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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Professor meets Pro Warez Arguments

While roaming about the beautiful, anarchical matrix known as the Internet, the Professor stumbled upon a forum, modestly called The Best Forum Ever, where the following arguments in favor of using warez, or pirated software, was posted.

The morality of copyright infringement is also disputed, with members of warez groups often viewing their actions as "socially positive". Proponents of warez software might argue the following:

Difficulty of implementing copyright enforcement – Warez groups believe that they are allowed to continue their activities due to the nature of Internet globalization, inconsistent worldwide laws and technical difficulties in tracking warez groups.

Difference between copyright infringement and conventional property theft – Cracking software is different from theft or stealing other people's property, namely, it does not deprive the use of the software from the original owner. For example, if Alice steals Bob's car, Bob will no longer be able to use that car; but if Alice copies Bob's software, Bob can still use that software with no trouble.

Difference between legally wrong and morally wrong – Although copyright laws state that it is illegal to crack people's software, there is a difference between "legally wrong" and "morally wrong". To them, it is indeed morally right to do so. It is beneficial, at least to the users of warez.

Criticism of copyright laws – Some warez groups may regard copyright as harmful to society. For example, it hinders creation and over-protects the rights of copyright holders. Sometimes the protection is even ridiculous or unnecessary. For instance, it is ridiculous to regard "a legitimate backup copy of a purchased CD" or "a format transfer of music (eg. from * .wav to * .mp3)" as illegal in some countries. Also, current copyright law can extend copyright for centuries, and many feel that older works should have entered public domain.

Criticism of copyright holders – There are various reasons, including: some warez groups may hate copyright holders or their companies. They distribute software as a form of revenge possibly because they have had bad experiences with the software company(s). The copyright holder is unjust or greedy in that it exploits its own staff.

Philosophy of freebies – All software should be distributed free of charge. Reasons include: the effect/cost of creating software is just one-off. It is wrong to charge every copy of the software.

High price – Since copyright holders sell their products and services at an unacceptably high prices, users should not pay for these companies or holders.

Perceived injustice of the poor – This point is similar to the above reasons. Warez groups feel it is bad not to share products and services with those who could not afford to obtain it otherwise. These groups compare themselves to Robin Hood.

Full trial before buy – Some software owners only give function-limited demo or do not give demo at all. Users need to fully trial them before deciding whether to buy it or not.

Deprivation of individual rights – Laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act may also contribute to the motivations of those involved in warez, as user rights are increasingly threatened in the United States and rights holders attempt to lock out consumers.

Increase market share – Companies such as Adobe, Borland, and Microsoft have gained big market shares due to vast numbers of warez users, such as college students and working people who adopted applications as they were readily available. Later when they find out that the software is useful, these people purchase legitimate licenses for future uses. This helps companies with software familiarity and dominancy. (Some, such as supporters of the Open Source movement, consider this a negative.)

Victimless crime – Many "warez" users only ever obtain what they can get for free in the first place. For example, a person who is interested in accessing a song they once heard may not be prepared to buy the entire CD to get it, or may only be interested in a program for a trivial matter that would not justify spending large amounts of money on it. If the warez user truly never would have purchased the product, it is argued that the copyright holder does not incur a loss. Generally, a "warez" user would not have purchased the product, or a similar product in the absence of the "warez" option, and would have opted for a freeware or open-source product, or simply have gone without.

Monopoly and cartel strategies – Many companies use their position in the market to ensure that they have full control over it, making it impossible for other companies to provide alternatives. That privileged position is then used to inflate the prices. Some consider this itself as a result of piracy.

Lack of production – Particularly in the piracy of older video games, often people will pirate games or TV shows that are no longer in production but have not become public domain. While illegal, not even the company that made the product is losing money directly.

Superior Product – Warez is often perceived as superior in quality to legally licensed software. In the process of software cracking, the cracker often will remove restrictive or other undesirable features, such as Digital Rights Management, product activation, resource limits, hardware limits, nag screens, reporting back to the manufacturer, or time-limited features. By adding copy protection to software, a manufacturer may actually create a perverse incentive to pirate the product, as the pirate product contains fewer limitations or annoyances than the genuine product.

