Computers and the information stored in them are restricted to authorized persons in general, because this information contains trade secrets, military secrets and other restricted data pertaining to the organization. Hackers create harmful virus programs and gain access to this data or corrupt it (Parker, 2005).The loss caused due to computer crimes cannot be assessed accurately, because most victims of these attacks are unable to realize that their computers have been infected. The law enforcement authorities and computer scientists are of the opinion that computer criminals are gaining more sophistication. At the same time the number of such crimes is rapidly on the increase.Computer crime can be classified as first, the unauthorized use of a computer like stealing usernames and passwords, accessing a computer through internet via a backdoor provided by a Trojan Horse program.
Second, creating malicious computer programs like computer viruses, worms, Trojan Horses and distributing them. Third, the intentional harassment and pursuing a person stealthily through internet (Standler, 2002).Piracy of software is another form of computer crime.
With the decreasing cost of CD-RW discs, pirates are copying legitimate software on them and distributing them to users at a much lower cost. This is a clandestine operation and in the year 2001, the FBI took into custody four persons and seized illegal copies of Microsoft Software worth more than ten million dollars. The prohibitive cost of original software products and the availability of low cost CD-RWs are some of the contributory factors of software piracy (Britz, 2003. P. 61).The copying or duplicating of software that is meant for commercial use is software piracy, which is illegal. Piracy depletes the profits of a company and acts as a barrier to further research and development.
The practice of software piracy has its basis in the late 1960s when companies started selling hardware and software separately. Earlier, software companies used to supply software along with hardware. This encouraged people to start duplicating the software from other purchasers of that software (Stone, 2002).Most software users do know that piracy of software is illegal. However, they do not treat software as an intellectual property. The Business Standard Alliance and the IDC 4th Annual Global Software Piracy Study have contended that software piracy results in a loss of. According to them, in the year 2006, the software companies in the United States sustained a loss of $40 billion (What is Software Piracy?, 2007).
Software piracy can be categorized as follows. Persons buy licensed software program that is meant for one computer, and install the same in a number of computers this is known as softlifting. This constitutes a violation of the conditions of the license agreement. People often share their copy of software programs with friends and colleagues. Such sharing activity falls under the category of softlifting. Installing the software purchased for commercial use in home computers and laptops is also an activity that violates the software purchase agreement conditions. Softlifting is the easiest method of piracy, which is prevalent in most of the corporate organizations.If an organization purchases a single copy of licensed software and installs it on the organization’s server thereby providing it to its network clients, then it would be violating the agreement conditions.
This type of piracy is called unrestricted client access.When an organization purchases a client – server licensed software program, it has to restrict the number of users of that software in accordance with the number of users stipulated in the license agreement. Thus unrestricted client access piracy is the same as softlifting. However, unrestricted client access only occurs if an organization installs the software on a server.
Piracy occurs when an individual purchases a computer which was preloaded with an illegal copy of the software. The vendor of such a computer would not provide any documents with regard to the legality of such software. Original equipment manufacturers or OEMs should provide licensed software with the purchase of certain hardware.
If the purchaser copies this software and sells it separately to others then it would be a violation of the license agreement which was entered into by the vendor and the software developing company. Selling software that is meant for sale bundled offer is also a form of piracy. Thus software products branded with the mark, not for resale, denote such bundled applications.Similarly the commercial use of software that is meant for educational or other research projects can be classified under software piracy. Sometimes software companies release special editions of software, which is to be used only by some specific group. Educational versions of software programs come under this category and their cost is less than that of commercial versions of that software. Marketing such educational lower cost versions for commercial use results in economic loss for the software companies and developers of such programs.Counterfeiting is another form of piracy in which the vendor or an individual duplicates the software and makes several copies of them.
Sale of such unauthorized copies as a legitimate copy of software constitutes an act of counterfeiting. Software pirates copy software on CD-Rs by purchasing one legal version of the software and making several copies of it on CD-Rs. Subsequently, they sell these illegal copies to buyers who distribute them to their friends.With decreasing costs of CD burning drives, this practice is growing.
