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Understanding Software Piracy Protection in India

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Manish Jindal

December 1, 2023

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Understanding Software Piracy Protection in India

Have you ever thought about the hard work that goes into creating a piece of software?

Imagine spending months, even years, crafting a masterpiece, only to find it being distributed freely without your permission. It’s like an artist finding their paintings being sold in the market without their consent.

That’s where the Indian Copyright Act steps in, ensuring that software creators get their due credit and protection.

Lets dive in to understand software piracy protection in India.

Software Piracy and Intellectual Property Rights Protection

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 multiple copies of a single software license,
  • distributing software without a valid license,
  • downloading pirated versions from the internet, or
  • using a single licensed copy on multiple computers without the appropriate multi-user license.

Software piracy is illegal and can lead to legal consequences for both the distributor and the user.

It deprives software developers of their rightful earnings and can also pose security risks to users, as pirated software often lacks official updates and may contain malware or viruses.

In India, software programs are protected under copyright laws, and unauthorised use of such programs can be deemed as theft.

However, making backup copies of software for personal use is not considered illegal. Still, any action that infringes upon the exclusive rights of the copyright holder can lead to legal repercussions.

Intellectual property refers to any product of human intellect that the law protects against unauthorised use by others.

This includes patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Intellectual property rights grant creators exclusive rights to exploit their creations for a specified period.

India, being a signatory to the TRIPs Agreement, has amended its laws to ensure maximum protection of intellectual property. In India, software is regarded as an intellectual work, and it is protected under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957.

Software Piracy in India

Software availability conflicts

The digital revolution has not only transformed manual tasks into technological marvels but has also made a plethora of information readily available at our fingertips.

This technological surge, while immensely beneficial, has ushered in a set of challenges, particularly in the realm of cyber laws and intellectual property infringement.

Software programs, pivotal to this digital transformation, find protection under the Indian Copyright Act and the Information Technology Act.

Yet, the ease of access and distribution of these digital assets has amplified the issue of software piracy.

Software is meticulously crafted using programming languages, guiding computers through specific tasks.

These software products can be broadly categorised into system software, application software, and programming software.

While certain software is accessible for free, others necessitate purchase or licensing.

The act of unauthorised copying or distribution of licensed software is termed as piracy.

With the proliferation of the internet, illegal copying of software has become more rampant, making the task of controlling such activities increasingly challenging.

The Internet has Impacted Piracy

It’s a common misconception that software piracy is solely a byproduct of the digital age.

In reality, there were times when software was predominantly sold bundled with hardware, simplifying the process of making illegal copies.

However, as technology evolved, software started being sold as standalone products, inadvertently increasing the instances of piracy.

The 1980s saw the Internet making its mark, ushering in novel forms of piracy.

Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) became the go-to platforms for software pirates, enabling them to upload and download counterfeit software, thus promoting unauthorised distribution.

As the internet landscape transformed, so did the methods employed by software pirates.

The advent of systems like File Transfer Protocol (FTP) further simplified the sharing and distribution of counterfeit versions.

Recognising the gravity of the situation, organisations like the Business Software Alliance (BSA) sprang into action to combat software counterfeiting and to foster a lawful ecosystem for software products.

In this digital age, copyright holders and content owners face an uphill battle against online piracy.

The illegal copying of digital files, be it software or other digital content, infringes upon the rights of these owners.

Unlicensed software, often distributed by pirates, poses a significant threat to the intellectual property rights of original creators.

It’s imperative for users to recognise the value of legal version and steer clear of counterfeit software to ensure that the rights of content owners are upheld.

BSA’s Stance on Global Software Piracy and Its Role

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) reports that globally, around 36% of the software currently in use is pirated.

BSA is a non-profit trade association established to champion the objectives of the software sector and its associated hardware entities.

Representing the global commercial software industry and its hardware allies, BSA communicates their perspectives to governments and within the global market.

Its membership roster boasts prominent names like Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Microsoft, Symantec, and many others.

A significant part of BSA’s mission is to assist its members in combating software piracy.

Software Piracy Protection in India

Understanding the Indian Copyright Act of 1957

In India, the Copyright Act of 1957 provides a legal framework to address software piracy, encompassing both civil and criminal laws.

Those found guilty of software copyright infringement can face a sentence ranging from a minimum of seven days to a maximum of three years.

Additionally, monetary penalties can vary between 50,000 rupees and 200,000 rupees. In certain piracy scenarios, provisions from the Information Technology Act of 2000 may also be applicable.

The Indian Copyright Act, 1957, under Section 13 (1) (a), extends protection to various original creations, treating computer programs as unique literary works.

