An Algorithmic and Social Introduction to Computer Science (CSC-105 2000S)


When, if ever, is software piracy appropriate?

Adan

Just because something may be appropriate or the best thing to do, does not mean that it may be the right thing to do. F&M stated that several companies in China pirated software. These particular companies saw this as a means of reducing costs. Which, I suppose could be used as a legitimate excuse for copying software. Some companies may be in some particular circumstance in which they feel it is in their best interest to copy the software rather then register every copy of it. Looking on the bright side, the majority of these companies that pirate copies to reduce expense typically do not pirate outside of the company. In any case, I do not believe that reduction in company expenses is a good reason for pirating software.

There is a small part of me that says that software piracy is somewhat appropriate and necessary. The way I see it is that piracy helps keep the world go around. You need to have the sun go away and have it rain for a little while for the flowers to grow. A realist would argue that millions that could have been used else where(for the development of a better product) would have not been needlessly lost on protective measures(legal action, etc..). A cynic would argue that piracy helps keep software producers honest. It forces them to focus more on security and copyright protection rather then taking over the world or other such ventures. Besides, does it really effect us that companies that would be normally making billions are only making millions? One could argue that piracy stunts the development of software (b/c companies will not be motivated if they feel that their efforts will be rewarded), but I believe that is highly unlikely.

Cathy

Ivy

Maybe I don't have a full understanding of the implications of software piracy as opposed to cassette tape piracy, but they seem like parallel situations to me. Even CD burning to a certain extent, as burners become increasingly accessible to more and more people. Basically, in all three situations, it's relatively easy to pirate a tape, cd, or program and it's a lot cheaper to get any of the above that way than to buy the originals yourself. However, although the cd and tape industry may indeed lose money from such practices, I don't see that it has really undermined the industry. There will always be people who will persist in buying the originals, if not for sound quality, then to at least have the cover art and all the lyrics, etc. I think the same applies to programs. People who insist on having the original packaging and complete manual will pay the money to have it. People who don't care will continue to pirate. I don't think this is necessarily "appropriate" or "inappropriate." I guess it's more of a fact of life. It happens, it will always happen, and companies should just deal with it. Professional piracy I see as a different issue, but prosecuting individuals would be ridiculous.

Jae

My first instinct is to think that it's never appropriate. But then, when I think of a company or institution purchasing software, I really don't see the problem if that company or institution puts that software on multiple computers. In other words, I don't feel that it should have to be a one software program/ one computer relationship. If a person or institution purchases software, I think that they should be able to use it on any computers they own without paying for each computer it resides on. Software developers should be paid for their product, but their product is a program for computers, not a space rental on a computer. As we have noticed before, it seems like the industry might be overclaiming on the estimated losses they feel they have suffered. I mean they are still developing software, but who can argue with the figures that say it costs jobs, future development, increased software prices for people who pay, and tax revenues. I guess that seems like a bad deal-that some pay for the programs that even more people use. But, do we want to see a monopoly develop in which only the wealthy can afford to compute in the future? If not, I guess we need to tackle this problem more effectively.

O, I found some interesting things on the Internet, but I couldn't find the paper I wanted to reference the second time I tried to get to it. At any rate, if you're a snitch, here are a couple of websites where you can go report piracy and read up on the latest software piracy crimes. I just know you want companies like Microsoft to get all the money they have coming to them?

Jeana

This is kind of a difficult question. As the author of Chapter 3 in Forrester and Morrison points out, there's an obvious disconnect between theory and practice when it comes to software piracy. Theoretically, it seems that the manufacturer/creator should indeed get compensated for every copy that is in use. But practically speaking, given the high costs of software packages, it seems almost inevitable that piracy will occur on many levels. Is it wrong, that individuals take advantage of this disconnect? Probably. But would I get morally outraged if I witnessed it? Most likely not. Would I do it personally? Under certain circumstances, probably. I suppose that even though I view piracy as inappropriate from a very objective, legalistic standpoint, I feel like software manufacturers are still making out like bandits, so to speak, so why not? A very weak argument from a moral perspective, granted, but fairly arguable from a practical one.

