Sigh... At the end of the day you're pretty much right. Stealing is stealing and piracy is stealing in the end. Understanding where it happens and why though is important to prevent it though.
Renegade, you've opened *THE* can of worms. Being an avid worm-hunter in licensing, I want to add something as well.
The one part where I think you really missed what I meant was where I mentioned that our ability to offer software at different prices in different markets is limited. While it is possible to offer it for free, that doesn't pay the bills for commercial developers. So while $50 may be ok in the US, in another place a reasonable price may be $2.
That could not have been stated in better words.
Pricing things for markets like this is still rather difficult as IP assignments aren't 100% accurately reported for different countries (e.g. AOL has a US IP block in use in Germany). Then there's the question of proper maintenance of an IP address database. For most developers this kind of maintenance becomes unbearable.
There are alternate models. Let me explain:
Google ads show pretty accurate results based on the website, your location and often on the basis of many of your previous searches. I'm a programmer so when I google for "developer" you all know what I mean. When I searched for "property", "land" etc. and then "developer" I got real estate ads. So, their system is *good*.
Have we not felt that shudder when we heard about the poor old granny who used AOL to look up medicines and do research for her friends, only to end up on the front pages as a "Granny who was not searching for drugs, alcohol and property"?
1. Maxmind GeoIP gives out free IP databases
2. Any of these bigwigs or people like GeoIP can offer a simple webservice (XML-RPC even) to get the best information about a person's location.
3. Several online payment services inform you of your location and warn you that your IP, ISP, date and time has been logged, so you better not try tricks with the system.
4. Paypal's system also works pretty well.
At the moment, only the Microsofts, Symantecs, and Trend Micros of the world are doing this.
+ M$ can offer the service for a nominal amount or even free, they can afford a few tens of server hits, one for every registered shareware install, or even trial install.
+ They've released a DDK, they made Visual Studio plugin-supporting, they want to press XAML and WPF via .Net 3.0, they're even promoting Mono
+ They now don't mind asking you to allow your machine to call home - updates and stuff.
+ They are willing to shut your Vista down if they find anything suspicious.
Of course all software has bugs and 10% people will get problems. But the system as a whole benefits.
Back to what I said and your response - Yes. I am completely guilty of mixing issues there. Part of my intent is to point out that pricing needs to be done for the market, and a US pricing schedule just isn't appropriate for some other markets (most in fact). So when a pricing schedule ceases to be rational, how is the market supposed to respond? Rationally? This is a pretty hard leap to make when rationality has already been thrown out.
While theft still may be wrong, in some circumstances it at least becomes more understandable, and perhaps even excusable. I place part of the blame for this on unreasonable pricing schedules. Another portion of blame should rest on inadequate distribution, payment and banking systems that prevent legitimate payments. (In some places actually paying for software is impossible.)
Correct. very thoughtful of you to have brought not-so-obvious aspects and sytems.
Now there's a totally outside solution to your IP problem.
Recognizing registered copies depends upon correct identification of the buyer, right?
Who says we need to use IP addresses?
Why not use Interactive Voice Response Systems like they use in your telephone menus? Every shareware author will be willing to pay $2 to fund the registration phone call if he feels that it really works in stopping piracy. The software should not work if the phone call isn't completed successfully.
Hacking phone calls and IVRSes is far more difficult than misusing IP addresses by infrastructure-level internet hacks.
Smart guys need only this much information to get going with this system. So, I'll stop this topic right here.
Now, to the next: Cracking.
Cracking is not a technical issue. It's a social one. When smart talented programmers have no jobs and no clues as to when they can start earning, they are frustrated.
Then, they go out to prove that they are good, very good. So many crackers end their victory note in " People, enjoy, I've unlocked the thing, now you can go and make merry"
Read that sentence ten times. Over and over again.
it says: "These bloody overpricing F***ers have troubled us no end. They have put a mouth-watering cake on the table in front of us, but, it is inside an iron cage and to get the key we have to fight an entire economical and social establishment. Instead, I shall use my brain and liberate myself, and you others like me, from this bonding. Take this and make merry! Remember me for the favor!"
At least two-thirds of crackers get this pleasure. And guess what, they are the guys *really* *really* good at handling assembly, C, C++, Win32 API and stuff. These same guys, when exposed to Linux and FOSS make the sexiest hacks in several awesome programs. Go check out the names, countries and regions from where both categories come. They tally to quite an extent. Eastern Europe, Russia, maybe China. Majority of operating pirates are non-technical people who simply download the cracks apply them and distribute them. They are complete thieves. The crackers OTOh, like to be called Robinhoods.
