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Software piracy

Hello,

I have a friend who is starting a business selling inhouse developed shrinkwrap software. My friend can't afford buying the necessary development tools, so he used illegal copies which he found on the internet.  My friend *wants* to pay for the development tools, but does not have enough money, not until he sells the first copies of the software he developed using these tools.

What should my friend do?

Do you think it's OK develop software using pirated software if the intention is to buy development tool licenses once the software is out?

My friend knows that it is illegal to use software not paid for but he feels he has no choice.

Concerned friend
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Your "friend", eh?  Uh huh...right.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

There is plenty of free / open source development software out there, your friend doesn't have to steal it.

Piracy hurts the little guys most
Thursday, July 22, 2004

The companies who make the tools probably won't care much unless he actually has enough money to fairly compensate them.  If you asked any of them, they might say that they'd rather have the money upfront (and maybe this is part of the push for 'software as a [low cost, ongoing] service'), but when it comes to actually prosecuting these cases, commercial software advocacy groups go after the thief with money.

Kalani
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Could you ... uh, your friend ... get a bank loan? It might help force you ... sorry, your friend ... to think carefully about the business plan, realistic company viability etc.

Alternatively, use free-to-download tools for your first version? Or try to get cheap deals?

If you're developing on MS platforms, MS have a deal where, if you've got a company with a serious business plan to develop software, they'll sell you MSDN licenses (which include the development tools) very cheaply. But you do need to have a company, it's not available to individuals.

Good luck to your friend, tell us what you/he decided!

Adrian
Thursday, July 22, 2004

This is a good point, if your friend has no money to buy tools how is he going to afford to market his products. Software doesn't get up and sell itself, it costs money to promote.

Piracy hurts the little guys most
Thursday, July 22, 2004

If its reliant on MS development tools then get an Empower subscription.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, July 22, 2004

I'm going to start a pizza delivery service, but I can't afford a car yet.  I WANT to buy the car, but I won't be able to afford it until the business gets going.  Do you guys think it would be OK for me to steal the car until the business gets going?
</sarcasm>

Obviously, software and cars are different economies, but here is the rule of thumb when it comes to piracy:  In all cases where you are contemplating software piracy, replace "software" with "car," and see if it still sounds ethical and legal.  If so, go for it.

JT
Thursday, July 22, 2004

If you can make a copy of someones car and their original is left untouched then I wouldn't mind 'copying' their car.

The car analogy will only take you so far.

My advice is to continue developing with the illegal software, as soon as you make enough to pay for the proper tools then do so, then everyone will be happy...

Chris Peacock
Thursday, July 22, 2004

If the option is not to develop the software at all (and hence nobody gets paid), he should keep using the illegal software until he can pay. Nobody benefits if he walks away.

Goba
Thursday, July 22, 2004

"If you can make a copy of someones car and their original is left untouched then I wouldn't mind 'copying' their car."

This is why the software economy is different.  However, I did say that in matters of software piracy, the analogy should apply.  Stealing software is just as illegal as stealing a car, although it is easier, and doesn't hurt the person from who you are stealing nearly as much.... but it is still illegal.

JT
Thursday, July 22, 2004

You could copy my formula-one car, go win a race, pay me from the price money any time. I have everything to gain, nothing to lose.

This is about ethics. We all know it is illegal, the question is is it *right*?

Goba
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Goba, of course it's not right but when stealing is easy and there are rarely any consequences to the stealer then a vast number of people will continue to do it.  It's human nature...

Chris Peacock
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sure.  Go ahead.

Would your friend mind if I pirated their software once it is written and published?  I pay them back once I started making money off it.  Honest.

Seriously, though.  People have provided many other solutions.  Piracy should not be one of them.

Ironchef Sakai
Thursday, July 22, 2004

This is a classic (and laughable) example of situational ethics. If you pirate software, you're a *damn thief*, no matter what your justification.

Go look somewhere else for validation of your weak (and possibly missing) moral backbone.  You won't find it here.

Caffeinated
Thursday, July 22, 2004

I think Microsoft has already made tool pricing a non-issue with the help of 1-2 year discounts through their recent special offers to small developers. I think though if you are really serious about your business, you'll realize the cost is so immense that you'll have much more to worry about:

* Networking, this is how you bring in customers (major ones). Sure, you can give presentations to a bunch of guys at Your Local Friendly Linux User Group and some of these might be decision-makers but generally it isn't the most ideal network. This is also how you create your old-boy network. You need a lot of referrals to get people to like your product. Maybe you have to write a chapter for a WROX book to get your products plugged (and even that requires a lot of negotiation I am sure). Maybe you have to offer free web space to get some famous writer to mention you (see JOS's Cohost). All of this is time, if not pure cost.

* Store front or ecommerce chain. If you run a commerce store. A merchant account and a customer relationship department will run you serious money anyway. Full time staff to answer practically free support calls even when you don't have a lot of deep-pocketed customers is a requisite. A store front is a $400 a month operation plus the IKea tax at the bare minimum. Half of one month rent would easily pay for Microsoft tools.

