Without a legitimate previous serial number,
which does not come with the low-cost software,
the CD you just paid for is totally useless.
Almost everyone has seen these emails.
We receive at least three a day: 'OFFICE XP - $80 - ADOBE PHOTOSHOP - $50 - WINDOWS XP PRO - $50; ALL LEGAL SOFTWARE - CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW.'
Unfortunately, the term 'All Legal Software' isn't quite what people think.
The 'all legal software' scams have their roots in an earlier era.
I remember the days when, due to the extreme unreliability of early storage media, as soon as you had purchased software, your first action was to make a copy of the floppy disk to work from. Then you would store the original in a very safe place. This practice was not software piracy, as nothing was being distributed or resold, and was frequently encouraged by the software writers in their installation notes.
By 1998, however, the growing number of homes with computers and the ease of open file copying and distribution across the Internet was quickly becoming a copyright nightmare. In an attempt to combat this increasing problem, an amendment to copyright law, specifically covering digital media formats and their uses and practices, was drafted into existence. The act, called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), attempted to address illegal copying of any electronic medium, from software to music and DVD movies.
It is section 117 of this law that is being manipulated by these 'buy cheap software' companies. Section 117 states that it is perfectly legal to make up to three 'archival' copies of legitimate software (only software; no other electronic format).
When buying these software titles, what you actually receive is a legal 'archival' software title, normally on a very nice, authentic-looking, mass-produced CD. These CDs are almost never produced by the actual software company, such as Microsoft or Adobe, but rather on a production line in another country, perhaps in Asia.
The bottom line is that, if you place an order on such a site, yes, technically you will receive a legitimate, albeit 'archival,' copy of software, but there is an extremely important catch involved.
Under section 117 of the DMCA, you have to already own a legitimate copy of the exact same software, including version sub-numbers, in order to install from an archival copy, even if the cd is badly damaged.
You must reuse the license or serial number from the originally purchased software. If you look closely enough, you can usually find this clause on the software website's 'terms and conditions.'
Without a legitimate previous serial number, which does not come with the low-cost software, the CD you just paid for is totally useless.
Because customers began to see through this scam, some of the cheap software companies will now state that you receive the software with a valid serial number.
However, as some of our clients have later discovered to their dismay, the fine print, either on the site or in received paperwork, states that the serial numbers are duplicates, meaning that they come from software that has already been installed elsewhere. These are in no way legitimate for product registration, upgrade rights or extended use, and they have been provided simply to 'allow you to install the software for test purposes.'
A valid serial number must be entered if you wish to use the software for longer than an acceptable 'trial' time (usually 30 days).
Therefore, if you do try to register the product with Microsoft or Adobe, you will be immediately become a user of pirated software.
Next month - Starting business on the internet; 10 things to avoid.
Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design. Since 1997,
his computer programming and graphic design knowledge have kept his company
at the forefront of the latest technology in web development.