On No-longer being a Software Pirate

When I was younger, I thought nothing of pirating software. The copied CDs and scrawled serial numbers are still in the bottom of my wardrobe. Copies of Office still run on computers, replete with their illegitimate serial codes, stolen software used daily to write documents and calculate totals.

Around four years ago I started using Linux, deleting my pirated copy of Windows XP a year later. Since then, my software has been fully licensed and I no longer think nothing of piracy1. Several aspects have come together to change my view.

Firstly, my day to day existence now depends on software development and people paying money for the code I write. There is nothing like personal dependence to give one an incentive and to change one’s view.

Secondly, I also have money now to buy the software I use. As a student, spending several hundred pounds on a copy of Microsoft Office was out of the question. Open Office wasn’t available, with its good support of Office formats which I couldn’t have done without. So, pirated copies of Office and Windows were my common currency.

Now, if I considered my using Microsoft Office or Windows to be worthwhile, I’d buy them. Whilst Office is a good product — Windows less so — for my usage their prices are unjustifiable. So I use different software2.

By analogy, Gucci make beautiful things, many of which I’d love to have. Their prices, however, are too high for me. So I have less expensive things; I don’t steal a pair of Gucci shoes and justify it by saying Gucci is too expensive.

Personally, I consider the £55 iWork to be a much more reasonable price for the value I get from an office suite, especially now it has a spreadsheet included. Therefore I’m considering buying it. As a second example, I’d love the $299 Lightroom, but I have a harder time justifying that. So I’ll not use it, rather than pirating it.

Working in software and watching the development of free software has shown me how much work goes into creating good software. How this effort is rewarded differs, but that it is rewarded is important. Pirating software is removing this reward, and therefore, if it can be avoided, should be.

1 Though all of my Linux software was free, I’ve paid for all software which requires it on my Mac, including the operating system.

2 Saying this, I do have a bugbear with Microsoft Office. Less expensive, less capable versions would undoubtedly be of value: Office is a professional piece of software, over-priced and over-powered for most home usage. It’s absurd we have this situation, an essential type of software for which there are so few alternatives. Well documented, open file formats would have prevented this situation, a reason I consider them to be so valuable.