Avast and belay that Piracy!

So I’m going straight–from a life on the high seas of international Piracy to a life of mainstream legality. My wife asked me to stop pirating software due to the fact that it’s wrong, but no less that the legal war has become more widely-publicized of late, stirring feelings of unease with her, and to tell the truth, with me as well. As slim as I feel the chances of actually being caught and prosecuted for software piracy may be, one lawsuit could ruin the life my wife and I have worked so hard to build these 8 years.

A quick run through my software library turns up about 30% of the programs from questionable sources, and of the others that weren’t downloaded and cracked, most came with the operating system. And that’s not counting the extensive downloads off of BitTorrent sites currently occupying hard disk space.

The problem with piracy is that it’s so bloody easy, with very little chance of getting caught and prosecuted. That leads to the moral dilemma of Locke and Hobbes–are people inherently good and occasionally do bad things, or are people inherently bad and act good because they’re forced to by society or fear of retribution? This article is too short to go into that debate, but an interesting test would be for those of you who are guilty of piracy in some form to try going completely straight for 1 month, and see what happens. If you are anything like me, you’ll find it difficult, if not impossible to continue day-to-day operations in the digital sector. Cold turkey is obviously not the answer, but what is to be done? Every time a company tries to hack–proof their software, someone more clever than they hacks it again. There will always be someone out there more clever than the people who try to secure something, and so the answer leads down the slippery slope of making penalties more severe until we’re chopping off heads for cracking a program.

What I believe will help stem the tide is a campaign to put faces with programs–remind people that the guys who wrote most of the programs out there are geeks like us who found a problem and wrote a solution–sometimes doing this as a sole source of income for rent and food every month. It’s often just one or two people in a basement or home office with a basic PC, and their wives are torqued because they are spending all their time coding to write a useful program. Can’t we spare the $10 or whatever to help them do good for us?

There are many ways to be piracy-free, and most of them aren’t all that hard, especially for us geeks out there that are good enough to be pirates in the first place. [Britt Godwin]