I've seen several messages like "Hey man! l33t h4x0r, ur awesome! thnx, i needed dat prog badly!" And the l33t h4x0r is extremely delighted at the usefulness of his generous donation made out of real top core hacking skills.
Give them good jobs and your piracy menace will go reduce to quite a bit. Then of course, shareware authors always think of raising the price up to a maximum threshold, beyond which the user will say "No thanks." They'll go to 99.99%. Another driving force.
It's a vicious circle. The shareware author feels that he should gather all his money from the few who *will* buy.
So, rather than getting at each others' throats, we should see how to work together.
Here, a big problem comes up. It's called Bill Gates.
"If those guys are pirating software anyway, we want that they pirate our software, and we will figure out how to *extract* the money later"
So, in effect, microsoft started and nourished the piracy industry till a point where 95% desktops run Windows. Now he was about to strangle every neck and suddenly out of the blue, Nicholas Negroponte came out with the $100 laptop with guess what - Linux. F***! now, the 95% of 1 biilion will lose to 50% of 5 billion. F***! Double f***! So, what does he do? Vista Starter for $3 only. Now you tell me, how in this wide world, with a variety of people, is that going to discourage pirates. So many pirates were anxious about what was to be done next. Users even. Now, they just have to tell their local Police officer (or whoever):
"Look Officer, we don't know what Vista or XP is, we just wanted a PC with that letter-printing thing and that tax calculation thing. How do we know our hardware vendor has pirated stuff. btw, what is piracy supposed to be? There aren't any ships involved here.
The "things" are MS Office 2007 priced at $299 upwards, IIRC (I've stopped checking.)
In the entire process, M$ has ensured that Apple Macs will only run on 5% of the roads, OS/2 will run on remote isolated village roads and Netware on old broken-down roads in poorer suburbs.
Similarly for every other serious big program. And most importantly, the Robinhoods in Eastern Europe are *cultivated* by M$'s policies - collateral damage: small coders and ISVs.
M$ does not reimburse by way of cracking-promotion fines to ISVs. Heck they've made everyone a thief. Respect for the coder's hardwork is ...what's that supposed to be?
Not to mention the way they react to FOSS - Visual studio free, MSDE free, SQL server free, Business server 120-day trial. One hack and reinstall and again 120 days free!!! ad infinitum! SDk free. DDK free. What the f***!
Neither are FOSS people earning, nor are shareware authors earning.
Who needs winzip when compression is built into XP?
Monopoly-sustenance practices have invisible victims - small coders and ISVs.
There are quite a few Operating systems and Office suites literally ruined by M$ piracy:
BeOS, Office 602, OS/2, Netware, EasyOffice. People can add more to this list.
If it weren't for FOSS, M$ would have been screwing every single computer user today.
Steve Jobs may be called anything, but he does not do such things to monopolize (AFAIK).
Mouser (when did he get into this??) has done a real good job of making that chart(phew!) of income versus respectable donation. Before blaming pirates, everyone taking useful time-saving tips and reviews and discounts over here SHOULD refer to that table and see if they've done their bit *fairly*. (I have no qualms taking a few muttered abuses.)
Even if you don't, this place won't degenerate. But this should come up as a model for everyone to follow. And pray that somehow, M$'s policy of nurturing piracy goes for a toss.
We're never going to eliminate piracy, but if we can make paying for software easy with reasonable prices, then our reasons for excusing it in certain circumstances diminishes. I think this is what we as software authors *should* be striving for.
For example (a radical one to illustrate the point), suppose Bill Gates or Larry Ellison were to program a simple sharewre type utility ($20~50 price range) that took them a week or a month to write. They would have to price it at some insane price like $10,000 per copy to begin to justify their time. The market simply can't accept that though. Their expectations wouldn't be reasonable.
Similarly, only providing a way to pay that nobody has access to is equally unreasonable.
Setting ourselves up for failure then complaining about it doesn't solve the problem. We really need to look at the causes of our problems and address those. Piracy is just a symptom in many circumstances. (Albeit China may be a poor example as everyone I know that does business there complains about nobody ever being honest.)
Yeah man! You said it all in nicer words. Fully agree. I had to tell my opinion even if it were a repeat of what you said. Sorry
So, in the end what?
IVRs registration. IP recognition, Finger-print recognition, (I'm NOT crazy, it can all be done - "640k ought to be enough for anyone")
Or, happy, lovely, FOSS!!