A $33,000,000,000 bite 01 Jun 2005

76 comments Latest by ERE

Companies adopt activation as software piracy tops $33 billion

More software companies are moving to protect their products through some form of activation process as the cost of piracy rises above US$33 billion worldwide, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA). For their part developers are unanimous in saying that while they don’t like implementing anti-piracy measures, it’s something that they must do to protect their products.

Can you blame them? Clearly not every pirated copy can be correlated with a lost sale, but it’s definitely a loss of something. A lot of people will say software is too expensive (as if that is justification for stealing), but Andrew Welch offers this up:

Ambrosia Software’s Andrew Welch also disagrees that price is an issue. Welch said that when he first released Snapz Pro years ago, there was no copy protection at all. Over time, when he opened his business, a “nag screen” was added, then features were disabled on non-registered versions and other things were done to encourage users to register. The end result, says Welch, is that price has nothing to do with why people pirate software. “We found that every time we implemented more protection on our software, we get more sales,” said Welch.

Are you more likely to pay for shareware if it “nags” you or reminds you that it isn’t free? Where do you draw the line with annoyance vs. free vs. pay?

76 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Daniel Morrison 01 Jun 05

For me, it’s usually as simple as:

  1. Do I need/really want feature X or is the “nagging” impeding my work.

  2. Can I afford to register

  3. Is the product worth supporting, or is there a better alternative

Now that I’m working full time, it’s a lot easier to justify costs.

On the other hand, there are a few games that I have no intention of paying for. The level or two for free is more than enough gaming for me.

Daniel Morrison 01 Jun 05

Holy crap, that ordered list is styled huge! :-)

Isaac 01 Jun 05

I actually got busted for using a illegal key in Acquisition a year ago - the app told me I should be a ashamed of myself, and then just reset to the unregistered version.

This did 2 things: shamed me into buying a key, and made me respect the developer for doing nothing more than reverting the copy to the functional unregistered version. More developers should do this.

Actually, make that 3 things. It got me back into buying a lot software again (which also has to do with my switch to a powerbook, and picking up the much reported mac community support for small developers).

Scott 01 Jun 05

There’s also the issue of upgrading software. A lot of the time it feels like we’re getting fleeced for so-called major software updates which come out in shorter time-spans than in the past, essentially asking us to shell out more money for a typically small number of features. Adobe, I’m looking in your direction with this CS 2 suite…

I do what I can to support good, well-written shareware and major software titles — of course, they need to be useful. I’d rather have nags and some disabled features but be able to really kick the tires on the software before shelling out for it.

Anyone who’s running a business really has an obligation to remain as “legal” as they can be and to make sure their employees follow suit. You really don’t want Microsoft or one of the other bigwigs to come in and do an audit, trust me.

Will 01 Jun 05

Ambrosia Software�s Andrew Welch also disagrees that price is an issue … The end result, says Welch, is that price has nothing to do with why people pirate software.

That’s an absolutely ridiculous universal conclusion to come to. Maybe that’s why people didn’t pirate HIS software (though his reasoning doesn’t seem to prove that in any way). His story seems to prove that there is an acceptable ratio of nag to savings, and once it changes then people are willing to pay for what they were previously willing to put up with. But that doesn’t mean that price is irrelevant.

To make a blanket statement like price has nothing to do with piracy is to ignore that companies sell software that can cost thousands of dollars. To think the individuals using pirated versions of software (the Adobe Creative Suite for example) aren’t basing their actions on an innability or refusal to pay the high price is totally naive.

Mike 01 Jun 05

I agree with Scott on the software upgrades. The two worst companies on this are Adobe and Macromedia (do I see a Dreamweaver MX 2004 CS2 at $349.95 - hey at least it’s under $350 - upgrade in my near future?). I use their software everyday and thankfully my company pays for it. I cringe at the thought of these two companies united.

Nathan Bowers 01 Jun 05

It’s silly to just accept the BSA’s number. They are, after all, the weasel people.

If some magical unbreakable activation scheme was invented, “pirate” users would migrate to unencumbered and/or free open source software. Meanwhile some legit users will inevitably be locked out of their software, they will be furious, and they will blog about it.

These over the top DRM schemes are a losing proposition for software companies, and they don’t even stop piracy.

Alan 01 Jun 05

If the app is worth money, I’ll pay it…otherwise, I’ll happily ignore the nag until a better app comes along.

I paid for NewsFire and Acquisition, and for NetNewsWire, SpamSieve and TextMate I don’t think I’ve used anything else that made me want to spend money…


Randy 01 Jun 05

I wouldn�t be where I am today doing what I enjoy doing if I hadn�t indulged in a bit of piracy back in my day.

You mean a criminal?

Doing what you enjoy? You stole to do what you enjoy. That’s criminal. How does this differ from a bank robber?

Ed Knittel 01 Jun 05

You mean a criminal?

Doing what you enjoy? You stole to do what you enjoy. That�s criminal. How does this differ from a bank robber?

The same way it doesn’t make me a pedophoile. The two are not the same and it’s hard to think you really believe that they are.

Randy - have you ever driven 56 mph when it says 55? Unless you’re Jesus Christ you might want to stop pointing fingers.

Martin 01 Jun 05

You cannot compare software piracy to stealing. If I steal your car, you have no car, If i make a copy of your software, you still have your software. And every pirated copy of a software is not equal to one lost software-license. I don’t think that every person with a pirated copy of, let’s say, Photoshop, would go buy a license if someone managed to stop piracy and file sharing.

