Computer Software Piracy and It's Impact on the International Economy

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Computer Software Piracy and it's Impact on the International Economy

The PC industry is over twenty years old. In those twenty years, evolving software technology brings us faster, more sophisticated, versatile and easy-to-use products. Business software allows companies to save time, effort and money. Educational computer programs teach basic skills and complicated subjects. Home software now includes a wide variety of programs that enhance the users productivity and creativity. The industry is thriving and users stand to benefit along with the publishers. The SPA (Software Publishers Association) reports that the problem of software theft has grown, and threatens to prevent the development of new software products. Unauthorized duplication of software is known as software piracy which is a "Federal offense that affects everyone" ("Software Use..." Internet). The following research examines software piracy in its various forms, its impact on the end user and the international industry as a whole, and the progress that has been made in alleviating the problem.

Software piracy harms all software companies and ultimately, the end user. Piracy results in higher prices for honest users, reduced levels of support and delays in funding and development of new products, causing the overall breadth and quality of software to suffer" ("What is..." Internet). Even the users of unlawful copies suffer from their own illegal actions: they receive no documentation, no customer support and no information about product updates ("Software Use..." Internet).

The White Paper says that while virtually every software publisher expresses concern about their software from unauthorized duplication, over time, many have simply accepted the so-called "fact" that such duplication is unavoidable. This has created an atmosphere in which software piracy is commonly accepted as "just another cost of doing business" ("With the Growth..." Internet).

In a brochure published by the SPA it is stated that a major problem arises from the fact that most people do not even know they are breaking the law. "Because the software industry is relatively new, and because copying software is so easy, many people are either unaware of the laws governing software use or choose to ignore them" ("To Copy or not to Copy" Internet).

Robert Perry states that much of the problem of software theft arises from the way the software industry developed. In the past, when a software firm spent millions of dollars to write a program for a mainframe computer, it knew it would sell a handful of copies. It licensed each copy to protect its ownership rights and control the use of each copy. That is easy to do with only a few copies of a program. It is impossible for a software company to handle five million copies of there latest program (27).

Software piracy is defined as any violations of software license agreements. In 1964, the United States Copyright Office began to register software as a form of literary expression. The Copyright Act, title 17 of the U.S. Code, was amended in 1980 to explicitly include computer programs. Today, according to the Copyright Act, it is illegal to make or distribute copyrighted material without authorization, the only exceptions are the user's right to make as an "essential step" in using the program (for example, by copying the program into RAM or on the hard drive) and to make a single backup copy for "archival purposes." No other copies may be made without specific authorization from the copyright owner (title 17 section 117).

A SPA press release shows that in December 1990, the U.S. Congress approved the Software Rental Amendments Act, which generally prohibits the rental, leasing or lending of software with out the express written permission of the copyright holder ("Retailers Agree..." Internet). "It doesn't mater whether the transaction is called ‘rental, ‘buy-back,' ‘try before you buy,' preview,' ‘evaluation' or any similar...
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