From: Near Portland, OR
OK, so in effect what we have here is a situation akin to that of prices charged by pharmacutical companies. In the US it costs an arm and a leg for a particular medication and in another country the same product costs a fraction of the price. This is charging a price that the market (buyers) can support and many goods are sold this way around the world. Companies are always trying strategies to combat you from buying the product from a company in another country where it's cheaper and the internet is giving buyers the power to buy from anywhere in the world and possibly avoiding taxes also.
Electronic media makes it much easier, but it's been going on for a long time. The term gray market was coined in the 70s for Mercedes bought cheap in Europe and sent to the US. Even with shipping it can be cheaper to buy a Mercedes this way.
My father owned a photo supply company and he was getting Fuji film gray market. There was a company in the US who was buying large lots of Fuji film for Israel, but at least half of it ended up in the US market cheaper than from the US Fuji distributor.
I've been selling plastic model kits on Ebay for a few years as a side business. There are a few sellers in that niche who I'm sure are buying kits gray market from Asia. Their Ebay price is less that I can get the kit for from my supplier.
It's not illegal, though a lot of companies would like it to be. If the gray market buyers are getting their merchandise from the same place as the official importer, the importer may have a case for violation of contract. That could end up in a nasty international legal fight. When dealing with a developed country like an Western European nation, the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, etc. The courts tend to be somewhat impartial and a company claiming damaged from another country might get their way. However, in countries like China, unless you are a mega corporation that the government wants to keep happy, the courts tend to strongly favor the local, even if the law is not on their side.
Matrix could have a contract with the local distributor in Poland that says that licenses are only valid in Poland. If those copies get re-exported to the US, Matrix would have a contract beef with the distributor, or the retailer in Poland. However, unless Matrix is losing a lot of money on the deal, they would likely just let it go because it would be more trouble than it's worth to fight it. Since Poland is trying to join the EU, I would expect that Polish courts would be more open minded than Chinese ones, but probably not as impartial as some countries would be.
This has been an issue on my mind too. My other job is as half owner of a small software start up company. Our goal is not to be the next Microsoft, but we hope to be able to make a decent living from it. The nature of our products doesn't place us in an international market much, but because software is so easy to copy, it's also very easy to pirate. It's more trouble than it's worth to pirate a Mercedes.
The reason I've been pushed into starting my own company is because my old software niche went to India. American companies have found that they can hire Indian programmers at a fraction the cost of an American one, so everything I used to do is now done over seas. Both my SO and I have parents who owned their own businesses and we each have some small business experience, so we have some idea what we're doing. Those in my position who don't have the skills to start their own company are going bankrupt.
WitP AE - Test team lead, programmer