The cost of software piracy
Letter to the The Editor:
It may be the job of the software industry's PR people to pump
out figures designed to make software piracy seem like a huge drain
on the economy. But why do the media have to uncritically parrot
their highly suspect statistics without scrutinizing them to ask
how valid they are?
The enormous dollar amounts the industry throws around in its PR
campaigns are purely imaginary. These numbers -- $1.1 billion a
year is what their latest press release claims -- are nothing but
guesses, guesses based on absurd -- and demonstrably false -- assumptions.
In their dream world, everyone who ever tries out a piece of software
they haven't bought is depriving the industry of the full retail
price of that software. In the real world, people often try out
software to see if it's worth buying. Since the industry has decided,
in its greed, to make it impossible to 'test drive' a program without
first buying it, and since users know that software is often buggy
and doesn't function as advertised, people understandably circumvent
the rules in order to check out the true merits of a particular
program. Often what happens is that they try it out, find it doesn't
meet their needs, and delete it. How different is that from test
driving a car? Does the automobile industry spend its time whining
about how much money they lose to 'car pirates' who test drive a
car and then decide not to buy it?
Even more ridiculous than the industry's grossly inflated numbers
is their claim that the value of pirated software, whatever the
true amount is, is money that is "lost" to "the economy".
The plain fact is that not one cent of it is "lost". Instead
of being spent on software, that money is simply spent on something
else. That something else might be a competing product, or it might
be rent, or beer, or books. But certainly it is spent on something,
and it ends up circulating in the economy in just the same way as
money spent on software does. It may be a loss to Bill Gates and
his cohorts, but a loss to the economy it isn't.