Matt Turner 01 Jun 05

I do believe I remember a friend of mine who did some digital media degree at Bradford uni recount of a time when they had a Macromedia representative. He asked for a show of hands on how many people had pirated software, and continued saying that that was fine, as they were the people who would be making purchasing decisions for businesses in a few years.

Um, that’s it, i have nothing else to say except i was chuffed to get StudioMX2004 with my PowerBook for $400 :D

Wejn 01 Jun 05

First off, I’m running on Linux and all my programs are OSS, so I don’t have to “steal” anything.

And let me tell you — I find BSA’s practices disgusting. Sure, there are people illegally copying software … and sure, it’s kinda wide-scale problem.

But who gives right to these nut-jobs to say things like “this number by this number equal this huge amount we (all-faithful and better-than-anyone-else) software companies have lost”? And furthermore, who gives them right (at least in our country) to threat randomly-chosen companies (using those “reports” and implications like “everybody’s doing that, so that must include you … so pay, or else”).

It’s BS (kinda coincidence BS and BSA are so similiar, huh?).

It’s the same rambling as with music/movie industry about lost sales. And guess what? Despite all that crap from RIAA and MPAA, their sales are going up all the time. Even though we have BT, MP3 and ed2k.

I’m not fighting for people who steal the programs/movies/music. But I do hate those generalizations.

And … I especially hate the idea of being called “pirate”. Do they (people who steal software) have wooden legs, scarfs and parrots on their shoulders?

Ed Knittel 01 Jun 05

And � I especially hate the idea of being called �pirate�. Do they (people who steal software) have wooden legs, scarfs and parrots on their shoulders?

No, but every time I imagine that I start to laugh. What if everyone who’s ever illegally download music, movies, tv shows, software, etc… HAD to wear outfits like that? I’d buy stock in the puffy-shirt market. Then I could buy CS2.

Randy 01 Jun 05

You cannot compare software piracy to stealing. If I steal your car, you have no car, If i make a copy of your software, you still have your software.

Stealing is taking something for sale that doesn’t belong to you. That software doesn’t belong to you. And, to make matters worse, you are using that stolen software for profit since you are using it in your own business. Criminal times two.

Is plagiarism stealing? The original text still exists. I sure think it’s stealing. You?

setmajer 01 Jun 05

Nathan — unbreakable DRM, if it existed, might just be the best thing that ever happened to F/OSS. LOTS of folks are like Ed — they got started using cracked/pirate copies and then moved on to either a job where their copy was licensed or bought a license for their freelance work. Without those pirate copies, some set of those people WOULD turn to F/OSS apps. Others would just not bother; still others would turn to cheaper apps; a few might even pony up for the sofware. Depending on how many are in group 1, that might mean LOTS of extra users for the F/OSS apps, which means more testing, more feature suggestions and maybe even a couple more developers. Definitely a good thing.

Randy — how it differs from the bank robber is that when a robber grabs cash, that cash is gone. Nobody else can use it; the cash not only benefits the robber, but someone else is deprived of the benefit of that cash. With software, Ed’s unlicensed copy affects yours (or anyone else’s) not one whit. The software company hasn’t lost a physical item that they then cannot sell to a legitimate customer, but have only lost the (potential) sale to Ed.

Unlawful copying of software is just that — unlawful. It’s also very arguably immoral. But it isn’t ‘theft’. It’s copyright infringement, or if done for commercial gain then ‘piracy’.

Mike — if you don’t think an upgrade is worth the money, why buy it? Most software vendors let you upgrade from either of the two previous versions so it won’t hurt much to skip a cycle. I did that with P’shop, Illustrator, FreeHand and Office and am not regretting it one bit.

As for nag screens and the like, I’ve no problem with them. Better a seriously annoying nag screen (Acquisition has a pretty intrusive one, for example) than crippleware or no trial whatever.

Activation I’m not so fond of. I resent being treated like a criminal when I’ve bought and paid for a copy. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on software licenses — DW, P’shop, Illustrator, FH, Flash, Office, etc. on both Mac and PC as I used to have a Mac desktop and a Windows laptop and needed the apps on both platforms. I damn well ought not to have to ring up the company and plead my case because I had to re-install Windows once too often, you know? It’s just creepy.

That said, I’m not sure I have a good alternative. People do pirate the software, and it does cost the vendor money. I guess activation is better than a dongle, at least.

setmajer 01 Jun 05

Randy — No, I don’t think plagiarism is stealing. It’s plagiarism.

Software is typically protected by copyright (in the U.S., some software is protected by patents and Europe seems hell-bent to join the Yanks in that silliness). Copyright is just exactly what it sounds like: the right to make copies. You can’t ‘steal’ that. You can only infringe it.

That’s not to say infringement is ‘less wrong’ than stealing; it’s just not the same wrong and the harm done can’t be calculated the same way.

ed fladung 01 Jun 05

Pirated software especially among students is one of the reasons why apps from companies like adobe and macromedia are so prevalent. because people know how to use their software and when these people get older, they guilt themselves into “going legit”. without easy access to the apps students are chained to the mac (or pc) lab. These companies shouldn’t be selling education versions for the low low rate of $600 to students. that’s ridiculous, when i was a student I could either choose forking out the dough for color copies for design crit or eating, never mind actually purchasing software (not to mention fonts).

Next, what about professional people in foreign countries, like Mexico? It’s not like you can run down to the local Fry’s. Even if a local place started carrying Photoshop, we’d still be paying 35% more on an already ludicrous price (and in Mexico it’d be the spanish version). If I buy software cds from Amazon, it takes 2 to 3 months to get here by mail (if it gets here at all). Until the distribution channel widens down here, people are forced to pirate to keep up with current software.

