Jennette Ballas and Aliza Elbert

Dilemma: For my BUS 401 class, our teacher asked us to download software for a project. After class ended, my roommate and I approached the professor and asked if just one of us could download the software and share it. She said no, due to licensing. How does that affect us? -Nicole T.

There once was a time when the word “pirates” made us first think of a plunder committed by thieves traveling the high seas in search of wealthy vessels to steal from. Today, the software companies who are victims of robbery would like you to initially think of this term as the stealing of software by unauthorized reproduction, distribution or use of another’s intellectual property without regard to restrictions imposed by the copyright owner. When it comes down to it, piracy is nothing but a fancy name for thievery.

Many of you may be unaware of whether or not you are even committing piracy. To clarify, when you purchase software, it means that you are actually purchasing a license to use the software; that particular license signifies the lawful use that software. Any use of the software beyond the scope of the license would be a violation of the license and possibly a copyright regulation. Whether software piracy is deliberate or not, it is still illegal and punishable by law.

Over the past few years, a wide array of popular sources for finding music and free downloads such as Napster, Soulseek and BitTorrent have become available. We’re aware that everyone loves a bargain, however, using these programs not only hurts large software companies such as Microsoft, but also starving musicians, independent film makers and local music stores.

To put things in perspective, the Business Software Alliance shows that the industry loses nearly $29 billion annually from software piracy. Translated into percentage figures, 36 percent, are used illegally which is more than one third of applications used in business. With a lack of profits from intellectual property rights, jobs are lost in the creative industries. In 1998, over $400 million in tax revenues and 25,000 jobs were lost as a result of piracy.

So how does this directly affect you? Let us explain. Piracy undermines the software company’s funds to allocate towards research and development. This in turn slows the entire industry’s ability to bring new and innovative software products to consumers such as yourselves and the company you work for. We bet this didn’t cross your mind when you downloaded one of Johnny Cash’s albums.

It’s important to be aware that if you work for a company where the staff is committing some sort of pirating, it wastes company time, money and resources. This could also leave your systems open to attack by hackers, viruses and spyware. And here is where it’s going bite you in the rear; if you encounter viruses or other problems that seriously compromise your data, you’ll in turn have little to no access to technical support because you lack a valid software license.

The consequence for illegal downloading is a minimum civil penalty of $750 per song. Penalties and damages can extend into the thousands of dollars, according to an industry Web site ( ). Copyright-holders can also sue for up to $150,000 per violation. The U.S. film and recording industries are even suing students at universities across the nation including Harvard, Columbia, Ohio State University and the University of California at Berkeley. Many people are making the mistake of believing that their illegal file-sharing activities can’t be detected. After reading this article, you have no reason to be naive in thinking you can’t be caught and punished.

The Bottom Line: By committing piracy, you are committing a crime, slowing research and development and hurting the success of those musicians, movies and programs that you love. So beware mate, because if caught, you might be forced to walk the plank!

National Anti-Piracy Week is March 6 – March 12

Aliza Elbert and Jennette Ballas are both marketing concentrations with a knack for changing the world-one ethical dilemma at a time. This article is written on behalf of SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) with a goal of teaching others about business ethics. Please provide a rating below of how useful our article was. It helps us measure effectiveness.

For a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to Best Buy, please e-mail us any ethical dilemmas you want answered at Winners will be picked April 1.

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