* Etc etc, I rest my case. So think about your business first, if you have to gurella develop/market it at first--great--eventually I am sure you can support your business, and the licenses. Just realize you want to minimize intentional usage of unlicensed software.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, July 22, 2004

copying != stealing  && copyrightInfringement != theft

If you don't believe me, ask the judge who told the RIAA attorneys to stop calling copyright infringement theft in his courtroom.

Oh, and piracy==robbingPeopleAtSea, and using inflammatory analogies == demagoguery and assholism.  :)

(P.S. All that having been said, tell your friend to use open source wherever practical, rather than disrespecting the authors of for-pay stuff.)

Phillip J. Eby
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Copyright may not be theft in the same sense that hitting someone over the head with a pickaxe is murder and recklessly driving a car may not be.

Copyright violations are, however, illegal in many jurisdictions.  In British cinemas there are now infrared cameras and security within the audience of highly popular films and they're there  attempting to catch videoers.

Whether this does anything more than raise awareness I'm not sure.  There is a peculiarity about people in that they'd almost rather have a two quid rip off of Spiderman II on DVD than go watch it in a cinema.

Now, people might also argue that software is an entirely different thing to music and video .  They might also argue that if the contents of their wallet was copied that there'd be no resultant inflation.

However, they'd be wrong on both counts. 

When you copy something that is easy to copy but difficult to create you inflate the price the consumer is going to pay.  This is without considering the cost that may ensue because a copy was used rather than a legitimate product.

A client of mine is just now realising that.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, July 22, 2004

To answer your question, may I ask one?

My "friend" wants to start a business, but can't afford the "shrink wrap" software that you sell.  He figures if he pirates a copy, then "pays you later", that might be acceptable to you.

Well, is it?

John Murray
Thursday, July 22, 2004

It's a question of morality.  None of us know you or your situation enough to properly discuss morality, and you, from the anonymous nick with no email, are probably not in a position to listen even if we were.  It sounds like you've made your decision already and are just looking for people to support it.

Do what you feel is right.  With either choice, there are consequences, benefits, and everything in between.  We can't hold your hand here, all we can do is condemn or condone whatever choice you make, but even that is of limited value.

I'm not trying to berate you, honestly.  I just think that at the end of the day you have to decide for yourself, based on what you feel is right.

Michael Kale
Thursday, July 22, 2004

I work for a big company that makes productivity software and development tools. I recommend you steal all of our software you can get and then use it to build your product. This works well for us. If your company is successful, we will approach you with proof of your felonies and offer you an out-of-court settlement. This settlement will basically include you transferring all assets of your company to us. This is a good plan because it helps us build our business and also serves to get criminals off the street.

Big IT
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Simon, your inflation analogy is profoundly apt. Its very similar to the government printing more money. It technically doesn't take cash away from any one, it just dilutes the value of them and increases the chance teh currency will collapse.

Tom Daniels
Thursday, July 22, 2004

No offence buster, but put the shoe on the other foot.

How would you feel if after having invested years of time developing a software product you found that you were losing sales to people who were pirating your product? Surely this would be galling if you'd been in the position of living hand-to-mouth eating lentil soup day-in, day-out.

Anyway, what technology platform are you using? Assuming you're not using MS technologies, you can get Java, Eclipse, mySQL, JUnit pretty much for free. No dilemma there...

TheGeezer
Thursday, July 22, 2004

I have to agree with what several others here have already said:

There are plenty of free development tools out there.  Use them until you/your friend can afford the expensive ones.

It's a high stakes poker game.  Ante up.

Aaron F Stanton
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Even if you're tied to the MS platform, there are still options.  You can use MSDE for a DB server and then easily move up to full SQL Server when you have the cash.  You can use WebMatrix (web stuff only) or SharpDevelop (more all-purpose, but still in development) for an IDE.  Heck, you can even download the framework and compilers for free and code with notepad if you're that hard-up...

Joe
Thursday, July 22, 2004

"How would you feel if after having invested years of time developing a software product you found that you were losing sales to people who were pirating your product?"

This is not the case here... The guy says he will pay a soon as he can.

Goba
Thursday, July 22, 2004

"The guy says he will pay a soon as he can."

Yes, but it's funny how low priority tasks get put on the bottom of the stack, and bills you don't feel like paying get lost, and my dog ate my homework, and and and...

Ante up.  (Read up on your Latin:  Ante - before.)

Aaron F Stanton
Thursday, July 22, 2004



Why would you expect to be able to sell your software (or your friend's) if you are (or he is) not willing to pay for the tools he requires?

KC
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Your friend can cut corners if he likes, and for whatever it's worth he can have my full blessing. In fact, I suggest he download everything _again_, just to make a point. If I were running his business for him, though, I would consider this a risk. This kind of thing could get reported by a visitor or disgruntled employee. I guess requirements for licenced software (and checks for same) could end up in a contract, too, but with no requirement for the other party to pay up front for this.

(I suspect that in practice companies want your $$$ more than they want the hassle, so it would more be more a question of lost reputation than lost money if you were caught. This assumes that your reputation is unimportant.)

