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Why Can’t the Poor just Pirate Software?

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We all admire your moral stance regarding finding subscriber’s passwords etc. and for your belief that we should pay for software and not use pirated versions. But how do you feel about folks who are desperately poor with no chance in their lifetime of ever reaching even American poverty level income?

A reader posed this question some time ago.

As you may know, I do take a fairly hard line against piracy and theft, but this reader wants to know if poverty might qualify for an “exemption” of sorts.

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Poverty and theft

His note continues…

A computer friend of mine originally came from Kashmir, an Indian state which he visits every few years to see his remaining relatives.

He told me that on his last visit he took with him several software programs such as XP, Office, CAD and Publisher, which he bought at the local computer store.

He gave them to a techie friend who duplicated hundreds of copies which were sold for no more than $5. The buyers, young people who had become computer literate on old cast-off PCs, were then able to use the programs, especially Excel and Access, and improve their knowledge using the vast resources of XP.

I asked him if he did not consider the use of pirated software a form of theft from Microsoft, and he replied that the average annual earnings for the people of Kashmir might be $200, that the price they paid for a burned disk was often a month’s pay, especially for women who might earn a few rupees a day weaving carpets or decorating shawls.

I have given it much thought and have concluded that most of us in America live so well that such practices do not really impact our standard of living. In other words, if we demanded strict adherence to the laws, those Kashmir users would never be able to save the $125 or so to purchase legal copies. And if they did, it is unlikely they would ever be able to avail themselves of the “support advantage” since there are no ISPs in many areas of the world.

PiracyI have two reactions to this scenario:

  • Theft is still theft, no matter how you look at it.
  • This kind of theft is simply no longer necessary.

Robin Hood was still a thief

The “Robin Hood” argument says it’s ok to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

I suppose there’s a case in which that becomes true — food, perhaps — but computer software isn’t it, in my opinion. It’s still theft, no matter how much the recipients “deserve” it. And that’s part of the argument: that somehow, because they are impoverished, they are entitled to cheap or free copies of software others pay dearly for.

I don’t agree with entitlement.

The argument is also much like the argument against the record companies: “They’ll never notice” or “They’re not losing any money because they wouldn’t have gotten any, anyway.”

That’s not the point.

Theft is still theft. Wrong is still wrong. Stealing is still stealing.

It’s not your right to do, or justify doing, what you want with something that belongs to someone else.

You wouldn’t apply your logic to, for example, automobiles, would you? Software is no different.

Well, there’s one difference: it’s not that easy to copy a car.

Why bother?

My question back to you is simply this: why bother?

The scenario you raise is incredibly important. There are millions of people worldwide whose quality of life could be improved by better access to the information and education that these technologies enable. In fact, I believe it’s key to humanity’s future.

Not only do I believe that theft is not the answer, I also believe it’s not even necessary.

There are plenty of totally free alternatives that enable the same level of education and opportunities that more expensive commercial software does.

Heck, assuming they’re running on less-than-current hardware, many of the free alternatives would be a better fit, given their typically lower hardware requirements.

For anyone in this situation, be it here in the U.S. or elsewhere on the planet, there are so many serviceable free alternatives that I can’t see needing to resort to piracy as a way to provide the education that would benefit those many folks so inclined.

The motive

I’m not going to accuse your friend of anything, because I simply don’t know, but in the majority of situations such as you describe, the individual doing the copying and distribution is making a profit.  “Hundreds of copies which were sold for no more than $5” quickly adds up. For someone making a one-time purchase of a package such as Office for, say, $400 in the U.S., illegally selling 200 copies at $5 each doubles the investment. All of a sudden, the effort doesn’t look as altruistic as we think.

In fact, I would go so far as to consider whether someone doing this, when there are totally free alternatives, might not be taking advantage of the very people he claims to be helping.

Again, I’m not accusing, but I am saying that the reasons to resort to piracy have diminished so greatly that I’d carefully question the motives of those who persist.

For those who believe that the pricing model of commercial software vendors is somehow “unfair”, using the free alternatives instead is a great way to make a statement as well.

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138 comments on “Why Can’t the Poor just Pirate Software?”

  1. I suggest that next time your friend goes back to India that he recommends they use Open Source alternatives. While OpenOffice does not have all the functionality of Microsoft Office (especially at an enterprise level) it is excellent to learn the fundamentals on. Take resources to teach them how to program so that they can enhance the tools they use. It gives them the oppertunity to learn new skills not just with a word processor or spreadsheet but as a developer. Open Source software gives you so much more than proprietary in the long run as you can modify it to best suit your needs. All of your data is stored in open formats so you are not held to ransom to access your data. Taking software from Microsoft and Adobe, etc. is just hurting them in the long run.

  2. What about all the stuff MS has stolen from others over the years? I guess thats OK?
    Let them have at multibilionair Gates any way they can.

    • That is patently ridiculous. Microsoft had dramatically transformed the world and employed hundreds of thousands of people with good paying jobs! What are you blathering about? Have you taken a look the Gates foundation? How much have you personally given to charity? How many people have you employed with good work? How many inventions have you brought to the world that improved medicine, engineering, the arts, and a host of other wonderful theaters that this company has, not to mention – it’s founder… Time to get off the entitlement track and start making your own way in life, forgoing blame on others for your own bad decisions…
      TC

      • I certainly know that the Gates Foundation has given computers and software to MANY non-profit groups around the country and around the world. When I was living in Arkansas, the local public library asked me (a volunteer) to go to Little Rock for a Gates Foundation workshop (attending with one of their board members). That foundation was the Gates Foundation, and they wanted to give every library in the state a computer with Internet connection for the first two years, to give the community time to raise funds to keep it going into the future. Not only did our little library (population of city was 800 at the time) get one, we tried to convince the next town over to apply for one, but that library president was so bull-headed, she didn’t want “my help” to get it. Instead, she waited until after the deadline, the contacted the foundation directly, only to be asked, “Why didn’t you apply before the deadline?”

        I’m sure that “individuals” at Microsoft have done occasionally questionable things, see a good program, imitate it, then be accused of stealing the source code. I’m a programmer, I know that it’s easier to write your own source code than it is to modify someone else’s code to make it work with your system. In the old TRS-80 days, I remember writing my own “BlockOut” program, and it worked similarly to another Blockout game, but I have no idea how they wrote their program, because I wrote my own.

  3. Here is a moral reason, and while based upon biblical principles, states the case against piracy very well; that is, inasmuch as God commands both the rich man and the poor man not to steal—even when it is true that it is far easier for the rich man not to need to steal, He also says to both the loving person and the hateful person to love one another even though it is far easier for the loving person to be more loving. What is being said is that it is far easier for some to master some things and others to master other things, but God has no provision to only master what is easy; we must master both. It is not a question of fairness, but a matter of accepting what is just even when our circumstances and our feelings rebel against it. The simple fact is that the law is in place to prevent people from doing whatever they please—such as pirating software.

    • I commend your application of scripture to this. It is perfect. However, I would like to suggest that there are also instructions in the bible for the rich to tithe, and to not harvest the corners of fields; and leave them for the poor. Therefore, I think that person could actually purchase the software and give it to his people, as opposed to stealing it… My wife and I tithe over 10% of our income to various charities, and if we where that person – it would buy a lot of software. In short, put your money where your heart is…
      TC

      • The Bible and other holy books are very big on giving, but they don’t recommend taking unless something was freely offered. If you can show me something in the Bible or other scriptures that tells the poor to take from the rich without it being given, I’d be very surprised. Two wrongs never make a right. I don’t think that’s a holy scripture, but it is certainly a truth to live by.

      • Microsoft has several programs that give software to people who cannot afford it. If you truly cannot afford the software and still need M.S> software it is available from certain channels

      • There is no Scriptural admonition to tithe income or salary. None.
        What you are to tithe is your production, the fruits of your labours, as it were.
        If you are a farmer, then you give part of your harvest. If you are a shepherd, you give a sheep. And so on.
        Deut. 14:22 “You must be certain to tithe all the produce of your seed that comes from the field year after year. 23 In the presence of the Lord your God you must eat from the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the place he chooses to locate his name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.”
        Nehemiah 12:44 “On that day men were appointed over the storerooms for the contributions, first fruits, and tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions prescribed by the law for the priests and the Levites, for the people of Judah took delight in the priests and Levites who were ministering.”

        The tithe was agrarian based, so that means it was based on the land.

    • What pious , long winded piffle. The giant companies rip people off – and that’s OK – they are big and powerful.
      This is called capitalism – They do not refer to the bible for direction – surprise, surprise. Keeps the poor poor and the rich rich as it should be? Errol

  4. Theft under no circumstances justifiable. One aspect those in affluent countries do not undestand is the pourchasing power of money in poorer countries. A good artisan in India earns about $8 a day and that is sufficient for a living. Expecting him to buy a genuine software spending 3 or 4 days wages is too much. What MS can do probably is to allow such people to use old unsupported software free or at a price which these people can afford. They will continue to be with MS than migrating to other sources

  5. My comment is not on the morality of copying software or music. Yes stealing is stealing but in the case of electronic images, the stealing does not remove the item from the owner’s possession, only the potential for revenue.

