Internet/Piracy term paper 13711

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Piracy

October 28, 1996

Ian Sum

Recently, The Toronto Star published an article entitled "RCMP seizes BBS,

piracy charges pending." The RCMP have possessed all computer components

belonging to the "90 North" bulletin board system in Montreal, Quebec. The

board is accused of allowing people the opportunity to download (get) commercial

and beta (or commercial) software versions. I feel that the RCMP should not

charge people that are linked to computer piracy, because the pirated software

offers valuable opportunity to programmers and users. Also, revenue lost to the

large software companies is such a small amount that the effect won't be greatly

felt by them and so it is not worth the policing effort required to track down

the pirates.

When pirates distribute the illegal software, one could say that they are

helping, than hurting the software companies. By distributing the software

world wide, it creates great advertisement for the software companies and their

products. Although the software company is losing profits from that particular

version, it could generate future sales with other versions. Also, when the

pirates distribute the software this could be a great source of test data for

the software companies. This is an effective way to catch any unfounded bugs in

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

They can study and learn from the advancements with in the programming.

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

willing to go to great lengths to get software at a lower cost, or possibly in

exchange for other software and that they are succeeding in their efforts.

Although more than 50% of their software income is from other companies which do

not pirate, this poses a problem for the software industries. By fining a

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

little accomplished. Not to mention the fact the it is extremely difficult to

prove and convict people under the Copyright Act. In today's society, revenue

from software is such a small income source for corporations such as WordPerfect

Corp. These companies make their money mainly from individuals purchasing extra

manuals, reference material, supplementary hardware, and calling product support.

Software companies are conscious of the pirate world and the changes they have

made. Some companies actually want you to take the software by using the

SHAREWARE concept. In SHAREWARE one gets a chance to use demo programs and then

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

driving a car, before one buys. In most cases, users are happy and end up

purchasing complete software. Most software companies are still in business,

and still bringing up more technological advancements that entice users to

continually buy newer versions. The companies, in this sense , have outsmarted

and beaten the pirates. Violation of the Copyright Act seems to benefit

software companies more than it hurts them. Their software gets more exposure

which leads to more software revenue in the end than revenue that is lost

through piracy. The opportunity cost is worth it in the end.

Cracking down on software piracy is a waste of societies energy. There is

more benefit for everyone the way things are in the present. Users get to view

and evaluate it before they pay. Hackers get a opportunity to view other works

and learn from the advancements on or find the errors in the beta versions.

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

revenues for them.

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