One school of thought viewed piracy as a benefit to software companies,
since it was as really just another form of marketing. The radical thinkers
simply dismissed the idea of "intellectual property" as philosophically
non-existent while the more moderate side espoused that any software used
for "educational purposes" should be free for the taking. All this to legitimize
and justify stealing. Theft: pure and simple.
How many thieves do you know who steal property, then remark with enlightenment:
"This is so great! Let's go buy ten!" So much for marketing. And with enough
imagination, "educational" purposes could be construed for almost any software
application. (For your convenience, a Russian website actually publishes
over 7,000 license numbers for "educational" users to freely copy and use!)
A larger battle looms when entire governments, such as China for example,
simply don't acknowledge the concept of "intellectual property".
Software is the third-largest "value-add" industry in the United States,
behind motor vehicles and equipment. The industry currently employs over
2 million people and is growing at a rate if 5.8% per year. Last year,
however, the software industry lost more than $15.2 billion dollars due
to software theft and continues to lose $41.6 million dollars daily. In
real numbers, this translates to 130,000 lost jobs and $1 billion dollars
in lost tax revenues, as only one side effect.
On a personal level, the proliferation of software piracy drives up
the cost of goods for the rest of us hard-working folk who respect the
intellectual property rights of others. Software prices are akin to health
care costs, which are astronomical for paying customers, to cover the costs
of the uninsured. In the same vein, software prices are high in anticipation
of all the copies that will never be paid for.
The availability and affordability of good technical support is another
causality of pirated software. Manufacturers have to cut corners someplace
and once again it's at the expense of the consumer. Any good technical
support today that is expeditious and effective costs at least $35/hourly
for licensed users to get help.
Additionally there are many unscrupulous thugs on the Net who think
it's cute to inject a virus or two into their pirate products. Millions
of hours are wasted annually in the workplace trying to fix problems created
by hacked software that ends up costing employers dearly in the end.
On a more troubling level, software piracy speaks to the despicable
nature of humanity in general that disregards the toil and effort of fellow
human beings if they can get away with it. Why buy it, when we can steal
Software piracy is not just stealing --- it's an insult to the hard
working programmers and inventors that pour millions of hours into developing
these products. It is their intellectual property and we all reap the benefits
of their innovation and effort. It's not OK to steal ideas that have been
copyrighted, just as it's not OK to steal your neighbor's car or jewelry.
If you've purchased just one copy of any software product, Microsoft
Word, for example, and installed it on all your office computers, you've
violated the terms of your original licensing agreement and are guilty
of piracy. That's the law. Licenses belong to the actual computer...not
The policing and enforcement efforts of agencies, such as the Business
Software Alliance, have made a small dent in this rampant problem. Launching
campaigns such as "Nail Your Boss" and "Blow the Whistle" have netted settlements
from companies both large and small around the country. In the last five
years, BSA has collected $5.4 million from California firms, $3 million
from Texas companies and $1.7 from Illinois concerns. These three states
topped the list of domestic violators of software licensing agreements.
Freedom of information exchange does not mean that everything is free!
The ultimate consequence of free-running piracy is not just increased prices
but increased regulations, government intervention and burdensome operating
procedures that will hamstring everyone.
I'll step down from my soapbox now...'til next year.
To report unlicensed or pirated software use call: Business
Software Alliance 888-NO-PIRACY