UIC Policy on Software Piracy

Revision Date: March 07, 1999
Version: 1.00

The academic community thrives on respect for other's ideas and other's rights. Our privileges are balanced by responsibilities. This policy focuses on respect for intellectual property, especially computer software. As used in this policy, the term "software" includes traditional program software and other works published in electronic form. Unauthorized copying of software has tangible negative results for our academic community, for the developer of the software, and for the community at large. The University of Illinois and software developers both benefit from mutual trust and shared responsibilities. Unauthorized copying of software damages this trust.

The University of Illinois and all of its campuses, the state of Illinois, The United States, and international law all prohibit the unauthorized copying of software. Members of the University of Illinois are prohibited from unauthorized copying of software. Members of the community who ignore this policy and copy software without proper authorization will be disciplined. Each member of the community is responsible to make a good faith effort at assuring this policy is met. Unit administrators are responsible for insuring that their units make a good faith effort to comply with this policy. If you are using software on a University of Illinois machine and you are not sure it is properly authorized, contact your academic or administrative supervisor to make sure it is properly authorized.

It is not only illegal to copy software without proper authorization, it is also not fair. The University of Illinois cannot tolerate physical theft or plagiarism; it also cannot tolerate unauthorized copying of software.

What do I need to know about software and the U.S. Copyright Act?

Unless it has been placed in the public domain, software is protected by copyright law. The owner of a copyright holds exclusive right to the reproduction and distribution of his or her work. Therefore, it is illegal to duplicate or distribute software or its documentation without the permission of the copyright owner. If you have purchased your copy, however, you may make a back-up for your own use in case the original is destroyed or fails to work.

Can I loan software I have purchased myself?

It depends upon the terms of the license. Read it carefully. Copyright law does not permit you to run your software on two or more computers simultaneously unless the license agreement specifically allows it. It may, however, be legal to loan your software to a friend temporarily as long as you do not keep a copy.

If software is not copy-protected, do I have the right to copy it?

Lack of copy-protection does not constitute permission to copy software in order to share or sell it. "Non-copy-protected" software enables you to protect your investment by making a back-up copy. In offering non-copy-protected software to you, the developer or publisher has demonstrated significant trust in your integrity.

May I copy software that is available through facilities on my campus, so that I can use it more conveniently in my own room?

Only if your campus advertises the fact that you may do so. Software acquired by colleges and universities is governed by licenses and contracts which define how and where the software may be legally used by members of the community. This applies to software installed on hard disks in microcomputer clusters, software distributed on disks by a campus lending library, and software available on a campus mainframe or network.

Isn't it legally "fair use" to copy software if the purpose in sharing it is purely educational?

No. It is illegal for a faculty member or student to copy software for distribution among the members of a class, without permission of the author or publisher.

I can't legally copy the software I need and I don't have a lot money to spend on software. What can I do?

Your campus may have negotiated agreements that make certain software available at reduced prices or even at no cost to you. One of these packages might meet your needs and fall within your budget. Ask your campus Computing Center or Computer Store to help you identify such software.

Look for shareware that meets your needs. Shareware is often good and reasonably priced. Shareware, or "user-supported" software is copyrighted software that the developer encourages you to copy and to distribute to others. The permission is explicitly stated in the documentation or displayed on the computer screen. The developers of shareware generally ask for a small donation or registration fee if you continue to use the software after a short trial period. By registering, you may receive further documentation, updates and enhancements. You also support future development of the product. Finally, look for public domain software that meets your needs. Sometimes authors place software in the public domain, which means the software is not subject to any copyright restrictions. It can be copied and shared freely. Software without a copyright notice is often, but not necessarily, in the public domain. Before you copy or distribute software that is not explicitly in the public domain, check with your campus Computing Center.

If my campus has negotiated a license for a software package can I freely copy that package or give copies to other members of the campus community?

Not unless your campus explicitly advertises that you may do so. Your campus entered into a legally binding agreement in order to obtain the right to distribute the software and the terms of distribution were spelled out in that agreement. For instance, the contract might limit use of the software to particular groups or to use on a subset of the machines on campus. It might also require your campus to maintain extensive records of the copies distributed.

Can I share software, text or data that I've downloaded from the web or a gopher or ftp site?

Not necessarily. You may do so only if you are sure that the author's rights were respected by the person who made the material available to you and that there are no limitations on the use and distribution of the materials. Your ability to download the files doesn't guarantee either. The person who made the materials available on the network might not have been aware of copyright restrictions or might have chosen to ignore them.

Your campus could have made the materials available to you in such a way that contractually obligated rules of access are automatically enforced. For instance, certain files may be accessible only to individuals on your campus, only to students on your campus, etc. Your campus might also be required to count copies distributed and may be doing so automatically through the download mechanism you used.

Acknowledgment: Preparation of this document was greatly assisted by the University of Florida Policy on Software Piracy and by the Adapso and Educom document Using Software: A Guide to the Ethical and Legal Use of Software for Members of the Academic Community.