Jeff

Because of my ideological leanings, a better question for me to answer is when, if ever, is software piracy not appropriate? Individuals should be rewarded for innovation; however, the reward for innovation, should not inhibit another's creativity. Intentions and motives are crucial for determining legitimate software piracy. If a researcher comes across a new idea, then the researcher should be reward by a pay by use fee. If the researcher comes across an old, copyrighted idea (without knowledge of the previous instance), then the researched should not be punished. The old corporation should be able to make the normal rate of return on a copyright or a patent but should not be able to receive excessive profits. The fee should be modest. Microsoft might reap greater profits if the applications were exclusively available on the web and Microsoft charged a rate of $.10 an hour (or less) for use of any applications. Microsoft would be able to regulate who gains access to the applications, preventing much of the software piracy, and would be able to insure the application properly work increasing reliability. Microsoft would be more accountable to the consumer, a first, and would offer better products.

Software piracy has gotten out of hand. If the software industry is failing because of piracy there are causes of piracy that are being overlooked. The book offers the vague terms, "social attitudes and individual consciousness" as reason for software piracy and overlooks the causes of "social attitudes and individual consciousness". If the attitude of the consumer was not US (consumer) against THEM (corporations), then, the software corporation would have a better relationship with the consumer and the consumer would not attempt to screw the corporation over time and time again (aka software piracy) because the consumer does not feel as if the corporation is screwing the consumer over time and time again.

Another alternative to the status quo, is a guaranteed market for software development (the copyright or code is purchased by the government) and then is release freely to the public.

Software piracy is justified mainly because intellectual property rights exist as an arbitrary effect of corporate dominance over the government. If the government responded to the interest of the electorate, then, the government would recognize that intellectual property rights do more harm to all parties involved than good. Corporations would be helped if software piracy decreased and consumers would be helped if there was no need to pirate software. The government should play a role in the solution because the government played a substantial role in the cause of the problem.

Joel

I think 99 % of software piracy is wrong and illegal. However, there is still that 1 % that could be considered o.k., I think. For example, if my family had two computers and my dad buys a program and puts it on both, I think that would be fine (is that even considered software piracy, though?) Or even if my dad sends me the Windows98 upgrade from Alaska to Iowa to use on my computer, I do not think that that is unethical. I do not think it is wrong mainly because the program is staying within my family and being downloaded for our "private" use. I think that family property can be shared, including software. But once it gets outside of that circle, though, it becomes a different issue. The lines are not always black and white, though, because even I can admit to borrowing a friends program, even though I would say that it is wrong in theory. But, I think there is another huge distinction to be made (that makes my software theft less unethical than most of the examples in the book involving massive fraud by individuals or corporations). The difference is that they made money off of the scam (often millions of dollars worth), whereas I just made one copy and gave it back. So there are different degrees of software piracy, and they should be considered, but overall, most software theft is unethical in my opinion.

Note: I knew software piracy was a big issue, but I didn't know how big it was until I read the chapter in Forrester and Morrison. I was especially surprised to see that it was much worse in foreign countries than in the U.S.

Kevin

The illegal copying of software is not ever appropriate. While it may seem easier to save some friends money by "burning" copies of your games or applications for them, you immediately cost the publisher and author of the programs money they worked very hard to earn: imagine working for months or even years on a beautiful, well-constructed project and then be driven out of business because despite the popularity of your game, only a few people buy it and then distribute copies. Software publishers work hard, and even if their product is shoddy, crappy, or otherwise inferior, they deserve to be paid for their work. Even computer geeks have to eat.

Liz

While I do think shareware and open source stuff is great, I wonder how practical it is for everyday users today. The problem is dealing with a base of people who will never code or wonder about the internal structure of their programs while still allowing for free software. Open source is great for those who know how and want to use it. For everyone else?...I do think the rate of software patents is absurd, and reading about it just makes me want to go out and copy more programs. But people who work hard on something deserve to see the fruits of their labor. My moral qualms stem from the fact that I want to recognize the honest efforts of the programmers who created a product, not the corporate conglomerate who sold it to me. Maybe if software was a more communal thing, we could not deal with monopolistic companies while still rewarding those who worked hard to deliver a product. (Man, this class is turning me into a socialist...

Sam

There seems to me to be a difference between large scale software fraud and small scale "borrowing." As far as the mass production of copied software for redistribution and sale, I think that this is wrong and hurtful, especially when exploited on the global market. I have a hard time seeing people who copy programs from friends (like CD's) as criminal, in as much as they are not reproducing the product for anything outside of their personal use. Most of the examples that Forester and Morrison give are slightly dated. This makes me wonder if software piracy was more of an issue when only a few companies had a monopolistic stranglehold on vital software. Now that some trustbusting has occurred and more independent companies are sprouting up, the need for pirating software from bigtime corporations may be decreasing. But at the same time, these companies are big and rich enough that I can't really be bothered by people pulling one over on them. Stick it to the Man!


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