In the digital age, software piracy has emerged as a pressing concern for developers and businesses alike.

“Protection Against Software Piracy Case” delves into the intricacies of this issue, highlighting legal measures and real-world cases that underscore the importance of safeguarding intellectual property.

Join us as we navigate the challenges and solutions in the fight against illegal software distribution.

What is Software Piracy?

Software piracy is the unauthorised copying, distribution, or use of copyrighted software without the proper permission or license from the software’s creator or publisher.

This can include activities such as making copies of software for friends, downloading cracked versions of software from the internet, or using a single license on multiple devices when not permitted.

Software piracy is illegal and can result in legal consequences for both the distributor and the user. It also deprives software developers of revenue, which can impact the development of new software and updates.

How Do Copyright Laws Protect Software Businesses Against Piracy?

  1. Copyright Protection for Software: Computer software is protected under copyright laws as “original works of authorship.” This protection extends to every modification or addition made to the source code. As a result, computer programs or software are not protected by a single copyright but a series of copyrights. The Copyright Act, for instance, in countries like India, classifies computer software under literary works. This means that unauthorised copying, distribution, or modification of the software program would be considered a violation of the copyright.
  2. International Conventions: There are several international conventions that address software protection under copyright laws. Some of these include:
    • Berne Convention: While it doesn’t explicitly include software, Article 2 of the Berne Convention is not exhaustive, allowing for the inclusion of software under applied art.
    • Universal Copyright Convention (UCC): According to the UCC, software created by an author of a contracting state or first published in that state is protected in other UCC member countries.
    • TRIPS Agreement: This agreement explicitly includes computer software under copyrighted works. It states that software, whether in source or object code, should be protected as literary works under the Berne Convention.
    • WIPO Copyright Treaty: WIPO Copyright treaty explicitly states under Article 4 that computer programs are protected as literary works under the Berne Convention.
  3. Protection Against Infringement: The copyright laws provide protection against copyright infringement, which in the context of software means illegal copying, distribution, or modification. Software piracy, which is the unauthorised copying and distribution of software, is considered copyright infringement. The laws also hold accountable those who use software products they know are pirated versions.
  4. Legal Recourse: Copyright laws provide software businesses with the ability to take civil action against those who infringe on their copyrights. This can result in penalties, fines, and even imprisonment for the violators.
  5. Amendments for Enhanced Protection: Over time, amendments have been made to copyright laws to address the evolving challenges of software piracy. For instance, amendments in the Copyright Act 1994 introduced definitions for computer programs and databases, laid out the rights of copyright holders, and specified heavy punishments for infringements on software protected under the Copyright Law.

Exceptions to Copyright Infringement for Computer Programs in India

Under Section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act, certain actions related to computer programs are exempted from being considered as copyright infringement. These exceptions are:

  1. If you legally possess a computer program, you can make copies or adaptations for:
    • The specific purpose it was provided for.
    • Creating backup copies to safeguard against potential loss or damage, but only to use it for its intended purpose.
  2. You’re allowed to make a copy or adaptation for:
    • Observing, studying, or testing the program’s functionality to understand the underlying principles of its components, but only if these actions are essential for the purposes the software was provided for.
  3. If a computer program is legally acquired for personal, non-commercial use, making a copy is permissible.
  4. If it’s essential to extract information to ensure the compatibility of an independently created program with other piece of software, a lawful possessor can make a copy. However, this is only valid if such compatibility information isn’t easily accessible.
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The rule emphasises that the extracted information should not be readily available to the public.

Legal Actions Against Software Piracy in India

When a software owner identifies a breach of their software’s copyright in India, they have several legal avenues to address the infringement. The available legal remedies include:

  1. Issuing permanent or temporary restraining orders against the offenders.
  2. Ordering the destruction of all unauthorised copies of the software.
  3. Seeking monetary damages for losses incurred.
  4. Initiating criminal proceedings against the violators.

As per The Indian Copyright Act of 1957, those found guilty of software copyright infringement can face:

  • A jail term of up to six months and a fine of at least ₹50,000 for first-time offenders.
  • For repeat offenders, the penalties increase to a minimum of one year in prison and a fine of ₹1,00,000.

Furthermore, individuals using unauthorised software copies are not exempt from punishment. They can be subjected to:

  • Imprisonment ranging from a minimum of seven days to a maximum of three years.
  • A monetary penalty starting at ₹50,000.


Microsoft Corporation vs. Kanhaiya Singh Case:

In a recent judgment by the Delhi High Court, the defendants were found liable for software piracy and were ordered to pay Microsoft Corporation a sum of 20,00,000.

The court also granted Microsoft a permanent injunction, preventing the defendant from selling counterfeit Microsoft products.

The court determined that installing Microsoft’s software onto computer hard drives and then selling them constituted software piracy, thus finding the defendants guilty of the offense.

Adobe Systems and Microsoft Corporation vs. Mr. Mahindra Saxena & Others

Adobe Systems and Microsoft Corporation jointly filed a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants to prevent them from infringing on copyrights and trademarks, and also sought payment of damages.

The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that they possess legal rights over the software.

The defendants’ use of counterfeit or duplicated software was deemed illegal and a breach of Copyright Laws.

Such actions not only result in financial losses for the plaintiffs but also mislead the public. Additionally, the government suffers financial losses due to missed revenue from these illicit activities, as no proper financial records are kept and taxes go unpaid.

