Tip: Ensure you conduct regular software audits (every six months) to ensure the number of licences you have purchased tallies with what has been installed on the computers.

Hard-disk loading

This type of piracy often goes undetected especially when businesses do not check the legitimacy of the application that comes with the purchase of PCs and laptops. It happens when a hardware distributor or reseller installs illegal and/or unlicensed software on to a computer and sells it as a package. Often, this is attractive to buyers as the price is low.

Tip: Ensure you always insist on genuine software pre-installed up front with your purchase and that it comes with the proper licence documentation, i.e. genuine CD-ROM or diskette, manuals, receipt/invoice, end-user license agreement, certificate of authenticity (COA), etc.


This happens when pirated software is packaged in a manner that is very similar to the original packaging, thus looking like original. This could easily fool buyers, as counterfeit registration cards with unauthorised serial numbers, boxes and manuals are often a part of these packages.

Tip: Ensure you consult your software principal on how to tell genuine software from the fakes and what licence documentation is required.

Licence misuse

Software vendors often provide various types of licensing, including OEM (original equipment manufacturer), volume licensing, those meant for non-profit organisations and academic institutions, upgrades, etc. Using software against its licensing terms is a form of piracy for example using academic licences in a commercial business or purchasing OEM licences (required to be pre-installed with a new computer system) separately without the new computer system (unless otherwise specified by the licensing terms).

Tip: Ensure you consult the end-user license agreement or the software principal to see what rights you acquired with your software licence type.


There are many multiplexing devices (pooling, dumb client, thin client = hardware that reduces number of CPUs/ PCs/ input devices) available in the market today that promise the reduction in the number of software licences required. Beware that multiplexing DOES NOT necessarily reduce the number of software licences required.

Tip: Ensure you refer to the specific licensing terms or product usage rights accompanying your software to always be certain.


This type of piracy works in the same manner as video rental where a licensed copy of software is rented out for temporary use against the licence agreement, or without the owners’ agreement.

Tip: Again, ensure you consult the licensing terms.

Internet piracy

The sharing of illegal and unlicensed copies of software has become easier and more prevalent, as identity over the Internet can be faked easily. Beware of sources selling cheap software online disguised as “on sale” or “OEM version” via what looks to be very professional looking websites or spam e-mail messages.

Online auction is another popular channel for Internet piracy. Unlicensed software could be easily resold over an auction site. In addition, technologies that have emerged to enable easy sharing of files over the Internet such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and P2P (Peer-to-Peer), allow faster and easier transfer of pirated software.

FTP allows transferring of large files easily by downloading files to a site. P2P technology allows a community of people to share files. Most people are attracted to the wide range of software resources available for free when they join a P2P community, and they, in turn, contribute by sharing what they have. Often, pirated software is easily available through both FTP and P2P technology users.

Tip: Ensure you purchase your software from reputable and trusted sources only. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you would like to learn more about software piracy and Software Asset Management (SAM) visit You can also contact the BSA Antipiracy Hotline at 1-800-887-800.

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