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Software Piracy

Link: BSA Blaming Professors For Students Downloading Software

The BSA is complaining that college students steal software. The link above says that's expected: they can't afford to buy it.

That has truth in it, but it neglects the wide availability of Open Source alternatives that are free, and other offerings that either have trial versions with lesser features, single use licensing or other more affordable ways to get whatever it is you need.

If you steal a car, "I'm too poor to buy one" isn't an excuse, and it's not an excuse for software either. On the other hand, if cars were easy to make copies of, I'm sure people would do it.

This is a problem the software vendors need to solve, and it is to their advantage to do so. I've said before that if SCO had a free, single user version back when Linus Torvald was in college, he wouldn't have bothered to invent Linux, but that's not the only advantage such programs can bring. Getting workable software in the hands of students and home users will create demand in the workplace.

Yes, there are holes people will slip through. If Quickbooks had a free version that couldn't do inventory or payroll, thousands of independent service businesses would use that rather than buying a more featured version, simply because they could get away with not having those features. But I think those few lost sales would be more than made up for by the benefits of brand awareness, upgrades to full versions as the businesses grow and recommendations to other people.

Service and after-market products are another way to approach it: the razor blade concept, where the thing that holds the blades is cheap or sometimes even free. It's the refills that earn the profits. Some software can follow the same model: tax software has seen some of that, where a clumsy paper return is free, but filing electronically generates a fee. Creative approaches can be made with other products.

Piracy will never stop. Better to circumvent it than fight it head on, I think.



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