Over the past several years, advances in computer software have brought us time-saving business programs, educational software that teaches basic skills and sophisticated subjects, graphics programs that have revolutionized the design industry, Internet applications that help connect us with other computer users, and an increasingly complex variety of computer games to entertain us. As the software industry grows, everyone stands to benefit.
Compared to literature, music and movies, computer software is a relatively new form of intellectual property. Nevertheless, software is protected under the very same laws that govern music, literature, movies and other copyrighted content. Copying software illegally is not any different than illegally copying any of these forms of intellectual property -- and the punishments for doing so are equally harsh.
All software comes with a license agreement that specifically states the terms and conditions under which the software may be legally used. Licenses vary from program to program and may authorize as few as one computer or individual to use the software or as many as several hundred network users to share the application across the system. It is important to read and understand the license accompanying the application to ensure that you have enough legal copies of the software for your organization's needs. Making additional copies, or loading the software onto more than one machine, may violate copyright law and be considered piracy.
Unfortunately, there are many people who, either ignorantly or deliberately, engage in software piracy. Whenever you use a piece of software that is unlicensed, you are depriving software companies of their earnings. More importantly, you are depriving the creative teams who have developed the software (e.g., programmers, writers, graphic artists) of compensation for the thousands of hours they have spent working on a particular program.
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