How to Recognize Pirated Software

  • Software for sale at unreasonably low prices from online or offline sellers
  • Software available for download from file sharing applications, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and websites
  • Software keys (or license keys) that are shared or offered for sale online
  • Software downloads circulated via email or social networks
  • Software offered in multi-product packages/bundles
  • Opened or previously used non-transferrable software
  • Software with a key code or installation code that does not work
  • Software that cannot be registered
  • Software that comes in non-standard or unprofessional packaging

Warning Signs: E-Commerce, Auction and Classified Websites

If an online seller offers products that match one (or many) of the descriptions below, there is a reasonable likelihood that the seller is engaging in copyright infringement. Asking lots of questions will help you avoid being pulled into an illegal transaction, and if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. Software is described as “OEM,” “original equipment manufacturer copy,” “backup copy,” or “product key only”
  2. The site contains spelling and grammatical mistakes, and contains blurry or old product images, or poor photographs of the software packages
  3. The shopping cart URL does not start with “https”
  4. The pricing is more than 20% off of the MSRP (i.e., 40% off)
  5. The seller does not list a physical address (besides a P.O. box) on the site
  6. Ecommerce websites offering software that do not provide a valid physical address, and are not accredited by the Better Business Bureau
  7. The seller does not accept credit cards, and takes only PayPal or debit cards

Piracy Software Sales and Auction Example

Product Packaging

  1. Software is labeled as “OEM software,” “backup software,” or “Academic version” (“Not for Resale”)
  2. CDs are provided with no box or other materials
  3. The print/quality of the CD appears cheap and/or does not include the proper hologram within the plastic of the CD. For example, CD labels that are adhesive or hand written
  4. Low resolution images or black and white images on the package or materials, as well as spelling and grammatical mistakes on the product packaging or within the software itself
  5. The serial number/activation code is printed directly on the box or materials rather than on a sticker
  6. Previously opened packaging

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