    The point I want to make is about the absurd claims both the music industry and the software industry make about the amount of lost revenue. IN reality, most of the “stolen” product would not be purchased at any cost. At the height of my “geek-hood” I used to gather all the software programs that I could, both freeware and illegal copies. But apart from the essential word processing, speadsheet, etc (most of which I purchased anyway), I rarely if ever used those programs seriously, largely because I had no need. I believe that much of the software stolen these days is rarely used, and truly does not represent lost revenue because the “thief” would not have legally acquired the program otherwise.

    I believe that the same applies to the stolen music, although to a lesser extent. Music provides entertainment and it doesn’t require a functional need for it to be desired. So the pecentage of the stolen music that would otherwise be purchased would be higher; the iPods will devour all that can be fed to it, and likely, the users would purchase more if the stealing was not an option.

    Nevertheless, the shrill claims and wailing anguish of the two industries, claiming exorbitant revenue loses is just rubbish and a gross and self-interest exaggeration.

  6. The possession of software is not necessary to sustain life, therefore it is wrong to steal it.
    If a person is poor and is in a position where his family is starving, he can take a loaf of bread to prevent starvation. He is doing this because he has no other choice. Preservation of life trumps all.

    • “Preservation of life trumps all.”

      The Ends justify the Means?

      Got it.

      My car is broken. Can I get yours?

  7. Generally, what the most expensive packages do is give you all the tools you want under one umbrella. But it’s rare that you can’t find a combination of free and/or cheap alternatives that give you all the same tools. You just have to swap around a bit more.

    When you buy the big expensive programs, you’re generally paying for convenience moreso than functionality.

  8. Leo:

    Given you cite “totally free alternatives,” it would be stand-up for you to follow through and actually provide a list in an upcoming newsletter. It would benefit those who aren’t as well informed as you, and might even mitigate software piracy a smidgeon.

    • Hi John,

      I totally agree with what you said. I have also noticed that Leo mentioned more than once about “free alternatives”, but never did mention any by names. There are only three “viable” operating systems out there: Windows, Linux and Apple. The only free one is Linux, and unless one only needs to use the very basic functions, Linux is not at all user-friendly. Also its hardware support is nowhere near as good as Windows and Apple.

      Hey Leo, I also notice that you have – perhaps intentionally? – ignored John’s question/request about naming some free OS alternatives!

      • You may want some free OS alternatives but John did not specifically request OS alternatives.

        Personally I have used Linux on a couple of end of life machines after I lost Windows and there are several distributions that are easy to use. For someone trying to educate themselves on computer use, I actually find the Linux experience beneficial as it’s Unix foundation is widespread and shared my many platforms including Android. You can match the distro to your hardware and needs.

        There are other free alternatives, some actually based upon Windows (ReactOS). Now if by “viable” you mean as polished, universally supported, not in beta, and easy to use then you get what you pay for. Free software is often open source and supported by a dedicated if not rabid following. Quite often I find them as good or better than the commercial stuff. I am sure you don’t work for free, why should a software company.

        My suggestion to you and John would be to accept personal accountability and learn how to use Google (it’s simple, really it is) and find the answer to your query yourself (thats for your snarky tone towards Leo). Doing so I found an article titled “10 alternative PC operating systems you can install” of which 8 are free. I am not posting a link so that you can do your own research. And since the information is already out there in many, many forms and in Leo’s own newsletters I don’t think he is ignoring anything. You just can’t help everyone.

      • It may have been true in the past that Linux was very basic and hard to install but absolutely not now. Try installing Mint 17. It will ask how you want to install it if there is already something on the disc. If you have nothing already on the disc or don’t want it any longer choose ‘use the whole disc’
        It will ask you a few questions to set up the language, keyboard and so on, then it will install everything.
        When I say everything I mean free office software, audio and video players, browsers and so on,
        Yes if you have a brand new machine then some components might not work but don’t be under any illusions. If you buy a machine with Windows already installed the vendor will have installed the needed software using programs provided by the part manufacturer not Microsoft. After a few months almost certainly someone will have created the needed driver and it will be incorporated into Linux.
        Don’t get me wrong Microsoft have done a lot to contribute to the growth of the industry and there is no reason for anyone to steal software. In my view some open software is better than some paid for software.
        Also remember to old adage ” Mostly only 20% of the capabilities of the software is used by 80% of the users” So in buying software you are probably paying for much more than you want or need. Incidentally I am 71 and have used just Linux for over 10 years. If I can so can any poor person.

        • @Norman – What a great comment and so so easy to understand even though I do not use Linux myself – takes us oldies to make ourselves understood ( I am plus 5 years on you). I last tried to download Linux when MS stopped its support for XP one year ago – my modem server plus another refused to work or accept Linux then but your confidence in Mint 17 has encouraged me to have another go.

      • I could also make some recommendations, but as there is a vast array of different types of tools, I would suggest that is a very large task. Perhaps there are just one or two categories that it would be appropriate to ask Leo to expand on in some issue, such as Office alternatives. However, there is a fairly comprehensive set of data at the website http://alternativeto.net/, I would personally recommend looking there for options. It lists free and paid software, as well as the platform it runs on, and has information about what it does. Sometimes you need more information, but no blogger can cover all totally free alternatives, as you challenged.

  9. While stealing is rarely, if ever, justified, there are some areas where it is very tempting.
    XXX (name avoided to protect the guilty) Studios routinely pulls their movies from distibution. The only way for years after to get the movies is from resellers, many of whom are actually selling pirated (bootleg) copies that look very close to the original. In virtually all cases you are a victim of pricing practices that should be illegal. I refer to one movie, un-named here to protect the guilty, that I wanted to get. I searched the internet and found listings for this movie. The original price on the DVD for this was probably $25 or less. The least expensive (listed as out of stock) was a bit over $30, but no problem because they could get you a copy for $60-100 per copy. They had a tutorial to help you recognize pirated copies. Most of listed DVDs (some at $150) were pirated if you were to believe their guide. Worse, one copy that probably was real was priced at $350.
    If I knew someone with an original copy of the movies I want, I would be very tempted to have an illegal copy made of each one. All because a well known company that has complained about Piracy actually encourages it by making their movies almost impossible to obtain.
    I know this is a bit far afield from that article but I thought it might be worth mentioning and maybe even getting a comment from Leo on this. 🙂

    • When someone other than you owns something you do not get to decide whether they continue to sell it or how much they charge. If you steal a copy of something just because the owner no longer makes it commercially available you are still stealing it.

  10. Theft is a matter of law, particularly copyright law. I do not know what the position is as to the law in Kashmir, but if it is not against the law to copy computer programmes then it is not theft to copy them.

  11. Charging $5 was wrong he should have given it away for free having absorbed the cost of copying the discs… That would have been Christian

    • Actually, no, it would not be Christian. Theft is theft, regardless of the supposed altruistic reason for the theft.

      Scripture commands that we not steal. There are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. This is why so may people fail at Christianity, because they continually rationalize actions that are not of Christ and eventually lose any semblance of Christianity in favor of a “feel-good” philosophy instead.

      The “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12) says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you steal, then you are saying it’s OK for others to steal from you. But then, if you do steal, you are in violation of Exodus 20:15 (Thou shalt not steal.)

      Better to do the real Christian thing and point them to the alternative resources online that are free (OpenOffice, etc.), or buy someone a copy of the software and give it to them. You could also contact the manufacturer and see if they have any deals they could provide for the poor.

  12. Ask Leo comments on theft

    Oh my, how we all, so ‘comfortably’, miss the real point ! We (ie the affluent) all are guilty, to greater or lesser extent, of theft, but it is sanitised or should I say ‘legalised’ within the capitalist structure of law. Consider the Fat Cat phenomenon, an extreme, but insidious, example of the evil that exemplifies the deceitfulness of riches. But, human nature is patently greedy, philosophers call it the “human condition”, and so we tolerate the evil and even defend it with such contemptible arguments as “The politics of envy”. Perhaps that is because we are ever hopeful of the possible exploitation (“enjoyment”) of the system ourselves (I don’t exempt myself, no matter how hard I try to resist the seductive lure of the attractions that accrue to personal wealth). So we observe the rich getting richer – but at whose cost ? Here the laws of cause and effect take hold, for, when the rich get richer, the inexorable effect is, the poor get poorer. There is hypocrisy in this argument about theft that is self-evident, but who cares ? In the event, it is a very few ! Just the odd Mahatma Gandhi, William Wilberforce, Sister Teresa, Martin Luther King Jnr. A redeeming factor in this debate is the majority consensus that theft is wrong. The pity of all this is the indifference towards and oversight of that equally real theft, which is sanitised and legalised by a non-caring society where theft is spawned of desperation, necessity and poverty. Thank GOD we no longer imprison starving children for stealing bread. Try living on bread, if for only one day, and you will begin to understand what I am trying to say. That is the real issue here. It should be up for action, not debate. We miss you Dr King ! (he was murdered 40 years ago for daring to speak the truth).
    Robert George Douglas.

