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 Software & Information Industry Association recognizes several types of piracy, including, softlifting (installing a single licensed copy of software on several machines), unrestricted client access, hard-disk loading, OEM piracy, commercial use of non-commercial software, counterfeiting, CR-R piracy, internet piracy, manufacturing plant sale of overruns, and renting.

The Software & Information Industry Association specifically includes unintentional business overuse in its definition of software piracy as follows:

“Softlifting occurs when a person purchases a single licensed copy of a software program and loads it on several machines, in violation of the terms of the license agreement.”

Armed with this definition of software piracy, the Software & Information Industry Association pursues global “anti-piracy” campaigns that include the targeting of many small to medium sized companies. The Software & Information Industry Association 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 Software & Information Industry Association 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 Software & Information Industry Association 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 Software & Information Industry Association 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 Software & Information Industry Association improperly characterizes software owners as thieves because they have been, at most, negligent in the management of their software assets and documents.

Scott & Scott, LLP is not affiliated in any way with the SIIA.