Violating the rights of these works can lead to serious civil and criminal consequences. The 1994 amendment to the Act introduced stricter penalties for proven unauthorised use of copyrighted software.

The Act clearly states that any unauthorised use of a product, which legally requires a licensed individual’s approval, is considered an infringement.

To safeguard copyrighted software, the Act prescribes standard remedies like injunctions, fines, and other administrative measures enforced by regulatory bodies.

Section 51 (a) (ii) of the Act specifies that using a location to communicate copyrighted software or other works to the public for profit constitutes copyright infringement.

The term “communication to the public” is defined in Sec. 2(ff) of the Act as the act of listening to, enjoying, or viewing copyrighted content. However, the Act doesn’t explicitly address the liabilities of Internet Service Providers, unlike some other countries.

Furthermore, the Act holds individuals, groups, and companies accountable for providing internet services, as well as directors, either individually or collectively, who authorised the infringement.

A distinct section in the Act addresses the “offense” of using or aiding the use of copyrighted content, penalising both the user and those assisting in the infringement.

Section 69(1) of the Act emphasises that anyone involved in the management or operations of a company will face penalties if they use or assist in the unauthorised use of copyrighted content.

Information Technology Act, 2000: A Closer Look

The Information Technology Act of 2000 serves as a significant tool against the rampant infringement of copyrighted software. Section 2(w) of the Act encompasses all Internet service providers and other intermediaries.

This includes entities like cybercafés, auction sites, online payment platforms, search engines, and more, which receive, store, and provide records on behalf of another individual.

However, the Act doesn’t clearly define the extent or amount of liability that can be imposed on these service providers.

They can be exempted from certain sections if they can demonstrate a lack of knowledge about the offense or if they’ve taken reasonable measures to prevent such offenses.

The Act categorises the services provided by Internet Service Providers into three types: transmission of third-party information, links hosted by the providers, and storage of third-party data.

This legislation essentially offers a protective shield for search engines and Internet Service Providers, allowing them to distance themselves from third-party content.

This, in turn, absolves them from the responsibility of implementing stringent measures to curb piracy. However, the Act falls short when it comes to addressing situations where a service provider is alerted about the use of pirated content on their platform.

To claim exemption, providers must prove that they neither initiated, received, nor altered any transmission of the work.

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has introduced mandatory guidelines outlining the due diligence required by intermediaries during the transmission of work.

These guidelines, which subscribers must also adhere to, are outlined under Section 79 of the Act, 2000.

Rule 3(4) of the Act stands out as a beneficial provision for copyright owners.

It mandates the removal of pirated content from services once identified and communicated to the respective service provider. Failure to comply can lead to legal action against the service provider.

Organisations in India Combating Copyright Infringement

India has a limited number of institutions and organisations at the state level dedicated to combating the issue of piracy.

However, at the national level, the National Association of Software and Service Companies actively battles against software piracy.

Additionally, there’s a proposal to establish a National Cyber Corp Committee, which aims to assist the government, judiciary, and quasi-judicial bodies in addressing and reducing software piracy.

Judicial Stance on Copyright Infringement in India
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Indian courts have been proactive in safeguarding copyrighted computer programs.

Drawing insights from verdicts in the USA and European nations, they have awarded substantial damages to aggrieved parties.

For instance, in the 2006 Microsoft case, the Delhi High Court recognised the defendant’s infringement of copyrighted products like Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Office 9.

The court emphasised the pressing need to combat piracy, given the escalating instances of copyright violations, and consequently ordered the defendant to pay significant damages to Microsoft.

In the renowned case of Super Cassettes Industries v. Yahoo Inc., the plaintiff argued that Yahoo had violated their copyrighted content via its portal.

The court responded by issuing an injunction, preventing Yahoo from reproducing and transmitting the plaintiff’s copyrighted material on its platform.

Another case, Microsoft Corporation v. Mr. Kiran and Anr., saw the court highlighting the growing threat of software piracy in India and the urgent need for robust laws to deter such infringements.

In certain instances, courts have even directed service providers to abstain from using, storing, receiving, and selling copyrighted content on their platforms.

7 Software Piracy Protection System

Software piracy remains a pressing issue, causing significant losses for developers, publishers, and businesses. It pertains to the unauthorised copying, distribution, or use of copyrighted software.

To address this challenge, implementing a robust software piracy protection application is paramount.

Here’s an in-depth look at seven pivotal anti-piracy measures:

1. Digital Rights Management (DRM)

DRM is an anti-piracy technology used by publishers and copyright holders to control access to their digital content.

It ensures that only legitimate users can access and use the software, thereby curbing the distribution of illegal software.

2. Product Activation

Before a software application becomes fully functional, it requires the input of an authentic product key or serial number.

