Copyright Protection:

Government Laws and Regulations

Partly due to the lobbying of major software producers, like Microsoft and Adobe, the government has began cracking down on software piracy. The Clinton/Gore administration, in particular, has been very adamant about protecting the rights of software manufacturers and distributors, and have enacted laws that proscribe harsh penalties for those who infringe on software copyrights.

Senate Bill S893

Signed by President Bush in October 1992, the bill elevated software piracy from a misdemeanor to a felony, if 10 or more illegal copies of software are made within a six-month period, and if the copies are worth a total value of over $2,500. The first offense is punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The second offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

United States Copyright Act

Holds someone guilty of illegal reproduction of software subject to civil damages of up to $100,000 per title infringed, and criminal penalties, including fines of as much as $250,000 per title infringed and imprisonment of up to five years.

No Electronic Theft Act

The NET Act made criminal the willful infringement of copyrighted works, specifically by electronic means, even when the infringing party derives no direct financial benefit from the infringement. Through this act, somebody who made copies of software and distributed them through a web site, for example, was now liable for damages. If the copyrighted works copied had a total retail value of over $1,000, the infringing party could be imprisoned for up to to 6 years.

International Agreements

The U.S. government is committed to fighting software piracy abroad as well. In 1991, a Special 301 investigation under the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 found that the Chinese government has been lax in enforcing software copyright laws. In January 1992, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by China, in which it pledged to strengthen its principal intellectual property laws, and to treat software as literary work. In 1994, an investigation found that the intellectual property practices in China were especially "onerous and egregious," leading to the United States threatening China with trade sanctions. The United States has taken a firm stance and has made it clear that it will impose trade sanctions against countries which do not take steps to eliminate software piracy.

Digital Millenium Copyright Act

The DMCA is the most comprehensive reform of the copyright law in the U.S. in a generation. One of the highlights of DMCA is to make it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software. The Act also outlaws the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.

Other measures

The rise in the scale of piracy has led to an increase in law enforcement resources devoted to the arrest and prosecution of offenders. The Justice Department has created a Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and designated prosectures in every U.S. Attorney's Office to handle software piracy cases. The FBI has formed high-tech crime units in a number of regions (including Silicon Valley, home to the largest high-tech crime unit in the country) and is cooperating with local law enforcement officials in order to combat computer crime.