The illegal procurement of software, and all processes involved. Software piracy is everywhere. It is also cheap and fun. From the college student with a fast ethernet connection to the buck-a-CD stores selling illegal software, piracy gives people software that would be otherwise too expensive for them to purchase.

Here are some stats on software piracy.

  • USA - 28% of all software used is pirated
  • China - 96%
  • Vietnam - 99%
  • Software piracy used to be very easy, when there were no CD's around. Floppies are easily duplicated. Firms came up with ridiculous protection schemes, such as codewheels, quoting a word out of the manual, and other easily broken methods. As far as I know, piracy dropped significantly when CD software started coming out, because no one had the expensive burners. Pretty soon though, they became affordable, and everyone was pirating again. So they came up with more schemes to protect their software, but those are pretty easily avoided as well.

    Asia and the Middle East are currently hotbeds for software piracy, because it is all but condoned by the local authorities. Wonderful, isn't it? Hong Kong was, before 1997, the undisputed international haven for software piracy, but China, attempting to please the West by setting a "good example", shut most of it down. Not that it matters, because there are plenty of piraters in China itself. Yesterday, I bought a copy of Microsoft Office 2000 Premium for US$2. I also bought a DVD copy of the movie Dogma for the same price. But that's China, where there is practically no law against piracy.

    Despite the fact that it is illegal, software piracy is still very prevalent in America. Oh well. I'm indifferent.

    Software piracy is disrespectful to the great and time-honored profession of Programming, no question about that. However, it is justified, in a way. I mean seriously, I work at a college computer lab for $6 an hour (hey, learn more there than I do in class, and it aids the tuition, somewhat, so...) I would not even consider spending my earnings of 3 or 4 hours of hard work on something as lame as Doom. Id had its day, let us have this stuff for free now, k? So basically, if MS wants to release Win2k and someone wants to buy it, great. Copying that is wrong. (Very very wrong! Copy Linux instead!) But I'm all for abandonware and freeware. Free Stuff rules!

    Don't judge this too harshly, a glass exploded in my hand about 15 minutes ago, so I'm not at peak mental capacity now (bandage doesn't allow me to use 2 fingers on right hand, very annoying). Simply posting this so I can find it later, and will probably edit it at that time. Good day.

    I've been of the opinion that piracy is not applicable to the unauthorized copying of software. A copyright violation or perhaps a breach of contract, yes. Piracy is a rube-word used to make it sound worse than it is.

    That said, there is empirical evidence that people who can buy, do. People who can't, copy. The only threat is from those who can by, but are such unprincipled bastards that they copy anyway.

    The lamentably unrealistic image of anthromorphized programs sailing the high seas, in search of rape, pillage, and high adventure. Here's a typical snippet:

    <Cap'n Doom>Arr, mateys. Where be me parrot?

    <First Mate Windows 98> Cap'n, ship sighted! They fly the colors of the ASP and BSA!

    <Doom>Shiver me peg leg and distribute me on unmarked floppies to your friends! Filthy cowards, have at thee! Full ramming speed, Mr. Lotus 1-2-3!

    <Pilot Lotus> Aye, Cap'n. We shall litter the seas with their shrink-wrap and send their EULAs to #davy-jones-locker-0-day!

    <Doom> Arrrrrrr!

    The reason why I think software piracy - of actual software (programs) as well as of digital media (music and movies, primarily) exists is because many people, like myself, have a hard time paying more money for something than we think it's actually worth. Take shareware for example: while many of these little utilities - such as Thumbnailer and Paint Shop Pro - are extremely useful (especially for webmasters like me) most of them are not, IMNSHO, worth the $20 or $30 which the programmers (or some company which employs them) expects me to pay. Sure, there are often free alternatives, but with a few exceptions, they suck, because for some funny reason, people tend to be more motivated to create when they're expecting to make money ... go figure. Anyway, finding a crack or key generator for your favourite piece of payware is often ridicilously easy, and the risk is minimal - I've never known anyone to be sent to prison for using a hacked version of GetRight, and the developers are prohibited by law from deleting stuff off of our hard drives, no matter how much they've think we've stolen it - that would allow me to sue them for hacking me!

    So how would I go about determining how much something is worth - i e, how much I am willing to pay for it? Easy, I download it and do a bit of "try before I buy", with the exception that I won't buy if I don't like the product, but I reserve the right to keep it anyway if I find it useful. If a program is really good but impossible to crack, I might buy it because I have to - if it's so damn good that I can't find a worthy free (or crackable) alternative, it has obviously passed the test - in other words, it's worth my hard-earned cash. Of course, even something which I got for free might be worth the aforementioned cash - I would gladly shell out $20 for, say, Internet Explorer assuming I got free upgrades. Now, before you start downvoting me for promoting stealing from programmers, consider this:

    I do not support theft. Software piracy is, in my opinion, not stealing, because nothing is taken - only duplicated. And if I hadn't been able to get it for free, I wouldn't have bought it anyway.

    It's become a bit of a trend in the music biz lately to try and estimate their "losses" that were "caused" by the likes of Napster. In these numbers, they figure everyone who downloaded a track would have bought it, had they not been able to. Big mistake. If I download a song, that's because I'm unwilling to pay more than $1 or so for an album which contains one or two good tunes, bundled with lots of filling which isn't worth the CD media it's laser-etched on. Same goes for software; I will gladly pay, if I feel that I'm getting my money's worth. Now, what about the idea that downloading and using (or listening to) stuff I haven't actually paid for (but which isn't free) would be theft? No, I don't think so. Stealing involves taking, which software piracy is not - we're only copying. When I download a tune off AudioGalaxy, the original is unaffected by this. All that happens is that one more copy is created - one which would not exist were it not that I was able to get it for free. Hence, the artist has lost nothing compared to if I hadn't been able to "illegaly" get his song. Now, feel free to tell me that I'm an ugly freak who is also wrong, but know that what I have written above is intended as a description of how many of us would-be and could-be pirates feel.

    Software piracy can not be stopped. With the arrival of Napster and easy-to-use file transfer services like FTP, we, the computer-literate youth, have become accustomed to getting cool stuff for free. There are more hackers and more talent directed at defeating copy protections than there are inventing them. Personally, I believe that piracy will help sort out the garbage from the good stuff - those who produce crap will stand poor, for no-one wants to give them any money, while those who actually reward the consumer for choosing their product will come out victorious - and maybe, just maybe, the quality of music, movies and software will generally improve as consumers get more picky about what they want to pay for. And that, fellow everythingians, is a good thing.

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