  13. I agree with Leo. That guy selling copies of XP in India for $5 ? That’s still a lot of money for the poor over there, especially when they can just install Ubuntu and Openoffice on their pc’s for $0.
    Besides, if $8 is a monthly wage, where did they find the money to buy their hardware?
    Anyway, if there were not one free alternative, it be a different story.

    My two cents…

  14. Leo is spot on :
    Seeking to justify a wrong by comparison to a greater wrong, imposed or self imposed, is insane.
    This is like saying : I’ll vote for the devil I know rather than for the devil that I don’t know !
    I.e.Two WRONGS [ the stealer and user ] cannot equal a right anymore than two devils can = a saint.
    In my estimation this is just another example of our failing morals and values, that were once held so dear.
    Norm.

  15. People don’t seem to get it, it is not theft unless it is against the law in the counry where the copying is done. If it is not an offence in that country then it is not theft.

    • There’s theft (legal) and then there’s theft (moral). While the law might allow you to steal (I don’t know of any country where theft is legal), there is still the moral aspect of buying one $400 package of software and reselling it 1000 times for $5. And then there’s the taxation issue: did you report that business activity on your tax return?

  16. There is a benefit unmentioned in other commentary to be realized in using free operating systems and programs in lieu of pirated software.
    The more a program is used, the better it is developed and the more need is created for it. The more popular it is, the more popular it becomes.
    There is more talent in “underdeveloped” countries than “developed” countries realize. Learning Linux based systems isn’t rocket science, and getting better all the time.
    My confession- I’m lazy. That said I have a dual boot system and dabble in Ubuntu. It surfs the web, has more than sufficient word/excel capability in open office, etc. It’s actually fun. But” I’m lazy and still use windows too.
    If I didn’t have Windows, no way would I shell out the price, I’d go Linux.
    If they didn’t ship Windows automatically on new systems, and you had to pay for it separately, the world would be on Linux! Roger

    • 03-09-2015. As mentioned by others there are excellent alternatives to most of MS software. Libere Office from open source Linux, is much like MS. Office and will do some things MS does not do. It is free, not $400. Recently I purchased MS office Home & Student, for about $70. I had the CD. I started having problems with Word and decided maybe uninstalling it and re-installing it would help. After a few attempts I got a MS message (do doubt canned) that being I had been repeatedly re-stalling it, that evidently, I was trying to use a trial version whose date had expired, which was not permitted. That was untrue, so even when you buy a MS product, evidently you still do not own it and they still control it. That was the straw that broke the camels back for me. After spending thousands of dollars with MS., I have now turned to Linux. My only regret being I did not do it long ago. I too now have a dual boot computer with Linux Mint 17.1 and Windows 7. I use windows much less now and as I learn more about Linux, MS., will become obsolete. Many Linux users claim there is nothing they cannot do with Linux and it is free. Poorer countries and users should all go to Linux. Linux will even run beautifully on a ten year old computer.

      • You are correct. When you buy a MS product, you do not own the product. You merely have purchased a license to use the software. That’s what makes it theft. It was not your software in the first place.

  17. In the US, copyright infringement is against the law. It is distinct from theft, however, in that it does not deprive the owner of use of the item, as theft does. However, just because it is distinct from theft doesn’t make it right (as some would claim).

    In some countries, the law is different. I don’t know the legality of the reported copying in India. It might be legal there, though a US citizen might still be subject to US copyright law.

    However, I agree with you Leo that the Robin Hood argument is specious. If someone truly wants to help Indians increase their technical knowledge, surely there are legal ways to do it.

    John Merah – check out this page: http://www.osalt.com/
    or this page: http://www.google.com/search?q=open+source+alternatives

  18. Hey, I am poor! Why can’t I just go into the bank and rob it without penalty? Isn’t poverty justification for stealing?

  19. Leo, I have to disagree with one of your premises, because I don’t believe it is stealing unless BOTH of the following are true:
    1) You take something that doesn’t belong to you, AND AND AND:
    2) There is an actual loss to another party (no matter how slight or abstract of loss, and no matter how rich they are).

    If I “pirate” when I would otherwise have purchased, then I stole.

    However, if I wouldn’t have purchased anyway, then my “pirating” is NOT a theft, because nobody lost anything (because either way, the “owner” gets $0.00).

    This may not (yet) be a point of law, but I strongly believe it to be consistent with logic and morality.

    For this reason, I scoff at the quoted figures of “losses” from illegal downloading: the vast amount of these “losses” would not have been gained anyway, even if the downloading were somehow made impossible.

    (BTW – it’s not at all uncommon for “law” to be at odds with logic and morality).

    .

    • So I’m going to the grocery store this afternoon. I’ll just steal my groceries because I would have gone to the food bank and got the food for free. The store never would have got my money any way and the store would have just ended up donating their excess food to the food bank instead of letting it spoil or rot. I guess this must be okay.

  20. I m an Indian and I do beleive that a theft is a theft. No matter how poor you are. I m not here to justify that poors have right to pirate but I want to draw your attention why people in this country or rather in South Asia use pirated software:
    1. Your $1 is equivalent to our Rs. 40 and the prices of original softwares are too much in indian currency. Not even middle class will be able to buy.
    2. Yes, there are free softwares available like
    openoffice.org. But who will teach these softwares because either people dont know about these softwares or if they know they will not get any job after learning these. Because no company use OpenOffice.org.
    3. Linux is a good choice but why dont people use these. Let me tell you. I am a computer science graduate and doing my masters in Information technology. By the time I will do my masters I will not have read more than 50 pages of Linux and a little bit of shell scripting. In India Linux is used only in very very high level companies. Also 95% of private institutes in India teach very liitle or nothing about Linux.
    4. In this part of the world people are crazy about Microsoft and its Products because either Microsoft has tied up with the different states of our country or it is pushing its products vigorously in private institutes. I am not blaming Microsoft but its presence in every field of the software is not a healthy sign (due to lack of competetion).
    4. No Internet Service Provider in many part of this subcontinent. Forget ISP many regions don’t have electricity.

    But at the end of the day I beleive piracy is bad for this software industry. There is so much pain and money invested in developing a software. But if Government, Private Institutes, Microsoft and Other Leading Vendors, Companies using these products….etc join their hands there will be some solution.

    • Linux is used in many countries. Some whole regions in Spain such as Extremadura use it for the Police and local government. Some cities in Germany use it. Brazil is moving rapidly to it. Much of the internet – routers and so on – use Linux as do many home modem/routers.
      Of the top 500 supercomputers most use Linux or some form of Unix ( Linux is a Unix like operating system ) only ONE has a Windows operating system. Many embedded systems ( such as factory control and car systems ) use Linux. Also of course android used on many mobile phones and tablets has a Linux based kernel. . Even in Britain the government is encouraging open source software ( not Linux it’s self as such but the same principal applies ).

      • The largest supermarket chain in Germany uses Linux for their cash registers. One major advantage, when support ran out on XP they weren’t affected. The only problem I find with Linux is lack of hardware support. As more and more governments and large companies adopt Linux, this is becoming less of an issue as hardware manufactures will have a commercial interest in creating drivers for Linux.

  21. “No Internet Service Provider in many part of this subcontinent. Forget ISP many regions don’t have electricity.”

    This is where the One Computer Per Child effort is dumb. In places where there is no electricity, telephone, water, sanitation, and limited food, even talking about computers is ridiculous. The government and people of these poor countries should put their limited monies and effort in providing the basics of life first.

  22. All crime !!I dont care where it takes place, will set higher limits, constraint’s, security,, and the list go’s on.
    Look at the restraints the music industry went to trying to stop this same thing from eroding their industry.
    Microsoft software has plenty of restraints on it already,,,just download Vista or some music if your in doubt.
    Do we realy need more limitations.
    We all pay for crime eventually,,,dont make any difference what county it takes place in.
    Microsoft and others watch this type of thing real close,,trust me, they do..

  23. Theft is still theft, in this case, is not apples to apples. Material theft (taking someone’s car purse or food!) is not the same as copying music or software from a corporate giant. I too, feel for musicians and software developers who get ripped off, but that is an industry fault. It doesn’t make sense to blame people that use pirated software, rather we should figure out how to harness the fact that they want to!!!

  24. Yes, there are lots FREE of alternatives to pirated software that can achieve the same end. People should do whats within the reach of their pockets. I dont mean to be mean but why should i want a bently if my pocket cannot afford? Better yet, why should want a bentley when 1. I cant afford it and 2. There are free cars by the car dump? Wrong is wrong. Stealing is stealing and they should be punished.

  25. Hi!

    I agree with Leo. Theft is theft. Always. And there is no reason anymore to pirate software. There are free alternatives to almost everything. I should know. I migrated to Linux last Christmas. I’m happy with the migration, and I will not go back to Microsoft’s faulty products.

