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Re: Software piracy- what would you do?

by shotgunefx (Parson)
on Jun 05, 2001 at 03:45 UTC ( #85662=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Software piracy- what would you do?

Software piracy is one of those fuzzy issues. I do think it's wrong, but a lot less wrong then say, stealing someones food, car or life.

Just to play devil's advocate, let me ask a hypothetical.

Let's say you have a 16 yr old kid making average money. He has an emachine (or some other budget computer) and really likes CG (wants to work for Lucas someday, whatever).

He get's a copy of AutoSuperRenderer Deluxe from a warez site.

Let's say that AutoSuperRenderer Deluxe costs upwards of $8,000 dollars and there is no way the kid can't afford it.

By using the "cracked" copy of the software, he is indeed stealing from the author, but on the other hand, the actual physical copy of the data cost the developer nothing.

If he cannot realisticly afford the software, then he is not a potential customer you could argue. If you agree with this then you could argue that his illegal use of the software in no way is harming the developer. This is a rather contrived example and not neccassarily the view I subscribe to.
As far as doing wrong things, it's all about justification and with gray areas like above, a lot of people find piracy an easy one.

I for one appreciate getting paid for my work and usually get pretty PO' when someone steals it.

-Lee

"To be civilized is to deny one's nature."


Comment on Re: Software piracy- what would you do?
Re: Re: Software piracy- what would you do?
by merlyn (Sage) on Jun 05, 2001 at 04:37 UTC
    By using the "cracked" copy of the software, he is indeed stealing from the author, but on the other hand, the actual physical copy of the data cost the developer nothing.

    If he cannot realisticly afford the software, then he is not a potential customer you could argue. If you agree with this then you could argue that his illegal use of the software in no way is harming the developer. This is a rather contrived example and not neccassarily the view I subscribe to.

    All well and good, and in fact, the author of the software may choose to make "educational" or "evaluation" copies available. And many do.

    But in this country, as in most capitalist countries, that's the right of the author to say yea or nay to. It's not your right as a consumer to make that choice for them, regardless of the altruistic motives. Really, it's not. And I don't see what's so hard to see about that.

    I create it. I choose the options. Luckily for us, Larry chose "open source" for Perl. But that's his right, as is the right for Microsoft to chose "closed source" for Excel. Give people the choice, and give them incentive, and more things will go open source. But mandate it, and you will kill the creative market.

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

      Hi Randal,
      I agree, stealing is stealing. If you don't want to pay for it, don't use it.

      I just think it brings up some interesting issues.

      In all honesty, when I started getting serious about programming, I was a kid. I used cracked copies of software and when things started actually working out, (ie I turned a buck), I "legitimized" all my software. At the time I couldn't afford it and it was exactly how I justified it. Hell, my development machine, a Pantera Pentium 66 (Step 0) set me back $5,000 and that pretty much ate up my $5.50 an hour (How times change!).

      -Lee

      "To be civilized is to deny one's nature."
      Right.

      So make up your mind. Do you want to make more money off of it or not?

      I'll assume you do. Then you *should* let people have copies for free. No publisher has *ever* lost sales by giving away books. Take a look at the Baen Free Library (www.baen.com/library). Eric Flint states that he's sold 4 or 5 times as many copies as he's 'lost' through having the books available online.

      When I was a high school kid, I heard about this new gaming system called 'GURPS'. It sounded interesting -- but I was dead broke. There was no way I could afford the $20 for a copy.

      So I borrowed it and made a copy. Shock. Horror. I was stealing from the company who produced it!

      In the past 10 years, I've purchased 4 copies of that book (one in hardcover), 8 other books in that system, and 3 books in another system by the same publisher. I've also got a subscription to their online magazine (one of the few that I know of which actually makes a *profit*).

      None of this would have happened had I not copied that first book -- because I've almost always been the one to introduce the game to my friends, including my wife. The single exception was a gaming group *that I sought out* because they played GURPS. Wouldn't have done that if I hadn't already liked GURPS.

      Now, don't get me wrong -- certainly you still have the right to object. I just object to the idea that it's costing you or any other author money. It's not.

      It's giving you money by increasing sales.

      Shalon Wood
        Now, don't get me wrong -- certainly you still have the right to object. I just object to the idea that it's costing you or any other author money. It's not.

        It's giving you money by increasing sales.

        So you say, and I could probably find some counterpoints.

        But it's not a right for you to choose as a consumer. It's a right for me to choose as a producer. And the choice is probably must be made on a case-by-case basis.

        If anything, you "stole" the right of the GURPS book producers of the choice of controlling the distribution. So you did steal, just perhaps not in the way you see it. And you justified that theft by buying more books. Maybe you bought those books because of an unconscious guilt? Who knows?

        It's a bit like saying "I demand the right to test drive any car I choose for the weekend, because eventually I'll probably buy that car." Yes, perhaps, but there's an opportunity cost to that test drive that you might not be aware of. And that's up to the producer to choose. Again.

        -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

        Says dstar:
        So make up your mind. Do you want to make more money off of it or not?
        I'm completely with Randal on this one. I'm writing a Perl book now. When it's complete, it will be published by Morgan Kaufmann, and it will also be available on my web site for free to everyone in the world. Not because I think it will make more money that way, but because I think it is a good thing to do.

