Computer Piracy Essay
The era of computers has drastically changed the way we live, communicate, and learn - Computer Piracy Essay introduction. Its diverse applications cause industries to function more efficiently revolutionizing business strategies, research, telecommunications, transportations, education, and the defense systems. Today, the world relies so much on this technology that is readily accessible to every one. Due to the widespread use of computers and its practical purpose, many unscrupulous individuals with criminal minds have taken advantage of this technology to benefit their self-interests for economic gain. Through piracy these hi-tech thieves earn huge profits depriving the government of taxes and business owners of income that could lead to unemployment. In its sense, piracy refers to the activity of manufacturing unauthorized copies of protected material and dealing with such copies by way of distribution and sale (Panethiere, 2005, p. 2).
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Computer piracy, which deals mostly on illegally obtained software, is a major global concern that threatens national economic security robbing entrepreneurs of their intellectual property. In the 4th Annual Global Software Piracy Study published in May 2007, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the International Data Corporation (IDC) cited that in 2006 35% of all business softwares installed worldwide were pirated amounting to nearly $40 billion in losses. The organization further noted that if piracy is decreased by 10% within four years, this could generate $70 billion in revenues and 2.4 million jobs. Despite strict laws and policing, the problem remains at large. Indeed, there is an urgent need to address the issue by way of education, inter-governmental collaboration, and global enforcement.
The Prevalence of Piracy. Computer piracy has adverse consequences on society but its existence seems unstoppable. The cultural and technological aspects of piracy have greatly contributed to the problem. Many patronize pirated copies of computer software, CD music or games because of cheaper price compared to the originals. In addition, advanced technology has empowered consumers to do just about anything with computers particularly with the advent of the internet, CD and DVD writers where any one can perform digital duplication. This has become attractive to criminals because of easy money scheme with no taxes to pay and minimal penalties if caught. Several cases of piracy go unreported because every one seems to enjoy its advantages but people do no realize that piracy is a leading cause why prices go up. Computer companies whose earnings drop due to piracy regain its losses by increasing the prices of their products. Those who practice this business ventures argue that what they do is not unlawful and people who buy pirated copies think it is not morally wrong because this phenomenon has become so ordinary. One can purchase pirated software, music, and games anywhere especially in countries where piracy regulations and law enforcement are weak with insufficient legal penalties. Pirates do not believe it is a theft, because they are not depriving the owner of their property; theft is taking something, and piracy is copying something (Craig & Burnett, 2005, p. 3). Currently, piracy laws only prosecute those involve in the operations but not the buying public.
Forms of Piracy. Computer piracy takes many forms but focus mainly in counterfeiting genuine software for profit. Nowadays, almost every one has unlicensed copy of software installed in his/her computer as well as copies of music and games illegally downloaded in the internet. Computer users often find themselves in a piracy trap unaware that they are doing a criminal act. The computer technology offers unlimited opportunities for someone to become a pirate and many are lured because of endless possibility for big bucks. Many of these pirates only operate in their homes. As computer companies come up with better security measures to protect their products and governments pass legislative actions to combat piracy, hackers likewise continue to sharpen their skills and strategies in stealing computer software taking one step ahead above the rest. Software piracy adversely affects the world economy by diverting money that stimulates further product development. Piracy particularly affects the United States, which currently provides approximately 80% of the world’s software (SIIA, 2007, p. 1). To make the public aware about pirated software, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) listed some of the common ways how piracy takes place.
1. Softlifting is when someone buys an original software program and installs it on several computer units violating the license agreement. This usually occurs in big offices where an employee shares the software with a co-worker or to every personnel in the company.
2. Hard-disk loading usually happens in computer shops where the seller preloads the units with pirated software as an incentive. There is no valid documentation for the purchase.
3. Counterfeiting is duplicating authentic software and sells the product as if it is a legitimate copy. The fake copies are then sold at a lower price in non-trade shows or online.
4. Internet piracy is the uploading of commercial software on the internet and makes it available for anyone to copy or download for free. With Peer-to Peer (P2P) technology, users can communicate in real time and simply transfer copies of software for distribution. Since P2P is anonymous in nature, it is very hard to trace the transactions. Here, the internet is used as a one stop shop to sell and buy pirated software mostly through bidding as shown below.
