Thursday, December 13, 2001

The Feds crack down on software pirates...

This battle is a lot like the war on drugs. A lot of time, money, and manpower spent on punishing those affected by the problem instead of dealing with the problem itself in a rational manner. People pirate games because it's human nature to want something for free. When it comes right down to it, we're selfish bastards who don't mind giving someone else the shaft as long as we benefit. I'm talking about relatively small stuff, though. I'm talking about people using false names and addresses to cheat Columbia House out of a dozen CDs. I'm talking about college students who want to master Microsoft Visual Studio so they can get a good job but can't afford the $700 sticker price. I'm talking about office workers who take a couple of pens, a notepad, and some masking tape every now and then because it's there, it's paid for, and no one will notice it's gone.

The problem is that software, especially operating systems and business applications, is too expensive for the average consumer. The problem is that most software is buggy and may not do all the things you thought it would do, but you don't get to find that out until you've ponied up the dough. The problem is that Bill Gates is worth billions of dollars, but we're supposed to feel guilty about installing a second copy of Windows 98 on your wife's computer. I'm not against people getting paid for the work they've done. But let's be honest about the situation here. The big guns like Microsoft and Oracle make their revenues from the corporate world. I work in a company that has about 3000 employees. Every one of those employees uses a computer that has Windows and MS Office installed. So that's 3000 licenses of Windows and 3000 licenses of Office that Microsoft earns from my company. That's a ton of dough, and we're not even a Fortune 500 company. Does Microsoft really care whether or not Joe Blow is installing an illegal copy of Windows on his home computer? No. Does Microsoft care if a business is using illegal copies of their software? You bet they do, because that's where the money is.


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