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Software Licensing and Piracy – you can serve time for it!

In 1993 worldwide illegal copying of domestic and international software cost .5 billion to the software industry, with a loss of .2 billion in the United States alone. Estimates show that over 40 percent of U.S. software company revenues are generated overseas, yet nearly 85 percent of the software industry's piracy losses occurred outside of the United States borders. The Software Publishers Association indicated that approximately 35 percent of the business software in the United States was obtained illegally, which 30 percent of the piracy occurs in corporate settings.

In a corporate setting or business, every computer must have its own set of original software and the appropriate number of manuals. It is illegal for a corporation or business to purchase a single set of original software and then load that software onto more than one computer, or lend, copy or distribute software for any reason without the prior written consent of the software manufacturer. Many software managers are concerned with the legal compliance, along with asset management and costs at their organizations. Many firms involve their legal departments and human resources in regards to software distribution and licensing.

Information can qualify to be property in two ways, patent law and copyright laws which are creations of federal statutes, pursuant to Constitutional grant of legislative authority. In order for the government to prosecute the unauthorized copying of computerized information as theft, it must first rely on other theories of information-as-property. Trade secret laws are created by state law, and most jurisdictions have laws that criminalize the violations of a trade-secret holder's rights in the secret. The definition of a trade secret varies somewhat from state to state, but commonly have the same elements. In 1964 the United States Copyright Office began to register software as a form of literary expression.

The United States Code was passed covering software piracy was passed by Congress in 1992. This amendment, known as Public Law 102-561 made software piracy a federal offense, and instituted criminal penalties for copyright infringement of software. The penalties can include imprisonment of up to five years, fines up to 0,000 or both for unauthorized reproduction or distribution of 10 or more copies of software with a total retail value exceeding ,500 or more. Under United States law duplicating software for profit, making multiple copies for use by different users within an organization, and giving an unauthorized copy to someone else is prohibited. Under this law if anyone is caught with the pirated software, an individual or the individual's company can be tried under both civil and criminal law. A Civil action may be established for injunction, actual damages (which includes the infringer’s profits) or statutory damages up to 0,000 per infringement.

The resultant laws show now why software licensing is not as clear cut as it once was.

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