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Consumer Software Piracy

Software Publisher's Association

The Software Publisher's Association (SPA) is an 1,100-member trade group representing the legal interests of U.S. software companies. Founded in 1988, SPA fights COPYRIGHT infringement from its offices in Washington, D.C., and Paris. SPA is a division of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), which offers rewards of up to $50,000 to individuals who report verifiable corporate end-user PIRACY to SIIA through the SIIA hotline or through the SIIA Corporate End-User Piracy Internet Report Form. Its chief goal is to eliminate the unauthorized duplication of computer programs.

On December 16, 1997, President BILL CLINTON signed into law the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-147, 111 Stat.2678. The act was passed to address a loophole in copyright law, which was successfully exploited by a 21-year-old MIT student, David LaMacchia, who escaped federal prosecution for distributing free copyrighted software on the Web. The NET Act punishes software pirates who willfully copy, distribute, and traffic in protected software on the Web whether or not they enjoy a financial gain. David LaMacchia set up a bulletin board on the Internet which he named "Cynosure." LaMacchia then solicited bulletin board correspondents to upload popular software applications such as Excel, WordPerfect, and various computer games such as Sim City. He then transferred the uploaded software to a second encrypted address, named "Cynosure II." Users who had access to the Cynosure password could then download the software. The worldwide traffic generated by the offer of free software attracted the notice of university and federal authorities. During the brief six-week life of Cynosure, software copyright holders claim to have lost one million dollars as a result of the free trafficking of their products. Even though a federal GRAND JURY returned a one-count indictment charging LaMacchia with conspiring with unknown persons to violate the wire-fraud statute, the government could not prosecute under the criminal copyright statute because there was no evidence that LaMacchia made any profit.

SPA efforts are targeted primarily at the U.S. market, where the industry generates approximately 60 percent of its revenues and where, SPA estimates, nearly 85 percent of losses to software piracy occur. Successes in cracking down on infringement have made SPA a major player in copyright law. The organization's enforcement actions netted $14 million in recoveries between 1988 and 1995. Among these were a half-million-dollar settlement against a corporation, resulting from an audit, and a $350,000 settlement in May 1991 from a successful lawsuit against Parametrix, an environmental engineering firm. In 2002, in a case originating from SIIA, Yaroslav Suris, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, was convicted of one felony count of Criminal Infringement of a Copyright, in violation of 17 U.S.C. 506(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. 2319(b)(1). Suris was sentenced to two months incarceration, followed by 14 months of home detention. He was also ordered to pay $290,556 in restitution for computer piracy.

In the area of LOBBYING, SPA has asked Congress for tougher legislation designed to stop copyright infringement over computer networks, especially the Internet. SPA anti-piracy department conducts public education campaigns and distributes auditing software that allows businesses and organizations to ensure that they are following the law.

According to SPA, Web framing can be a form of piracy when a viewing window is created for all or a portion of a Web page or a particular piece of content residing on a Web page. Problems with framing typically arise when the manner in which the Web site is framed removes, obscures, or alters navigation tools, links, indicators of source, TRADEMARKS, logos, or advertising located on the Website that is framed. Framing of third-party content into another Web page raises many legal issues, including passing off content as one's own, UNFAIR COMPETITION, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, misappropriation, and perhaps copyright infringement.


Albert, G. Peter. 1999. Intellectual Property Law in Cyberspace. Edison, NJ: BNA Books.

Zoellick, Bill. 2001. CyberRegs: A Business Guide to Web Property, Privacy, and Patents. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley Longman.


Copyright; Internet; Trademarks.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Constituency to CosignerConsumer Software Piracy - Software Publisher's Association, Further Readings