Regional Issues – Consumers often cannot purchase the software they want at any price due to regional lockout, or simple lack of availability in their specific geographical region. Furthermore, authorities in certain jurisdictions have ruled that regional restrictions violate principles of free trade and fair use. In these jurisdictions, the use of warez or bypass devices, such as modchips, may result from a citizen's desire to reclaim consumer rights under applicable laws or administrative regulations.

Privacy – As Internet availability becomes more widespread, a greater number of software titles are relaying information back to the manufacturer. Due to the complex legal and technical jargon present in End-User License Agreements, many users are unable to properly give informed consent to such disclosure. In addition, some users feel that modern corporate privacy practices facilitate privacy invasions, aggressive marketing, telemarketing, and spam. The incentive to pirate such software arises out of the fact that pirate software is almost always devoid of features which relay personally identifiable information to third parties, or serve interests other than that of the user.

Rejection of Capitalist/Consumer Society – A smaller number of warez advocates base their behavior upon a fundamental rejection of the nature of the Capitalist system that creates (and creates the perceived need for) and sells the products in question. While the knee-jerk reaction to this argument is that such users shouldn't thus be using the software at all, these politically-minded users often cite reasons of protest and/or the fallacy of anyone being able to realistically walk away from life and society regulated by the companies and governments that enforce the systems being opposed herein. 

Naturally, he couldn't resist and joined the discussion, which was about even, for and against. He didn't realize, however, that the original post was made two years ago and immediately following his remark, which was naturally meant to inflame, as is vintage Plume, a forum regular called for the "old" thread to be closed. The Professor didn't take that very well, and he proceeded to kick up a small firestorm, and although he will point out that he never once strayed from the original topic, it led to him being thoroughly lambasted by an unruly mob for two days. Plume later commented that the whole thing had been "a pleasant surprise."

Following were his comments, raw and unedited. (The entire encounter can be seen here.)

Why would you close a thread right after someone comments on it?? Because it's old? It's not like a current events topic. Not to mention, the dates are screwed up on this site anyway. It said everyone on the thread posted on the same day in 09. To call for a thread to be closed like that is like shutting the door in someone's face. lol If you don't agree with the post, say why.

That is similar to the sites that "debunk" all of these so called, "conspiracy theories," with a bunch of paper thin arguments but then only allow "approved" comments. Maybe, it was inadvertent, but for the BEST forum ever, if someone responds to a topic, that means it's interesting to someone. It's not like the board is overflowing with posts. lol I think there's plenty of bandwidth to even accommodate "older" posts.

So, anyway the topic was a good one. The pro-warez arguments. My take was :

I love #2, also, SHM. Nice post. and 6,7,8,10 but my favorite out of all of them is 12! Read that all you hall-monitor, self-righteous, defenders of the earth. Worry about your own house. You're just afraid of doing anything that the government tells you is bad. READ NUMBER TWELVE and stop being a little b----. And for the other spineless yellow-bellies that are afraid of their own shadow, talking about (in a little girlie voice) " Oh I'm gonna get a virus...."" Read number 15. Jerks. Tattle=tale, middle management, snitches..........

And I will add that I can see something to the effect of licensing for commercial use only. Meaning that if you use the software to make money, as in a business, then you need a license and that is how these poor software "companies" which are actually a few guys writing a program lol (It's not like they have factories set up across the country with hundreds of workers at each distributing these programs to local stores. Many do it as a hobby.) make money and, might I add, are compensated very well for their work, if it's worth a crap. Most of the time their demos are so limited, you can't really know what the hell you're buying until it's too late anyway. Then they 'upgrade' every five minutes, which means they tweak their program a bit, based on thousands of emails explaining exactly what to tweak, and charge a whole new fee for it. Although they are nice enough to give some kind of "deal" to upgrade.

And they are so paranoid about squeezing every dollar they can out of their code that 20, 30, even 40 percent of it is wasted on security, as number 15 eluded to.

