Say a piece of software was aquired, and used, completely illegally, like a license key was hacked online or something, and many other products (say, for example, videos) were made with this illegal product. Are all of those products now also illegal?

For example, if they are videos, would they legally have to be removed from YouTube, since they were made in an illegal way? Why or why not?

  • Since the software maker likely doesn't care about your YouTube video, what about a different case: You created a recording using an illegal copy of some software, and your recording becomes a hit record producing a million dollar profits. Now the software maker found out. What happens next?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 8:52
  • @gnasher729 ok thats also a good example, but theoretically if they chose to enforce it, even a minor video could [or could not] be considered illegal Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 23:54
  • YouTube (or any other platform) could remove them or not, according to its own policies, whether the works are legal or are not.
    – Brandin
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 11:00
  • @Brandin whether the works are legal or not? What do you mean? Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 11:01
  • I mean YouTube (or any other platform) does not need to give some kind of legal justification for removing your video. If they decide to remove it, they will just remove it and cite a policy (term of service) to justify their decision.
    – Brandin
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 11:02

1 Answer 1


Presumably by "is illegal" you mean "violates copyright law". Copyright infringement is simply "copying / distributing without authorization", which refers to the original work and not some other work. The act of originally writing a book is not "copying" (likewise "taking a picture", etc), so the act of writing a book using pirated software is also not copying and not infringement. Nevertheless, the scope of remedies for the original infringement is not limited to just the cost of the infringed work. Under 17 USC 504(b),

The copyright owner is entitled to recover the actual damages suffered by him or her as a result of the infringement, and any profits of the infringer that are attributable to the infringement and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages.

This is sufficiently open-ended that profits from the sale of an original work created using infringed software could be attributable to the infringement.

  • I either purchase or steal a word processor, then use it to write a bestseller that makes a million dollars. Is that profit attributable to the infringement, considering that I would have written the exact same book with legally purchased software?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 23:49
  • the question isn't about the copyright of the content. the content itself is totally original, the question is only if its considered "stolen" from the producer of the software that was used to make it. if one steals someone's property and uses it to make something, that he wouldn't have been able to make otherwise, is that stealing (regarding the other product)? does he need to give the derived work back too?? Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 2:05
  • 1
    In my example, there is no "derived work". Writing a manuscript using a word processor doesn't create a "derived work". If I take my printed manuscript to a publisher while driving a stolen car, would the rightful owner of the car have any rights to the manuscript? What if I created my printed manuscript using a stolen printer, or stolen printing paper? What if I created my manuscript with a stolen word processor? Is there a difference, and if yes, then why?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 13:02
  • @gnasher729 exactly, this captures the point of the question Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 3:10

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