Got to get this
September 17, 2000 3:41 AM   Subscribe

Got to get this (just couldn't find a better link on Adobe -- the press release is very dry) which basically means finding someone else who's bought it and copying it of them.

So, given the in depth discussion of design copyright here, where do we stand when it comes to software?

Who can honestly say they haven't got any major pieces of software on their machines that they didn't pay for? And has any private individual ever been caught with same?
posted by James Bachman (29 comments total)
In circa 1990 some kiddo at our school was apparently a big Amiga games pirating schmuck. He didn't come back for a month. And when he did he had white hair. WHITE HAIR!
posted by holloway at 4:50 AM on September 17, 2000

There's an interesting paradox in the pricing of high-end software: basically, that it's marketed as a business purchase rather than one for individuals. But how do aspiring designers get the skills with Photoshop et al in order to become employable, and thus dictate that their workplace buy the latest and greatest version? Well, duh.

So it's a given that Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash Generator, Dreamweaver, CAD programs, audio apps such as Cakewalk and even database software such as Oracle are "obtained" by Joe User: in fact, those programs wouldn't sell to businesses if they weren't pirated. On the other hand, offices in the UK are fairly regularly audited for illegal software, which makes perfect sense to me: if you're using software to make a profit, and you're in a business situation where that £600 purchase is VAT-free and tax-deductible as "equipment", there's no reason not to pay.

So yeah, it's ethically dubious, but it's daft to think that individual piracy isn't budgeted for by Adobe...
posted by holgate at 5:31 AM on September 17, 2000

There's a good article (actually a book chapter) about software pricing from Philip Greenspun here:

As for:
So yeah, it's ethically dubious, but it's daft to think that individual piracy isn't budgeted for by Adobe...

I wonder how much the price of Photoshop, etc. would drop if there were no piracy?

posted by bobd at 7:35 AM on September 17, 2000

Better to ask what the weather would be like if the Earth had no atmosphere; both are equally likely.I was always under the impression that individual piracy wasn't that big a ding in the bottom line--it's the people selling bootleg or counterfeit copies in the places where there are no software audits that are the real threats.
posted by darukaru at 8:59 AM on September 17, 2000

I wonder how much the price of Photoshop, etc. would drop if there were no piracy?

Not that much, I'd guess: like luxury cars and designer goods, high-end software is priced on a notion of "presumed worth": it's reassuring for corporate purchasers to see something that's beyond the reach of individuals. Similarly, Adobe doesn't want its "professional" product competing on price with Paint Shop Pro, does it? Because PSP's for "amateurs"... etc.

(Heaven knows what they think of the GIMP, my graphic editor of choice these days.)
posted by holgate at 9:34 AM on September 17, 2000

bobd: it wouldn't go down at all. Does anyone actually believe that Adobe is out there to serve anyone when every 6 months they have an upgrade that costs $200 and their pricing (as previously mentioned by holgate). Just for the complete Univers family from Adobe it's almost $1000. They're creating a bigger motivation to pirate through their exclusive pricing and upgrade and support schemes. The cool thing about their greedy motivation/marketing driven company is that when they try to take over part of the market (as they are/were recently with Quark) you can pick up some really cool (ver1/beta) stuff for dirt cheap. I got InDesign, which is the coolest software (after Linux) I have, for under $200 US. 
Adobe just gave all their software to my school's VC Department not because they're into helping people do or learn anything, but because all these up and coming designers will be sure to buy their product and ensure the longish-term security of Adobe's software sales. It's a system and nothing is going to change it.
posted by greyscale at 10:14 AM on September 17, 2000

Regularly audited? The government just lets someone comes in and vacuum up everyone's hard drives to "see what's on them"?
posted by aaron at 10:52 AM on September 17, 2000

Holgate is quite right - piracy is essential to the continued success of Adobe.

Indeed, if they did crack down on individual piracy, their main customer base might well decide to go with something else. Products like Freehand perhaps?

See, it's the designers that dictate what gets purchased - the guy who runs the books couldn't care less.

Further, the money that Adobe makes from selling to corporate clients is enormous. The firm that employs me just spent a fortune to upgrade us creative types to Photoshop 6, Flash 5, etc.

posted by aladfar at 11:36 AM on September 17, 2000

Actually, Paul Nolan's Photogenics is looking exceptionally spiffy, The best way I can describe it is "object-oriented paint". And, for those non-conformists among us, you'll be pleased to know that the two available ports are Linux... and Amiga.
posted by baylink at 12:45 PM on September 17, 2000

Thank you for your thoughts. Here's one I forgot to pass on:

I have always been a great believer in the fact that software piracy amongst individuals is important to the continued success of not only the software companies like Adobe, Macromedia and Quark but also to the continued success of the hardware manufacturers.