With that said, I’ll be making a trip to the US soon, where I’ll be picking up an upgrade to CS2 (hi adobe!). But in all seriousness, the only way to get legit apps (besides MS apps) is to travel to the US. Now with homegrown apps like Acquisition, Transmit, Ecto etc… I definitely pay to use them, but they are also delivered in digital form.

My point is that if these companies cut their prices by 50% or even 75% and open up their distribution channels to parts of the world where pirating is in the 90% range, they’d sell a helluva lot more units.

But they won’t do that.

Tim 01 Jun 05

I download software, however if I’m going to be making money from it, e.g. Photoshop then I will go out and buy it.

When I buy software I like to feel the value, if its �200 for something I use two minutes a day then its unlikely I ever really going to pay for it.

Small software firms get my support, activation does not. Anything that treats the paying customer like an idiot or a criminal or any product that does not “shut up” once I have paid for it gets killed.

“Thanks for spending money with us and supporting our company, you can buy the pro version of this software for another �50?
I will remind you of this every 1 day”


DH. 01 Jun 05

Not to kiss ass or anything, but the Basecamp/Backpack model seems to be a pretty solid solution: you can’t really get a fake registration for a web app. Okay, that’s a blanket statement, but if the app is written correctly, you can’t cheat the system.

That, paired with the generous free stuff you get with these apps, gets people hooked on the stuff they can use, and when they want more, they have to pay for it. Crack dealers know what they are doing.

Matthew 01 Jun 05

The thing with buying software is that there is no tangible product. And mostly likely within 6-8 months, there will be a brand new version that will cost me even more money. (And maybe I’m weird, but I always like to have the newest version installed)

I will have to agree with the quote in the original post. I don’t care if the software costs $10 and I use it everyday, if a pirated version is readily found, I will most likely use it.

Activation may deter casual piracy but I think on the other hand, sales may be lost.

jesse wolfe 01 Jun 05

i never, ever, ever pay for software running on my own machine.

i’m willing to pay for web services, though.

Drew 01 Jun 05

Initial and upgrade price is the single factor that would prevent me from buying software.

kelake 01 Jun 05

I agree with Mathew in that part of the problem is the lack of tangible value in software. People just don’t equate using a pirated copy of software with stealing a loaf of bread.

Outside of the US the cost of most design software is quite prohibitive for many small companies and individuals. The cost of software is totally out of whack from the cost of just about everything else where I work.

Personally I believe it’s a great oportunity for some small developer to come in and undercut Adobe with something comparable for next to nothing in price.

AH 01 Jun 05

The nagging of some apps and the guilt of unlicensed copy usage have led me to consider more carefully if I really need or will fully use X piece of software. Is it because all the cool kids are using it and declare it “industry standard” and “must-have”? Well, for work-related projects, yes, there are some must-haves and use-alots that many times are also cost-a-lots; hopefully there’s an excellent open source alternative. And, yippee, the company foots the bill. But for personal/freelance-as-in-free work, I’ve finally taken the “just as easy as getting the license key from aquaintence-X” route and opted for free, cheaper, stripped-down versions, or in some cases web app/services alternatives to do what needs doin’. So Photoshop Elements instead of CS, Taco HTML Edit instead of BBEdit, developing apps using MT, Gallery, or getting friends/family hooked up with Basecamp instead of programming apps from scratch. Saves time, the energy of guilt, and the cash in my bank account.

Just my 2 cents.

Ed 01 Jun 05

And yet today, I installed a pirated copy of the full Adobe CS 2 Suite that requires activation. A simple two minute search on Google led me to a generator that popped out the response after inserting the code prompt. Not too tough, kiddos.

A nony mouse cow hide 02 Jun 05

Two scenarios:

1. A young teenager has a PC bought for him. He spends what little money he can earn on keeping his PC hardware able to run the latest software. He runs pirate software and becomes proficient in its use. The young teenager is now an adult, with a job in the IT industry and has purchased legal copies of all the software he uses.

2. A young teenager has a PC bought for him. After a couple of years all the software is out of date, pirate copies are no longer technically possible, his parents can’t afford the software upgrades and the PC falls slowly out of use. The young teenager is now an adult, and gets a job in a fast food resteraunt and is payed peanuts. He gets by, but forget about buying a PC or software. Meanwhile the IT market is crying out for suitably skilled employees to write software, etc.

Which is the more desirable situation?

Of course, that is one end of the specturm. The other end is abhorrent - business should pay the going rate for their software. If they don’t they deserve to be heavily pubished.

Ben Sekulowicz 02 Jun 05

One of the biggest problems with software licencing for me is the licence model being focused on the machine, not the user.

Take Newsfire, for example. A great small Mac app, brilliant. I bought a licence for my home powerbook when I worked on a Win machine at work, which was fine, but now I use a Mac at work, I have had to choose which place I install Newsfire with my licence! (I actually removed it at home, as I mainly read RSS at work). Do the developers really want me to pay twice to use the same app? I can’t even use them at the same time!

For me, I hate the fact that I have to pay for software per machine, (OS’s are an exception). I am only ever on one machine - for something like Adobe Photoshop, isnt 500 quid enough per person - I switched to Mac and had to buy a new copy! Of the same program!

If software revolved around the licence per person rather than per machine model, piracy on smaller apps would die as people paid for them to use at work and home, (it would be easy for me to use my Newsfire licence twice, but my company pays for everything and I don’t want to get in trouble). Other benefits also include the fact that professionals who use Photoshop/Dreamweaver/Maya or the other big apps would hold their own licence, making them more employable than those who didn’t and differentiating them from others.