  26. Piracy is theft just like house breaking pick pocketing. The owner of the software loses so much in just few minutes for the work that he/she has done in months. I think the poor who cannot afford to buy must be helped in the same way that the welfare helps those who cannot feed themselves and those who pirate must be arrested cause piracy is a euphemism for theft.

  27. If you agree that piracy is theft. you or very wrong. It’s nothing like stealing a car. It’s like like killing anyone also. The fact is this stealing is wrong define Stealing. Well If i would go to some ones house and steal there cat yea thats stealing. Due to the reson it’s a real item. Software that someone downloaded is not. Someone paid for that software you download. So if you think of it like letting others use your item. if thats sealing then only you you paid for a can never let your frends use that car or that car lot could sue you for a lost sell.

  28. Personally if you want them to learn about technology go down there and start selling Linux distros for 75 cents each.. The price of the disk. Then your not breaking any laws. Linux is under the GNU license ( General Public license) Meaning its legal to copy and distribute the software. And many disks come packed with programing software. Windows does not meaning if you gave them windows and told them to program the would have to know exactly what their doing already because they have no internet to download a ready made c++ coder. It is essentially a waste to send windows without internet. It was mearly a man trying to make a profit. Not to mention if these are indeed older machines then windows most likely will have problems running on them anyways. You can get distros built for older machines running on as little as 24 mbs of ram. Personally I think your friend is a con artist. If he really want them to learn he would 1. Bring linux instead Or 2. Bring aditional software for windows enabling them to learn. As well he would not charge 5 dollars he would charge little more then the cost of making the disk. Personally I have thought of taking software to poor countrys and it always falls on free.

  29. ok, here’s a question…a friend of mine bought a new computer with winxp on it, no cd came with it. His os quit and he had to format to get it back, he bought vista but didn’t like it so he downloaded a pirated xp and is using that. All he’s doing is still using the xp license he bought, just a diff one. How is that wrong??

    • David,
      If he had a license for the Win XP, he could have installed it anew from MS website as long as he had the product key #. I’ve done exactly that. If he bought the laptop new, he would have the key provided to him for sure. Even if you have a second hand laptop with no documentation, you can retrieve the key via free utility available online, as long as your OS is functioning; which you should always make sure to do BEFORE a problem hits you. If you don’t have the product key recorded somewhere, you really don’t have any OS at all. Also, system backups are a very good practice to give your friend another remedy to his/her situation.

  30. David July 31 @ 4.36:- That is MS or the OEM doing wrong. They are allowed to cos they are corporations. Law is just for the poor and ordinary

  31. The local grocery store will not give me food just because I am poor — even if an accident has caused me to become unable to work. I know this because I tried it once and ended up spending that summer in a jail cell! That was 25 years ago. Since then, I recovered from the accident, put my life back together — and then got into another accident, this one rendering permanent damage. (And people ask me why I’m an atheist!)

    Since the second accident, I have subsisted at less than 70 percent of the US Poverty Level. I pay $400 for my HMO now that I cannot work.

    Still, I own a top-notch computer (3.40g dual Pentium with 3g RAM) and recently upgraded Corel Draw and the Adobe CS4 Suite (the whole banana), paying the same prices that you would.

    Of course there are many things in life that most Americans take for granted that I choose to do without, beginning with an automobile (I don’t drive and never have, although my wheelchair costs more than most pay for their cars) and ending with a television set (I’ve never owned one of those things, either).

    No. What I want is to work on my web site and enjoy the company of my various pets, so I do without just about everything else. It can be done without breaking laws or doing anything immoral.

    Of course, many good things can be had without paying for them (and I didn’t say “for free”).

  32. I just had a thought! it may be here already but got to page 2 and didnt see it…

    anyway, my input is…

    i am 100% against stealing, i wont associate, or entertain a thief, however, it seems to me that the only person that is stealing or committing an illegal act is the “cracker”/”programmer”, because they are GIVING it to us?!! AND with installation instructions, “our” suppliers are waving it in our face….. its similar to buying a stolen car.. or a car with stolen parts… its not the new owner that has committed the crime… fair enough the vehicle will be confiscated if caught, and the unsuspecting victim has been left out of pocket…

    in my personal opinion, i think that borrowing software, for non-profit making reasons is generally ok “within good moral reason”, like borrowing a paid for movie or book off of a friend, but making any form of money, whether covering “running” costs etc is just plain wrong! most companies offer evaluation periods etc… and i could probably guarantee that hardly one person hasnt borrowed something from someone in their life?

    using pirated anything to make money is very very wrong, that IS stealing! movies are stealing.. if you cant afford it, watch it on tv in a year or less! etc… get a few mates together and fork out all of

  33. “Piracy: It’s a crime”… when it’s software piracy, it actually isn’t a crime. It’s a civil wrong, they’re VERY different (You can be arrested for a crime, but not for copying CDs)

  34. Looking back at the arguments, people get hung up on the economic harm of piracy. We can talk about “right and wrong,” but people come back to whether or not the pirates would have bought the software/music otherwise. This doesn’t impact the moral argument, but when the BSA, MPAA, and RIAA go to Capitol Hill with 9-and-10-figure estimates of their losses due to piracy, it actually blunts their argument. Rather than focusing on the wrongness of theft, they go for big, impressive numbers on the impact of theft. And then the argument devolves into how overinflated those numbers are.

    I’ll make the argument in a way people can understand.

    When you go to work, I live in your house. I don’t need to: I’ve got enough money for my own place or I can live with friends/family, but I like *your* house better and want to live there. So after you go to work, I pick the lock and live there for a few hours each day.

    I clean up after myself so you never know I was there, and you never notice the negligible amount I add to your utility bills. In no way am I depriving you of the use of your house, but I’m using your house too and I’m doing it without your permission and without paying you.

    Now, imagine you came home from work early because you weren’t feeling well and found me sitting on your couch, reading a book. Would you call the police? Would you, despite the fact that I’m not actually homeless or in need, let me keep living in your house when you’re not using it?

    If you wouldn’t call the cops and would allow me to stay, then you’re logically consistent with your defense of piracy… and a bit of a putz. If you would be upset that I was using your house without permission, and without payment, despite the fact that my use of it in no way deprived you of its use, then you’re against piracy.

    • What rot.
      Provide a list of all who would not call the police. I feel sure there is a local market for this.
      Instead you should be asking since the intruder obviously has the time, why is he not working? My sympathy for him would probably stop with that answer. Detroit, anyone?

  35. Visiting S America and seeing some of the ancient computers people are using, I can see first hand how many people use computers. They all use pirate versions as they really can’t afford a legitimate version. Most of them got the computers used with the OS already installed. I did some clean up for them. One only has 2 – 10 GB drives. These systems are precarious with warnings that the OS might not be legit etc. These are people who would be perfect candidates for Linux (which would run more stably on their machines) versions. They only use a browser, basic photo viewing and editing, Skype, DropBox (that’s the backup solution I installed for them) the basic components of MS Office and some might use an email program. All of these are included in a Linux distributions with no need to even download more. None of them have or can afford the peripherals which might break Linux for more affluent users.

    • Interesting comment Mark. We can debate the “right or wrong” aspects of piracy until the cows come home, and for the record I believe piracy is wrong, but as is often the case in life things aren’t always so black and white but rather gray. Very gray.

      I don’t condone the “what” those folks you worked with are doing. But I understand the “why”.

      • I’d like to help them out by switching them over to Linux, but those machines are so precarious, there is a serious risk of bricking them if I tried to install a new OS. One had a c: drive with a couple of KB free space. I was able to move the the swap drive to the d: drive. The other has no optical drive and can’t be booted from USB. Linux would have worked in the beginning but now it’s too lat. Let’s just say they are past the statute of limitations of piracy. Anyeay, it’s not their fault, the machines came that way.

  36. I do wonder how much of piracy stems from a belief that ‘since there are free alternatives, it’s immoral to charge for anything that a free alternative exists to’. I’ve known a few people who used that as their reason – never mind the fact that, even in piracy, they were choosing things that were (originally) paid software over those free alternatives.

    Most piracy, in my opinion, comes from a desire to get something for nothing – and most piracy is done because it is incredibly easy to do. The people who ‘wouldn’t have bought it anyway’ are a much smaller number than the people who go ‘hey, this website gives me things for free!’

  37. I with all the above comments, but has anyone thought about the Techie?. He is the person who should have enlightened the people about all the
    freeware and other free alternatives available. After all they had outdated computers and only wanted to learn. Did the Techie get a part of the profit:
    (Sorry no offense meant). Like someone mentioned stealing is stealing. Yes hav’nt we all borrowed a paid movie to watch at home?. But have we taken
    that CD/DVD/Blueray, made copies and rented it to others for our profit?
    There’s the Very Grey (orBlack) Line.
    Just my opinion. No offense maent to anyone

  38. I’m with you 110% Leo. Theft is theft, no matter what the circumstances are. Plagiarism is also theft and sadly it’s becoming more “acceptable” in today’s free-for-all Internet society. Having been in the scientific community all my life, where acknowledgement of source material comes second nature, I have the screaming heebie-jeebies when I see patently plagiarized material passed off as original work.

