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Piracy on the PCs

Category: 2002 Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Mike Berman
Dave Berman

Software manufacturers have become victims of their own greed.

They award a contract to manufacture CDs of their software to a small firm in the Far East (at a tenth of the cost it would be to burn the disks here) and cry foul when they discover that same company is running off a few million more copies of their titles than they originally contracted for, which are being sold online, on the street or at "computer fairs" for a fraction of the retail price.

Plus illegal copying of software, ranging from office suites to games has been rampant among individual users since the invention of the PC. And registration codes are pretty easy to obtain.

They file lawsuit after lawsuit to try to stop online services such as Kazaa from "trading" fully licensed versions of their software among their members.

They spend millions more hunting down hacker sites, where copies of software and licenses are readily available.

Then they send in the license nazis to confiscate unlicensed versions of their software from companies that have installed "illegal" copies on their networks or computers and impose heavy fines on the violators.

Plus, they always contend that, even though you've shelled out tons of bucks to purchase their titles, you don't own them. Just try to read the licensing agreements!

Somewhere there has to be a common ground -- whether its making these products more affordable to the common man or through a licensing process such as the highly controversial one Microsoft has incorporated into XP and Office for XP (which really hasn't stopped piracy).

Dubious Dave feels that Citrix has the answer with a six-digt key registration process, which is actually akin to Microsoft's licensing procedures (although with Microsoft you just need to reregister the product by phone using the old serial numbers). I feel that this is just another procedure that creates more of a market for pirates and another reminder that nothing you've purchased belongs to you.

Although I'm not an advocate of piracy, I do believe that the industry, itself, has created the problem and maybe it's time for it to become a bit more consumer friendly by lowering prices and softening licensing agreements.


We all know that a pirate's favorite letter is R, but do you know what a pirate's favorite piece of computer software is?

Software piracy has been an issue as long as I've been around. Mike has been around quite a bit longer. I think he invented the dinosaur. He should've invented the toupe.

What can companies do in order to ensure that Joe User buys a legitimate copy of their software? Not much. Worse yet, when a company tries to do something about it they get ridiculed. Take Microsoft XP as an example.

Serial numbers and CD checksums are a thing of the past. Software that requires a CD to run has a hack out for it hours after it's released. There are plenty of resources, hacked programs and serial numbers available at the click of a button. All it takes is a Yahoo! search and a few clicks.

People that pirate software either don't realize that what they're doing is illegal or they believe software companies make enough money already. Those same people have illegal cable boxes so they don't have to strain when they try to see an errant nipple through the squiggly lines when watching one of the naughty channels.

The right way for a company to approach this would be to do something along the lines of what Citrix Corporation does. The end user is given a serial number and a six-digit key that is randomly generated every time the software is installed. To properly license the software, the owner needs to request the serial number from Citrix directly. If, for any reason, you need to reinstall, you need to call the company to obtain a new key. You can copy the software, but getting it installed and licensed is a bit tougher. Now, of course, there's additional overhead as far as this is concerned. More companies don't do this because they either don't want to spend the money or they really don't care about those people that pirate their software.

Now, for those of you familiar with me and this column, you know that my word is gold. I'm willing to bet that 85 percent of all computer users have at least one piece of pirated software. They're just lucky that their home software collection doesn't get audited.

Now only if we could copy DVDs...

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