Types of Software Piracy

It seems that illegal software is available anywhere, to anyone, at any time. From warez shopping malls in Asia, to the unscrupulous computer systems retailers a few blocks down the street, pirated programs are sold for a pittance. The following are some of the methods by which illegal copies of software circulate among computer users.


The most common type of piracy, softlifting, (also called softloading), means sharing a program with someone who is not authorized by the license agreement to use it. A common form of softlifting involves purchasing a single licensed copy of software and then loading the software onto several computers, in violation of licensing terms. On college campuses, it is rare to find a software program that has not been softloaded. People regularly lend programs to their roommates and friends, either not realizing it's wrong, or not thinking that it's a big deal. Softlifting is common in both businesses and homes.

Hard disk loading

Often committed by hardware dealers, this form of piracy involves loading an unauthorized copy of software onto a computer being sold to the end user. This makes the deal more attractive to the buyer, at virtually no cost to the dealer. The dealer usually does not provide the buyer with manuals or the original CDs of the software. This is how operating systems, like Windows 95, are often pirated.


Renting involves someone renting out a copy of software for temporary use, without the permission of the copyright holder. The practice, similar to that of renting a video from Blockbuster, violates the license agreement of software.

OEM unbundling

Often just called "unbundling," this form of piracy means selling stand-alone software originally meant to be included with a specific accompanying product. An example of this form of piracy is someone providing drivers to a specific printer without authorization.


Counterfeiting means producing fake copies of a software, making it look authentic. This involves providing the box, CDs, and manuals, all designed to look as much like the original product as possible. Microsoft products are the ones most commonly counterfeited, because of their widespread use. Most commonly, a copy of a CD is made with a CD-burner, and a photocopy of the manual is made. Counterfeit software is sold on street corners, and sometimes unknowingly sold even in retail stores. Counterfeit software is sold at prices far below the actual retail price.

Online piracy

The fastest-growing form of piracy is Internet piracy. With the growing number of users online, and with the rapidly increasing connection speeds, the exchange of software on the Internet has attracted an extensive following. In the past, bulletin board systems (BBS) were the only place where one could download pirated software. Currently, there are hundreds of thousands of "warez" sites providing unlimited downloads to any user. Often, the software provided through these "warez" sites is cracked to eliminate any copy protection schemes.