5. CD-R piracy is the illegal duplication of authentic software using CD or DVD Writers technology with the intention to distribute pirated copies to friends or resell the products. Pirates have become creative by compiling different software or music titles in one CD earning them substantial incomes. This is a lucrative business that is very easy to do. One merely arranges files in Windows operating system and makes copies through CD or DVD burning.
6. Unrestricted Client Access is similar to Softlifting but this time the software is installed into a server of an organization where its customers can freely access the program or too many employees on a network are using a central copy of a program at the same time (Nemrava, 2006, p. 2). There is a violation when the license of the organization restricts the use of the software only to a single computer.
7. When buying certain computer hardware there is software included as part of the package called Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). OEM piracy occurs when this software is copied and sold separately from the hardware.
Negative Effects of Computer Piracy. Besides economic loss, piracy can endanger your units with programs that will not function properly or damage vital hardware and system. At times, pirated software carries viruses that might shutdown your computer completely and erase valuable information. Purchasing such copies will not give you access to customer support, upgrades, training, documentation and updates. In addition, you will have no warranty to safeguard yourselves if the software stops operating that may also harm your computer. With not much information from the seller, some pirated copies are trial versions or outdated that work only for a certain period of time.
Piracy undermines the efforts of those who devoted themselves in discovering new software to improve further our technology totally disregarding the time and money spent for research and development. Piracy denies the software developer its rightful revenue and harms consumers and the industry as a whole. All software developers, both big and small, spend years creating software. A portion of every dollar spent in purchasing original software is funneled back into research and development, so that newer, more advanced software can be produced. When you purchase illegal or counterfeit copies, your money goes straight into the pockets of software pirates (BSA, 2006, p. 2). Finally, consumers run the risk of being victims of identity theft when pirates would keep records of names, credit cards, and addresses of buyers and use such information for other cyber crime activities.
Recommendations. Since the early 1970s to this day computer piracy still persists. Prevention will take a concerted effort of governments worldwide, law enforcement agencies, and the public. To effectively fight piracy the public must be educated to make them aware of their responsibilities. There should be a national educational program for students detailing the value of intellectual property and the negative impact of piracy to the country. They should be encouraged to report the crime and assist authorities. Regular forums or conferences should be conducted for business leaders so that they will understand the different offenses and national laws against piracy and how could they protect their intellectual property. Law enforcers and prosecutors should undertake on-going trainings to enhance their skills and knowledge in investigating piracy.
Because it is a global problem, there should be an international cooperation among nations by sharing vital information and establish extradition treaties for legal assistance during apprehension of suspects. Nations should set up law enforcement coordinators so that agents from other countries could coordinate their strategies and work with local authorities in tracking down those involve in piracy specifically in regions where the crime rate is very high such as the Asia Pacific. Another way to prevent piracy is through legislative actions. Some laws should be amended that would include the prosecution of those who buy or in possession of pirated software. The distribution of counterfeit products should be thwarted by seizing, when possible, the materials and equipment used in making them and legal loopholes should not allow trafficking in counterfeit labels simply because they have not yet been attached to counterfeit goods (DOJ, 2006, p. 76). Above all civil penalties should be increased to discourage the crime.
Panethiere, D. (2005). The Persistence of Piracy: The Consequences for Creativity, for Culture, and for Sustainable Development. Doctrine and Opinion. e-Copyright Bulletin, July – September 2005. Retrieved September 8, 2007, from http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/file_download.php/2135484ca2fc5b336376b2bb2b4f1906panethiere_en.pdf
Craig, P. & Burnett, M. (2005). Software Piracy Exposed. Syngress Publishers, Inc. May 1, 2005. Rockland, MA.
SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association). (2007). What is Piracy: The Piracy Problem. Anti-Piracy Division. Retrieved September 9, 2007, from http://www.siia.net/piracy/pubs/WhatIsPiracy.pdf
Nemrava, J. (2006). Economical Aspects of Software Piracy. Department of Information and Knowledge Engineering. University of Economics Prague. Retrieved September 9, 2007, from http://nemrava.gasttour.cz/publikace/hp911-nemrava.pdf.
BSA (Business Software Alliance). (2006). Software Piracy and the Law: Information on Software Piracy in the United States. Retrieved September 9, 2007, from http://w3.bsa.org/usa/campaigns/avoidthenet/FINA_Software%20Piracy%20and%20the%20Law.pdf
DOJ (Department of Justice). (2006). Progress Report of the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Intellectual Property. Retrieved September 9, 2007, from http://www.cybercrime.gov/2006IPTFProgressReport(6-19-06).pdf