Monday, May 7, 2012

Software Piracy - boon or a bane?

In general, this is not so much a Sri Lankan only issue as it is a global one. But the fact is this: piracy in Sri Lanka is increasing at an alarming rate. You have huge shops selling pirated software, movies, music and games. This commercialization is something that is primarily an Asia-only issue. The excuses people have given for buying pirated stuff are: we don’t have the money, the original is not available in Asia yet and it doesn’t really harm anyone. 

The problem is that piracy existed all along and is rampant even in the west, where laws are strict about it. But we are one of the few countries where it is commercialized and is now a source of income for many. The fact is, with more companies coming to Sri Lanka, the originals are available, though still heavily priced. It does harm the creator of that software, game, movie and music, which took  up time and effort to develop because the money he should get for selling his creation, is not being given to him. And not having the money doesn’t justify stealing. Since we call ourselves one of the better countries in Asia, isn’t it time that the anti-piracy laws be implemented heavily? Because this surely is going to harm the economy as Sri Lanka takes on the world IT market.

As a student of software development, it hurts people when they don’t get the money we deserve. How many people put how much time in developing MS WINDOWS  that we talk of? It takes years. Suppose we make something and spend 10 hours a day, for 2 years, and then some guy steals it, People give excuses like “it’s too expensive”. Well, if you want to use it, you have to buy it, just because you cannot afford it doesn’t give you the right to steal it. Would you steal a car if you weren’t able to afford it and chances of being caught were minimal? What does that make you, a thief? Companies are not cheating you. A guy who works for EA games, the company which made the FIFA series, Usually it takes them 2-3 years of hard work to get one game out. Thousands of people work on it, the money the company is making is due to the fact that they earned it. If the cost is too much, don’t buy it, no one's forcing you to. 

Piracy is one of the evils facing businesses and is one that causes losses to government and organizations. But, before saying anything further against piracy:

1) It is right that cost of developing any software is high. But when thousands of copies of it are sold, costs must come down, for example the cost of software like windows etc. is hardly in hundreds. For which they charge in thousands - is that right?

2) Because Windows and other Microsoft software are used extensively. there is virtual monopoly and because of this reason they are free to charge anything which they want.

Companies themselves are more responsible for encouraging piracy. To stop piracy is not only in hands of customers but major steps are required from companies also 

Apart from others views, what are my opinions of the rights and wrongs of  software piracy?

I often hear people say that software piracy is illegal. You can go to jail if you are caught. Great! But does that mean software piracy is wrong just because it is illegal? In fact, legality of a thing has nothing to do with its being right or wrong. 

Let's not forget India's major reason for success is IT sector. Now what made IT a success in India? It's the cheap supply of pirated software to every nook and corner of the country. An original copy of Windows XP costs somewhere between 10,000 to 12,000 Rupees (approximately). A pirated costs around 100 Rupees. The same is the case with Microsoft office, Photoshop etc. Now if all the copies were original and cost the computer owner a fortune, do you think computing would have reached the grass root level as it has reached today? 

Also some people argue that piracy leads to loss of revenue to companies. I disagree. In fact, piracy actually earns the company more money. When free copies of software, say a computer game is available for free, countless numbers of people will become aware of a product when otherwise they would have simply looked past it. 

This talk is known as "buzz" and it drives up the interest in the product from people who don't have their copies yet. Think about stuff you've bought. Aren't you more likely to buy something that everyone's talking about? 

Whatever we are today is only because of piracy. Obviously if good/ bad piracy had not been there, we wouldn't have become software professionals as all these software like Oracle which we used to get for Rs. 50 and practice used to costs hundreds of thousands with license.

Suppose the game was popular enough to spread twenty million copies through both sales and piracy. If the game was not pirated, only the people who saw the game in the store, ads, or reviews would have bought the game. Because there are fewer people with the game, there is not nearly as much buzz, leading most people to overlook it. In the end, the game sells 20,000 copies. Compare this to the original scenario, with 20 million copies. Even with the piracy, the game still sold a million copies. That's quite a difference, I believe.

Long live Piracy!!!