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A New Definition of Software Piracy

A New Definition of Software Piracy

What is software piracy? Like many politically charged phrases, the definition of software piracy is influenced by your financial interests and your viewpoint. The Business Software Alliance defines software piracy as:

“The illegal use and/or distribution of software protected under intellectual property laws.”

The Business Software Alliance specifically includes unintentional business overuse in its definition of software piracy as follows:

“End-user piracy occurs when an individual or organization reproduces and/or uses unlicensed copies of software for its operations.”

Armed with this definition of software piracy, the Business Software Alliance pursues global “anti-piracy” campaigns that include the targeting of many small to medium sized companies. The Business Software Alliance accuses these companies of engaging in software piracy and threatens them with litigation unless they voluntarily undergo a self audit. In my experience, the vast majority of the companies targeted by the Business Software Alliance are not pirates under anyone’s definition, they have merely failed to maintain financial records related to software purchases that no one, including the software companies, ever told them they were required to keep. In addition, the targets of Business Software Alliance audits are not pirates because they never intended to violate software licenses or copyright laws.

Scott & Scott’s Definition of Software Piracy

“Software Piracy is the distribution of counterfeit software and/or use or distribution of authentic software constituting the intentional violation of intellectual property laws.”

Our definition of software piracy differs from that used by the Business Software Alliance in that our definition adds emphasis to counterfeiting and expressly excludes the unintentional over deployment of software by end users. Piracy implies theft which under the law requires intent. Any definition of software piracy that includes unintentional over deployment should be rejected. The definition used by the software industry and the Business Software Alliance improperly characterizes software owners as thieves because they have been, at most, negligent in the management of their software assets and documents.