  39. I am an Indian and I think I have a right to comment over this issue. Up to Windows 7 there was a difficulty in reinstalling the Windows if you have changed your HDD for any reason. I feel so much difficulty in reinstalling the Windows that I had to purchase a new Windows 7 software. I think in these circumstances any body is justifying to use pirated software. Secondly the prices of softwares are unreasonably high. System Mechanic Pro on its website show a price of 69.95US$. Whereas in India same is (Legal software) available for only INR 350 ie about 6US$!! This is the main cause of piracy. I however never used or in future will never use pirated softwares but use the freewares available on the internet. When I need any commercially available software, I will hunt for the bargain. I think this is the proper way.

  40. If these folks are seriously destitute, how did they get a computer that would be capable of running Office, etc.? Where did the computer come from and how are they using it?

  41. Leo is right on. It’s really disappointing that so many people feel justified stealing because of the “Robin Hood” defense. Big corporations are”bad”, “I’m poor, so it’s OK because I’m only stealing from the rich”. 50 years of welfare and social handouts have brain washed people into thinking they are entitled to what they want, not what they need.

    So who decides what rich and poor are? The US government’s definition is a lot different than most people realize. Do without, use freeware, and educate yourself. Then use that education to better yourself, make more then pass a better standard of living to your children!

  42. Please add me to the list of people who strongly support your views. The attempts to justify theft and other forays into the fields of moral ambiguity do not pass the tests of honest scrutiny and reason. You cannot buy something that “fell off the truck” and avoid being complicit in the theft itself. This whole issue is extremely important and goes far beyond the use of pirated software itself. Yes, Robin Hood was a thief regardless of his good intentions. (No, I don’t think he deserved to hang for his crimes). Yes I do think that we should develop even more alternatives to provide the indigent with the means for obtaining and using the all important information that is changing our world.

  43. My Chinese wife bought a counterfeit copy of Windows XP in China for the equivalent of one U.S. dollar a few years ago. I threw it in the trash and told her that her purchase was neither acceptable nor legal. Nevertheless, being born into a poor, middle class or wealthy family is basically a crapshoot and the child is not responsible for his/her economic status. I find it appalling that most governments and probably all corporations don’t give a damn about those who suffer through no fault of their own. I find the treatment of the poor to be both appalling and disgusting. It seems that what we are now experiencing is a worldwide oligarchy with people being considered nothing more than a commodity to be exploited.

  44. I work in a small copy shop. Apart from photocopies, customers bring in files or email them. Acrobat, MSWord and Photoshop will handle the vast bulk of files, but not all.

    About five years ago, somebody sent a file written by Microsoft Works – a cheap&nasty version of Word, now obsolete but which used to be bundled on home computers. In theory, the file can be imported into Word. In practice, things moved all over the place. I could have told the customer the job couldn’t be done; or I could have paid £40 to buy the programme. Do I really have to buy a programme just for one use? Instead, I found it on Pirate Bay. We made about 60 pence on the job. I’ve used Works twice since, again making pennies on it. Should I have a conscience about what I did?

    I’ve had the same thing happen with Serif PagePlus, but that was a one-off. In the four years since I ‘stole’ the programme, I haven’t used it once. My attitude is that by making high-quality printouts available, I’m making the software more valuable for those actually using it.

    Other programmes – WordPerfect and FrameMaker come to mind – were easier. The customers were savvy enough to save as PDF and email me those files instead.

    • Leo recommends CutePDF Writer. It’s free and you can turn anything you can print into a PDF. If your clients want to use non-standard data files, you should point them to Leo’s article and have them print their documents as PDF files and have them send you the PDF.

  45. I’ll just bet that if some enterprising person in one of these poverty stricken areas were to write to MS and tell them that they wanted to set up some “community” computers so that poor people could learn some skills, and would they be willing to donate outdated or unsupported software to install on these computers that MS (or any other big manufacturer) would send them the software for free. A series of neighborhood computer labs could go a long way to educate those who otherwise could not afford to learn. No piracy required. Electricity required at only one location. Not everyone in India is destitute; they could help their own this way.

  46. I also don’t agree with entitlements but we now have such an entitlement culture that it seems anything goes. Stealing is stealing is stealing, no matter the circumstances. A dichotomy exists here….the person who says the destitute need free software sells the software for $5. As someone stated, the annual income is $200 so $5 is almost 1/3 of their monthly income, money which they could have used to sustain themselves or their family which is now going to someone to make a profit.

  47. Many years ago while struggling to make ends meet and needing/wanting decent software I was guilty of using pirated software. Never felt comfortable doing it but justified it as necessary because I couldn’t afford the original software. Fortunately that is no longer necessary and I use a free trial version and if I like the program buy the product.

    Ethics aside, one of the main reasons I no longer use pirated software is that pirated software has 2 traps: First, it doesn’t necessarily perform as the original product and can cause numerous problems; and Second, it is a great way to pick up viruses, maleware and other nastiness.

    • That’s a side of piracy that people should be aware of. In addition to all moral and legal arguments, pirate software is downright dangerous. If a hacker modified a pirate version of Windows or any software, there would be no way for the user of that software to know if it contained a key logger or other software designed to steal sensitive information. That kind of Trojan Horse malware is probably a lot more common than people realize.

  48. I have not seen mentioned that are no sanctions against manufactures that steal features and purchased digital products from customers. A major seller of electronically delivered books deleted books purchased and believed owned by their customers because of a lawsuit brought by a publisher. Manufactures of software controlled hardware do not believe it unethical to remove features from a device the customer has purchased and believes they own because of patient or licensing issues. Consider the removal of commercial skip features on Replay TV and Hopper on Dish Network Receivers.
    Imagine getting in your car and you discover that your MP-3 player no longer exists because the software that makes it function was removed by big automotive because of a licensing dispute.

  49. Before I read the full article, the answer to the question posed seemed obvious to me: “stealing is stealing” which of course is what Leo comments as the moral of the story. So too, was Leo’s suggestion of an answer: there are free alternatives, there is no need to steal. As mentioned, before I read the full article, the following quote from Baha’u’llah seemed to fit the situation exactly:

    “They who dwell within the tabernacle of God, and are established upon the seats of everlasting glory, will refuse, though they be dying of hunger, to stretch their hands and seize unlawfully the property of their neighbor, however vile and worthless he may be.”

    I hopefully live by that, and have tried to instill that into my children. As I was reading the article, one question that popped into my mind was, if the premise of this scenario is that the end-user is so poor that they cannot afford to buy the software, how do they afford to buy the hardware to run it on? Do they steal that too? Is that legitimate?
    While I will leave those as rhetorical questions, I also feel there are alternatives that Leo did not mention. I do not claim to be well traveled enough to know if this is true in Kashmir, or any other part of India, but in practically every library I’ve been to in the last 20 years, there are public use computers with (presumably) legitimate licensed copies of MS Office software on them. Here, in Juneau, Alaska, there is a free training center in the heart of downtown which end-users can get free training on Office programs. I work at the Vocational Training & Resource Center, and while we charge for classes on MS Office programs, there are resources available to offset the cost. I don’t think anyone (at least here in Southeast Alaska) has a need to steal software. There are so many other legal alternatives.

  50. Well, now I know how certain countries were able to surpass the US in so many things technologically. The major tech companies all but overlook the Americans in order to hire someone from overseas but I digress. Most humongous companies & corporations are rife in theft practices and have stolen from many (individuals & smaller outfits) who couldn’t fight their wealth in court…even though they were the victims!! How many times do we hear about some huge business taking advantage of the little consumer? Yes, mostly after being exposed and nearly an Act of Congress to stop them. So someone asks, “Does two wrongs make a right?” of course not. But, let the corporation who is without sin cast the first stone. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for corporate philanthropy to help the desperate peoples of the world to acquire a better condition than the one they’re born into.

  51. Google Drive? Open Office? No they are not Microsoft Office but they accomplish everything that people need to get done and they are FREE. The need to steal is a silly argument. Move on.

    • Actually, if you want to use Microsoft Office, just open up a free Microsoft account and log in to your OneDrive. It’s all there for you to use for free (I’m not sure how useable it is if you are on dial-up).

  52. I agree with your statement “Theft is still theft. Wrong is still wrong. Stealing is still stealing.” I use free software whenever possible and pay for software for which there is no free version. However, I can understand the opposite viewpoint when I consider things like:

    Apple making $18 billion in one quarter (the greatest one quarter earnings for any company in the history of the world) while paying below poverty level wages to the workers who assemble Apple products. For the record, US Apple employees are also paid far less than they are worth.

    Walmart paying full time employees a low enough wage that the employees still require food stamps to survive.

