Ask LH: Am I Allowed To Pirate Software I Already Own?

Ask LH: Am I Allowed To Pirate Software I Already Own?
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Dear Lifehacker, if a program I have legitimately purchased is a pain to activate (for example, it’s a few years old and the licence key is no longer supported), can I find an “alternative” way to make the program work? Can a business do the same thing? Thanks, Blackbeard

Dear Blackbeard,

This falls into the legally grey area of format shifting and Australian copyright law, both of which are in need of a bit of a shakeup. As it currently stands, you’re entitled to make a single backup copy of a computer program to insure against loss or accidental destruction.

However, while you are legally allowed to format shift a program you own, you’re not entitled to circumvent any copyright protection measures that are in place. The duplicate also needs to be made from your own copy, not somebody else’s. This obviously rules out using a pirated version as your “backup” copy, even if you paid for the original.

The rules in place for businesses, meanwhile, are even stricter. We’d advise against exploiting cheeky loopholes in this area as it could lead to messy court proceedings and the termination of partnerships with software suppliers. Do the right thing and stick to legitimate software licenses.

For more on the ins and outs of format shifting, check out our complete guide.



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  • Also depends on the company you got the software from. Some MS customers can download ISO’s to burn to their hearts content. We have heaps sitting about in the IT dept here.

    • That’s worth mentioning. There’s the base rights that apply (per the article) and then any company can grant you extra rights if they want to. They just can’t take away your base rights. Works the same with any license, not just for software.

  • …as it cold lead to messy court proceedings…
    I imagine if there’s cold lead involved, it will be messy!

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