piracy : Java Glossary

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piracy
Using computer programs without paying for them, also defanging the security features of programs and posting the tamed versions on the web so anyone can use them. Russia has no copyright laws, so it is quite legal there to post cracked versions of American computer programs. It is, of course, not legal to download and use them in Canada or the USA, or in any country complying with the international copyright conventions.

Contrary to popular belief piracy helps the largest computer software vendors. Microsoft screams loudly about its billions lost to pirates. However, if they ever used truly effective anti piracy mechanisms like dark rooms, then people would refuse to pay the high prices, especially for duplicate copies. They would look for lower cost alternatives. This would pump new money into development by smaller companies creating budget software. Truly effective piracy would mainly benefit Microsoft’s tiny competitors. These budget products would eventually become attractive to high end customers as well.

Piracy creates a market for books about the most commonly pirated software. From a pirate’s point of view, you might as well steal the most expensive package, since it costs no more and there more documentation available. This explosion of books further encourages legitimate sales of the leaders.

With perfect anti-piracy, even the tiny vendors could make a living from even subpenny royalties. These too would compete with the big vendors. Perfect anti-piracy forces prices down! because of the increased competition and because pirates no longer get a free ride at the expense of everyone else. As prices drop, the incentive for piracy drops.

Morality

Many argue that stealing software is not stealing. It is not in the traditional sense. In our past, stealing a loaf of bread meant depriving someone else of the bread. Stealing software deprives no one of the use of the software. It is stealing only in the sense the creator of the software is not rewarded for his substantial effort, even if all that effort went into making the first copy of the software. It is stealing in the same sense selling reproductions of an original art work without the author’s permission cheapens the value of the original.

Some argue from poverty. They argue, that they could handle this two ways.

  1. Deprive myself by not using the software. The author gets no royalty and I get no use of software.
  2. Steal the software. The author gets no royalty, but I get use of the software.
The argue, surely (2) is the better situation all round. The catch is, everyone starts arguing this way and the author ends up with no income which is really unfair.

Some argue from the point of view of honesty. If you don’t like the author’s conditions, go somewhere else. Anything else is being dishonest. Like Oracle, the author will cut his own throat by spawning competitors if he gets too greedy.

Some argue that it would be immoral to encourage Microsoft by paying for their products. They cheated to attain a monopoly position. It is your moral duty to oppose them. The answer to this is two wrongs don’t make a right. The moral way to oppose them is to refuse to use Microsoft products at all and to encourage their competitors by paying for their products.

However, these arguments are for all practical purposes irrelevant if you are a software vendor. I post my shareware with nothing but honesty to encourage registration. I offer no additional incentive to register. I even include source in the freely distributed version. I find I get a ratio of about 15,000 to one downloads to registrations. It can’t all be attributed to poor quality software, since magazines such as Byte and Windows Magazine over the years have featured my products and people often write telling me how much they like my software, or ask questions about extensions (without registering of course).

Clearly, I am more interested in seeing my software used than earning income from it, but it still proves a point. My experience demonstrates that the average man will steal unless there are incentives provided not to. You can rail on your Moses pulpit all you want about how this should not be, but that will not change human nature.

The only practical solutions are technological — that make piracy difficult or impossible. If you don’t want people to pirate your software, you must not lead people into temptation. The trick is how to do this without inconveniencing legitimate customers in any way.

Anti piracy measures include:


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