Take a stab at an argument against software piracy

A little background: My husband is paid solely in software royalties. The program is pricey (about $2500 or so) and while not easy to crack, there are versions out there. Every lost sale is less money in the greedy grubby little hands of yours truly. Thus, I take a pretty dim view of software piracy. Every so often when I’m feeling cranky, I browse the usenet board for fans of this software and address the punks who are bragging about their ripped-off copy.

It seems to be news to some people that you might be ripping off an actual person instead of just a big huge company. But I’ve heard this more than once: “I’m a poor student. I would never have bought the program anyway because I can’t afford it, so it’s NOT a lost sale.” Well, it still bugs me. It’s still stealing, using something proprietary that you didn’t pay for. Other than the wagging of the finger and saying it’s wrong, are there other arguments for why this sort of piracy is wrong? I ponder this in off moments, and would be interested to see others take a stab at it. Especially after the great thread about skimming a buck off of people’s bank accounts.

A wonderful computer game company, Looking Glass, closed its doors this week. It made some great games, but didnt make enough money. I just have to wonder howmany pirated copies of those great games are out there. If those games were actually purchased, would the company still be open, making good computer games?

Cranky, I am with you 100%. I own copyrights on artistic designs, and am numb from trying to explain copyright ownership to idiots who should know better.

I can’t even make myself address the issue anymore - I just gave up. It is heartbreaking because it is your family income (mine was just a little sideline) but maybe equating it to not getting paid for their work or overtime might help. Intellectual property rights are so misunderstood by the masses.

How 'bout this for the ‘poor student’: “Please photocopy all the cash in your pocket and keep the photocopy and send me the cash. It’s all the same, right?” (yes, I know this is illegal - I am just kidding)

Sorry to rant - it’s been a bad day!


That’s sad–and a valid question. Aforementioned spouse wrote a plug-in for the program that he thought about selling but decided to make shareware. It was downloaded over 1500 times. NOT ONE PERSON ever sent him the suggested shareware price! And it’s not that people tried it and decided it wasn’t good–it was a good utility, gets mentioned in guides, and eventually was incorporated as a regular feature in a later release.

Hang on, I gotta go smack him again for not putting a timer thing on it.

As one of those poor students, I can understand their view. For many of us, the choice is not pirate or buy, but pirate or not use. Or sometimes, pirate or use it on slow and crowded school computers. I can only say that I hope more software publishers would meet us halfway by providing affordable academic pricing.

Hey, Crank…

Send me a copy of the software and I’ll crack it for you. Even better, put a ‘timer thingy’ on it.

“Thank you God, for teaching me assembly”.

I’ve paid my $15 for a screensaver, $30 for a canasta game, $$ for a zip utility, photo archive, etc. Money has gone into stat programs, graphing programs, GSI, cad, Office and others, some of which street price was paid, others at site license rates. Why? Major reason is the OP - there are people whose income partially or wholly depends on it. This goes whether it is an independent selling shareware or a large company selling shrinkwrap. How do you think the janitor gets paid? Pirated copies do not help him pay the dentists’ bill. Minor reason - I could get my ass canned if found with pirated software on computers purchased with university money.

Something that gets my goat is after I set someone’s computer up, they ask if they need to get a site license for, say Office 2000. I’ll stare for a few seconds at them and then say, “It’s only $65.” That’s cheap. That’s why you add a software line in your grant budget (of several hundred thousand dollars). And these prices are available for both faculty, staff, and students.

If they are a student and absolutely need a special program for a class, then they can demand that the prof place a copy on that old, slow departmental computer.

Well, in a way you’ve put your finger on it. You seem to imply if it was a big huge company, then it would be OK. Stealing from MS is not really stealing is it? I have news for you, big companies are made of people who earn a salary and you are taking it from people just like yourselves. It is just as bad to steal from them as from you.

Because if I get to decide it’s not stealing if I think I need it more than you do, then I draw the line and you have no say. Besides, do you expect people to ask for the balance sheet of the manufacturer before they pirate something?

An ironic thought is that many of these software pirates of today expect to make a living tomorrow making software. You’ll see how fast their view of things changes.

