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The Courts

Journal FortKnox's Journal: Piracy Discussion 13

After reading the story of our current /. interviewee, I have been pondering questions of piracy.

Now, being a software developer, I, obviously, am for selling commercial software. But for large applications, like 3D Studio Max or any engineering level CAD program (programs that range in the $2,000+ category) is there an alternative?
I've heard the expression (there are variations):
A $2,000 program pirated by a 13 year old, with a net worth of $13.50, deprives the publisher of $0.
Which is true. But opening up piracy makes it so those that CAN afford it and SHOULD buy it can get it for free. I like how MS gives away copies of their software to universities to sell to their students for $5 (I got VC++ 6 for $5). Even the small starting businesses to have something would be a major step. Think from the publishers mind:
If we can give these guys a copy of 3D Studio Max to design their game, now, then if they become big, we can sell them the newest version, and they're already knowledgable in the product to sell it to them easily!

Honestly, if I started a company, and used linux and free tools, what is stopping me from using them after I've become a big company?

There has to be better alternatives. These products are made to be bought by companies, so why be so strict to the individual? The question is how to allow those that can't afford it to use the product (and buy it if they can afford it in the future), and keep those that can afford it from not pirating it... Any ideas?
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Piracy Discussion

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  • I like the school approach. Drexel gave out two licenses of Office XP to all students last year, and will be to new students this fall. For them it's a good business deal -- Get students into the product, then when they enter corporate america that's what they use.

    It's not just MS that does this. Sun has donated several servers over the years, getting all the CS students UNIX-friendly and familiar with Sun's tools. Unfortunately for Sun, everyone uses g++ because they havent given us a CC upgrade in years.

    Same for other depts. Super-expensive software for art students, engineering, business, medical, etc. all get software either donated to computer labs and/or sold to the students at reduced prices as a marketing strategy.

    As for piracy, this is actually where most warez of the more expensive/popular programs come from. Many schools have students work in the labs as lab assistants, and get access to the CDs for occasional machine repair. Doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out that the CDs sometimes head home at night.

    Of course, Product Activation in programs like Office XP are designed to hamper such efforts, and there are PA schemes out there that work. MS for whatever reason isnt using them.
  • Make the software real cheap. But make the liscense allowing you to sell products made with the software expesive to make up for the difference. That would allow me to buy whatever I want for a low price, the I could draw up my house in CAD, or do some art with photo shop, but if I wanted to make money with the software, like by drawing other peoples houses in cad, then I would have to buy the liscense for that.
    • i was thinking along these same lines. but i am trying to think of a way that it would be enforcable. i think maya has done something nice with their free personal learning edition that uses a whack format to inhibit interoperability with the full version. though that is more for learning and not for personal use.

      another problem is business. companies sometimes assume that affordable to the masses == not good enough for professionals. it might be that if programs like 3ds max were priced at a couple hundred dollars, businesses would start to assume that it is crap. or they would demand more features to help justify the business liscence that is an order of magnitude larger. they would probably have to remove a few of the bells and whistles of the professional versions while keeping the majority of functionality. it is a tough balance.

      it is tough, but i think that if they could devise a system, it would end up bringing more revenue into the company because people who can afford to pay something for software would.
      • Forcing is not needed. If the advantages of being listed as payed member of the source(*) tree is greater. Examples of your work or links to other companies that also use etc. Cross marketing is only one level. InterOp tie ins are the big win but not as sexy.

        (*) or bin/apps you understand.
    • It is called an educational license. :-D

      Basically that is what an educational license is.

      A lot of software comes at 1/4th or even 1/6th of full retail price under an academic licensing agreement, and for most companies fulfilling those requirements is stupitacuarly simple. (it is worth enrolling on one quarter of some graphics art classes at a local community college just for all the money a person can save on software purchases).

      Of course educational licenses specifically state no commercial use. . . . ^_^

      (and really, once you make your fortune with {uber gee wiz program of the month}, are you really going to be that greedy and hold back that two thousand or so from the poor company? :-D ^_^ )
  • ...but this might make a decent (sectional) Ask Slashdot.
  • 1. Make software trivial to crack and disseminate for free.
    2. Get a hired gun (BSA. Hey. Wait. That works for both BSA's. No, not the Boy Scouts of America, but that wonderful motorcycle company) to go to companies and governments and get them to pay.
    3. Profit.

    The system is already in place; it's just a bit capricious. (There should also be a step 2a) insinuate that free tools are communist).

  • Ok, here's a thought. Imagine that these big behemoth pieces of software are modular[1] -- so you can have plugin type things. Like GIMP...except it costs money. Theoretically, it could be possible to sell software by the module. This would allow comapnies to gear their pricing schemes based on just how much functionality one would need (kind of like database licensing -- a couple of people don't need the same functionality as a 1000 person company)

    When it domes down to it, I don't need all of the functionality of a huge program. I need a basic subset. I think that goes for the majority of the users as well -- would it be possible to dump the price of the basic software down, and charge extra for the plugins? (In addition, doing the student model pricing could really get prices down)

    [1] Oddly enough, my company was throwing this idea around. It's a really ugly process if it hasn't been planned from the start...

  • Maybe they should sell it for as much as possible, and then let those people sell it. Then those people can sell it, and then those people can sell it. Each level of reseller would pay such a high price that there wouldn't be much incentive to give it away for free unless they are trying to undersell the competition. Granted, you might find 13 year old trying to get a hold of a copy to sell away, but my question is, why is anybody selling to a 13 year old?

    With the present system, people are discouraged from selling to the 13 year old, but with my system, since they are allowed to, they may actually start to prevent the 13 year old from copying, and when the 13 year old pays at least a few dollars, then at least everybody is paying something.

    The thing is that when people feel that they own something they tend to be more protective of it and generous at the same time.

    How many of us go ahead and lend out our cars to strangers? Zip. Zero. How many of us don't mind giving free rides to our friends? So we can see 2 laws in effect here. We don't give out certain freebies to certain people, and we don't mind helping others in certain ways. If a 13 year old comes asking for a free copy of CAD, and you know he doesn't know how to use it, you're not going to give it away for free when you had to pay for it. You'll want a cut of the pie.

    Another thing that we can do, is to encourage companies to make money on customer support. And we can do that by buying customer support, instead of going to our LUG mailing lists and BBSes.
  • that Microsoft(or any other company) has very little influence over CS at my school [unm.edu]. All the profs use linux, Debian is the standard OS, and all HW assignments run on some OS compiler or runtime.

    With all the rumbling over corporate influence at CS schools I feel the lack of it makes UNM fairly unique. Java is just now starting to make inroads, not because of Sun, but because the profs were sick of the hurdles C++ presented in order to teach CS concepts.

    Of course, we don't get freebies like some people do. But I believe UNM turns out independent thinking grads. Not only that but its really weird when I read about some CMU grad having a hard time finding a job - virtually all of UNM's CS and engineering students have a choice of jobs to choose from. That may be due to our proximity to the national labs, but still I'm not complaining.

    Just thought I'd play devil's advocate - there's great value in keeping corporate influence away from schools as well.

A university faculty is 500 egotists with a common parking problem.