This is why, IMO, the web-application licence model is so popular, becuase you in effect pay for a licence for yourself, not your machine(s).

Brad 02 Jun 05

For me, I hate the fact that I have to pay for software per machine, (OS�s are an exception). I am only ever on one machine - for something like Adobe Photoshop, isnt 500 quid enough per person - I switched to Mac and had to buy a new copy! Of the same program!

Yeah, but that’s not the same software. Most software lets you install on more than one machine assuming it’s using the same basic operating system. That way you can have one copy on a desktop and one on a laptop. Even Microsoft Office lets you do that.

But it makes sense to have to pay separately for a Mac version because that’s not the same code…it’s really a separate product that required a lot of development resources to create.

My feeling about all this is that shareware has had its day. There should just be two types of software: free and paid. The paid version can offer a free limited-time trial for testing, with features disabled and/or an expiration date. And I’m fine with having activation for paid software, as long as it works properly.

Mathew 02 Jun 05

i never, ever, ever pay for software running on my own machine.

i�m willing to pay for web services, though.

Why is that, Jesse?

..ak 02 Jun 05

My favorite type of software has functionality restricted until you pay for the full version. This lets me use the available features exactly as if I owned the software. If the locked features would enhance my use of the software, I would buy it.

Example 1: AVG Antivirus. I currently use the free version and it works. What I don’t like is it takes 20+ minutes to scan my whole drive. I would like to do set up schedules to scan different portions of my drive, but that’s only available in the full version. Right now I’m working around this issue, but when I add more files to my machine, I am definitely going to buy the full version

Example 2: Quicktime. I have the free version and it let’s me view the movies I want to see. Back in college I had the full version to cut time off my video project. Today I don’t have that need and am glad I can still use it.

Example 3: Roxio CD Creator: I have the version that came with my computer and it’s does the job. I can upgrade it to the full version but the features are not something I need. So I don’t upgrade.

JohnO 02 Jun 05


“Stealing is taking something for sale that doesn�t belong to you”

Incorrect. By law, stealing is depriving someone of property. Plagerism is not stealing, that is why it is called plagerism. Copyright infringement is not stealing, that is why it is called copyright infringement. Kevin Mitnick was originally brought up on charges of theft for hacking, but later that charge was dropped, because he never deprived someone of their property. He copied data, not removed the hard drives the data resided on. Small, but important difference… and couldn’t help myself butting in

kingbenny 02 Jun 05

Why do debates like this one always degenerate into semantic arguments about the meaning of the word “steal”? The law says its wrong regardless if Webster calls it stealing or not.

Tim Case 02 Jun 05

“Piracy” and “Stealing” have to be some of the most finely crafted words ever utilized to get people to automatically accept that a crime has taken place. I can think of no other language that has had the power to get common people to gather together, point fingers at one another, and decide which among us are “the cheats”.

Darrel 02 Jun 05

I don’t correlate the annoyances the vendor places (or doesn’t ) place on their software with whether or not I’ll be purchasing the product, though those that do *not* annoy the crap out of me tend to stick in my head (for instance, installing OSX is such a pleasant experience compared to most)

If anything, the constant addition of more annoying hurdles combined with the seamingly LESS effort put on buf fixing (yea, I’m looking at you Macromedia) has led me to try more and more open source alternatives.

Darrel 02 Jun 05

How does this differ from a bank robber?

Well, you see…oh nevermind…why do we have to explain this everytime?

Darrel 02 Jun 05

Why do debates like this one always degenerate into semantic arguments

That’s what law pretty much is. Lots of semantic arguments.

Bill Brown 02 Jun 05

Why does everyone think that they have a right to software because they need to know it to get a good job? It sounds very emotional and self-centered: “I need it so I’m not paying.”

Every excuse for software piracy I’ve ever heard comes down to total rationalization. The transaction comes down to this: if you want it, you have to buy it unless the seller offers a free version. If you don’t buy it, you have no right to use it. If that means that you won’t get that crackerjack job, so be it.

And to “A nony mouse cow hide”: that’s the best argument for software piracy I’ve heard yet. “Stealing what doesn’t belong to me is good because it helps society. If I don’t steal this software, some poor teenager will have to get a job at a fast food restaurant.” That is one I’ve never encountered before.

Bill Brown 02 Jun 05

Oh, and it’s also telling that software (and music, since it can be readily digitized) is one of the few industries where people wantonly take what they want without paying.

Can you imagine if such views were rampant?

Jordan T. Cox 02 Jun 05

Piracy is always a wonderfully hot topic; but I want to rant against software activation. I find it, deplorable at best - horrendous at worst.

My first major issue is that I want to use the software after the current cycle is over. A lot of people have put forth the “if you don’t want the upgrade, then don’t pay for it” argument; well, what happens when the upgrade is forced? Microsoft continually denies older versions of its softwares the ability to communicate with them. Windows 95 support, gone. Windows 2000 IE support, gone. Next comes XP and its activation support - and then we all must upgrade upon the next reinstallation. Exciting. I still play Warcraft II and Command and Conquer from time to time. I shudder to think of what will be lost to me ten years from now; when I go back to fiddle with some of my now current software when its old.

