How can you be sure you're getting authentic computer software?

Here are seven tips to help you keep it legal.

1. P2P? Let it be!

It is illegal to distribute unlicensed computer software through a P2P (peer to peer) file sharing network, and it is illegal to download unlicensed computer software from a P2P file sharing network. There are no exceptions and no excuses. Don't do it!

2. One per customer

Most computer software comes with a user's license that limits installation exclusively to the purchaser's computer. You are violating that license if you install borrowed software on your computer or let a friend install your software onto his or her computer. And you're both committing software piracy in doing so.

3. Be suspicious of a bargain

If the price is too good to be true, you can be sure that you're looking at a fake. Whether you find it at an auction site or through unsolicited email, a piece of name-brand software at an impossibly low price is almost always an illegal copy.

4. Steer clear of spam

Many consumers admit they've bought computer software through a spam offer. Most got an illegal copy for their money. Don't make the same mistake!

5. Ask for proof of identification

When you're shopping for computer software on an auction site, check out the the seller before you buy. Look for sellers who give you a physical address that you can verify. Avoid sellers operating out of a post office box or online bank account. They may look legitimate, but the software they sell is likely to be illegal!

6. Read the fine print

You know you're in for trouble if you see an offer for "OEM" software or a compilation disc. OEM stands for "Original Equipment Manufacturer" and can mean that the software is licensed for distribution only with a new computer. If you install it on your PC, that's software piracy. And the same goes for compilation discs, which combine software from several manufacturers onto a single CD or DVD. Buy one and you've got a bundle of illegal copies, so do be careful.

7. Look at the label

When you buy authentic software on disc, the packaging and the disc itself will have logos, a copyright notice, and other information printed on them. If you're holding a disc with a stick-on printed label or the program name written in marker, it's an illegal copy.

Fight back ... report a pirate!

If you're a victim of a software pirate, or suspect that the computer software offered for sale is an illegal copy, report it. Contact the BSA.