    Pharmaceutical companies who renew patents on drugs for merely changing the binding agent. Yes, R&D costs must be recovered, but one company that makes an effective hepatitis drug recovered the entire R&D costs in one month of sales, yet the drug is still selling at its pre-recovery cost.

    Companies in general avoiding paying their fair share of taxes by the process of inversion (relocating corporate HQs offshore).

    Your statement, “Theft is still theft. Wrong is still wrong. Stealing is still stealing.” must apply to everyone, consumers AND corporations alike or to no one. When the corporations play by the same rules as they want us to play by I will start to give a crap about lost revenue due to piracy.

  53. Yes theft is wrong. Yet if one examines the history of the world and the nations that are in the world there is a very long line of serious thefts that have
    put the world in the overall sorry state it is now suffering.
    Western Eurasians came to the “New World” and stole “land” from the people already living there, claiming they “Discovered” the land.
    That’s like saying I came down your street and “discovered” your car and drove off in it, therefore it’s my car.
    Western Eurasians went to Africa and stole human beings to work the land they “discovered”.
    Record companies have been ripping off artists since the beginning of the 20th century, Now they cry and complain they’re being ripped-off! Hmmmm.
    Piracy is rampant in Communist China and their fellow travelers North Korea and Russia. However not too much “noise” is made because so called Western
    Corporations are back in business in China exploiting the workers and taking advantage of the “stable environment” afforded them because of the Communist Police State.
    If you look very closely at the wealth gained by the “old entitled establishment” gentry, it has always been gained by murder and thievery.
    The bottom line is this… karma ..or the wheel of Justice and Truth rolls slowly, but it grinds finely and it makes a complete circle.

  54. Back in ’99, when I was unemployed, I got a hold of a video editing software program (I won’t mention that it was an Adobe program). I taught myself how to use it. Because I did (and I would not have bought the program before this because I had no reason to) I got a job as a wedding video editor. I taught 4 other people how to use the program (as previously they were using tape to tape old style editing). The owner bought all 5 of us copies of the legit program and has upgraded every other version since then. This follows my old Napster argument – if I never downloaded an mp3 of a band I never heard before, I’d have never bought the whole CD in the store (and back then you didn’t find whole CDs online often. Bandwidth was not big). If I didn’t get the original [s]Premiere[/s] (whoops), Adobe would have not had all the sales from this company that the one copy generated.

    I see the India story’s side. Those people with the pirated software are going to learn it and go on to get decent jobs using legit copies of the software. If they didn’t get it pirated, they would never be buying it.

    • You do bring up a good point: that by trying an MP3, you found a band you’d never heard of before and you went and bought a CD you would never have bought. That is a good point, but can hardly be used to justify theft. The music industry’s problem is that they were very late to the game — stuck in their old fashioned ways.

      In the old days, record companies might ship a copy of their record off to radio station. This would get it air play and people would go out and buy the record. In the modern age, people will still do the same, but instead of shipping the record to the radio station, every music company should be releasing songs for free on the internet (not the whole album). This is what they should have done in the Napster era, but they failed to realize that the world had changed around them. It took Apple to realize that 99 cents was cheap enough that someone might try out a new song and if they liked it, they’d end up buying the album.

  55. Here’s another view of piracy: In January I had a trashed install of Windows 7 Pro which had been becoming gradually corrupted until it was finally almost completely nonfunctional. All my backups were also corrupted since the issue got worse so slowly I didn’t even realize anything was wrong until things tanked. I won’t elaborate on everything I tried and why certain things wouldn’t work, but a clean install was absolutely out of the question because I had too many important things on my drives I didn’t want to risk losing. Free support for W7 had also ended as had sales of retail copies. I had to drop $150 for a year’s service contract to have Microsoft techs try to fix it. 22+ hours with Microsoft over the phone and via remote desktop came to the conclusion the only option to save my data was upgrade to Windows 8.1 Pro. That’s what I did for $199 but it saved my data.

    After that, everything still worked but I needed to reactivate my Office 2010 Suite which I had bought a large, now defunct retail electronics chain store. Try as I might I couldn’t reactivate the software and in pursuing why I found out the activation key was locked because apparently it had been used multiple times to activate or attempt to activate bootleg copies of Office 2010. It seems MS wasn’t interested in whose copy was legit and even though I had mine since it was new, had bought it retail, it was the holographic disk, I still had all the original packaging and inserts, and it had passed umpteen authenticity verification checks, it was just too bad for me. I made me mad but I get it.

    Because Office’s programs, especially Outlook, Word, Excel, and Access are vital to me I had to cough up another $219 for Office 2013. I did not want subscription service version of Office so I had to bite the bullet. After the purchase I found it didn’t include Access so I had to shell out an additional $109.00 for MS Access. I needed it, too.

    Sure, there are/were ‘free’ alternatives but I have many years using the MS Office suite programs and didn’t want to adjust to new software. So pirates cost me hundreds of dollars for that Office issue.

    I’m also an avid gamer. Although these days, games are frequently purchased and downloaded from services like Steam and Origin, back when I still regularly bought the discs from stores or online these came with install limits because of pirates and illegal sharing. Then there were the nightmares of poor DRM like Starforce which trashed my CD drives writing ability which was minor compared to some damage others experienced. Some of it even prevented install on computers with any type of virtual drive software or copy software no matter how legit these were. Anybody with any background in computers knows how an install limit can easily be maxed out or exceeded and that software for copying and virtual drives have as many or more legit uses than evil ones.

    Game publishers go out of business frequently and change hands which made getting install limits reset impossible even if you could find them. The customer service people for games seemed universally to have an attitude that everybody is a pirate and trying to cheat them. These were some of the most infuriating customer service encounters I ever experienced! I have been called a liar, a thief, a cheat, a bootlegger, a pirate, and worse when dealing with these people.

    I spent my career as an industrial electronics tech so I knew the infinite number of ways production equipment could fail which led to an exceptionally infuriating experience where a 2 CD game I bought came with the ‘play’ disk missing but included the install disk. The customer service rep insisted that was impossible and ended up hanging up on me. I knew better and could probably have told her exactly what happened with the machine that puts the discs in the jewel case! I couldn’t return the game to the store for a refund because it was open, another consequence of piracy. My only option was to visit the store every week until the same game came in and they would exchange it for the same thing. Since it was already a slightly older game and a bit obscure anyway, it took almost 2 months for another copy to materialize. But, it was $39.99 at the time and I wasn’t going to ‘eat it’ for that amount.

    So, piracy is NOT a victimless act that affects only financially encumbered people in a positive way. In fact, I did a little happy dance when I heard Pirate Bay was finally busted although they were back again almost immediately. I have read many ISPs are blocking them which I have no problem with even though I am for open Internet otherwise.

    I would be amiss in not mentioning that it isn’t poor folks alone who are responsible for piracy and promoting the market for it. There’s an entire generation or two of people right here in the US and the modern Western World who feel they are entitled to free copies of everything from games to music and more. Some justify it by claiming to be striking a blow against the system when all they are really doing is passing the buck they save onto another honest person to pay. A thief is indeed just a thief.

  56. Leo is correct; the theft of software is wrong, and a crime as well. It is disturbing how many people will go to great lengths to rationalize stealing software, probably because they have done so themselves and would like to absolve themselves of the guilt. The litmus test is if they would condone stealing of their own valuable property by someone much less fortunate than them. I don’t think they would.

  57. As Leo said, if you cannot afford to pay for software, there are plenty of very good free / open source software titles available. Besides if you really were that poor, surely you wouldn’t own a computer in the first place? But I think piracy is always theft and is always wrong, just like stealing anything else is – regardles of your financial situation! If you cannot afford something, you should either try and improve your financial situation or you must just accept that you cannot have it!

    • Some poor people have different priorities than we think they should. For example, in working with poor people, I have realized that many of them have cellphones with texting, data, etc. which costs probably twice what they would have to pay each month for basic home phone service. Are they making the best choice in life? Maybe not, but then who am I to judge their decisions. I’ve surely made my fair share of poor decisions, too.

  58. Win 95, 98, 2000 (ME), XP, Vista and Win7 are no longer supported by MS. They are therefore not worth anything like Win 8, Win 8.1, Win 10. The question seems more to be is out of date technology worth as much as current technology. If Mr. Gates is as generous as claimed, why doesn’t he give this obsolete technology to poor nations to help them? Somebody used a car analogy, Would you pay the same for a 10 year old Lincoln as you would for a new one?

  59. One aspect of this thread being overlooked in regard to the pirating of “paid for software” versus “free open source software” versus everyone reaching into his/her pockets and “donating”…say…a Chrome Book, sure its basic, but powerful in a third world environment like Kashmir or any third world country. We can all become philanthropists. I would not hesitate. Any one reading this post is capable of providing at least one machine, two or five machines… I grew up in the 50’s & 60’s, stealing, not an option, its wrong, no mater how you try and justify it. The moral make-up of our country today is vastly different than 60 years ago. Someone mentioned “entitlements,” we have become a nation of entitlements, taking without earning. Someone pays for that entitlement. Someone else mentioned “capitalism” which, on its own, has enabled our country to become the most giving country in the world.

