That old tagline has now been replaced with a brand new question. It is real or is pirated?

As modern technology and copying techniques both become increasingly sophisticated, illegal software copying has been running rampant all over the world. And thanks to the high tech foolery, it’s getting tougher and tougher to tell the real thing from the fake.

That’s what Amanda Barr discovered when she unknowingly purchased some illegal software for her kids’ return to school.

“It had the exact same holographic disk. Had the exact same O.E.M. number with the holographic sticker on the back of it, and I didn’t think anything was wrong,” she admits.

When she found out it wasn’t kosher, she took it back where she bought it. “I went back to the store and asked again if this was actual software or was this pirated? And I didn’t get a straight answer.”

It was an expensive lesson for the unhappy mom. It cost her $140.

“I was really disappointed in the fact that it had been represented to me as genuine software,” she laments.

But if misery loves company, she can take some solace in the fact she’s not alone. Experts estimate at least 33 percent of all computer programs sold in Canada are pirated. That adds up to lost sales of close to $943 million a year.

“Counterfeiters are becoming so good at being able to counterfeit software that, to the naked eye, you would not be able to see it,” affirms Susan Harper of Microsoft, whose products are the most often illegally copied and resold.

So why not buy a cloned copy which could work as well as the real thing and save you a few bucks?

You won’t get updates.

They may contain viruses and other malicious material that could harm your computer.

You could be sued if the original manufacturer finds out.

They may not work as advertised.

And it’s a poor lesson to your kids about the value of honesty.

Besides, notes Harper, you never quite know where that money is going. “A lot of it is tied to organized crime,” she contends. “There’s a lot of money to be made in piracy.”

But if the crooks have it all down pat, how can you tell the real from the phony? Here are a few things to look out for.

Are You Buying From A Reputable Reseller?
Only purchase software from dealers you know are selling the real thing. You can locate a reputable reseller by checking local resources, such as the Better Business Bureau.

Is There A Certificate Of Authenticity?
It’s a label that helps you ensure you’ve purchased genuine name-brand software. A COA should never be purchased without the software it authenticates.

Are Their Anti-Counterfeiting Measures, Including Holograms?
Many software makers will include security measures such as holograms to ensure the product is authentic.
Microsoft includes a Recovery Media disc, which allows you to restore a program in case it fails.

Is The Packaging High Quality?
Is it consistent with the same products being sold through reputable sellers? If not it’s probably pirated.

Is An End-User Licence Agreement Included?
Check to see what comes with the package.

Is The Price Right?
If the price is much cheaper than the price offered at reputable sellers, there’s a good chance the software is pirated.

Do You Need A Special Number?
If you’re required to key in a special number or code to activate the software before you can use it, you’re likely getting a pirated version that bypasses the manufacturer’s embedded product activation.

How To Report Pirated Software:
To Microsoft:
1-800-RU-LEGIT

email: notheft@microsoft.com

The Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft