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Is It Legal To Buy OEM Software?

Answering the Questions on Legality of OEM Software

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Question: Is It Legal To Buy OEM Software?

This is typical of a question I receive quite often: "I have come upon many online sites offering 'bargain' software at prices well below most others. The prices are for OEM software--CDs only. Are these OEM software versions legal?"

Answer: In most cases like this, no. According to the Software & Information Industry Association Anti-Piracy FAQ, OEM software is illegal when not used in accordance with the software license:

Is it legal to install an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) version of software on a computer other than the one on which the software came?
OEM software is only distributed when sold with specified accompanying hardware. When these programs are copied and/or sold separately from the hardware, it is a violation of the license with the software publisher, and therefore illegal.

In addition, very few graphics software programs are licensed to OEMs for bundling. Most of the bargain sites advertising OEM software are actually selling pirated counterfeit copies.

Please note, I am not saying here that all software marketed as an OEM version is illegal. This is a graphics software site, however, and a there are a lot of counterfeit graphics applications sold under the guise of "OEM" when the software publisher has never licensed an OEM version of the title (Adobe Photoshop being one of the most frequently counterfeited software titles).

Legitimately obtained OEM software generally does not come with user manuals or the original retail packaging, and technical support is usually provided by the hardware provider. However, if you purchase OEM-labeled software from a counterfeiter, you will not be eligible for technical support, software upgrades, service packs, or patches--if you even get the product at all.

If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of OEM software you have seen advertised (including the ads and 'sponsored links' on this site), please read my article on software piracy and scams and educate yourself on the warning signs. If you're still not sure, don't take a chance.

Join the Discussion
Darkfell writes: "I recently purchased software from an OEM provider who assured me that their operation is legal, but after collecting my money, not only have they failed to deliver the goods, but they also are not responding to my emails... I am wondering whether I could get into any trouble if I were to report them, as I am now not sure whether their software was legal. I am also wondering what channels to go through to report them and get my money back."

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