  60. The music industry complains about people using YouTube. I use YouTube to help me decide what CDs I will buy. Thanks to the existence of YouTube I have added more than 300 CDs to my collection. If I hadn’t been able to hear a variety of music on YouTube, I might have bought fifty CDs in the same period of time. That’s not theft. I want CD quality going though my audiophile system. Of course I can’t speak for other people.

    • I agree. It’s not much different than listening to the radio except there you can pick and choose what you listen to. Interesting that some artist actually sing about this (example: Miranda Lambert in Automatic says “Seems like only yesterday I’d get a blank cassette, Record the country countdown ’cause I couldn’t buy it yet”) yet they get bent out of shape if someone shares their music. How else do acts ever get popular? Some artist understand that they will only sell if they get exposure. Personally I would much rather spend money at sites like eMusic, etc., than to feed the mainstream companies that don’t sell what I want.

    • You are so right about that! Back when places like Napster & Limewire still existed that was how I used them: to screen music I bought. I currently have over 10,000 titles in my CD collection plus a couple thousand LPS still and several hundred cassettes so those sites served a very important use for me. I have fortune invested in my audio systems and frankly I am one of those who can tell the difference between most mp3 recordings and the CD versions over my system. As serious as I was and am about collecting I simply wasn’t interested in mp3s and still am not. If I download music at all it’s FLAC or another lossless format and then only if that’s the only way I can get the piece I want.

      I also remember places like that being only sources for some songs like a certain Rolling Stones track that will NEVER see a legit release that really deserves to be heard despite its obscene name. But, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to keep even those after hearing them.

      Still, sites like Napster are largely responsible for the sense of entitlement to free music many people younger than me feel they are owed. I had one person actually tell me once “true” artists weren’t interested in making money and if they were charging for their work they deserved to have their work pirated. I guess he couldn’t correlate that instruments and gear, studio time, gigging, and life in general cost money but then again at 25 he was still living on his parent’s dime.

  61. There are enough open source options available that stealing software is never “required” or “necessary”. The reference to the music industry though does bring up another element. There are many older recordings that the record industry chooses not to sell or make available. If that is the case, then how can they justify the claim of theft? For example, I had a couple cases of cassettes stolen a few years back. I have never replaced them because 95% are no longer available in retail in any form. With that being the case, why would the right’s holders object to someone downloading a copy and using it?

  62. Uuumm well there’s food for thought on this subject. but let me put this scenario forward if I may – The indian made ‘Tata’ car sells for ‘x’ in Oz but if I go to India and buy it, it’s 80% cheaper and to avoid paying import duty, I drive around india for a few weeks then import it to Oz as a second hand car and no duty at all – NOW does this mean I have cheated Oz importers, wholesalers, distributers, car yards of their rightfull share of a sale they never got from me because I went to india and bought it ? Just saying 🙂

  63. Yeah well. I am in Australia and we pay 10=25% for downloads – not disc post or other, so freight does not count – for most Microsoft and other software from USA – includes Apple as well. Just because we are in Australia and they have the opinion -rip them off. The law is the law and a blatant ripoff is a ripoff. Makes the pious pirate more palatable? Why don’t the software makers make the software equitably priced with reference to the users ability to pay? Errol

  64. Here in Australia we refer to the “Australia Tax”. It’s the three to five times the cost of any download from the US that American companies rip us off for any download or program CD as they have decided that we are rich mugs that can be taken. There is no logical reason for this piratical behaviour except good old fashioned GREED. Consequemtly Australians often pirate American programs with no sympathy whatsoever. If American companies reverted to charging reasonable prices then there would be no need for this to occur. A program in US is worth exactly the same at home as here. American greed is a world wide problem. Americas view of the world is a market to be pillaged and over charged as much as can be got away with. Sorry, I understand the moral stance but I cannot sympathise with people that steal from me.

    • I don’t use pirated software but couldn’t agree more about US companies.
      You can guarantee that American producers rip off the rest of the world. Anything priced in dollars is invariably the same no. of pounds in the UK despite the exchange rate being 1.5 dollars to the pound. Nothing to do with transport costs as the products will be imported from China etc. not the US. American firms like Amazon and Google pay next to nothing in UK taxes despite raking in billions of profit from their UK sales thanks to their constructive accounting practices.

  65. I take the completely opposite view, I have no genuine software on my PC, everything is pirated. I will continue to always pirate every piece of software that I can simply because it’s there for the taking, I have no scruples about this, I do not seek, nor feel the need to justify my actions and I care not a jot for the condemnation of others, until someone finds a way to prevent me from doing this, I will happily continue on my merry way and enjoy myself whilst doing this.

  66. Firstly, in objective terms there is no such thing as right or wrong. It is a subjective judgement based entirely one one’s point of view.

    Secondly, it makes not difference whether you break the rules or not – the important thing is knowing the consequence of doing so. This situation is akin to drug dealing. It is highly unlikely that the consumers will be prosecuted, but the vendor may well be. Many people would consider that to be a reasonable position.

  67. One small point, Leo: I get tired of people maligning my boyhood hero,Robin Hood. 🙂 Robin Hood did not,”steal from the rich and give to the poor”. He stole from the Sheriff of Nottingham what the sheriff had stolen from the poor and gave it back to them.

  68. All of you people who find cute little ways to rationalize stealing are pretty sad. Someone worked or paid to have work done to create that product so they could make money. You do not have the right to steal it, end of story. I’m guessing if someone needed whatever you do for a living done and could not afford to pay you that you’d be pretty indignant if you were made to do the work for free and cover the overhead of doing so at the same time. Funny how your viewpoint can change when you have a little skin in the game.

    It is not always totally free but anyone who truly needs computer access of their own, i.e.–not at a library, etc., should check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation (Google is your friend.) Serviceable Linux based computer, brand new, for under $50US and all the software you need to use the web, write letters, track budgets, etc. For the Pi’s original market I expect there are a lot of grant opportunities available to make the cost to the end user free.

    • Surely, you understand these corporate behemoths are not sinless in thievery and underhanded practices themselves. Besides, what were/are the laws in Kashmir, India regarding copying an American company’s software? Was it even illegal? Could the copier and/or seller be prosecuted for theft of Microsoft’s property there? While in the military I saw REAL POVERTY! Where people marvel at someone in the USA under the poverty level with one or two color TVs, a cellphone, maybe a car and could even be overweight. They can’t afford the things you speak of my friend and they hope to acquire skills to pull them out of there desperate poverty. They can’t just run across the border into the US or they would for their family’s sake. They may look upon the man who brought them the copied software as a godsend to help them learn a new and up-to-date skill for a better opportunity. We’re applying our morals and LAWS to a situation that may not apply in Kashmir.

  69. Microsoft, Google, facebook and other companies operating dummy companies overseas to avoid paying tax is theft.
    Fix that first. Then you can preach to poor people using pirated software…

  70. I am not quite sure where I am positioned on the theft aspect of Microsoft Software in developing countries when the Software is prohibitively expensive for the majority of the populace. Is there not a way or a will to make the price proportionate to the average workers wage? I do not believe in Piracy of Software but these people are desperate to learn the dominate Software of the world to further themselves and get a job so if they have to steal then so be it!!!

  71. Do any of you remember a 16K Star Trek game that many Radio Shack salesmen gave away if you upgraded your 4K Level One TRS-80 Model One to 16K of RAM? Users’ Groups gave it away. This was in early 1978 before Level Two came out, and even continued afterward, because people converted it to Level Two, added music, and sold it.

    I wrote that program, starting in late 1977. I used so much memory, I had to use “I.” for “INPUT” to save 3 bytes, and “P.” for PRINT, etc. I frequently rewrote sections of code to operate in less memory. I set up (Break) then “GOTO775” as my redraw screen command for those times that I wanted a clean screen. I just barely had room to put my name in the listing.

    I gave those Star Trek games to Radio Shack managers in Kansas City and St. Louis as demonstration copies. They were supposed to tell people they could purchase the program from me. Instead, what I found out they were doing, at least the salesmen were, was telling people, “If you get the 16K model, we’ll give you this game for free.”

    The founder of one of the TRS-80 Users’s Groups proudly told me at one meeting, “I took your name out of the program so it’s no longer copyrighted.” He told me he was copying and giving the program away because he did not think it was worth $15 (the price I was trying to get for it). Of course, he had not paid for his copy either.

    I should have sold the game to Tandy Corp, but a Radio Shack Computer Store salesman convinced me I’d make more money selling it myself. I sold exactly one copy, and not by my own efforts. A woman called around to multiple Radio Shacks, trying to find out who wrote the program, and finally found an employee willing to admit he knew who I was. She called me, told me she and her husband learned more about programming from my program and wanted to pay me for it. That was my only sale.

