there is this particular computer program, that I [possibly, for legal purposes can't say for sure] may have downloaded, well, "illegally", a.k.a., they require a license key to get the full version, but I (may have) found a hack online that allows me to get a license for the full version for free.

So, this was back in 2014, and I haven't used it in a while. However, now I (may) have felt bad about it, and want to whats legal (if I may have not already), so I looked on their website, and tried to contact them, but it appears the version I had [possibly] illegally, version 8.2, is no longer supported at all, so am I allowed to keep the program on my computer, and continue using it, if there's no possibe way to get the legal version (of that particular version, 8.2, which is the only one I;m interested in) now?

Their terms of service, as far as I could find on their website, doesn't mention a case like this.

Any ideas? Can one continue using a software that was originally downloaded illegally, if at this point in time it is impossible to download the legal version, even if one were to pay? Do software licenses become obsolete when the software is officially unsupported?

  • "Do software licenses become obsolete when the software is officially unsupported?" - Eventually when the copyright expires, you could probably ignore the license (since you won't need a license anymore to copy it), but depending on when the software was made, the copyright probably won't expire for quite a while.
    – Brandin
    Apr 7, 2020 at 11:16
  • @Brandin interesting can u elaborate on " you could probably ignore the license" -- whats the difference between the license and the "copyright" of the software? Isn't the license just permission to used the copyrighted software? Apr 7, 2020 at 11:18

2 Answers 2


Yes, it’s illegal

The copyright you are breaching is still valid. It is up to the copyright owner if they want to allow you or anyone else to use their software.

  • even for an older version? Also does this mean any videos made with the software are illegal as well, or can I legally keep the videos, once they are already made? Apr 3, 2020 at 2:41
  • @bluejayke using the software is not illegal - copying it onto your computer is. A copyright owner does not have to allow anyone to access their work.
    – Dale M
    Apr 3, 2020 at 2:44
  • OK but in my case, or a similar one, where the software was already copied to the computetr a long time ago, and many videos were made using it, and put on youtube etc., so are those videos legally allowed to stay published, or am I legally required to remove them? Apr 3, 2020 at 2:53
  • also " using the software is not illegal - copying it onto your computer is" -- so if it's already copied to the computer, is it legal to continue to use it, or is one required to delete it as soon as one realizes it was illegally put on the computer? Apr 3, 2020 at 2:57
  • 1
    It's not just "copying it onto your computer". Once you run the software, it gets copied into memory. If you have no license, that's copyright infringement. (By US copyright law, if you have a license to the software, the license must allow you to make copies necessary to use it, and to make backup copies. But not if you have no license in the first place).
    – gnasher729
    Apr 3, 2020 at 6:40

It sounds like you're thinking of this as "The license is what restricts me from doing what I want, so if the license expires, then I'll be able to do what I want." But that's exactly backwards.

To use an analogy with firewalls, copyright law is "default deny". The basic premise of copyright law is that nobody is allowed to copy a copyrighted work, unless they have the permission of the copyright holder, or some other exception applies. (As gnasher729 noted in a comment on another answer, at least under US law, running a computer program is considered to be copying it, when the program is loaded from disk into memory.) A license agreement is what gives you that permission; remember that the literal meaning of the word "license" is "permission". It usually comes with many restrictions saying that you only have permission to use or copy the software in certain ways, or if you fulfill certain conditions or obligations, but at its heart it's a permissive document.

So if you once had a license, but it has expired or is no longer valid, then your permission to use the software has gone away, and we fall back on the default policy of copyright law: deny. In this case it's even worse, because you never had a license in the first place.

Whether or not the software is supported has no relevance to any of this.

The only way that the passage of time would allow you to copy the work would be if its copyright had expired. Unfortunately for you, under the copyright laws of many countries, that will only happen many decades later. Under US law, for instance, it's something like 120 years after the work's creation - so you'll be able to use the software legally in the year 2134 (unless of course the law changes again in the meantime).

  • but does this mean that all of the videos made with the program are forbidden to keep published online? After the fact, does using it render everything made with it illegal also, or is it only illegal to use it, but once it was aready used (illegally) it would be ok to keep what came out of it? Apr 3, 2020 at 20:26
  • @bluejayke: That's a separate question, which you ought to ask separately. Apr 3, 2020 at 21:12
  • Its implicit as part of the first one Apr 3, 2020 at 21:13
  • @bluejayke that question is not implicit in the first one; the first one didn't even mention that it was software used to create a product. It could have been software used to play videos. It could have been a game. In any event, copyright protection in a piece of software does not extend to data that you create using the software. If you steal a camera and take a photograph with it, the rightful owner of the camera does not acquire the copyright in your work.
    – phoog
    Apr 3, 2020 at 21:25
  • @bluejayke: In any event, I don't have an answer to that question. Apr 3, 2020 at 21:26

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