Then there's the fact that the more people using it the more popular, the more 'commercial' uses they will recieve. In other words, it is in their best interest to have EVERYONE using their stuff, in non-profit capacities, of course. It is only free-promotion and familiarity for when a 'commercial' enterprise does exist and a software must be chosen.

How do you differentiate? Same way they do now. Same way they do for music licensed in the same manner.

Can we leave this open for a minute. Maybe someone will actual want to answer that, even though the discussion is so OLD and stale. lol


MOB ATTACKS --first strike (click to read) 

So, the topic is old, yet you feel the urge to comment on it, and quite a long comment at that. Now, it is my understanding that when a topic is deemed "old", it is because nobody cares. Well, aside from your twenty paragraph comment, I see 7 more under it, in one day. In the business world, they would say, old or not, if it brings attention, it stays. What makes this "not so current" anyway? lol It doesn't matter, though, because you could use the term "kid" and tell me to stop crying, but you put your foot in your mouth. Similar to the fools that wait on hold for 30 minutes to tell a radio host his show sucks. lol

About your fiery response to a "dead" topic, I will again direct you to number 12. If a person was not going to buy the software anyway, how exactly are they taking money out of the programmers pocket? How exactly, and in what world of business, does free promotion, free "training," and widespread familiarity with a product hurt sales? Bear in mind that I did say they should acquire a license before using it in a commercial setting, in other words, to stay in the context of #12, if they were going to pay for it anyway.

In regards to your diatribe:
"Do you ever buy multiple copies of a program if you don't have to? Can a program wear out? (yes it can be upgraded, but again, work has to go into that in order to make it even eligible for repurchase). No, not it can't."

I would say programmers not only upgrade their product constantly, as the entire system is designed to keep you on the treadmill lest your set up is deemed unusable, they OFTEN (as is a 'trick of the trade') double up, or offer redundant bundles, basically forcing you to buy crap you don't really need, or already own, in order to get something you do. In fact, I would add that to say there is no "repeat purchasing" or turnaround in the manner you suggest, in the world of computer technology, is asinine. Are you kidding?? They wrote the book on that sort of marketing. Please, tell me what you buy that wears out faster than the version of a software, that isn't labeled 'disposable.'

The automobile industry WISHES they can get away with the acceptable average lifespan on their vehicles that the computer industry does on their product. Computers AND programs are all but disposable. So, I seriously would choose another reason to weep for the poor programmers who are paid a king's ransom on the back-end of a program they wrote years ago, with only minor tweaking every so often, tweaking which was probably available in the first place. People would not pay a red-cent for the type of "upgrades" that come with each version of a program if it didn't render them "out of the game". It's a fine racket they have going, give up a little nibble at a time and keep us chasing the rabbit.

MOB ATTACKS --second strike  (click to read)

Again....when something is "dead" it doesn't get you to stop and talk about it. That means it still works. When a topic is "dead," that means it is solved. This is far from solved. That is akin to saying that the discussion about the morality of abortion is "dead." Or do you mean that you have already discussed it? Well, I'm sorry to intrude, but with a name like "Best Forum Ever" did you not expect company? And did you not think we had an opinion? That is seriously ridiculous. It's exactly like this: Calling your site The greatest place in the world to discuss, publishing it on the world wide web, then putting up a poll on your site whether or not you agree with the war in Iraq....but when someone new comes to answer it, saying, "Wait a minute, that's old." haha don't mean to laugh, but......

Now, if alternate opinions are not desirable here, I completely understand and will take my infinite wisdom elsewhere, but I would consider changing the forum name. As I have already stated, it's not like you don't have the bandwith.

Now, speaking of so wrong not knowing where to begin, or whatever it was:
Demos being limited is a moot point. Read about the software, understand what it does, and if you need it buy it. Hell, if you're in need of something that costs a couple hundred dollars, you should know before hand what it is and what it does.

lol Excuse me for laughing once again, but are you saying you shouldn't get to test drive a vehicle? You should just read the damn manual and make a decision. Right? I'll give you a pass on that ludicrous comment because I don't think you thought about it.

