Aargh! Walk the plank ye scurvy dogs!

According to Channel Insider the Business Software Alliance and IDC report that software piracy in 2008 cost over $50 billion in lost direct sales and $150 to $200 billion in lost service and support.

No analysis is offered as to whether the alleged pirates could have paid for licensed copies of the software in question had they chosen to. Nor is it explained why users of properly licensed software would have required $150 to $200 billion in additional service and support while the pirates manage to do without. Rugged, self-sufficient folks those pirates, I suppose.

It is easy to imagine why people are tempted to the rough and tumble life of a pirate. Looking at prices on Staples.ca today I find Windows Vista Home Basic at $199.95 and Office Home & Student $139.86 for a total of $339.81. If equiping a small business desktop we move up a bit to Vista Business at $299.95 and Office Small Business at $596.85 for a total of $896.80 that still doesn’t include Access.

Microsoft and others use a variety of strategies to combat these pirates (though fortunately not navy snipers yet). Secret shoppers are one method used to monitor channel partners for improper practices. When offenders are identified the courts are brought into play as needed.

I wonder if there is a parallel here to the drug wars. It seems like enforcement and punishment can be stepped up and up, at ever increasing cost, while the drug trade just gets bigger, nastier and seems always a step or two ahead. Meanwhile Portugal’s decriminalization and focus on treatment is one example of an alternative that seems to be working. I wonder if … and this is hard for me to say having carried a “lock up the survivors and throw away the key” view of law and order for most of my life … I wonder if we should follow Portugal’s lead?

Perhaps we need a similar soft view toward software pirates? Rather than spending fortunes on enforcement and punishment, perhaps we should be showing potential pirates alternatives? Take Mandriva Linux for example. A new version, Mandriva 2009 Spring, was recently announced. Members of the early seeders program (myself included) were contacted in time to download the new release before the public announcement so that when the release was made public there was a good supply of torrent seeds in place for people to download from.

Last I looked, my torrent client was seeding the new OS (which comes with more applications than most will ever use) to people in Russia, Netherlands, France, Romania, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, UK, USA, Israel, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Iceland, Brazil, Morocco, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia, China, Malaysia, India, Columbia, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Algeria, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and Canada.

Free, legal, ethical and for most users provides everything one could want. For users like myself in fact, it provides abilities I would be hard pressed to duplicate with another OS. It is not for everyone of course. Power-users of Photoshop probably need Photoshop and so need Windows. For most users though the free (and Free) applications included with any mainstream Linux distribution are as good as anything available. There is no need to violate copyright with unlicensed copies of proprietary software, or to have workers borrowing other people’s desks because their own lacks software they need to do their job as I have witnessed in some businesses.

I look forward to working in the area of piracy prevention through education. Perhaps I could get a crime prevention grant to get things rolling? 😉

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3 Comments on “Aargh! Walk the plank ye scurvy dogs!”

  1. grege Says:

    Most pirates do not see piracy as an issue. They think it “cool” that some guy at work gave them a disk with Photoshop on it. I fix a lot of peoples computers and I am amazed at the number of people who have pirated Office. Then I discover all they use it for is to type letters and view silly Powerpoint slides off the Internet. I tell them to delete the dodgy Office and install OpenOffice and go legal, as it will do them just as well for their meagre needs. They nearly always look at me as if I am from another planet. They equate free with worthless.

    Education is the answer, getting the message through is hard.


  2. […] Aargh! Walk the plank ye scurvy dogs! According to Channel Insider the Business Software Alliance and IDC report that software piracy in […]


  3. Grege,

    If you think that education is a failure, then you are doing it wrong. I’ve switched a lot of people to Open Office/Ubuntu/GIMP/Inkscape/Firefox in the last few years, and they love it.

    But, I can guarantee that Microsoft will NOT want users to know about the availability of Free Software, just like the MPAA/RIAA don’t want people to know about Creative Commons licensed music. In fact Microsoft, the record labels, and the film industry would love to make the GPL and the Creative Commons licenses illegal.


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