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What is Pirated Software?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pirated software is software which has been duplicated and distributed without authorization. A number of activities could be considered software piracy, with the classic example being someone who makes multiple copies of a program and sells the copies. Piracy of software is generally prosecuted under copyright infringement laws, under the argument that piracy infringes upon the copyrights held by the developer of the software.

Since the 1700s, people have been referring to instances of copyright infringement as piracy, and with the advent of the computer age, piracy began to explode because it became easy to do, and potentially highly lucrative. Software pirates can make a great deal of money by purchasing a single legitimate copy of a piece of software, copying it, and selling it. People may make a conscious choice to buy pirated software, or they may be fooled into buying illegally copied software by savvy pirates who take care to package their products believably.

If software is copied and given away, some people do not consider it piracy, but simple copyright infringement. This activity is still illegal, but it does not provide monetary benefits for the person doing the copying and distribution. The line blurs even further when people do things like installing a piece of software on multiple computers when the software license only allows one copy to be installed, or when people make backups of software for personal use.

From the point of view of software companies, unauthorized copying and distribution, whether copyright infringement or outright piracy, is harmful because it deprives them of profits. It can also damage their reputations, as pirated software may be faulty or loaded with malware, in which case users may express anger with the product and the company. Piracy is also an issue because it can threaten the safety of computer users, since pirated software products may be used to harvest personal information, load a computer with viruses, or engage in other activities which will hurt the user.

A number of types of software are pirated, ranging from games to office productivity software. Operating systems are also popular targets for piracy. Some people may engage in piracy unwittingly, as in the case of an office which installs more copies of an operating system or program than it has licenses for. Penalties for possessing and selling pirated software vary, with colleges and schools in particular cracking down on piracy to address safety concerns and complaints from producers of software.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon931122 — On Feb 07, 2014

I bought a game and shared it online on a blog without any copyright.

I haven't tried to make money with it. I just had shared it free online.

Is this legal or illegal?

By anon258174 — On Mar 30, 2012

We unknowingly purchased an Autocad package for £495.00 online from a company based in Coventry. When trying to register online we discovered via Autodesk that it was illegal. Now we can't trace the guys!

By Acracadabra — On Apr 20, 2011

I don't know if it's the same in all cases but I know my word processing package is genuine software, as it tracks my location! I suppose that could be just there to scare people but I wouldn't chance making or using pirated Microsoft software.

By yumdelish — On Apr 18, 2011

@anon141988 - I totally agree with you. I understand that some people just may not have the cash, but the alternatives are out there. It's funny to me that so many folk who would never consider themselves thieves are okay about pirating softtware! Perhaps they just don't think of it that way.

By anon141988 — On Jan 11, 2011

I agree. buy original software. if you have no budget you can download a lot of freeware on the net and believe me it's much better than buying because of its versatility.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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