Second, is the re-installability. Now, some applications might implement this better than Microsoft; but I believe that they are a model company for where idiot corporations will go. The last time I called India to allow me to reinstall my copy of Windows XP; she said that I would have to purchase a new one if I changed anything else in my system (I have changed out most of the parts in my box with this current XP iteration). Lovely. I resisted the urge to pirate software, and this is how I am treated. My $100 software program is now gone. The next time Windows eats itself, I’m SOL - and will have to pirate a version of it.

Speaking on topic though; I generally like software with an unrestricted timed access. This gives me time to thoroughly “kick the tires”, as a previous poster said, and find any bugs that may be crippling. It makes me more trusting of the software, and much more prone to gravitate towards continued use. I’ve purchased a lot of software with touted “extra features” that didn’t really work, so I’m extremely leery of that now.

I believe that Basecamp did a very nice job with its trial model. Most web applications force you to pay up, to even test it (as far as the pay ones I’ve seen). Basecamp let me login, use it as much as I wanted, and only limited out a few features. My main reason in upgrading our plan was because Basecamp did such a good job at what it needed to do. The extra features weren’t really compelling (small business, not too complex) - but we loved Basecamp so much that we wanted to pay for it. Plus, the constant attention it got was very nice. It never felt as though 37signals deployed the application; put a drop box for money; and then ran away.

My long thoughts. Enjoy.

Brad 02 Jun 05

Okay, here’s a solution to this whole problem:

Make all software free. The salaries and expenses of software engineers and product support staff will be paid by the government, funded by a $2,500 tax on every computer sold in the country.

Miles 02 Jun 05

I’m all for preventing piracy, I would support the software companies with any measure that would actually stop it, but as many have said here activation is simple to crack and treats the paying customer like a criminal.

There needs to be some serious rethinking about how companies approach this problem, activation is an annoyance (especially when you’re installing on several machines at once) and does nothing to stop piracy.

Jordan T. Cox 02 Jun 05

I also had to pipe in against the BSA’s statistics. Why do people still brandy them around? Hasn’t it been shown that they count every downloaded copy of their associates’ software as a lost sale? That seems quite… ludicrous to me. That’s like saying that everytime I eyeball a piece of fruit, and don’t buy it; a farmer starves to death because I didn’t buy it.

Adam Michela 02 Jun 05

It’s pretty simple for me. I need to, and should be able to, put my software on my Desktop/Laptop or both my Mac’s and my PC’s.

Macromedia did it right. Studio MX is pricey, but it let’s you activate it on three machines, and they can be any platform.

That’s cool enough for me to justify the cost.

It’s pretty hard for me too justify a $1000 software package that forces me to choose where I want to own it.

It’s like buying a car that I can only use on one highway.

Scott M. 02 Jun 05

My first major issue is that I want to use the software after the current cycle is over. A lot of people have put forth the �if you don�t want the upgrade, then don�t pay for it� argument; well, what happens when the upgrade is forced?

Yeah, I hate this. I currently use Poser 5 on OS X 10.3 to create simple .bvh files. Apparently Poser 5 will not run under 10.4 and the developer only plans to patch the latest version (Poser 6). I don’t want the latest version because: 1. it’s added some stuff to .bvh export that would require extra work for me and 2. Poser 5 works just fine and I don’t need 6.

So I’m stuck — if I want to upgade to OS X 10.4 I need to dish out for the Poser upgrade. It’s the way of the technology world, I guess, but it does make one consider a wee bit of pirating. And I always pay for all my software/shareware (I do like supporting small developers).

Darrel 02 Jun 05

Macromedia did it right. Studio MX is pricey, but it let�s you activate it on three machines, and they can be any platform.

Last I heard it was two machines of the same OS. Has that changed? If so, I’d maybe reconsider upgrading…

Ed Knittel 02 Jun 05

Macromedia did it right. Studio MX is pricey, but it let�s you activate it on three machines, and they can be any platform

Last I heard it was two machines of the same OS. Has that changed? If so, I�d maybe reconsider upgrading�

Last I heard Adobe bought Macromedia so I can’t wait to see what they force us to do next.

beto 02 Jun 05

A lot of people will say software is too expensive (as if that is justification for stealing)

Depending on the country you’re on, some software is definitely priced too far from the average professional’s reach. I exposed this on a similar thread here not so long ago. Coming from a country where the average yearly wage barely passes $4K per person (and yes, I’m talking college-graduate labor), how can a mom-and-pop design shop justify shelling out 25% of their yearly profit on a legit copy of Adobe CS Suite? It would take months or even years to recoup such costs. Add to that the TCO of workstations (which are expensive enough), office space, etc, and you get the picture.

If software prices were proportional to every country’s economy standards, piracy would be much less of an issue. No wonder countries with similar meager GDP’s per capita or lower (say, most Asian countries) are the kings of rampant software piracy. Forcing third-world economies to pay first-world prices for licenses doesn’t exactly seem like the right answer to me.

It’s a pity GIMP is still light years behind of Photoshop…

Jordan T. Cox 02 Jun 05

Scott, not making your point any less correct - as it is; but my quote was a bit out of context. My point was that many companies will, and have begun to, simply shutdown “activation required” software when they wish you to upgrade. Thus, “forcing” you to upgrade.

I hear you on the OSX 10.3->10.4 thing, too. I find OS integration DISGUSTING. I’m not a Microsoft programmer, so I can’t speak too much on the technical side; but I know of many games and softwares that only run on XP. I also know that many of them have easy 500k cracks to run on other MS operating systems. Is there something nefarious going down behind the scenes; or did XP actually add something of programming value? I also wonder, did OSX 10.4 add anything of real programming value? I notice a lot of OSX apps are insisting on switching.

