Piracy October 28, 1996 Ian Sum Recently, The Toronto Star published an article entitled "RCMP seizes BBS, piracy charges pending." The RCMP have possessed all computer components belonging to the "90 North" bulletin board system in Montreal, Quebec. The board is accused of allowing people the opportunity to download (get) commercial and beta (or commercial) software versions. I feel that the RCMP should not charge people that are linked to computer piracy, because the pirated software offers valuable opportunity to programmers and users. Also, revenue lost to the large software companies is such a small amount that the effect won't be greatly felt by them and so it is not worth the policing effort required to track down the pirates.

When pirates distribute the illegal software, one could say that they are helping, than hurting the software companies. By distributing the software world wide, it creates great advertisement for the software companies and their products. Although the software company is losing profits from that particular version, it could generate future sales with other versions. Also, when the pirates distribute the software this could be a great source of test data for the software companies.

This is an effective way to catch any unfounded bugs in the software program. From debugging to hacking, hackers can benefit the most. They can study and learn from the advancements with in the programming. So what does all this activity tell us? This tells us the people are willing to go to great lengths to get software at a lower cost, or possibly in exchange for other software and that they are succeeding in their efforts.

Although more than 50% of their software income is from other companies which do not pirate, this poses a problem for the software industries. By fining a single bulletin board out of the thousands in North America, there would be little accomplished. Not to mention the fact the it is extremely difficult to prove and convict people under the Copyright Act. In today's society, revenue from software is such a small income source for corporations such as WordPerfect Corp.

These companies make their money mainly from individuals purchasing extra manuals, reference material, supplementary hardware, and calling product support. Software companies are conscious of the pirate world and the changes they have made. Some companies actually want you to take the software by using the SHAREWARE concept. In SHAREWARE one gets a chance to use demo programs and then pay for the full purchase if he feels it is worthwhile. It is a bit like test driving a car, before one buys. In most cases, users are happy and end up purchasing complete software.

Most software companies are still in business, and still bringing up more technological advancements that entice users to continually buy newer versions. The companies, in this sense , have outsmarted and beaten the pirates. Violation of the Copyright Act seems to benefit software companies more than it hurts them. Their software gets more exposure which leads to more software revenue in the end than revenue that is lost through piracy. The opportunity cost is worth it in the end.

Cracking down on software piracy is a waste of societies energy. There is more benefit for everyone the way things are in the present. Users get to view and evaluate it before they pay. Hackers get a opportunity to view other works and learn from the advancements on or find the errors in the beta versions.

Software companies get more exposure which in the long run will lead to more revenues for them.