How much is too much?
While your editorial (“Pirates of the New World,” February 2002) is certainly more moderate than the attitude of the BSA’s, nothing I have read so far even approaches the underlying cause of the problem–the root of the attitudes of individual employees of many companies.
That attitude, in my opinion, has been largely created by the Microsofts of this world, where the almighty dollar takes precedence over common sense. Let me tell you how the attitude starts. A one-person home office operator (I was one for five years) has a desktop, with probably legal software on it. He also has a laptop, which he uses on business trips. He loads the same software on the laptop. Bear in mind that this is a one-person operation; only one person uses the desktop, and that same person (but not simultaneously) uses the laptop. The software is only being used by one person. Many software companies once recognized this as legitimate-but gradually, led by Microsoft, they began hardening their attitude. If you as an individual have two computers, you must purchase two sets of software.
A similar situation arises with many telecommuters, or business people who travel. Again, I speak from personal experience. I worked for a moderate-sized company; when I travelled, I carried a personal laptop for business purposes. For compatibility, I installed the same software on my laptop as I used on the company desktop. In many cases, this software was something I had no “personal” use for–I installed it for compatibility with the business system. In other cases, it was software that I had purchased myself, but used on both machines (not available in my company’s suite of software).
Was I, in either of these cases, violating copyright law? Probably, in Microsoft’s opinion–and they have the bucks to make their opinion count!–but probably not according to the original intent of copyright law.
So what fostered my attitude–contempt for copyright law, or refusal to bow down to the big manufacturers’ interpretation of copyright law? Now that I am retired, I admit that some of that same attitude has carried over into private life. I still have a desktop, with all legal software; I also have a laptop, which is unused except when I take a trip. Obviously, I want to be able to transfer files back and forth–and it is convenient to have the same programs on both machines, for that purpose alone. The programs are still used only by me, and are never used simultaneously on two machines–and I really do not feel that I am cheating Microsoft, or anyone else, of their legitimate due.
Another factor that needs to be considered in articles about the billions of dollars lost by software “piracy”–these numbers are severely inflated, because they do not recognize that many of the so-called “pirates” would never buy the original high-priced software, even if pirated versions were not available.
There are free operating systems, and free office suites, available out there–and some of those office suites will even generate “Microsoft Office” compatible files. I for one would switch to something like that before I would buy two copies of an XP product for the type of use to which I would put them.
The real pirates are the BSA-loving manufacturers of this pre-released, mistake-ridden, market share-preserving junk who want to charge us to use their so-called intellectual property. God bless Linus Torvalds and all the open-source promotors of the world. Besides, what fun would software be if we had to pay for it?