All this said, I’m really glad that Open Source has taken off the way it has. Even better, I’m glad that Open Source (or just plain free) _languages_ have taken off the way they have. I remember being young and pirating software to learn programming; nowadays kids can just download Linux or one of the BSDs to learn with. Hell, OSX comes with gcc now - doesn’t it?

Adam Michela 02 Jun 05

Darrel, yeah, someone said that in another thread too. However, I’ve had no problem installing MX cross platform. Granted, I pre-ordered my copy so it was probably an early build… it could have changed since.

Like Ed noted, it’s all moot now that Adobe owns Macromedia. We’ll probably be forced to pay-per-use by CS3 ;)

JF 02 Jun 05

Depending on the country you�re on, some software is definitely priced too far from the average professional�s reach. I exposed this on a similar thread here not so long ago. Coming from a country where the average yearly wage barely passes $4K per person (and yes, I�m talking college-graduate labor), how can a mom-and-pop design shop justify shelling out 25% of their yearly profit on a legit copy of Adobe CS Suite? It would take months or even years to recoup such costs. Add to that the TCO of workstations (which are expensive enough), office space, etc, and you get the picture.

So what? I can’t afford a metal stamping machine to make car parts so I’m not in that business. I can’t afford a desalination plant so I’m not in that business. I can’t afford to buy a multi-unit building so I’m not a landlord. I don’t have the capital, equipment, or experience to purchase and run a printing press so I’m not in that business. What makes you feel that you (or any business) are entitled to software you can’t afford? What makes software different than other fixed costs and assets people need to invest in for their business?

What if a mom and pop shop wanted to start a taxi service but they couldn’t afford a car or a taxi license? Are they entitled to a free car because they can’t afford to pay for one? Should they forge a taxi license because they can’t obtain a real one?

The reason people try to justify software entitlement is because it’s easy to steal. You can’t steal a printing press, or a tool and die machine, or a building, but you can steal software so somehow people to justify it.

beto 02 Jun 05

First off Jason, if my reply sounded like an apology of software piracy, it isn’t. It’s just a conclusion of the things I see day to day in my local context.

I have worked for three years with a fairly small IT company that has survived the rollercoaster of small businesses and is finally established - including of course the ownership of legit software licenses. However this was not always the case. Bank credits for small business are incredibly hard to come by here. I’d also wish we could invoice five-, or even four-figure rates for the quality of work we do - but we can’t. There is no local market to sustain those prices (not to mention fierce competition willing to go cheaper even if that means losing their shirt), and that in turn affects everything else. Whoever said the economy was a big domino was right.

Does all that mean we should have given up our college grades, our IT/design careers and go get McJobs since we were “not worthy” of using the standard, big shot software on the first place? By your line of reasoning, only types with deep pockets should have been allowed to play the IT/software game. That would probably have excluded about 95% of today’s IT companies and innovators large and small (those who never copied a program on their teens, raise your hands). Problem is, the cat has been out of the bag for years, so to speak. It cannot be solved that simple. Precisely since software isn’t usually perceived as a costly asset the way a hard, physical object is (blame it on its distribution model), that will be the hardest challenge of software companies if they go hardcore on the activation thing: change that concept, specially ingrained in third world countries. It won’t be easy and the side effects are uncertain.

Then again, you may have a point - if activation kicks in hard creating a “pay up or shut up” situation, rates of the services that depend on such software can only go up to cover expenses, and with it, services demand (always speaking on my immediate context) will take a temporal nosedive as a result until everything gets sorted out again. Perhaps it may be the best thing to happen to the Linux / open source camp, since it would gain more followers if only for the increased TCO factor. Hopefully, as open source initiatives become more widespread and user-friendly (i.e. the day Linux comes with a installer wizard), this whole thing will become a nonissue and no one should be labeled as a criminal when there are alternatives that anyone can afford and use without having to be a terminal geek. Your services are a great example of this. We’re slowly but surely getting there.

setmajer 03 Jun 05

kingbenny — the distinction between ‘stealing’ and ‘infringement’ or what have you is significant. The harm done is different, the wrong is different and (in many countries) the penalties are different. That’s a whole lotta difference, really.

As well, you made the same mistake here that I made earlier: we’re both assuming a given legal context. That really isn’t safe to do on a globally-available forum like this. Intellectual Property laws vary widely from place to place, and blanket statements like we’ve both been making are rarely accurate in more than a few countries.

Darrel — speaking as a former law student, you’re spot-on. :-)

Bill Brown — except that, in days past at least, companies relied on piracy by students to create installed base. cf. Matt Turner’s post above regarding the Macromedia rep. Whether or not that particular incident took place as per the second-hand description he recalls, that mindset has been an ‘open secret’ in the software industry for decades.

Adam Michela — I recently investigated the dual-platform situation for MM apps, and while they don’t have procedures in place to prevent it the license most certainly does not allow you to install the software on two different platforms. Only on two different computers of the same platform, and only if both copies aren’t in use at the same time.

Having had both a PC and a Mac for years, I’ve often wished for a ‘sidegrade’ price. It wouldn’t need to be a BIG discount — maybe 5–10%. Just enough to say ‘hey, thanks for supporting us cross-platform’.

Jordan T. Cox — As one of the people who suggested skipping an upgrade cycle, I just wanted to emphasize that I just meant not upgrading every time. After 4-5 years you have to expect to upgrade, really. It’s just the nature of the tech industry — of industry in general, actually. Technology marches forward and one can only go on supporting old product for so long until the number of people using it is too small to make ongoing support a viable proposition. Do recall that MS doesn’t get paid for supporting those outdated platforms; it’s a pure cost center for them. Good business is to minimize such things.