This measure ensures that the software isn’t installed on more devices than the license allows, serving as a crucial software piracy protection technique.

3. License Management

Software companies employ license management tools to monitor and enforce end-user license agreements.

These tools ensure that software usage aligns with the purchased license type, whether it’s for a single user, multiple users, or an entire network.

4. Software Watermarking

This involves embedding a unique code or data set into the software.

This watermark helps trace the origin of pirated copies, pinpointing sources of unauthorised distribution and reinforcing copyright ownership.

5. Encryption

By encrypting the software code, it becomes challenging for pirates to reverse engineer or create unauthorised copies.

Strong encryption acts as a shield, making the software tamper-proof and safeguarding it from malicious code.

6. Cloud-based Solutions

Offering software as a service (SaaS) reduces the chances of piracy.

Since users access the software online, it’s challenging to create unauthorised copies.

This approach also offers enhanced online security, as the software remains on the server, away from potential threats.

7. Tamper Detection

Advanced anti-piracy systems can identify if software has been altered. If modifications are detected, the software might become inoperative or notify the developer.

This is especially crucial in business networks where the distribution of software needs strict monitoring.

Additional Anti-Piracy Measures:

  • Hardware-locked Software Key: Ties the software to a specific device, ensuring it can’t be used elsewhere.
  • End-user Agreements: These agreements outline the terms of software usage, deterring end-user piracy.
  • Security Monitoring: Monitors online channels for illegal activities related to the software.
  • Authentication Server Checks: Validates the legitimacy of the software each time it’s used.
  • Deep Packet Inspection Application: Monitors network traffic to detect and prevent the distribution of unauthorised copies.
  • Anti-piracy Technologies: Incorporate various security features to deter piracy, from license code checks to malware attack prevention.

In essence, while no system is entirely foolproof, a combination of these measures can significantly deter software piracy.

By staying vigilant and continuously updating anti-piracy strategies, software companies can protect their intellectual property and ensure that only legitimate users benefit from their products.

Conclusion

The risk of software piracy continues to loom large in our increasingly digital world, underscoring the importance of robust digital copy protection measures.

In this context, Bytescare emerges as a beacon of hope.

With its advanced digital piracy monitoring service, Bytescare offers unparalleled protection, ensuring that software remains in the hands of genuine users and away from the clutches of piracy.

By harmonising these strategies stated here in this article, and with the added assurance of Bytescare’s specialised services, we can ensure comprehensive protection against piracy, preserving the rights of creators and ensuring users benefit from genuine, secure software experiences.

For those seeking to fortify their software’s defenses, don’t hesitate to book a demo with Bytescare and witness the pinnacle of software protection firsthand.

FAQs

What is software piracy protection?

It refers to the measures and techniques implemented by software developers and publishers to prevent the unauthorised copying, distribution, or use of their copyrighted software.

This protection can range from digital rights management (DRM) systems to product activation keys and encryption methods.

What are the regulations for software piracy protection under the Indian copyright act?

Under the Indian Copyright Act of 1957, provisions related to software piracy were introduced by the Amendment Act of 1994.

The Act now includes a definition of a ‘Computer Program’ and defines an infringing copy as one that is used without the license or permission granted by the copyright owner.

The Act also provides penal provisions under Section 63B, titled “Knowing use of infringing copy of computer programme to be an offence.” Violators can face both civil and criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

What are the different types of software piracy?

Software piracy can manifest in various forms, including:
a. Softlifting: Buying a single licensed copy of software and then installing it on multiple devices, violating the license agreement.
b. Counterfeiting: Illegally replicating and selling software under the guise of authenticity.
c. Internet Piracy: Downloading software from peer-to-peer networks, file-sharing sites, or unauthorised websites.
d. Hard Disk Loading: Installing unauthorised copies of software on the hard drives of computers, which are then sold to unsuspecting customers.
e. Client-Server Overuse: More users on a network use a software than the license permits.

What is software piracy with example.

Software piracy refers to the unauthorised copying, distribution, or use of copyrighted software.

For example, if someone purchases a single-user license for a software program but then installs it on multiple computers for use by multiple people, that constitutes software piracy.

Another example is downloading a paid software program from an unauthorised or deceptive website or peer-to-peer network without purchasing it.

What are the consequences of software piracy?

While pirated software might come at a lower cost, it’s essential to understand the associated risks:

a. Increased chances of software failure or malfunction.
b. Lack of access to program support, updates, and customer service.
c. Absence of warranties and upgrade options.
d. Higher susceptibility to malware, viruses, and adware.
e. Slowed computer performance.
f. Legal implications due to copyright infringement.

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