POPULAR BONDING RITUALS usually aren’t criminal. Admire a friend’s new car and you’re likely to swap a few stories and a can of STP. You may be invited to take the car for a spin. You can pass recipes back and forth or lend your copy of the latest best-seller to a fellow fan.
Copying a set of disks is so simple and such a private action that you’d hardly think it’s also illegal. The legality part is easy to overlook. The copyright notice is a complicated critter, often printed on the seal of the software package that is torn away as you dig for those floppy disks. You may not even be the one who ripped the original package open (in which case, you’re yet another who’s ripped the program off).
But whether or not you’re aware of it, unless you either broke the shrink-wrap or received the package with all disks, documentation, and licensing information intact, you’re breaking the law. The good news is that if you’re an individual with pirated software on your home computer, you probably won’t get caught. But if you’re a boss with an angry employee, the Software Publishers Association (SPA) may get tipped off. When the SPA comes to call on your business, it’s with U.S. marshals and lots of official paperwork. And the association has an annoyingly good history of winning its copyright-infringement cases.