    Oh, and in 1979 or 1980, a guy came into “The Software Center” in Saint Louis (Florissant) to sell me his Star Trek game. When he demonstrated it, I recognized it immediately. I played a few turns, hit the break key, typed “GOTO 775” while the guy said, “What are you doing?” I pressed ENTER, the game cleared the screen and continued from where I’d left off. I answered him, “Well, ___, when I wrote this program two years ago, I set up line 775 as my “Redraw Screen” command.” His face went white. He had no idea he was trying to sell it to the author. Yes, he had added music when he upgraded it to Level Two.

    If any of you have any “Intercom” magazines, Radio Shack’s dealer magazine from 1978, there’s an article in one of the later 1978 (or possibly early 1979) issues about a ComputerVan (outfitted with TRS-80, disk drives, printer, etc.) that visited Fort Worth that summer. In that article is a picture of me playing that very “Star Trek” game.

    I had to fire one employee at “The Software Center” (which had also been known as “Comp-u-TRS Software Center” in 1979, then just “The Software Center” through 1981. He’d bring friends in the store after closing to let them copy software. His attitude? “I’m not hurting anyone. You can still sell the original.” He just couldn’t understand that each person who made copies for other friends, and his actions probably meant that hundreds if not thousands of free copies would eventually be made. I heard from many people, “Why should I pay $15 for a game that I can get for free from my friends?”

    I’m now 63. I had written many games in those years, but I stopped when it was obvious that thieves were making more money from my games than I was. If I had $5 for every game that anyone got of mine for free, I’d be a rich man. Instead, I’m getting by on zero income, I’ve applied for S.S. Disability based on my Asperger’s (Autism Spectrum) Disorder and other disabilities.

    I’m living proof that when one person makes the excuse that he has the right to give someone else’s programs away, that he can very easily hurt someone else.

    I wouldn’t have minded if the person who paid $15 for the game, when he said, “This isn’t worth $15” would have honestly asked himself, “Well, how much is it worth?” then only given away that many, and if those friends had not copied the stuff.

    At least now, the law has been changed. A person cannot remove your name and make the program “no longer copyrightable.” The law now states that if it should be obvious that a piece of work MIGHT be copyrighted, a person is guilty of violating the copyright law, even if there is no copyright notice on what he gave away, or worse, sold.

    John
    Victim of altruistic people illegally copying software

    • Hi John,

      I fully sympathize with you. But, my question is why didn’t you haul them to court. Even if you could not succede, you might have put them under suspicion that others are careful with them.

    • A sad story, and the best argument against piracy I’ve ever heard. I remember when I wrote a piece of software for a company that I was afraid the company would give away to their branches in other countries, I put in a routine which would lock the program if more than a certain number of addresses were entered which were not from the country I wrote the program to be used in.

  72. Thanks for this blog on the morality of pirating software. I’m pleased to learn that you and so many of the respondents recognize the immorality of theft. The post by JohnK is particularly revealing of how such theft is harmful.

  73. There are so many scandles regarding businesses and and CEOS
    because of their greed and dishonesty and they are not poor.
    In their cases there is absolutely no justification. I don’t think
    piracy in the world has hurt Billy Gates any.

    • I would disagree. How many millions has Microsoft lost because of piracy, hence affecting Bill Gates, which also ends up affecting how much money the Gates Foundation has to give away and help less fortunate people.

      • @James B

        The notion that Microsoft lost millions because of piracy is totally false ,because one can’t lose
        something one never had or would’ve had, because most of the piracy is in countries with poorer people
        who would never have bought the software in the first place. So were is the loss?

        As for the Gates Foundation -this is only a very small part of Gates’ fortune and any socalled perceived “loss”
        has no impact on the foundation. While this Foundation has done some good things, for me it’s nothing more
        than “conscience” money for Gates ,so he can sleep at night .

        Nobody seems to remember all the horrible things M$ has done over the years -Check all the court cases
        they were involved in. Squashing the “little guys” in the business- Overly aggressive law suits
        against people who don’t have the financial means to defend themselves.

        • So corporations are evil so we should stoop to their level? Maybe that is why corporations do wrong. Because they are led by people that don’t care about others as long as they get what they want. And that’s what a lot of the arguments in these comments are coming down to.

          Rather, we should be setting higher standards for ourselves and maybe over time, we might start to get better CEOs. Remember, the golden rule is: “Do unto others what you would want them to do to you.” Not, “whoever has the gold makes the rules.”

        • I hate to say this but in the real world people do things, some are good and some are bad and to be quite honest in my feelings! Microsoft has robbed me everytime I purchased their software, just like cox robbed me on my cable bill every month( Now I have cut the cord) everyone steals, lies or cheats on their taxes or something. Kerr-McGee Corporation killed Karen Silkwood and GM put faulty Ignition switches in Vehicles that killed 124 people. If you say you have never in your life did anything wrong then you are fooling yourself….And Corporations kill people all the time…

  74. Best most thought out answer on this subject I have ever heard. Very well done Leo. And a big thank you for all you do for us.

  75. The world of piracy is based on morals. For a geek like me, I believe that if you profit from the software you should buy it. Otherwise its a learning tool And should be free, such as open office. Who can actually aford a cad based program. The future poor engineers in the world shold be privey to such programs, as they might invent something that will revonutionalize the world. If your smart enough to know how to pirate, you also smart enough to know of the alternatives, although putting Open Office on a resume might not get you hired.

  76. It has been quite a while since I have bought software. I believe Finale 2012 was the last software for which I paid actual money. There are free sheet music editing packages that may not rival Finale (or Sibelius) but they are surely competitive from most people.
    Everything I use is free software except MS Windows and I’d use Ubuntu if I could get local support which I really do need.
    Paint.net, Irfanview, LIbreoffice, Nightingale, Thunderbird, Firefox, multiple add-on packages. Screamer=Radio to name a few, and I have not dented the Free Software Foundation’s very sophisticated packages. Here is a list of free packages:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_free_and_open-source_software_packages
    I am comfortable so I donate to the folk who generously make the packages that I use available for the download when they provide updates. I contend there is no need to steal software.
    Moreover it is far too dangerous to do so. Sites where such things are posted are rife with malware that can take make your computer do truly evil things.
    Just don’t do it.

  77. I’ve always wondered if this statement could have held up in a court case in the defense of someone pirating MS software during Bill Gate’s time as CEO.
    Gates: “Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

  78. Computer software is a WANT, not a NEED. The people in poor areas need food, housing, medical care, etc. first before even thinking about buying computers and software. If we REALLY want to help the poor, then one can support legitimate organizations that strive to meet the needs of the poor.

    • I agree. Although some software can be a need, but the essentials generally have free options.

      (some of) The best things in computing are free.
      One of my computers had a crash that required a reinstall. I installed Linux Mint. It’s not perfect, but it does what most people, especially those who don’t need specialized programs for work, would need. No need for piracy. Being forced to use free software, in that case, even helped me in teaching one of my classes. I teach a course in basic office programs. I used to teach it using MS Office as an example, but with half the class using Macs with different office packages, it was a problem. Using Libre Office solves that problem. Now we all are using Libre Office, and I’m teaching from a free ad supported downloadable textbook from Bookboon. for MS Office which I adapt to Libre Office (very little difference other than the location of a few of the menu options). Full compatibility, as much free software is multi-platform. And again no need for piracy.

  79. While serving two years in Iraq during 2008-2010, I witnessed the existence of illegal selling software, music, and movies. Sold at “Haji shops” the customers were US troops. People will take advantage if the risk of being caught is low which it was. The worst consequence was that the US military police would confiscate it upon leaving the country.

  80. Oh, wow. What a lot of responses. You really touched a nerve, eh Leo?

    But your article would have been a lot more helpful if you had listed URL’s to the most popular free alternative software.

    One good place to start might be https://alternativeto.net !

    Hope this helos…

  81. Dear Leo—I did take the time to read the entire article—-I agree with you 100%—I was edified at your answer—-that a person would be better off using free programs—and that its possible the person selling the copies is actually making money off the poor——I have to say I also believe that “stealing is stealing” no matter what the circumstances. Thank you for taking the time to delve into, think it thru, and give us your answer to such a “hot topic” matter.

  82. Oh, and forgot to add… the only possibly “legitimate” use of software piracy that I can think of, is as a (admittedly unauthorized) form of trialware. In the 1980’s, I once played a pirated version of (I think) Infocom’s “Planetfall,” loved it, and then purchased a brand new copy from Infocom.

    Picture it: I bought a copy of “Planetfall,” when I already had a pirated copy in hand! (I discarded the pirate copy.)

    Maybe my actions weren’t legal, but I do consider them reasonable.

  83. I think any company that came up with the idea of “User Cals” and “RDS Cals” has no place in complaining about Piracy…… Add to that regional pricing and Education pricing (so they can get them young) has lost all moral high ground. If you feel even a hint of sympathy for Microsoft go read their TOS. Bah…. I know who the real pirates are.

    • Again, despising the company from which you are stealing, or not liking how they choose to license things, doesn’t make it legal, or even ethical to steal their software. Theft is still theft. The best way to make your point is to use something else — one of the free alternatives.

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