Piracy is the term used to describe the enormous world of illegal file sharing, downloading, and counterfeiting associated with the Internet. With none of the glamor of swashbuckling, Internet piracy is dangerous and usually illegal. There are many different types of Internet piracy that should be carefully avoided; the unknowing customer can end up facing fines, criminal charges, and a computer chock-full of viruses.
File sharing is one of the oldest forms of Internet piracy, and still raises some ethical debates. In the 1990s, file sharing programs were created to allow users to share each other's libraries of music, video clips, and other small files. Unfortunately, this friendly process often resulted in a variety of problems. Files could be easily infected with viruses to destroy other computers; in addition, file sharing typically constitutes copyright infringement, which is illegal. Several high-profile lawsuits were filed against people that had large libraries of illegally downloaded material in an attempt to crack down on file sharing
Many offices and businesses frequently engage in forms of piracy without realizing it. Most software programs are meant to be installed on one computer only; sharing discs or programs across computers constitutes what experts call end-user piracy. This concept is one of great ethical debate, as many people argue that a program should be able to run on all of its owner's computers; a person certainly does not need to buy a duplicate CD for every CD player he owns. Yet as of the early 21st century, end-user piracy remains mostly illegal and could result in legal consequences for businesses and employees.
Unfortunately, counterfeiting catches many victims who are trying to be ethically sound and avoid pirated programs. The free world of the Internet allows counterfeiting pirates to set up websites that are nearly identical to legitimate dealers. This allows the pirates to sell digital or hard copies of software to which they have no legal right. Counterfeiting can be very convincing, as packaging, composition, and product description may all be exact replicas of legally sold products. To avoid purchasing counterfeit software, purchase only from the original seller, or check the product's official website for a list of reputable, approved dealers.
Piracy may give the appearance of not causing any harm, but this is untrue. Illegally downloading the music of a favorite artist results in that musician not being paid residual monies for his or her work. Moreover, illegal downloads can be fraught with spyware and viruses capable of destroying hard-drives and ruining computers. In the case of end-user or counterfeit software, users without a legal copy are unable to receive program support or updates from the manufacturer.