Software piracy sounds like a crime akin to boarding a ship and forcing innocent people to walk the plank.
Nonetheless, it is very common, and in many cases, unintentional. Most people do not realize that every time they download a version of iTunes or any other type of software, that they are signing a contract.
This isn’t a big secret. At the beginning of the download process, the user is asked to agree to the terms and conditions that the provider lists.
In theory, this long block of tiny letters is read and agreed upon, but unless the person has a lot of spare time, the tendency is to click away and move on to the fun part. All those terms seem like gibberish legalese, especially when there’s no premeditation of doing something illegal.
In fact, illegal usage of software is quite common. A study made in 2007 by the Business Software Alliance (B.S.A.) indicates that even though the United States had the lowest piracy rate in the world, one out of five software downloads are still illegal. This means that the manufacturer did not issue licenses for the installment of every program.
Students are most likely to use pirated software in an attempt to circumvent the high cost of “industry standard” applications. That is, the software that a person must use in order to compete in the professional world.
“Software prices are really up there right now. You either have to really need the stuff and take care of it right then or it’s a drag to pay the money,” said Matt Boulais, 21, film major.
“How do you think we survive?” said Steven Starr, 20, another film major who was asked about students using unlicensed software.
According to David Glover, instructor of various desktop publishing courses in GCC, “You can certainly go to Craigslist.com and pirate [software]…really, this is not honest, but a lot of people do it. Everybody knows it.”
At GCC, software piracy is an issue when “during a course… students don’t use our labs because they have the software at home. When they leave early, the administrators get upset because we need contact hours for the labs to stay open,” said Glover. This semester, the media arts laboratories are open fewer hours than in previous terms.
Pirating software also has industry-wide economic repercussions. According to B.S.A’s statistics, California was above the national average for piracy in 2007. Their study indicates that, in this state only, piracy costs software vendors an estimated $1.36 billion and an additional $3.88 billion to distributors and service providers. To put this in perspective, $5.24 billion is enough to hire nearly 16,000 tech workers.
In order to prevent students from using software illegally, software companies and education institutions have made agreements to provide student discounts of up to 85 percent in software prices.
“There are a lot of academic sites that will sell you software cheaper; and hardware too,” Glover said. Among these Web sites are: foundationccc.org, campustech.com, creationengine.com, and journeyed.com.
Some students win software in competitions.
“The Media Arts Awards Competition…put on by an organization that represents all of the digital arts areas in community colleges in California…is sponsored by companies such as Adobe,” said Michael Petros, media arts instructor.
This organization is called the Multimedia & Entertainment Initiative and every year they offer software and other incentives to students who submit their best work.
The fight against the illegal use of software is far from being won. Pirating software is stealing, and besides being illegal, it is also morally wrong. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that a person or team of developers worked to create the product. It isn’t “free”; their labor and ideas should be compensated. If you worked a certain number of hours, you would expect to be paid for all your time and not just a fraction of it.
Although they are difficult to enforce, the laws protecting a person’s “intellectual property,” or copyright, serve as an incentive for gifted individuals to invent new things and push the margins of creative possibility. When that occurs, we all benefit from the progress of technology.