This article has been taken from the April 2006 issue of computer magazine DIGIT. I am sharing it here just because I thought it was worth it. The article is written as it appears in the magazine. The ME in the article is not me, it is the author of the article.
Oh Shush, You Little **** Activist! Piracy is Good
This is what was said to me when I recently chided a female friend who called me to ask for a “free version” of a very popular (and expensive) image-editing software! The verbal refuse did not ruffle me- but her statement,”Piracy is good,” left me speechless.
A lot of muttering and stammering and hurled abuses later, things calmed down a bit and I got down to asking her how exactly piracy was good, and for whom.
“Not unless you buy me coffee and get me that software,” she teased. Long story short, I took her out for coffee, but made sure she got someone else to do her piracy work.
Here’s what transpired:
Me: So how can piracy be good? Good, for you, yes, but not good for the poor developer or for our economy!
She: Nope. Piracy is good for the software developers themselves. I mean, it’s also good for me, but it’s lot more beneficial for the big software companies.
Me: Oh really, how? Do you know how many billions of US dollars of profit they lose because of piracy?
She: Sure, but how many billions more do they make with sales?
Me: Oh, that’s not a valid argument; it’s like saying that since 1 million citizens pay tax, why should the government want tax from rest of the population?
She: No, taxes are different. You have to pay them, but when it comes to software, I don’t have to use it; I could choose to be like you and not use paid software at all!
Me: So why don’t you?
She: Because I am keeping the balance of good and evil in the world! What do you think, dummy? It’s because there are popular software that are easy to use and the not-so-popular freeware that are a lot harder to get used to! I like to keep it simple.
Me: So piracy is justified for you because you are lazy?
She: No. Piracy is justified for me because I want to use same software at home as I do at work. My company will not buy me a copy for home, so I pirate it!
Me: Wha…huh…umm…that’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard! Why can’t you just use logic and listen to what you’re saying!
She: What I’m saying is logical. You just cannot grasp my logic. Perhaps you should buy us a couple of coffees more and I will waste another half hour of my time trying to put this in baby talk.
10 minutes later…
She: Ok look; can you tell me why software companies have not made un-crackable software products till date?
Me: Because they can’t. But they’ll probably be able to so soon enough!
She: Wrong! They haven’t because they just do not want to! Do you seriously believe that they couldn’t, at the least, make it a lot harder to crack software? I mean, how come a crack or patch is available in a week from when the software is released? There has to be more than just a simple “they cannot” answer to this.
Me: No, it’s because software is made by humans and thus it is crackable by humans!
She: Oh come on, don’t be so naive. Look at the bigger picture!
Me: There’s a bigger picture? I thought software vendors losing billions of dollars was the bigger picture!
She: Fine! Let me use an example to make you understand!
Me: Oh this ought to be good…
She: Ok, let’s say Microsoft makes a Windows version that is un-crackable. Let’s say its Vista for example. What happens then?
Me: Everyone buys Vista?
She: Nope, a lot of people start using Linux! Lindows, SuSE, Ubuntu, you choose.
Me: Its Linspire!
She: Oh whatever, correct all the little mistakes if you wish, but that’s the truth! Seriously, consider how so many people today have at least tried a Linux distro- alive or dead! Don’t you think they’d either just stick to using a pirated version of Windows XP, or just use a newer Linux distro?
Me: Umm…maybe. But we’re talking majority here, not the minorities.
She: Minority? Why do you think so lowly of us? I’m no techie, but even I’ve installed Ubuntu and tried it out. Sure, some things I just could not fathom, but for my kind of work it really made no difference what OS I was running! I found OpenOffice.org to be just as simple to type out reports in as Microsoft Office!
Me: True, I use it too.
Me: No, I don’t see!
She: Typical! Why can’t you use your imagination a bit? Think of what would happen if I started using GPL software only at home…Take your own example…don’t you use the same software at office as you do at home?
Me: Err…yeah, so?
She: Well, now imagine the whole world doing that! We’d have open source software being used at home and at work- after all, companies would love to save money on software, wouldn’t they?
Me: OK! So a lot of people start using open source software. How’s that bad?
She: It is if you’re a paid software developer!
She: Aww, the pwwooh baby lost an argument!
Me: (muttered some words)
She: Ok, I’m going back to office. Let’s do it again sometime!
Me: (mutter) Let’s not!
As I dejectedly stomped my way back to my office, the logic she had used to reach her conclusion started to sink in. I know that despite losing the debate, software piracy is still bad, and against the law, but I cannot help but wonder how beneficial it’s been to big software development companies. Sure the smaller guys stand to lose everything because of piracy, but then again, since when have smaller companies not risked everything?