As far as software companies being large. Yes, many times they are, when they also manufacture hardware. A handful of people write code, and once it's done it's done, and they do a fine job and should be rewarded, again we go back to what I said about licensing software for commercial uses. It works just fine for the musicians who make a nice paycheck selling royalty free music. That is a large company. Often a program is handles by one guy, which is why, in most cases, the support is indeed pretty good, and personal.

The bottom line will always be that philosophically there is nothing wrong with pirating software. I've indicated already, but I shouldn't have to, that free promotion is always good. Software companies will only benefit, using my model of commercial licensing (a model which, again, worked for the music biz forever), if EVERY single college student uses and familiarizes themselves with their platform. That's obvious.

So, what's left is a morality issue, a bunch of self-righteous tattle-tales who want to spread their view of morality to every other glass-house on the block.

This is what I'm gathering:

1. You are offended by the "Forum with an agenda" line. You know, honestly, I thought twice about that. Probably not a great title, I admit. I'm sorry if it was offensive. Moderator, you have been decent to me, but I am not sure about the spreading love statement. lol Like I said I guess it was the word, "agenda," that's my bad.

2. We're cruising right along here for a dead topic.

3. Many on the forum don't like reading long paragraphs. Again, I apologize, guess I'm a little 'old school.'

4. The argument that stealing is wrong is completely subjective, not because stealing isn't "wrong," although philosophically one can make an argument for, let's say, killing, if it is principally for the betterment of society. We all agree that killing and stealing are close relatives, correct. There is an argument that can be made over what, in fact, stealing is. That was exactly the point of the list in the original post. I chose #12. So, please follow me, instead of calling me an a--hole who writes long paragraphs. If I say that I don't believe piracy is stealing because x,y,z (#12 for starters, or my long ass paragraphs), then a rebuttal of "Stealing is wrong" is not correct. I am assuming many of you are college students. If you have taken logic or debate or even philosophy, you have to agree that is true. Maybe I sound obnoxious to you, and that's cool, but the fact doesn't change.

5. Moderator and those who attempted to hold your ground without the torch and pitchfork. Thank you. I'm just a dude who likes to debate, who came across the best forum ever, which seemed like a place where people shared opinions, liked the topic and the original post, regardless of the date, saw the topic was still open and wanted to comment. For the record, when I posted my original response the date came up as 2009, and I noticed that everyone's posts read the exact same date. So, I took a moment to chime on on a pretty balanced discussion.....and the rest is TBFE history.

If you ever decide to "give a fuck" (as one intelligent poster claimed not to do) and read something so painfully long, instead of just posting a picture of South Park and telling me to f--- off, I'm sure you'll see that I did nothing to offend anyone here....except of course, the questionable title, which was wrong. Having an agenda would be every poster out for the same thing, like coming down on one side of an issue that is consistently split down the middle.

......and long paragraphs doesn't equal trolling, guys.

P.S Oh, yeah, in regards to writing code being harder than I let on, OK, fine, it takes a handful of extremely intelligent people xx hours to do-- Of course, they do get offered feedback daily from other very intelligent programmers from around the globe, who use the software and actually love to give their two-cents, something that engineers in other fields, like for instance, aeronautical or neuroscience or any of those jobs reserved for the intelligentsia do not have the luxury of receiving. 

They also, ironically, spend a good portion of their time on anti-piracy measures, in an effort to maximize the already sufficient profits, instead of understanding all of the points that were laid out in the original, "dead" post and expounded upon by yours truly, taking away from time they could be enhancing their product, which would benefit those who use the software, something that is obviously of less importance. STILL, with that said, I concede that I underestimated what is an AMAZINGLY difficult task. It doesn't change the argument at all.

So, I assume that's it for the counterpoints; thank you for the hospitality. 

The Professor later added, "I love the Internet." 

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Thanks for reading that. Please add some comments, give an opinion, ask questions, disagree. I would love a healthy discussion on this, not to find a winner in this debate, but to find the truth.

- Professor Plume

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