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Piracy

October 28, 1996

Ian Sum

Recently, The Toronto Star published an article entitled "RCMP

seizes BBS, piracy charges pending." The RCMP have possessed all

computer components belonging to the "90 North" bulletin board

system in Montreal, Quebec. The board is accused of allowing

people the opportunity to download (get) commercial and beta (or

commercial) software versions. I feel that the RCMP should not

charge people that are linked to computer piracy, because the

pirated software offers valuable opportunity to programmers and

users. Also, revenue lost to the large software companies is such

a small amount that the effect won't be greatly felt by them and so

it is not worth the policing effort required to track down the

pirates.

When pirates distribute the illegal software, one could say

that they are helping, than hurting the software companies. By

distributing the software world wide, it creates great

advertisement for the software companies and their products.

Although the software company is losing profits from that

particular version, it could generate future sales with other

versions. Also, when the pirates distribute the software this could

be a great source of test data for the software companies. This is

an effective way to catch any unfounded bugs in the software

program. From debugging to hacking, hackers can benefit the most.

They can study and learn from the advancements with in the

programming.

So what does all this activity tell us? This tells us the

people are willing to go to great lengths to get software at a

lower cost, or possibly in exchange for other software and that

they are succeeding in their efforts. Although more than 50% of

their software income is from other companies which do not pirate,

this poses a problem for the software industries. By fining a

single bulletin board out of the thousands in North America, there

would be little accomplished. Not to mention the fact the it is

extremely difficult to prove and convict people under the Copyright

Act. In today's society, revenue from software is such a small

income source for corporations such as WordPerfect Corp. These

companies make their money mainly from individuals purchasing extra

manuals, reference material, supplementary hardware, and calling

product support. Software companies are conscious of the pirate

world and the changes they have made. Some companies actually want

you to take the software by using the SHAREWARE concept. In

SHAREWARE one gets a chance to use demo programs and then pay for

the full purchase if he feels it is worthwhile. It is a bit like

test driving a car, before one buys. In most cases, users are

happy and end up purchasing complete software. Most software

companies are still in business, and still bringing up more

technological advancements that entice users to continually buy

newer versions. The companies, in this sense , have outsmarted and

beaten the pirates. Violation of the Copyright Act seems to

benefit software companies more than it hurts them. Their software

gets more exposure which leads to more software revenue in the end

than revenue that is lost through piracy. The opportunity cost is

worth it in the end.

Cracking down on software piracy is a waste of societies

energy. There is more benefit for everyone the way things are in

the present. Users get to view and evaluate it before they pay.

Hackers get a opportunity to view other works and learn from the

advancements on or find the errors in the beta versions. Software

companies get more exposure which in the long run will lead to more

revenues for them.

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