On Piracy

“An article on sofware theft by Nick Bradbury”:http://nick.typepad.com/blog/2004/01/on_piracy.html prompted several random thoughts, that are only loosely related (and don’t qualify as a counter-argument :-). (He’s since posted “an update”:http://nick.typepad.com/blog/2004/01/on_piracy_part_.html).

Nick Bradbury has a point: theft is theft. Compare this to the “but Dad, you steal satellite TV” ads running right now.


To unfairly pick on one example: TopStyle sells for $80. While it looks like a very useful piece of software, for me personally, it’s not possible to justify spending $80(US) on software for personal / hobby use. To compare, my server hardware only cost me $300 (CDN, new). If I were doing web design and programming for a living, it would be a different story. (btw, I’ve never even downloaded the trial version, although I’ve tried FeedDemon a couple of times).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against paying for software; I use several other small products (that I’ve paid for :-), because I could justify the expense: HanDBase, Desktop To Go, Nelson Email Organizer (to name a few).

So then I started thinking about books. I know many successful book authors. I’m pretty sure I don’t know any who make a living from writing. The market has settled into an equilibrium where hardcovers are expensive, but few people buy them; mass-market paperbacks are cheap; $10 (CDN) or so.

Software is expensive (compared to books), particularly software that takes approximately the same amount of effort (an average novel is between six months and a year of full-time writing and editing). Authors get very little of that $10 book price; shareware authors in particular get all of it (minus transaction costs, which are small in comparison).

There is a strong lending economy in books; one person will purchase a book and then lend it to a couple of their friends. (This borrowing economy is truer of the more expensive DVDs; see an earlier weblog entry :-). There’s no way to lend software to someone (without violating EULAs). Granted, it’s hard to “lend” software, because of the perfect copying problem…

So those were my thoughts. I know it’s not as cut and dried as “make software cheaper and people won’t steal it”; the issue is more complicated than that. But I think it’s worth thinking about the current pricing and usage models for software, and how they could (should?) change…

posted at 9:17 pm on Tuesday, January 06, 2004 in Links | Comments (2)


  1. Jeff K says:

    $80 is a lot for a piece of software? Even “Perl” on linux is not “free”. I must have 5 $50 books on Perl here. Anyway, I have so little time, I can’t even use my Linux box. It’s driver support is just too poor and involves too much fiddling. It’s easier to pay for something that works out of the box.

    I’m more interested in your DVD databases, not from the sense of lending (which I wonder about the legality of), but rather for inspection for ideas of things I can buy. Your public wish lists were a gold mine at xmas, I went out and bought a bunch of goodies for myself based on those lists. (Which by the way, suggest you don’t mind paying $25 for 90 minutes of entertainment). If you want to borrow “Sinfest”, just let me know.

    Now if someone can help me get my Linux up-to-snuff for that database I should start inputting my DVDs [well, minus things I don’t want people to know I have, like “Coyote Ugly”]. Do any of your kids know how to hack Linux yet? I’ll pay them to kill my firewall and/or install a better dist than that Red Hat crap [I drop in a new $60 dist every year and none of them ever does everything I need]. Do they teach Linux in your school? The local public school seems to be a Windows shop. Which is odd, I thought a competing O/S maker had paid off all the GTA politicians. Hm, or was that some leasing company, bah I don’t recall. It was scary at xmas. My 7 year old was having trouble with some toy that was bought for her and instead of asking her parents for help, she went to the company’s web site! I think I’m responsible. Instead of scolding her for losing the instructions to her Uno game one day, I showed her how to find and print a new set from the net. I’m such a bad parent. Actually it can get pretty rough on the Barbie site. She’s interested in finding out more about “Christina Aguilera” and “Hilary Duff” because of what (apparently) other children write there. My worst nightmares realized! Fortunately Yahoo’s video site seems to be dying out [that’s where she goes to sample their stuff — which of course has an “if you like this, you’ll like that” list too.]

  2. Pete says:

    I agree with your take that software is too expensive, there are some other “time expenses” that programmers face, support is among them, but personally I’d rather pay $10 for topstyle (or whatever) and $15 a year for support (random number).

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.