Software Piracy


Software piracy is the failure of a licensed user to adhere to the
conditions of a software license or the unauthorized use or reproduction of
copyrighted software by a person or entity that has not been licensed to use the
software. Software piracy has become a household word and a household crime and
has had a great affect on the software industry. It is a problem that can only
be solved by the choices of each individual.
The computer software industry is one of the great business success
stories of recent history, with healthy increases in both hardware and software
sales around the world. However, software piracy threatens the industry\'s
economic future. According to estimates by the U.S. Software Publisher\'s
Association, as much as $7.5 billion of American software may be illegally
copied and distributed annually worldwide. These copies work as well as the
originals and sell for significantly less money. Piracy is relatively easy, and
only the largest rings of distributors are usually caught. In addition, software
pirates know that they are unlikely to serve hard jail time when prisons are
overcrowded with people convicted of more serious crimes. The software industry
loses more than $15.2 billion annually worldwide due to software piracy.
Software piracy costs the industry:

$482 every second
$28,900 every minute
$1.7 million every hour
$41.6 million every day
$291.5 million every week

To understand software piracy, one must get inside the mind of the
pirate. People, who wouldn\'t think of sneaking merchandise out of a store or
robbing a house, regularly obtain copies of computer programs which they haven\'t
paid for. The pirate has a set of excuses for his actions: prices are too high;
the company doesn\'t provide decent support; he\'s only going to use the program
once in a while. Although, what really makes software piracy seem less bad than
other kinds of theft is that nothing is physically taken. There is no immediate
effect on the inventory or productive capacity of the creator of a piece of
software if someone 500 miles away copies a disk and starts using it.
People tend to think of property as a material thing, and thus have a
hard time regarding a computer program as property. However, property is not a
concept pertaining to matter alone. Ownership is a concept which comes out of
the fact that people live by creating things of value for their own use or for
trade with others. Creation does not mean making matter, but rather changing the
form of matter alongwith an idea and a purpose. Most often, the actual cost of
creating goods is determined in the production of individual items. With
software, the reverse is true. The cost of producing copies is negligible
compared with the cost of constructing the form of the product.
In both cases, though, the only way a producer can benefit from offering
his product in trade, is for others to respect his right to it and to obtain it
only on his terms. If people are going to make the production of software a
fulltime occupation, they should expect a return for their efforts. If they do
not receive any benefit, they will have to switch to a different sort of
activity if they want to keep working.
The thief, though, will seldom be caught and punished; his particular
act of copying isn\'t likely to push a software publisher over the edge. In most
cases, people can openly talk about their acts of piracy without suffering
criticism. However, there is a more basic deterrent to theft than the risk of
getting caught. A person can fake what he is to others, but not to himself. He
knows that he is depending on other people\'s ignorance or willingness to pretend
they haven\'t noticed. He may not feel guilty because of this, but he will always
feel helpless and out of control. If he attempts to rationalize his actions, he
becomes dependent on his own self-ignorance as well.
Thieves who abandon honesty often fall back on the idea of being smart.
They think it\'s stupid to buy something when they can just take it. They know
that their own cleverness works only because of the stupidity of others who pay
for what they buy. The thieves are counting on the failure of the very people
whose successful efforts they use.
The best defense against software piracy lies neither in physical
barriers to copying nor in stiffer penalties. The main prevention to theft in
stores is not the presence of guards and magnetic detectors, but the fact that
most people have no desire to steal. The