Article, September 2004
Can you really buy popular “software at rock bottom prices” online?
by Linda Gonse, Editor of Nibbles & Bits, Orange County IBM PC Users’ Group, California
Probably you, and millions of others, have received e-mail offers with subject lines similar to these:
Unbeatable software deals
Amazing prices on software
Take 95% discounts on Adobe, Microsoft, Corel products from Putnam’s Stuff Store
Receive discount ticket on Corel, Adobe, Microsoft software from Koenig’s Stuff Store
Get software at rock bottom prices
What’s more you may have seriously considered purchasing the programs described in the e-mails at prices that you’ve only seen in your dreams. Here’s an example in one message:
Looking for inexpensive high-quality software?
We might have just what you need.
Windows XP Professional 2002 $50
Adobe Photoshop 7.9 $60
Microsoft Office XP Professional 2002 $60
Corel Draw Graphics Suite 11 $60
These amazing prices are not legitimate. They represent the work of software pirates who are trolling for customers, or illegal sales. Do not take the offers at face value. Stop and ask yourself how it is possible for programs that sell for hundred of dollars to be discounted for a fraction of their usual retail cost. Certainly, these products are not even selling at wholesale, much less for these unbelievable prices. And, if the companies did offer programs at these prices, you would be reading about it in your newspaper, or hearing about it on television or radio, or in your user group.
A Washington Post article said, “The U.S. software industry loses at least $13 billion a year to piracy, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA) estimates. The group, which represents some of the world’s largest software companies, including Microsoft, Adobe and Autodesk, does not know how much money the industry has lost to online piracy.”
Still, user confusion about piracy prevails. Microsoft, attempting to educate software buyers, has posted a document that points out warning signs of counterfeit or illegal software. (Unfortunately, most of the warning signs apply to software already purchased.)
Microsoft’s warning signs of counterfeit or illegal software:
Prices that are “too good to be true.”
Products that are missing key elements such as user manuals, Certificates of Authenticity, or end-user license agreements. Pirates often sell only the CD-ROM and jewel case without retail packaging. Look for the Certificate of Authenticity on the retail box.
On all new machines, with the release of Windows 2000, the COA label is found on the tower of the computer. If you acquire a new computer and it doesn’t have the COA label on the tower, you should question whether the software loaded on the machine is genuine.
Software or components that appear to be of poor quality including:
**Back-up disks or CD-ROMs with handwritten labels.
**Poor imitations of security features such as edge-to-edge hologram etched into Windows 2000 and Office 2000 (first service release) CDs, or poor imitations of the hologram found on the hub of the Windows 98 CD that shows the word “genuine” when tilted in the light
**Low quality print, letters that aren’t evenly spaced, etc.
**Products marked with phrases that do not describe the transaction, including:
“For distribution with a new PC only”
“Special CD for licensed customers only”
“Not for retail or OEM distribution” or “Academic price – not for use in a commercial environment”
Note that counterfeiters often use these types of phrases to fool consumers into believing that they are getting genuine product that was over-stocked or otherwise deserves to be discounted.
Consumers dealing with software vendors over the Internet should also beware of:
**Companies or individuals unwilling to verify their identity or full business name or provide a physical street address and telephone number for follow-up after the transaction has occurred.
**Online distributors unwilling or unable to provide adequate or satisfactory descriptions of their return, service or warranty policies.
**Online distributors that offer unusual inventory explanations (e.g., special deals with the software publisher, liquidated inventories or acquisition through bankruptcy sales).
**Vendors offering software products at prices and in packaging inconsistent with offerings through legitimate retail channels.
**For Microsoft software, software components being sold solely as a CD housed in a jewel case or as a loose or individual end-user license agreement, because these items are not distributed in this form through legitimate channels.
Save your money and your time when you receive “rock bottom” software offers. There are no unbelievable “deals” out there on name-brand software.
Let this be your guiding mantra: If it sounds too good to be true–on this you can rely–just walk away and say no, you can’t buy!
There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.Click here to return to top