Furthermore, according to the IT Act’s Section 1(2) in conjunction with Section 75, the law has extraterritorial reach.

This means that if an individual from another country infringes on someone’s copyright through computer programs or networks based in India, they can be held accountable under Indian law.

Methods of Protection Against Software Piracy Case

Protecting software from piracy is paramount for developers and businesses to defend their intellectual property rights and ensure consistent revenue.

Here’s a wide range of methods employed to combat software theft:

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Software License and Activation

Software license management ensures that only users with valid licenses can access the digital content.

Activation keys, often unique to each user, validate the legitimacy of the software, preventing the use of unlicensed software.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

DRM systems control the use, modification, and distribution of copyrighted works, ensuring content owners maintain their exclusive rights.

Tamper-proof Software and Watermarking

Tamper-proof software can detect unauthorised modifications to the software code.

Meanwhile, watermarking, an anti-piracy measures, embeds unique identifiers, making illegal copies traceable.

Software Updates and Upgrades

Regular software updates patch vulnerabilities that software pirates might exploit.

Taking advantage of software upgrades also introduces features that render older, pirated versions obsolete.

Educating Users on End-user Piracy

By informing users about the risks of end-user piracy, such as malware or lack of support, businesses can deter them from using counterfeit software.

Online Authentication and Blocking File Sharing

Some programs require online authentication to combat online piracy.

Additionally, blocking to file sharing sites or protocols can prevent the unauthorised copying of programs.

Copy Protection and Hardware Protection

Some software comes with copy protection that prevents users from making duplicate copies. This can be achieved through physical means (e.g., on CDs or DVDs) or through software mechanisms.

Hardware devices, like dongles, offer another layer of protection, ensuring the software runs only when the device, containing a unique key, is connected.

Legal Recourse and Intellectual Property Rights

Strong intellectual property rights and international agreements deter software piracy.

Legal actions can be taken against those distributing counterfeit products or using pirated software.

Client-server Overuse and Licensing Terms

Ensuring adherence to licensing terms, especially in client-server environments, can prevent client-server overuse, a form of piracy where more users access the software than licenses permit.

Software Technologies and Content Protection

Emerging software technologies focus on advanced methods of content protection, ensuring that original software and digital content remain secure from theft.

In essence, while no single method guarantees full protection against software piracy, combining legal, educational, and technical measures can significantly mitigate the risks and impact of piracy.

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In conclusion, as personal computers become increasingly prevalent in our daily lives, the threat of various types of software piracy continues to rise.

It’s not just about unauthorised copies; the introduction of malicious codes into pirated versions poses a significant risk to users.

Opting for a legitimate program ensures not only adherence to the law but also the safety and optimal performance of one’s device.

It’s imperative for users to recognise these threats and make informed decisions when choosing software for their devices.

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How can software be protected from piracy?

Software can be protected from piracy through various means, including:

a. Using Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems to control access and distribution.
b. Implementing software activation keys or license verification systems.
c. Regularly updating software to patch vulnerabilities.
d. Employing watermarking to trace unauthorised copies.
e. Educating users about the risks and legal consequences of using pirated software.
f. Taking legal actions against distributors of pirated copies.

What are the legal protection against software piracy?

Legal protection against software piracy encompasses laws and regulations that defend the intellectual property of software creators.

Central to this is Indian copyright law, which treats software as a literary work, granting exclusive rights to its creators.

Users often enter licensing agreements that dictate software usage terms, and breaching these can lead to legal repercussions.

International treaties, like the Berne Convention, standardise global software protections. Penalties for piracy range from fines to imprisonment.

Additionally, technological measures, such as digital locks, further deter unauthorised access, and their circumvention is often illegal.
Together, these protections uphold creators’ rights and penalise unauthorised software distribution.

Why is it important to prevent software piracy?

Preventing software piracy is crucial for several reasons:

a. It ensures that software developers and companies receive rightful compensation for their work.
b. Pirated software often contains malicious codes, which can harm users’ devices and data.
c. It promotes fairness in the market, ensuring that all users pay for the services and products they use.
d. Piracy can deter developers from investing time and resources into creating new software or updating existing ones.

What are some examples of software piracy?

Examples of software piracy include:

a. Using a single software license on multiple devices when not permitted.
b. Distributing software copies without authorisation.
c. Downloading software from unauthorised or illegal websites.
d. Creating and selling counterfeit software copies.
e. Bypassing software activation or license verification systems.

Why is software piracy a crime?

Software piracy is considered a crime because it violates intellectual property rights. When someone creates software, they have exclusive rights to that software, much like an author has rights to their book.
Distributing or using software without proper authorisation infringes on these rights, depriving creators of potential revenue and violating legal protections in place.
As a result, many jurisdictions have laws that penalise software piracy, reflecting the importance of protecting intellectual property in the digital age.

How to protect yourself from software piracy?

a. Purchase from Reputable Sources: Always buy software from authorised dealers or directly from the software company.
b. Understand Licensing Terms: Before installing software, read and understand its licensing agreement. Ensure you’re compliant with its terms.
c. Educate & Train: Make sure employees or family members understand the importance of using only licensed software and the risks associated with piracy.
d. Use Software Asset Management Tools: These tools can help track and manage software licenses, ensuring compliance.