People often seem to think that software is a commodity – something you buy from a retailer which you then own and use. But in actual fact, with software, you license, not purchase it. Why? Well, when you license the software, the primary value comes not from an object (such as the disk it is stored on) but instead from the knowledge of the people who wrote the software – the ‘cleverness’, if you like. You can’t own that knowledge, you merely acquire a limited right to use it. Put simply, software is intellectual property.
It’s tricky to define or identify the value of intellectual property and thus, such things are copyrighted (copyrights, trademarks, and patents). This allows whoever owns the material, in this case, software to define who can access and use their property, protecting it from unauthorized use. This is in an attempt to define the value of the software.