Copyright law

Limitations imposed by copyright

When you buy software, for example, copyright law forbids you from:

  • giving a copy to a friend
  • making a copy and then selling it
  • using the software on a network (unless the licence allows it)
  • renting the software without the permission of the copyright holder
The law that governs copyright in the UK is called the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Character illegally selling and renting software from the back of a car

Prevention of software piracy

Software companies take many steps to stop software piracy:

  • An agreement between the company that developed the software and the user must be agreed before the software is installed. This is called the licence agreement and covers copyright.
  • Certain pieces of software require a unique licence key to be entered before the installation will continue.
  • Some applications or programs will only run if the media (CD / DVD) is in the drive.
  • Some applications or programs will only run if a special piece of hardware called a dongle is plugged into the back of the computer.

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST)

FAST was founded in 1984 by the software industry and is now supported by over 1,200 companies. It is a not-for-profit organisation with an aim to prevent software piracy and has a policy of prosecuting anyone found to be breaching copyright law.

FAST also works to educate the public about good software practice and legal requirements.