What is Software Piracy? How to Protect Your Device from Threats

what is software piracy

In today’s world, it feels like everything runs through computers. We communicate through emails, texts, and video chats. We use computers for work, school, and entertainment. Even our most important and sensitive data is often stored in our hardware and software systems. With so much value in our computers, it only makes sense that there would be those who are looking to profit. Just like with movies and music, some have turned to piracy as an opportunity for easy profits. In an article published in 2019, reports estimated that software piracy generated over $19 billion across North America and Europe. Oftentimes people are completely unaware that they are using pirated software, and unaware of the risks that ensue. It is a serious concern for both customers and IT firms alike.

What is software piracy? What are the different forms of software piracy? How can you keep your devices free from it?

In this article, we will answer all of these questions and hopefully a few others.

What is Software Piracy?

Similar to piracy of movies, music, or other media, software piracy is the illegal replication, stealing, or sharing of licensed software. Oftentimes people may be performing the act without even realizing it. Unlike other computer-based crimes, software piracy doesn’t require high-level technical knowledge, or hacking and coding skills. Instead, software piracy is most often performed by regular citizens who aren’t familiar with software laws or regulations.

These software laws and regulations are almost the exact same as any copyright laws. They were put in place to ensure that the software developer is compensated and credited for their hard work. Some figures estimate that nearly 40% of software installed on computers is unlicensed. This means that well over a third of the software in circulation today generates no sort of compensation or credit for the people who actually developed it. Furthermore, using unlicensed software leads to greatly increased chances of data breaches or malware infection. So not only does software piracy hurt developers and IT firms, but it also leads to potential concerns for unwitting users as well.

What are the Different Forms of Software Piracy?


As the name implies, counterfeiting is the illegal duplication or replication of licensed software. More often than not these programs are sold under the guise of authentic software, and consumers are committing software piracy without even realizing it. Oftentimes counterfeit software sells well under the price of authenticated software.

Client-Server Overuse

Client-server overuse occurs when too many people are using the same software program at once without licensed approval. Think of client-server overuse like having too many people utilizing a single Netflix account without paying. This overuse generally occurs within companies when they download a software program for all employees without getting approval to use the copy multiple times. Again, this is another form of software piracy that often occurs without even knowing that you are doing something wrong.

Hard Disk Loading

Hard disk loading is a form of software piracy in which one person legally purchases and installs a form of software. The purchaser then copies this software onto a hard drive or disk and redistributes it to other parties. Often times the buyers of the copied software are unaware that they are purchasing pirated material.

Online Piracy

Online piracy is a form of software piracy in which illegal or unlicensed software is sold or traded online over the internet. In most cases, these transactions are conducted through tech blogs or auction sites.


The 5th and final major form of software piracy? Softlifting. Softlifting is the most frequent form of software piracy and occurs when one customer purchases software and then installs that software onto multiple different devices without the consent of the software developer.

How Can You Keep Your Devices Free of Software Piracy?

The most important step in keeping your devices free of software piracy is being cognizant of the issue. As aforementioned, the biggest cause of software piracy is a lack of knowledge of the issue. The vast majority of people purchasing pirated software are completely unaware that the software is pirated, or that they’re doing anything illegal in the first place. By making yourself aware of software piracy and its different forms you can help to ensure that your devices stay clear of unlicensed software. Pirated software can lead to an increased risk of malware or data breaches. So, by keeping your device clear of pirated software, you can help lower your risk of these threats.

From a software development perspective, it is critical that you have detailed agreements in place. So, make sure that customers who purchase your software have a clear understanding of the limitations and specifications of your software. Furthermore, limit the number of people permitted to access, sell, or install your software. By keeping tight control over who can access your software you can help ensure that your software stays in your control. By keeping this guide in mind you can be sure that your software is legal, licensed, and protected from external risks.

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