LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Pirates and plagiarisers

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Pirates and plagiarisers

No level playing field

I write regarding the article by Brett Winterford in your February 7 edition titled "The big crackdown".

As a system builder, my business is impacted every day by those who pirate software, regardless of whether it is on a small or large scale. There is no level playing field between the honest systems builders who use licensed and legal software and those that hard disk load software applications and cut costs illegally. Honest systems builders cannot compete because our profit margins are so much lower than those who engage in software piracy.

The article therefore misses the point in relation to small timers who pirate software. Software piracy, no matter how big or small the breach, impacts the entire industry's ability to create jobs and contribute to the economy.

We stand behind the anti-piracy initiatives of software vendors and view it as their responsibility to protect honest system builders. The inferior quality of counterfeit and pirated products tarnishes the channel and the software vendor's image and it is important that people have confidence that they're receiving genuine product when they buy software.

Paul McDonald

sales director

Western Computer Australasia Pty Ltd

Install your own "free" software!

I am happy to see Napster close down just because of MP3. The quality sucks. Let's educate our children to hear real music, not something destructively compressed until it rots their ears.

Software piracy is in the same boat. I hate people getting "free" copies of software then annoying me with questions about installing it.

Software piracy did serve a purpose. Suppliers used to make you buy software before you could find out if the software was fit for the purpose.

Uninstalling software would often disable the operating system. Pirated copies had the manufacturer's deliberate damage disabled.

Microsoft's 120-day trial CDs usually work and give the user sufficient time to test the product.

Today the anti-piracy code in Microsoft Office is so difficult that I warn people against upgrading. Severe problems happen if you have to replace a PC's disk with a larger disk and decide to perform a clean upgrade rather than just use ghost. The latest Microsoft software has Microsoft's Internet Explorer as a prerequisite and IE's design faults cause more productivity loss than any other virus (hence the big rush by many companies to stay on Office 97 and look at Star Office as an easier, more reliable upgrade than Office 2000).

Internet Explorer is the equivalent of MP3. If you have only ever used IE or listened to MP3, you do not know what you are missing. By reinstalling NT without IE, I save more than 30 minutes per day. Microsoft Word, Excel and Access are great.

Windows 98 upgrade sucks. If the hard disk breaks on a Windows 98 machine, I cannot simply run up a clean new disk from the Windows 98 upgrade disk. I have to go back to the Windows 95 upgrade disk and that makes me install parts of Windows 3.1 to satisfy the prerequisites. The result is I have to drag a floppy disk and a floppy disk drive out of a museum then install, upgrade, upgrade then pack the floppy drive away for another year.

Upgrades are another cause of piracy. They are too big and way too late. Release 3 costs $490. The upgrade to release 4 costs $290 and gives no benefit. The upgrade to release 5 gives a small benefit but costs $350 and requires the prior purchase of the release 4 upgrade. The customer wants just a tiny part of release 5.

The anti-piracy software problems also make emergency fixes difficult. Because upgrade costs are too expensive, once a pirated product is in place, people procrastinate about purchase.

In two years, the computer world will be back to the 70s when hardware cost money and the operating system was supplied free by the manufacturer. The only difference is that this time every make and model of hardware will have the one Linux-based OS.

Open source is real software, far more real than an MP3 crap you downloaded from Napster. Open source immediately usable with no licensing problems. You do not even have to fill out those stupid marketing forms where they ask your age, gender and income level.

Open source updates cost me just $2 if I burn a new CD and virtually nothing when I rewrite the CD. I can install everything or just that little bit I want.

Companies like Microsoft will now have to work out something equivalent to the $10 a month service where you receive a new Linux distribution every month.



Take a walk in my shoes

ARN's recent editorial on Napster has awakened feelings on copyright as I am well aware my nephew has downloaded gigabytes of MP3 files and had neither the income or the intention of purchasing any CDs if he could get away with "stealing".

Back in the dim dark days of my youth, I remember copying 18 floppy disks of AutoCad to trial on my PC - though I was not in the market for the product to use for any income producing purpose. I justified it on the basis that it was for "educational purposes".

Later, I managed a large national company's computer systems and became fully aware of the cost of software.

I developed a Software Metering package (and sold it to a company in the US who took it to further heights) which helped companies significantly reduce their software licensing costs through "concurrent licensing". I spent many thousands of hours developing and maintaining the products and there is no way I was prepared to give it away - no matter how much the rest of the world may have patted me on the back and proclaimed it was a great product.

All this leads me to say I have had involvement with and am very aware of the costs of software development from the manufacturing side and the costs of purchasing from the customers side.

Copyright is a bit like paid public holidays - employees all love it until they become employers and find they have to pay out money for zero productivity - not a good practice to adopt in business as you don't stay in business for long.

Software and MP3 files are the same. If you can get the benefits for free you love it. If you are the person who slaved over a hot keyboard (computer or synthesiser) to generate the file then your income, and hence lifestyle, depends on people actually purchasing a product! No income, no lifestyle.

Again, it's a bit like you don't give a dam about looking after the house you are renting, but by god I bet you would not trash the house you had purchased with your hard-earned cash.

What separates software and MP3 files from all other things in life is that they have no actual physical form in themselves and are easily transferable. All other things you purchase have a physical form and you cannot "duplicate them at will".

So, what's the "bottom line"? I challenge you to quit your job and spend the next full year and 2000 hours of your time creating something (software or MP3) and then giving it away!!

Then and only then will you cross the fence and really appreciate the value of "your creation" and see that any practice that deprives a person of their just rewards for effort should be eradicated.

As my dear old mother would say . . . "Walk a mile in my shoes boy!"

Graeme Taylor

managing director

PIXEL Productions Pty Ltd

Copping unnecessary flack

Software piracy is a messy area, but it doesn't need to be. As a repair centre, we will not install software where the computer owner cannot supply the disks/discs and registration numbers.

Because of this, we take a lot of flack from businesses or home owners that have pre-loaded hard drives. We become the bad guys rather than the "rip off merchants" that sold the gear in the first place.

Microsoft spends a lot of money telling dealers about piracy and advising us of prosecutions etc. This is a good thing. We need to know what the grey marketed product looks like etc, but they are spending this money on educating people who should already know the rules.

I do not understand why they do not do regular television advertising to educate the buyers. The current methods are just too late and often the offenders have already disappeared leaving the mess for everybody else to clean up.

If the BSAA could put together an advertising campaign and run it regularly, then people looking to purchase or upgrade would be forewarned and dealers who do the right thing would not be taking the flack. Education has got to be the best answer, but sooner rather than later.

Ian Grieve

Computer Ambulance Services (Australia) Pty Ltd

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