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Software Piracy Amnesty Day

piracyIn any discussion of piracy, you’re going to encounter two camps of people: those that staunchly refuse to condone the practice, and either go without or find open source alternatives to pakcages they cannot afford; or the guy who thinks “information deserves to be free” and refuses to pay for jack shit. Like most things though, the vast majority of normal folks fall somewhere in the vast middle ground inbetween the extremes.

Casual copying takes many forms- maybe a student wants to learn an app, or a designer wants to work on his work projects at home when he calls in “sick”. It could be even more innocent, perhaps someone has switched platforms and doesnt want to have to reinvest thousands of dollars into digital goods he’s already purchased just because he got sick of dealing with a particular OS. Whatever the particulars, we all know there are hundreds of thousands of unliscensed applications floating around out in the wild, to the detriment of everyone- publishers can’t get paid, users can’t get support, it’s no good.

My suspicion is that many- if not most users- would jump at the opprotunity to “go legit”, but then they see the CEO of Adobe justify the $1700-$2500 price of admission to the latest creative suite by stating “Our customer is not typically price sensitive”. At which point desire to be a legit customer gets replaced with a desire to tell adobe to kiss their ass as they trek off to piratebay to grab it for free.

Is there a quick fix to this? I think so.

A couple times in my youth, perhaps every 5-7 years, my local library had Amnesty Day. The idea was pretty simple. Collect all the library books you can find- even if they are years old and you’re afraid to bring them back because the nickle a day will ad up to quite the bill- and bring them back. They’d zero out your account and let you start over with a clean slate, presumably with more resolve to not abuse the system as a return for the awesome favor their just provided you.

Seems like a logical system to me. Without it, they wouldn’t get the books back, and there was no way they could hope to collect the fines anyway (hough now I suppose they’d send it to a third party collection agency, sigh). And you get back customers and encourage the love of reading and books and all that good stuff.

No brainer.

Let’s encourage Adobe, Microsoft, and others to follow suit with a software amnesty program.

For one week, and one week only, let people buy the full retail versions of popular pirated software applications for a steeply discounted price- perhaps the student, or upgrade price.

Before the accountants start crying, look at it like this- odds are you wern’t gonna get anything from these people anyway, and they were still going to be using your crap. Now you get something. And more than that, once the big initial purchase hurdle is over, you’ve got a ton of people who now have legit liscenses and they will probably take advantage of your biannual overpriced upgrades.

From what I’ve gathered, you guys make *alot* of money off upgrades, why not inject a couple hundred thousand more customers into that pool?

Also for the bean counters, I would limit the program strictly to individuals- commercial liscense holders (or non holders!) can either pay their bulk rate or call a sales rep and try to negotiate more favorable terms.

Adobe, if you’d like to price your software more than the typical computer- hell- workstation costs nowadays, that’s your right. You can because you own the market and people don’t really have much choice. But if you’d like to earn some goodwill, consider an amnesty program. Hell, it’s not even altrusitic, you’ll make some money, with the promise of making even more money from now until forever.

Give it a shot. If it’s good enough for books, it’s good enough for the software used to lay those books out.


Would you take advantage of amnesty and go legit?
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Nick said,

March 28, 2007 @ 4:53 pm

It could be even more innocent, perhaps someone has switched platforms and doesnt want to have to reinvest thousands of dollars into digital goods he’s already purchased just because he got sick of dealing with a particular OS.

subtle :P

right now i’m definitely in the “Adobe can kiss my ass” mode after hearing that comment. Our “deep pocket” corporate sponsers can’t even afford a non-royalty free stock photo, so I think their opinions are skewed by their relationships with massive ad agencies.

Vic said,

April 5, 2007 @ 10:47 am

Amnesty just won’t solve the problem here. Many in the piracy scene enjoy the challenge of cracking software licensing and protection and sharing pirated software. Sure if all software was free then there would not be much of an issue. In the early days of the piracy scene it was about sharing programs and if program had value you paid for it. However, with the emerging markets (i.e. China, Russia, etc.) piracy is a big business and businesses are using pirated software. Maybe an Amnesty program focused on small businesses could work, but if its very easy to obtain the illegal version and there people who can support support it why pay? Lastly, there is a big difference between a copy of Adobe acrobat that goes for couple hundred dollars and and more high value applications like CAD programs that cost as much as $30k a seat. It would tough to design an Amnesty program for the high value software.

linemaster96 said,

April 11, 2008 @ 12:27 am

Sounds attractive. I’m totally agree with you.

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