How Corporates Profit from Software Piracy - Revealed
It's been a while since I last read a good 'ole warez debate on the forums.
Think of any popular brand in software - Cubase, Reason, FruityLoops, Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc - and you see a brand owing at least some of its success to the "freedom-fighters" of the web: the software crackers.
A side to the software piracy debate that is often overlooked is the scene can potentially be worth $millions to the right company with the right software. I'm gonna show you how this works using a forum post written by a member called Prime:
[...] a sound engineer I know said he will give me the full Korg Legacy collection. I just can't resist accepting the offer. I would say it is ok(ish?) at first to use cracked software as I'm fairly new to producing music. When I make something good and outt'a college and got money I would definitely purchase real copies.
Am I just making excuses?
It's a double-edged sword, IMO. Clearly there is considerable loss of revenue - which is harmful.
On the other hand, as Prime say's: "[When I'm] outt'a college and got money I would definitely purchase real copies."
Which is the flipside.
People like Prime who mess about and become proficient with a particular application later go on to get jobs using that software.
Now I wonder how many programmers at Propellerhead, Yamaha (Cubase), Adobe (Audition/Photoshop) etc, owe their jobs to using cracked software back in their early computer-days when they were learning to code or make tunes?
Further, those people later become managers, company owners, buyers and maybe even journalists with influence over staff-training and software budgets. They advertise jobs stipulating experience in Brand X, thus helping to establish and reinforce the brand as an industry-standard.
This is an aspect of business the software industry either accepts, but keeps quiet about when publicly attacking software piracy as pure evil, or they are just plain ignorant. Unlikely.
What would happen if warez didn't exist?
Well, less users, obviously. And with that, less brand recognition, too. For example, you may have never used Photoshop before but you've certainly heard of it and know what it does. That's worth a lot of money to a brand; you may recommend it to a friend.
And so it follows if only a few people know about your great application, you're gonna need to spend more money marketing it; which means less money going into software development.
People need to be trained to use software. That means convincing colleges and course-providers to teach it. However good the software is, it's going to be difficult to persuade teachers to teach it without an established user-base and brand-recognition.
Warez is free advertising. The software piracy scene helps build brand recognition to a target audience which can be worth £millions - don't underestimate that.
And so you're sat there now, thinking: "Fookin' hell, are you saying warez is good?!"
Well, with the music-industry struggling (because of piracy and the internet), and with gifted software-makers unable to ride-out the revenue-drain warez definitely entails, how could I?
No, but I'm giving a side to an argument often not vocalised. Clearly, as much as warez giveth, it also taketh away, too.
Software is not just gibberish code
The fact is, writing good software is not all about code: it's also about interface design and functionality - a completely different skillset to programming.
It's also about documentation and support.
IMHO, in any sector you care to mention the main difference between market-leading software and software that is, or potentially could be, equally as good, is useful documentation; i.e., a thorough, easy-to-use and clearly written help system.
If you take Cubase, Logic, Reason et al, and compare their help docs to the cheap or freeware/shareware software you own, almost without exception this is where you'll find the most glaring differences. The reason? Time, cost, and the skillset needed to comprehensively write and organise a good help-system.
Don't underestimate the documentation.
Code-wise, concise planning goes into writing good software. Couple that effort with the fast-pace of technical progress and you begin to appreciate the pressures of getting product out of the door before it becomes outdated = considerable upfront investment.
And therein lies the damage cracked software mostly wrecks: if you're a small or independent software-house, warez can prevent you getting into a position of positive cashflow - cash that could make your product better.
If the cash doesn't come back quick enough, you can't fund updates and further innovation.
The sad fact is, there is much software out there which are better than the brand-names we've come to know and love. With our general resistance to adware, however, and the propagation of warez, the choices remaining for software-makers are to plod along as open-source, shareware, or freeware, and hope that just maybe, perhaps, one day some big fish will come along and gobble them up. Very few get that far.
Against The Muso Ethic (or: in your shoes)
As a breed, musos tend to be anti-establishment/corporation and pro "freedom-of-creativity". So you must square your actions against the impact your choice of ownership means for the tools you're using today, and those that will or will not follow tomorrow.
Whilst piracy can help promote software in the long-run (IMO), surviving the long-run is much more difficult today. And the cost of that - to everyone - is lost innovation and livelihoods.
Consider the business issue from your position: you might get a buzz from folks downloading and playing your tunes - hey, who wouldn't! - but if you wanna quit your day-job, how do you make the leap from free, to asking people to pay?