The most important thing to know is that fair use does not apply to software. The terms of the software license accompanying the software will always dictate the usage terms.
- Unless it's been placed in the public domain deliberately by its creator, all software should be assumed to be protected by copyright law.
- “Software,” for copyright purposes, includes not only applications such as Microsoft Word, but also computer utilities, fonts, clip art collections, screen savers, operating systems, etc.
- Violations carry substantial penalties, both financial (fines up to $250,000) and criminal (jail terms up to five years).
- Even shareware and freeware typically have some strings attached to their use. Be sure to read any download agreement, license text or “Read Me” file that comes with it.
- Unrestricted use of public domain software.
- Use of licensed commercial software within the terms of the accompanying software license.
- Making one copy of software for backup use if original is damaged or lost.
- Lending of software by non-profit libraries for non-profit purposes (however, there is an obligation to monitor that it is not being illegally copied for retention by the lender).
- Using/copying/free distribution of open source software.
- Making multiple copies of licensed software or installing software on multiple computers, even for educational purposes.
- Having more simultaneous users than the software license allows.
- Using shareware after the evaluation period has ended without purchase.
- Unmonitored lending of software by library.
- Installing licensed software on a network without purchasing a network license.