Software piracy can be defined as unauthorized or illegal copying of software. Whenever a person purchases a paid computer software, he or she is provided with a license key for the same. The person can then activate it using the key whereby he or she becomes a licensed user of that software. Different software licenses have different usage limits though most of them allow you to install the software only on one system (i.e. a single computer) and you are allowed to keep a copy of the installation file only as a backup. However, some licenses allow usage of the software in up to 2-3 computers or on at times in a whole computer network (in case of corporate licenses). Many vendors also allow you to transfer the license for their software products from one computer to another. All such authorized installation of the software are called legal versions or licensed installations. But when you pass the same copy to your friends or reverse engineer it for multiple usage, then it becomes an illegal or pirated software.
Many software companies are trying different ways to keep a check on piracy of their products. Most licenses nowadays are automatically attached to the motherboard or operating system which makes it impossible to be transferred to other computers without authorization from the vendors. Most software are also copy protected in recent times and require online activation. The companies have even started to employ anti-piracy agencies and methods to check and remove pirated copies from various websites including file downloading sites, warez sites etc. But even after all those precautions, most computer software are ultimately cracked and released to warez and illegal sites. As soon as a software is released, hackers start to reverse engineer the same and soon cracks are released to the internet.
Software piracy is one of the biggest menace for the software industry and has resulted in loss of revenue worth billions of dollars. Though pirated software are mostly used by people who know about it being illegal but there are times when people use pirated copies of software without even realizing they are doing something illegal. These mostly occur when the computer shop or computer repair person installs pirated versions without clarifying or informing he same to the person who owns the computer. In recent years, a lot of awareness campaigns are being done by top software providers to let first time computer users know about the disadvantages and legal problems attached with using a pirated software. However, a lot more needs to be done to spread more awareness.
It is our responsibility to follow ethical and legal means by purchasing only licensed software. By purchasing a legal license, we are not only rewarding the developers and supporters of the products for their quality and usage of the software but also helping in future development of the software. A significant portion of the revenue generated from any software goes into research and development which in turn would result in more features and stability in future versions of the software. So, the first and foremost reason for purchasing a legal license is that we can expect improvement in future versions of the software. Secondly, it is our moral duty to avoid a pirated software as the developers invest a lot of hard work and money in the development. So, they should be rewarded for the same. Thirdly, a pirated software is never going to be stable and updates are not available. Most pirated software have been seen to be susceptible to virus and malware compared to legal ones. So, a genuine and authorized version of the same results in mental peace as well as security and stability of your computer system. In case you are unable to afford it then you can always opt for open source or free software which can be legally downloaded and installed on your computer free of cost. As these are legal versions, you can also update it free of costs and thereby maintain security and stability of the same. Nowadays, most open source alternatives are comparable and at times even better than the paid software. If you are a developer then you can also reverse engineer the open source software and redistribute it as per your needs and in accordance with the license. And if you need additional features, you can purchase the paid versions when you can afford the investment.