Also note that Win9x is a bit of a special case: it’s a completely different operating system than WinXP. Win9x is based on DOS, WinXP isn’t. Win9x is radically different ‘under the hood’ and supporting it with newer software isn’t always even possible without massive effort to backport features that, had they been practical to implement on Win9x, would’ve been there already. Microsoft does make extraordinary efforts already to ensure backward-compatibility. I’m not sure they could do much more without serious cost implications for customers and/or restraining the pace of improvements.

That said, I do agree that its frustrating when you have an app that does exactly what you want and it gets superceded by a new version that mucks it all up.

And I’m completely with you on the reinstall issue: it’s MY hardware, dammit, and the software company has no @#$! right to tell me how I can or cannot muck about with it. Punkt. Ende.

beto — The reason companies can’t do region-specific pricing is that there’s no good way to keep, say, designers in the U.S. from buying software in Brazil or India at reduced prices.

Microsoft has attempted to get around this by offering a ‘lite’ version of Windows XP, but that doesn’t seem to have been terribly successful; why shell out cash for a crippled version when the full version can be had for less — or even nothing at all?

The only other attempt at this sort of thing I know of is the movie industry’s (well, Hollywood’s) region codes on DVDs, and never a more odious mechanism have I found. I’m a U.S. national working in the UK, so I have both region 1 and 2 DVDs. My PowerBook can only change region codes once more, then it’ll be locked for good. That just sucks. AFAIC, I’m damn well entitled to view the DVDs I bought in the U.S. or the UK on whatever hardware I damn well please. That the studios think otherwise really frosts my cookie.

All that said, you’re exactly right that paying ‘developed’ world prices can (and often is) an undue burden when you’re operating in a ‘developing’ country (scare quotes are to indicate that I use the terms out of convenience, not to make some sort of value judgement).

JF — assuming you live somewhere in the ‘developed’ world (N. America, western Europe, Japan, Australia, etc.), you can get a metal stamping machine if you want one. May take time, sure, but you can get financing, save money, attract investors, etc.

In a ‘developing’ nation, some or all of those options are out of reach of all but a very few people. People in those nations are at a structural disadvantage that is entirely outside their control.

It’s also worth noting that copyright law in developing nations isn’t always the same as in developed nations; what’s illegal in the U.S. may be perfectly legal in Chile. That’s normal. 200 years ago, when the U.S. was a ‘developing’ nation, it was considered a haven for IP piracy by the ‘developed’ nations in western Europe. The U.S. benefited from looser copyright law when it was ‘growing up’, so to speak, and it seems only just that other developing nations should get the same advantage.

Darrel 03 Jun 05

What if a mom and pop shop wanted to start a taxi service but they couldn�t afford a car or a taxi license? Are they entitled to a free car because they can�t afford to pay for one?

Physical analogies never work when talking of digital copying. For instance, your example falls apart in that there is a huge selection of autos out there from $100 to $100,000. Plenty of competition.

There’s only one version/vendor of Photoshop. Only one MS Windows.

It’s not hard for SW companies to accomodate local economies, either. It’s incredibly easy. We’ve done it. MS does it (when threatened by open source).

The reason people try to justify software entitlement is because it�s easy to steal.

It’s easy to copy. Very hard to steal.

kingbenny 03 Jun 05

setmajer: You do raise a good point about the differing legal contexts - I have no idea about copyright law anywhere else in the world -

Anyways, for what its worth, I don’t think I’ve seen many definitions of the word ‘steal’ that do not seem to accurately describe the act of illegally copying software…. ie. “to take the property of another without right or permission.”

Beerzie Boy 03 Jun 05

The question that needs to be asked is why, with apps like Photoshop becoming widely sold, “industry-standard” tools whose sales double every year, does the price keep going up? It seems to me that most popular technologies — e.g., digital cameras or cell phones — start out insanely expensive and toys for the wealthy and then come down in price as they become more popular. Why is this not true for software?

Dominic Damian 03 Jun 05

Most of what I would say has already been said. But shockingly no one has brought up Apple yet. When they released Tiger, we all rushed to the local Apple store, or Amazon, to BUY the software at whatever price. Now I understand that it’s an OS and the most vital part of your system, so having a pirated copy is a little less trustworthy, but look at the amount of pirated XP copies out there.

I think that it’s an example of how if marketed, developed, and implmented properly, you can have a majority of your software be legally valid.

It’s also odd that an entire OS is much cheaper than a lot of software out there (Macromedia, Adobe)

Jeff Hartman 03 Jun 05

It blows my mind how people can justify just about anything.

We live in a lost, lost world. The sad thing is the vast majority have somehow justified that it isn’t a lost world (or don’t realize it) because we’re told to preach tolerance. This applies far beyond software licensing.

Who really cares if stealing, plagiarism, and copyright are “very” different in meaning. They’re all wrong. It’s black and white - either you’ve acquired the software legally or illegally. It’s your conscience that muddies the difference.

Darrel 03 Jun 05

When they released Tiger, we all rushed to the local Apple store, or Amazon, to BUY the software at whatever price.

And, oddly, no activation or serial number or copy protection.

It�s black and white

I envy your world, Jeff.

Grouch 03 Jun 05

What color is the sky in your world, Jeff? Black or White?

Nathan 03 Jun 05

The “it’s illegal” argument is tired. Speeding is illegal, drinking beer used to be illegal, and slavery used to be ok. When it comes to copyright infringement or breaking DRM I’ll just rely on my own moral judgment.

