Software Guidelines

Fair Use does not apply to copying computer software, because copying an entire piece of software in order to gain the benefit of using that software as a functional computer program is not reasonably justifiable under the Fair Use exemption.

Copyright law generally forbids making copies of entire software programs, and Pacific University’s Appropriate Use Policy for Information Technology states that students, staff and faculty must:

“[…] abide by all applicable copyright laws and licenses. Both university policies and the law expressly forbid the copying of software that has not been placed in the public domain and distributed as “freeware” or “shareware”. Users are expected to abide by the requirements of shareware agreements.”

Permissible Copying of Software Programs

If software is marketed as “freeware”:

Software may be downloaded, used and copied without restrictions.

If software is marketed as “shareware”:

Software may be downloaded and used on a trial basis, but if you plan to use the software indefinitely, you must pay for a license.

If software is marketed as “open source”:

Like freeware, shareware may be downloaded, used and copied without restrictions. However, unlike freeware, the software’s source code is accessible to users and you are free to modify and re-distribute the code.

If software is “commercial” and a license is legally owned by the user:

In general, one “archival” copy of the software may be made and stored by the user, but may not be used unless the original program fails or is destroyed ( 17 U.S.C Section 117). Some software license may prohibit this practice – read the license carefully.

One copy of the software may be made, if necessary, in the course of conducting maintenance or repair on the computer on which the software was originally installed (17 U.S.C Section 117).

Illegal Use of Software Programs

Illegal practices in regard to software programs may include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating a copy of a commercial software program and selling it.
  • Creating a copy of a software program and giving it to someone else.
  • Purchasing a single-user license for a software program and loading it onto multiple workstations
  • Loading a software program onto a network or server in violation of the licensing agreement
  • Copying a software program from University computers, servers or networks and transferring the program to a personal workstation (without purchasing the appropriate license through UIS).
  • Downloading a software program from a CD-ROM that you have borrowed from the library, and storing the program on your computer for longer than the loan period of the CD-ROM (unless the license allows such use).
  • Breaking the terms of the software license, whether it is freeware, shareware, open source or commercial.

If you have questions about what does or does not constitute legal use of copyrighted software, please contact University Information Services at or the Copyright Help Desk at