        So yes, I did choose that.

        Does that mean I have forfeited my right to complain when someone else in some other country with no law enforcement copies the entire book from my web site and put it up on their own web site? No, I have not. I do not want that. I want people to get the book from my site. Partly because I want them to know about me, and mostly because I want to be able to make corrections and updates and not have some old buggy version of my book floating around, embarassing me, but out of my control to fix.

        The money here is a distraction. All the blah blahing about whether it is 'theft' or 'property' or whatever is missing the real point. If I meet anyone who says that I am not allowed to care what happens to my book because I have made it freely available, or because copying a book is not theft, or whatever other stupid excuse the people above are using this week, I will kick him in the ass. I brought up my book in this discusssion because it will be available for free, and I think that sweeps away a lot of proprty-theory garbage and makes the real issue clear.

        A book is an artistic creation. The artist deserves the right to control the disposition of that creation. It is not right to disrepect the artist's wishes.

        If it turned out that someone was mirroring my book without permission I would be very grateful for someone else to point it out to me. I find it astounding that MeowChow or anyone else would consider this to be butting in on my business (or the other person's business), and therefore bad. There is something deeply sick about this point of view. When you see someone being wronged, someone being treated disrespectfully, when you see someone's trust being abused, it is perfectly correct to try to help them in any way you can if that is what you want to do. It seems to me that anyone who recognizes a difference between ethical right and wrong can see this clearly. It is important to do right, to use others with respect. Sometimes minding ones own business is a part of that; sometimes it isn't.

        --
        Mark Dominus
        Perl Paraphernalia

Re: Re: Software piracy- what would you do?
by schumi (Hermit) on Jun 05, 2001 at 12:50 UTC
    There is, to me, a difference between using cracked software, like the kid in your example, because you can't afford it, and providing the same software to other people.
    The actual copy the kid downloaded doesn't cost the author much, true. But if the kid goes on and offers this copy on his server to other people - for free - , then the stealing of software may increase to an amount where it could actually financially hurt the author.

    The student at that university may indeed not be aware that he's opening his BookshelfCD to the public. So maybe an e-mail to the student first would have been nicer. But then, as has been pointed out, if it is indeed software piracy (done consciously I mean) the university might face charges, too, so OTOH they are probably happy enough to know about it.

    Honestly, I'm not sure what I would've done...


    -cs

    -----------------------------
    Go gcuire Dia an t-ádh ort!

      There's definitely a difference. I don't know what I would have done. I think probably email the student.

      -Lee

      "To be civilized is to deny one's nature."
Re: Re: Software piracy- what would you do?
by John M. Dlugosz (Monsignor) on Jun 06, 2001 at 01:55 UTC
    I think the author/publisher should recognise this, and treat the kid and the pro as different customer bases. Professionals can spend thousands, but the bright kid playing with it should be able to legally get it at an affordable price, so the publisher will seed their future professional user base and encourage a bright kid to learn their tools. Yea, that's how it should be, but it's up to the publisher, not the user, to make this policy. I wish publishers would do that more.
      Should be that way but it's not. The real problem with IP theft is the majority of people stealing it are people who could afford it.



      -Lee

      "To be civilized is to deny one's nature."
Re: Re: Software piracy- what would you do?
by PixelRat (Sexton) on Nov 27, 2001 at 14:41 UTC
    Morals and law often don´t mix.

    I morally support the kid that downloads software X because he/she can´t afford it (and uses it only for personal knowledge gaining), but "stealing" software is a crime.

    Here´s a definition problem as well: What is stealing?
    If someone steals my VCR, my VCR is not longer in my possesion but if someone steals my software he/she gets a copy but I still have it.
    Is all copying stealing unless the software etc is realease under, say, the GPL?
    (Yes i´m oversimplifying, but you get the point).

    Supporting the community
    I run GNU/Linux (SuSE 7.2 even) and Perl is installed as default, it also comes with great Perl documentation. It even includes a whole damn book (Thank you).
    Even though I probably didn´t need any more docs (got the default stuff and joined Perlmonks) I bought Programming Perl (O´Reilly). Why? To support the community.
    I think this is one important lesson to be learned: Even if most software/docs is free when it comes to GNU/Linux people need money. So instead of stealing docs or software, buy it, because the long run I think the GNU/Linux (and Perl and ...) will flurish even more.

      Definitely should support the community. I think it's unrealistic to expect to take without giving anything and still get something of value. I own just about every Perl 0RA book there is and the CDs. Some of the best money I've ever spent. Outside of utter poverty, I don't understand why so many monks appear to not to have some version of the Perl Cookbook. Money very well spent.

      I think another big factor with theft of Music (Especially), Movies, Software and etc is that many people view it as getting ripped off.

      Music labels could probably sell CD's at $7 US retail and still make ton's of money. A kid can make one for 60 cents. I know there's marketing and failed bands but they still make tons upon tons of money.

      On the other hand, they try their hardest to create an intense compulsive urge to buy their products (or your not cool.) in youth who have a limited amount of cash to drop on consumables. Sounds like they're sleeping in the beds they made.

      I think the megaconglomerates charging slightly more fair prices would do a lot to alleviate some of the problems.

      -Lee

      "To be civilized is to deny one's nature."

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