Am I just test-driving the software? Is the vendor a near-monopolist that breaks software you already paid for to force upgrades (Intuit)? Is this song 20 years old and distributed by a cartel that buys off Congress to extend copyright indefinitely?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Yo Ho! A pirate’s life for me.

dusoft 04 Jun 05

No, I search for open-source alternative, if possible.

I will not pay for nagging shareware, but I am likely to find a crack/serial it, if it is really bugging me, to try it further on.

Price matters. Remember, not everyone is from US. WHen you earn 2-5 USD per hour, you can’t really buy Windows or other programs.

Randy 04 Jun 05

Price matters. Remember, not everyone is from US. WHen you earn 2-5 USD per hour, you can�t really buy Windows or other programs.

Then don’t use them. You aren’t entitled to them, you have to pay for them and if you can’t afford them then you can’t use them. Just as if someone wants to hire you, but they can’t afford you, then they can’t work with you.

allgood2 05 Jun 05

I’m less likely to uy nagware, but more likely to buy software if it has some sort of reminder. The difference for me is how much the nag interferes with my ability to use the software when I want to. For example, there’s this Safari plug-in, Safari Extender, that, I wanted to use and probably would have paid for, except it’s payment nag, it wasn’t overly active, just intrusive. It showed up at the most inconvenient times—like when I was trying to do something that didn’t require IT.

This has happen with other software as well, I tend to get annoyed if its excessively nagging, or if the nagging is majorly disruptive. On the otherhand, I do like reminders that are well placed, including well timed. I forget who does it, but the application every so often just popped up the number of times I used it, the cost, and a random benefit of registration. It was perfect, and a great reminder to pay for an application that I was using fairly regularly.

ixley 05 Jun 05

I agree with Ed. As a young designer, there is no way I would have been able to afford even the price of educational copies of Adobe’s software. And even now, as an entry-level designer, I barely make enough to be able to afford the majority of this software. So am I doing something illegal by not paying for licenes? Yes. Do I consider myself a criminal? Certainly not.

It is disappointing that software giants like Adobe/Macromedia only view piracy as a cut into their profits, when in fact, many of these young pirates out there are the ones who have helped establish their software as the industry standard. Yes, Adobe makes good products. Yes, I would like to support their efforts and work in exchange for use of these programs. No, I cannot currently afford to at their prices. I understand that by the current mainstream mentality, I should not be entitled to this software if I cannot afford it. But this is an extrememly crippling way of thinking. There are better ways of keeping profits high while at the same time supporting the community that has solidified your empire in the first place. We do not need to further the divide between the haves and have nots

E. Stull 06 Jun 05

Very interesting discussion and I believe there are several salient points regarding the both the “piracy= bad” and “piracy=tolerable” perspective. Piracy is stealing, although it may occassionally benefit both parties.

An additional point to consider: piracy as a considered marketing tool. Granted, it isn’t an industry-wide tactic, but it is hard to ignore the basic fundamentals of market penetration being increased when a software title is easily pirated. When you consider the mega-publishers like Microsoft and Adobe releasing successive version upgrades there is an implied consumer lifecycle. Sometime during that lifecycle a user will eventually convert to a paying customer for an upgrade that offers: a necessary piece of functionality, an ease of install (opposed to complicated cracks, etc.), or as many have already noted, a “moral” vindication for the possible prior [years of] illegal use. This increased penetration not only creates more conversion; it fosters: innovation, competition, and awareness in the particular sector.

I believe the argument is even relevant to piracy in the developing world. The infringement of intellectual property rights contributes to a decreased production cost from everything to desktop computers to the lawn furniture you buy at Wal-Mart. When these developing nations begin to reach price parity with the G7, etc., I wouldn’t be surprised if the prior exposure to the currently pirated software yields considerable returns in future purchasing based on brand loyalty, familiarity, and interdependencies with existing systems.

Bill Brown 06 Jun 05

… I wouldn�t be surprised if the prior exposure to the currently pirated software yields considerable returns in future purchasing based on brand loyalty, familiarity, and interdependencies with existing systems.

I see. So people who have spent their entire lives pirating software will stop pirating when things get expensive (and incomes rise accordingly—interesting reversal, that) will suddenly stop when they catch up to the first world. Is there any GAAP to start accounting for that in bottom lines because I think we could have ourselves another bubble?

One of the flaws in that premise is that the people in my experience pirating the most are the ones who can best afford it, i.e., my coworkers. The poor people I know can’t even afford a computer, broadband, or CD burner to steal stuff.

Darrel 07 Jun 05

�Pay what you think it�s worth.� Give me a break.

That seems to work for some software developers.

Bill Brown 08 Jun 05

Sure it works. It’s a great model if the software developer offers it. The presumption of many who think that they can unilaterally set the terms of a transaction is astounding. They don’t do it in many other transactions, but that fact doesn’t cross their mind when they take other people’s property (infringe their copyrights, whatever).

GS 12 Jun 05

If Adode gave some good pricing (on CS - or ‘Studio’) for two to five licences I sure as hell wouldn’t have *just* two versions installed on the 5 workstations in my office.

We don’t use all 5 at the same time (or rarely) I just can’t justify 3-4k every couple of years to upgrade

If they offered ‘add on’ licences for use in the same office space… maybe a $300 price point per, then maybe I’d go for it…

Adobe.. you listening?

Grayson 19 Jun 05

GS - you know, there is a good chance you would have absolutely no business at all if it weren’t for those products.

… Haven’t you ever heard of a business expense?