Post by Marc 'BlackJack' Rintsch
No one forced you to make that investment or making a wrong guess about
the number of customers willing to buy that software. Calculating with
money you don't have is your risk.
I think you're arguing against yourself here. If software authors are
not allowed to amortize their costs over expected sales, innovation will
suffer, which affects you. It is in your best interest to encourage
innovators to amortize those costs.
I can't agree with the distinction in any case. Things do not have to
be "real" to incur damages. If I take your identity and start using it
for things you do not wish, there are damages. If you're OK with that
and won't sue me, then I suppose you would not calling it "stealing your
identity", but I believe most people would, because they would put a
price on their identity and the goodwill lost when it was used without
authorization. Keeping the distinction also allows me to capture and
hold your personal information, including credit card and bank
information. Since you didn't "lose" anything when I captured that
information without your authorization, it's not "stealing" in your
eyes. I say it is, because there is a very high potential for me to use
that information for nefarious means, which can cause very real loss and
damages to you. Waiting until I do so in order to put a price on the
information I have is like cappturing the house after it leaves the
barn. I should be punished for simply acquiring that information
without authorization, regardless of how I might use it.
In any case, even if one feels the term is ill-used (you could make some
argument that the term "stealing" can only be used which actual funds
have been taken, or physical objects that represent physical funds have
been taken, and that taking of virtual items should be called
"vstealing" or some other cute name), the effect is the same. The
holder illegally obtains some item of value. We can debate the
terminology forever, but the court will not care. It's not legal in the
eyes of the law, no matter what you call it. And, a layperson
understands that the illegal transaction resulted in one person having
access to work effort that was not adequately compensated. Why?
Because everyone works, and they understand being compensated for work
effort. Technology does not change that fundamental idea.
Now, realistically, there are major issues with this one-size-fits-all
approach. Orphan work effort is one many of the included USENET groups
care about deeply, because the law is at odds with human's desire to
preserve our history and heritage. The software of the era defines who
we are and how we get here. To lose it would be a loss beyond words.
I can also agree that a certain amount of unauthorized access tends to
help in popularity. But, that's like saying that a certain amount of
underage drinking tends to create more responsible adult drinkers.
While one can see the connection (mandating that people wait until a
certain age just heightens the date and causes binges when the date
arrives), it's far too slippery a slope for folks to agree with. And,
neither has to be that way. Parents have always been free to introduce
alcohol to teenagers in the home environment, where it can be controlled
and discussed. Likewise, retailers and authors can distribute free
copies, offer huge rebates, etc.
I tend to agree with the person who said that most folks who illegally
copy SW (current SW, not orphan stuff) would not buy the SW at any
price. So, one needs to temper their support for this person by how
they might further the goals of the SW (more sales). Impossible to
quantify, in my opinion, and if you condone it for this reason, I think
you have to condone it for any reason (I am out of work, I need this
game to help with the stress...), The company is going through hard
times now, but we will be sure nad buy lots of your SW soon. We're
going to illegally use it for the moment, though.
To Gate's letter, I find some irony there. I think people rightly ding
Gates for his letter, but for the wrong reason. Most people assume he
was worth a lot at the time (he wasn't poverty-stricken, but he was
pre-millionaire), which is not true, but another poster hit the nail on
the head. The market at the time was nascent and many hobbyists were
minicomputer/big iron operators by day. They came from an environment
where the SW was free and the HW/support cost money. As well, most
early adopters furthered this approach to SW by giving away useful
programs for free. Thus, it was truly radical for Gates to write his
letter. Basically, I see his letter as saying "We don't subscribe to
the conventional thinking concerning SW value, so quit assuming we're
joking about it!" It's one of those "correct information, terrible
delivery" letters. I wrote some, and I am sure most of us did, at a
time when we were idealistic and assumed that people would just take our
words at face value. But, unlike Gates, I'm not a billionnaire, so no
one remembers my letters.