I don’t think that way, sailor, but I suspect that’s a justification the average person with pirated software lives with: “Oh, so who cares if this huge big corporation has a few thousandths of a cent less to distribute to shareholders?” They feel guiltier when they think they might actually be taking food off a real person’s table.

Here’s another one I’ve heard: “If I use this pirated software, I’ll become a loyal user and then when I join the working world, my being a user will promote future sales of (i.e. I’ll buy a non-cracked copy, my employers will buy it, etc.)” Which is, of course, a viable outcome and the major reason why I think software companies are eager to discount their software to educational institutions. This doesn’t give me a warm squishy feeling to the pirater, however.

As I say, it is ironic that students of computer science hope to make a living writing software while they steal away other software. They are promoting a practice that will harm them more than anybody else. But it is that feeling of “if I do it to someone else, it is OK but if they do it to me, then it’s wrong!”.

I have a stack here of 20 cdroms that I bought, original software, etc. These 20 are ones I have to give away because I couldn’t find much use for them. What a waste of money.

On the other hand, Microsoft Windows is the most pirated software in the world and look how successful they are!

Gates said in his history of Microsoft that his earliest Dos was pirated a lot & that was why it was so successful.

Like Gates didn’t steal the Windows environment from Apple Computer…

Source for this little tidbit? AFAIK, nearly all copies of Windows came installed on the computer and pirating is extremely rare.

An infurating little rationalization, isn’t it? Sort of like saying, “I’m a poor student. I wouldn’t have bought a Cadillac because I couldn’t afford it, so it’s OK to steal one.”

I won’t use pirated software, nor will I give it to somebody. The people that put the work into making the software, need to get paid just as I do.

That goes for the music too. I won’t burn somebody a copy of a music cd either.

Like Jobs didn’t steal MacOS from Xerox…

Like Jobs didn’t steal the idea from Xerox…

Anyways, to me there is a line as to what I would condone pirating. It has to do with the use of the product. A game is made to entertain me. And when I use it, I am hopefully entertained. A program such as Autocad or Photoshop are made to create a sellable product (and as such are far more expensive). When I use them, it’s out of curiosity and a desire to learn how to use them.

And that’s the line. I buy games. If I don’t like them, I take them back. But if I decide I’m going to learn Autocad, I’m not going to go buy a copy of Autocad. I’m going to steal a copy and learn how to use it, then hopefully go get a job where they have a legal copy to work on professionally.

I understand the legal aspects. The question is the morality, and at what point the action becomes stealing. And to me, that is when I start using the product for its intended purpose. Autodesk does not lose money on me dicking around and making a mockup of my room, and can only gain by me learning to use the product and buying it as a professional. Id, however, does lose if I were to pirate Quake, as I might have purchased it had it not been pirated, as I am the intened consumer of the product.

I have nothing to add execpt that I was majorly upset when Looking Glass Studios went out of business. I was really looking forward to Thief 3 :frowning:

Sniff… I knew I should never have let my friend “borrow” System Shock 2… I knew he’d copy it… and now look! They’re gone! Lost in the annals of PC history because I help contribute to piracy.

It is a damn shame though. They made some of the best games ever for the PC. I blame EA.

Piracy is theft. Theft is wrong. You souldn’t think that was such a hard concept for people to internalize.

Madpoet – you are using those autocad programs to gain a benefit for yourself without providing fair recompense for the developers of the program. Your “intended use” argument seems to me to be a flimsy rationalization for your desire to gain a benefit that you cannot afford to provide for yourself. It is not particularly distinct from the poor student’s whine, “I wouldn’t have bought it anyway so you haven’t lost a sale.”

My justification is that “stealing” software is different from stealing a physical product. If I steal a car from the lot, the dealer has one less car to sell. Similarly, if I steal a copy of Office off the shelf at CompUSA, the store has one less copy to sell.

But if I download Office at home from a warez site, and I wouldn’t have bought it anyway (as a starving student), no one loses money - the software is still on the shelves. The only difference between the pre-piracy scenario and the post-piracy scenario is that there’s a copy of Office on my system that wasn’t there before. I won’t buy a copy now that I have it, but I wouldn’t have bought it before.

Now, I still think it’s questionable that I’m going against the authors’ intentions by using the software without paying for it… but that doesn’t bother me much.