The fact that almost all software is so easy to pirate on the Apple platform leads me to this conclusion for the following reason:

Make it easy to copy software. Okay, so I nick Photoshop 6 off someone who works in a design department somewhere and see the words GE Capital Europe or NatWest Markets every time I start it up. Fine. But then I realise that Photoshop 6 needs another 64 meg of memory to work, and I value its advances so greatly that I shell out eagerly for another DIMM. And I'm pootling along messing around with images and designing sidebars for web-pages and the like when I decide to do a radial blur on something and it takes three minutes on my Performa. So, (and this is the crux of my point), fed up with the application out-performing my machine, I decide it's really time to get with the program and upgrade to a G4. Why thank you, say Apple. And who knows, maybe they throw a little bit Adobe's way. And then Adobe release Photoshop 7 which makes my 450Mhz G4 Cube look like a Mac Classic and the cycle continues.

A reasonable theory or what?
posted by James Bachman at 1:25 PM on September 17, 2000

Interestingly, the only two pieces of software on my machine that I paid for are Dreamweaver/Freehand and the Mac OS. And I have a presence on the internet thanks to both of them. Thank you Macromedia and Apple.
posted by James Bachman at 1:28 PM on September 17, 2000

[Not that I have a Performa or a G4 Cube, of course.]
posted by James Bachman at 1:29 PM on September 17, 2000

[Sorry, I'll stop posting now.]
posted by James Bachman at 1:32 PM on September 17, 2000

James your rationalization for pirated software helping the industry has a hole in it. Adobe makes $0.00 from you buying memory or a new G4 cube.

But I agree, if you're good enough at PS 6 to get a design job, Adobe will certainly get their $995 USD + annual $199 upgrades from the studio you work at.
posted by mathowie at 1:43 PM on September 17, 2000

Yeah, but isn't a self-supporting 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' kind of relationship essentially assisted by lax anti-piracy measures?
posted by James Bachman at 1:50 PM on September 17, 2000

To a degree, sure. But there's also the fact that it just isn't financially feasible for Adobe to hunt down every individual pirater and slap 'em with a fine.

Poke your head out though, and start to publicize that you're giving away (or much worse, selling) copies of it though, and expect to hear from a lawyer or ten.
posted by cCranium at 2:07 PM on September 17, 2000

Ah. If anyone's listening, I lied. I only have Graphic Converter and I paid the shareware fee. I promise. I don't want to go to jail. Please.
posted by James Bachman at 2:13 PM on September 17, 2000

Hmmm. Okay, here's all the pirated software on my system that I can think of:

Win98se, Office 2K Pro, WinZip, CuteFTP, Quicken 4.0 (until recently), Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Visual Basic 6, Doom, Quake, Quake 2.

Non-free software that I legitimately own:

Quicken 2001 Basic, Doom 2, Quake 3, StarWars: Ep 1 Racer, and Descent 3.

Oh, and Q3, SW:E1R, and D3 are cracked so I dan't have to have the CD in the drive to play them. But I own them, so no problem, right?
posted by CrayDrygu at 2:42 PM on September 17, 2000

I paid for every font, program, and bit of hardware that I have at home. I keep it the same way at work too, it is a constant struggle to keep users from turning their computers into pirate ships. The crummy thing is that all the scary anti-piracy literature I receive says that I am responsible for part of the fine if illegal software is found. I am totally in love with multiple user licences. I have Xpress 4.0 upgrades coming this year, because we use a Quark companion product that is incompatible with 4.0 and we could not afford to upgrade both at the same time. The upgrades are gonna be $2000 a user times 42 users, ick.
posted by thirteen at 2:59 PM on September 17, 2000

aaron: just to clarify, the "auditors" I mentioned earlier are usually from FAST or the Business Software Alliance, which carry out checks in order to accredit member companies for "compliance". So it's not really a question of dawn raids by the men in black...

There are usually a few big-name cases every year, such as QXL last month. Microsoft is also doing its best to bust schoolteachers who copy software for the kiddiwinks. Which gives a new meaning to the term "educational licence".
posted by holgate at 3:48 PM on September 17, 2000

The software company consortiums (IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe, Macromedia, etc...) against piracy don't much care about you, joe consumer filtching a copy of their stuff. We are like a million mice running in all directions with a crumb.