Tom
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Hm, I should add that you should not infer from my post that I don't believe there is a moral dimension. However, there are plenty of potential legal and practical pitfalls to get past before your friend can rest easy and consider such higher matters :)

Tom
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Your friend would probably not be happy if everyone used his programs without paying for them.  If he is a good enough programmer to make a living at it, he should be able to make salable software using the TONS of free open source development tools available.  If he already has a client lined up who requires the use of proprietary tools, then he can ask the client to pay for those tools.
There is no task that cannot be done with free software, with a tiny bit more effort.  Since there is no NEED to infringe on someone's copyright, because there is always a freeware that is almost as good, then there is also no moral justification for doing it.  In the classic dilemma of the magic cure for a disease that a father has to steal for their sick child, if it is being given away for free, the moral justification is gone.

Dan Clarke
Friday, July 23, 2004

Actually Simon under British law "theft" means that you intend to permanently deprive someone of whatever it is you steal. I could steal the CD but copying the contents would not count (because the original owner still has the CD). That's why it is not theft.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Sure. It's not legal and it's not entirely ethical. But, quite frankly, Microsoft can afford the lost interest payments and you get to live your dream.

Mr Jack
Friday, July 23, 2004

> Actually Simon under British law "theft" means that you
> intend to permanently deprive someone of whatever it is
> you steal. I could steal the CD but copying the contents
> would not count (because the original owner still has the
> CD). That's why it is not theft.


It's not theft... It is copyright infringement.

llcj
Friday, July 23, 2004

Who are you kidding??? The money will never be paid back because there will always be the excuse, "I dont have the $$$ right now- I'll pay it when I can..."

Mike

MikeG
Friday, July 23, 2004

Some of you trying to use analogies with the recording industry are way off the point. It's legal to copy a recording that you own under the fair use clause of the copyright law.  You can copy it in its entirety for archival purposes, for instance, provided you don't start handing those copies out to friends.  Likewise, you can quote bits of the recording for reviews or critiques.  In neither case is the use of the copy depriving the publisher of revenue.  I understand that the law is slightly different outside of the United States, but the fair use principal is present in every country which has copyright law.

Bootlegged software doesn't qualify as fair use. If you had purchased Visual Studio, you could make a backup copy in case something happens to your original copy (in fact, Microsoft encourages this in their license). Working with a copy which you haven't purchased is depriving the publisher of revenue.  The worst penalty you can generally face is a cease and desist order. Damages can be imposed for the revenue that you deprived the copyright owner of, as well as seizure of the assets gained through your illegal activity. Failure to comply leads to a contempt charge, and that can lead to pretty big fines and time in the federal pokey.

Using pirated development tools is really pretty stupid, since viable free alternatives are generally available. Even the .NET tools have free alternatives available (there's a GNU C# compiler, for instance). A lot of makers of development tools make older versions of their software available for free (e.g. Delphi).  ALL of the Microsoft compilers are available for free (an awesome sales tool, BTW; I was hooked and had to spring for Visual Studio).

Clay Dowling
Friday, July 23, 2004

"as well as seizure of the assets gained through your illegal activity"

Which is exactly why, as a developer of tools, I recommend that everyone pirate as much as they can. We have acquired the assets of 11 separate profitable businesses with well-designed products. It cost us only a few thousand in legal fees to acquire these businesses who pirate our tools to bulid their software. Life is great. You want to work hard developing your product and developing a market so that we can take it all away from you? Go right ahead. Piracy gives us the in!

Big IT
Friday, July 23, 2004

Obviously it's wrong to use software unlicensed and pay for it later. There are no excuses.

If our original poster doesn't like the system he is certainly free to use the software created by those who also don't like the system. There are Free developer tools available afterall.

And if our original poster still feels that software should be free until it makes money for the user, should he not release his own software then created as Free software and wait for donations? It works for the FSF afterall.

Leauki (Andrew J. Brehm)
Monday, July 26, 2004

Quote:

"I'm going to start a pizza delivery service, but I can't afford a car yet.  I WANT to buy the car, but I won't be able to afford it until the business gets going.  Do you guys think it would be OK for me to steal the car until the business gets going?
</sarcasm>

Obviously, software and cars are different economies, but here is the rule of thumb when it comes to piracy:  In all cases where you are contemplating software piracy, replace "software" with "car," and see if it still sounds ethical and legal.  If so, go for it."

I could live with stealing the car as long as I don't leave somebody else without the car - if I could just scrap a little paint off many cars throughout the world to build my car, nobody would feel it. As for legal: it would immediately become legal if one single court of justice would rule it to be legal. Legally, this would make it ethical too.

Brr, somehow I don't like this. Where's what wrong?

On the other hand, not using free software to build software, especially home-made software, seems a bit like stupid to me, unless you're bound by platform and proprietary technology.

A_flj_
Monday, July 26, 2004

Adding to that idea, there's a guy who put out a book called "Fight the Internet" (www.phoenix8.com) about how he sues people who rip off his works...shows all the details of how to do it etc. 

Barry Ayers
Friday, July 30, 2004

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