By Richard Heller
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is currently running ads on radio concerning software piracy. They are encouraging you to be sure that all your software is legal, that is, you have a purchased copy of the program for each PC that the program is running on. Of course, you dont buy a program, you purchase a license to use it.
If you are using your computer in business, the ads suggest that you should be concerned that either your present or former employees may turn you in if you are not in compliance. When I first heard the ad, I got the impression that they were actually encouraging this to happen.
What the ads fail to mention is that although they would like to eliminate all software piracy, they are actually only interested in the big abusers, the kind of bust that gives them the headlines.
A couple of years ago, I was approached by a schoolteacher who was asking me if I could teach her how to copy software. She was going to order programs on trial from a consortium and make the copies, then send the programs back. I contacted the BSA and told them the circumstances and asked them how I should handle the situation. Their reply was, discourage her. It appears as though they werent interested in the casual copier.
The ads claim some ridiculous figure (in the billions of dollars) for the amount of software pirated. They seem to fail to realize that even though someone may have given you a copy of a program, you may not use it. The other thing is that there is no proof that you would have purchased the program in the first place. Then there are the people who are software junkies, who have to have a copy of every program that is produced. They will either buy it or pirate it, anything necessary to own it.
A program such as Quicken, which sells for $50 or so in this country, may sell for more than $1000 in Russia. The people there cannot afford to buy the program; they may make $75 per month, so piracy is an accepted way of life. The anti-software people include these figures when they report the dollar amount for lost sales. They havent yet figured out that even if the program was selling for $50 in Russia, the people still could not afford to buy it, and they would still be making pirate copies.
Software companies have tried many different methods to reduce or eliminate piracy. A number of years ago, a laser was used to burn a hole in the floppy disk. This hole caused an error that the program would check for, no error, and the program would not run. Hackers figured out a way to duplicate the error through software, and copying continued.
All of the methods that they have tried to reduce piracy have been defeated. Software piracy is wrong, but it appears as though the BS in BSA may have another meaning.
Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.