They do, however, care very much about mass offenders. I.E. large companies ripping masses of licenses, mass distributors that sell to the public, counterfeiters, etc... They really don't even care about the pirate groups and newsgroup posters. They've known for years that that is an acceptable loss and even a marketing tool.

Don't get me wrong, there is a price to pay. Those consortiums, the SPA, and a little help from the FBI and the Federal Marshall, can cost a company or individual $50,000 and five years in the can for each license violated. I've seen them come with shotguns, warrants, and sieze a whole network piece by piece.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 10:16 PM on September 17, 2000

for what it's worth, this late in the thread, i don't have any free software that shouldn't be free - work stuff is all paid for and my own machine runs debian. nor do i copy music. nor do i steal sweets from shops. must have been brought up too strict or something, but the way i see it is i have a pretty good lifestyle and am fairly well off - i can afford to pay people for what they produce. and i honestly believe most people have too much "stuff".

what constantly surprises me is how many people think they are "poor" and so are justified in stealing stuff - especially spoilt little "western" middle class kids...

posted by andrew cooke at 4:49 AM on September 18, 2000

The idea that the act of copying a big pile of bits from one storage medium to another has *anything* to do with commando raids on shipping vessels is ludicrous. Calling it "piracy" prejudices the debate such that rational discussion is difficult.

If you are one of those folks who think that The Law is The Law and That's That, feel free to call it "piracy", and I'll feel free to ignore you. But if you're willing to question the law, to ask whether the current system is fair, just, or even reasonable, call "the act of making unauthorized copies of software" something that doesn't imply violence and destruction.

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:48 AM on September 18, 2000

Magnetic tresspass w/unauthorized cloning?
posted by thirteen at 11:29 AM on September 18, 2000

Hey! I'm poorer than ... 2 or 3 percent of the US population. Yeah. That's it.
posted by dhartung at 11:36 AM on September 18, 2000

Even calling it stealing isn't exactly the same. If I steal a BMW from the guy down the road then obviously he doesn't have it anymore. But if I build an exact copy (which is what we're talking about here) then what has he lost? I may have violated some copyrights but that isn't exactly the same thing.
posted by davidgentle at 6:08 PM on September 18, 2000

I don't know very much about programming, but have little doubt that software manufacturers could prevent the duplication of their software if they saw fit. It's always been my belief (without *any* facts) that a certain amount of piracy is budgeted in, if not actually encouraged.

The student/newbie pirating PS is not Adobes market and it is unlikely that person would purchase the product anyway.

However, it is very likely that when that person learns the software and enters the field professionaly, they will be the first in line for version 8.0.

Tobacco companies have been doing it for decades. Hook a kid on Marlboro at 15 and you have him for life. That first pack may have been stolen, but as soon as he hits 18 he'll be buying them like everybody else.
posted by cedar at 6:29 AM on September 19, 2000

software manufacturers could prevent the duplication of their software if they saw fit.

With this I heartily disagree, for pretty much the same reason that hardware protection devices for data don't work, although with software it's much more because of the current way computers work.

Eventually the data is output in a form from which it can be interpreted. Like sound coming through speakers, programs eventually have to send themselves through the CPU as bits.

Since (especially the x86 platforms) the architecture of chips (which is the lowest possible level to keep something encoded until) is well-documented and well-publicized, someone could reasonably easily detect those decoded bits and output 'em to a new storage device.

As long as we use open, well-documented architecture (which is necessary for development) there'll be a way around any means of encryption/protection.
posted by cCranium at 9:20 AM on September 19, 2000

Late in a long thread, but I thought this deserved a postscript:

I buy all my high-ticket software using an academic discount. I used to be a student, and I'm thinking of taking night classes just for the perks. Or becoming a teacher.

Best thing to do, though not entirely kosher (but not illegal), is to get a student/teacher friend to buy that software for you. I know a bunch of students and teachers. Academic discount can be more than 50% for popular applications. Check your local U bookstore. If you have a good U. Limited to one per person per title, so better to find a friend with few software interests.

I bought Photoshop three times over the last four years: 4.0, 5.0 upgrade, then the full 5.5. Not sure the new features in 6.0 are worth more money to me, but damn, the UI improvements from 5 to 5.5 sure improved my life...

posted by dan_of_brainlog at 8:32 PM on September 19, 2000

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