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Napster’s been given a last-minute reprieve, but anyone with the slightest inkling of copyright law
knows how that one has to turn out.

Software companies are slowly but surely cranking up their anti-copying and anti-piracy efforts.

Do you know what the real problem is?


On the producer end, people are saying, “Great, we don’t have to make the CD, or the book, or all the shrink-wrapped
packaging. This means more profits!!”

On the consumer end, people are saying, “This isn’t “real” like a CD, or book, or shrink-wrapped packaging. Since’s it’s nothing tangible, it shouldn’t cost anything. Besides, most of it sucks, anyway.”

If you don’t live in the US, (and generally don’t get paid as much), what adds insult to injury is that you pay more than in the US while you get paid less for the results. $300 for Microsoft Office isn’t too bad when you’re making $30 or $40 or $50 thousand dollars a year. Paying $500 is when you are making $3 or $4 or $5 thousand.

So guess what? In the Third World, nobody pays! Finding legitimate software there is like playing “Where’s Waldo?”

Historically, intellectual property wannabes have always stolen from the intellectual property haves. A century or two ago, the United States used to steal all kinds of technology from Great Britain, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to see China doing the same thing now. Besides, what are you going to do to stop China? Nuke them for Bill?

Eventually, once the country starts making its own intellectual property worth something, suddenly, intellectual property laws don’t look so bad.

However, if Microsoft started charging $50 for Office in less-developed countries, what you’d also get would be a thriving export (OK, smuggling) business to the developed world.

Or you buy utility software that you use once in a blue moon. In any other field of endeavor, you’d rent something you only used once in a while. With software, it’s like moving and having to buy the moving van.

There’s a number of principles that eventually need to be recognized by the involved parties.

  1. You are not entitled to free stuff. People don’t get paid for work, they stop working, and you end up with free nothing, a digital Soviet Union.
  2. On the other hand, once you free a product from the cost of tangibility, the portion of the price dedicated to making the product tangible should go away, too.
  3. It is unrealistic to value what is increasingly becoming throw-away property like it were a capital asset that will be around for years and years. Digital products have a shorter shelf-life than cheese.
  4. A lot of software is awful. A lot of good software is used rarely. Right now, the choice is pay full price or steal it. Shareware really isn’t the answer, either. That just promotes short-term as-you-need-it stealing.
  5. Both sides have to get realistic. Producers have to charge reasonable fees, and provide for the equivalent of “renting.” Consumers have to realize they do need to pay something, if not as much as is being asked today.

  6. Nothing is really going to work until we come up with some form of cybercash that can be painlessly debited from your account, various use options to go along with it, and modest fees to go along with it. Charge a little, often, rather than charge a ton for the
    few you can catch.

Email Ed


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