However, the CDs on which the software is recorded do not have any labeling. There would be only hand written specifications and no documents provided to the buyers. This process is somewhat different from counterfeiting (What is Piracy?, 2007).Uploading and downloading commercial software on the internet by any person is a common practice at present. Pirates offer software on the internet at a low price or they just provide the software for free. This is also a form of piracy. Moreover, there are certain websites that place software for auction.
These are all illegal activities (What is Piracy?, 2007).Developers of software programs engage CD making units to produce a certain number of copies of their software programs on CDs in order to market them through selected vendors and retailers. Sometimes the workers in these CD making units’ clandestinely produce extra copies of such CDs. Subsequently, the employees of such manufacturing units sell these copies without authorization.
This activity can be referred to as plant piracy. Sometimes, the developer instructs the plant owners to destroy the undistributed CD copies, but the plant staff, violate these instructions of the developer and sell the CDs which were to be destroyed (What is Piracy?, 2007).The Software Rental Amendments Act of 1990 of the United States and the Copyright Act of Canada prohibits lending software on rental for short periods of time. In the Asia Pacific region and in the Middle East the problem of software piracy is intense. In the regions of Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and Western Europe the problem is slowly diminishing.
North America accounts for twenty two percent of software piracy. The piracy rate in the Asia Pacific region is increasing. The problem is particularly severe in China and India, where it is endemic. A similar situation is prevalent in the Middle East and Africa.There are a number of reasons that contribute to the regional differences in the piracy rate. Some of these are the enforcement of intellectual property protection, easy availability of pirated software and cultural variations.
The problem of piracy is not found to be uniform throughout any country. It is high in one city and low in another and in other words it varies from place to place (2006 PIRACY STUDY).In large business organizations, piracy is controlled by initiating several precautionary measures, whereas in the case of small scale businesses it is still proliferating. Furthermore, with regard to operating systems, the incidence of piracy is decreasing whereas in the case of other business applications it depicts an increasing trend. At present in the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa the IT industry is flourishing and concomitantly, piracy is also on the increase (2006 PIRACY STUDY).Piracy of computer software is continually on the increase.
Computers have become nearly ubiquitous, due to the drastic reduction in the cost of computer hardware. At present computers with significant processing power are available at reasonable and affordable cost. In developing countries it is usual to purchase knocked down or unbranded computers.
The software used in such computers is almost always pirated software. Another major cause for the unbounded increase in software piracy is the World Wide Web or to be precise, the increase in bandwidth, which has resulted in cheaper internet access. There are several web sites that permit the uploading of files whose size is in hundreds of megabytes. This makes it very easy to access other computers in order to obtain pirated software.A major contributory factor to software piracy is the prohibitive cost of software. For instance the Windows Vista Ultimate version, manufactured by Microsoft Corporation, costs around US$ 400, the Microsoft Office Professional 2007 costs around US$500 and the Adobe Photoshop CS3 costs around US$ 650. The software pirates in developing countries sell these and other software for approximately US$ 1.25 per CD ROM.
Obviously, this is just too tempting to avoid.However, software piracy has grave economic consequences, the indigenous software developers have to close shop, due to the availability of imported pirate software. Significant loss of tax revenues transpires and there is a drastic reduction in the number of jobs due to the absence of a legitimate market.
The abundance of broadband internet connections has made it extremely convenient for software pirates to sell software over the net in lieu of online payments. Another major cause for the increase in software piracy is the Peer to Peer or P2P transfer of files. The transfer speed made available by broadband internet connections makes it viable to transfer files that are hundreds of megabytes in size and the steep rise in the cost of living has made it attractive to obtain software that is free of cost.
Moreover, most of the people do not consider software piracy to be equivalent to theft.The developed countries, with the US in the lead, are directing the developing countries o f the world to implement more stringent legal measures to protect intellectual property rights. However, the best way to reduce software piracy is by convincing the end users to desist from using such software. In addition, the software companies have to bring about a drastic reduction in the prices, so that an end user in the developing world can afford to purchase a legitimate copy of the software. A combination of stricter legislation, better public awareness and significantly reduced cost of software can bring about a major curtailment of software piracy.