Economic downturn may lead to more software piracy

by Michael Smith

The economic downturn may lead to the increased use of illegal software, according to the Federation Against Software Theft (Fast).

The Federation has, at a recent trade event, questioned company directors and found that 79% felt businesses would be more likely to try and save costs by not having their software appropriately licensed. What is not clear, though, is as to whether they were admitting their own temptation and maybe even more than that.

The chief executive of Fast, John Lovelock, said, "When times are hard economically the automatic response is to look at ways to reduce cost. Our survey has highlighted a worrying trend that indicates that more and more companies are willing to risk breaking the law in the name of cost cutting."

The most effective, and legal, way of reducing software costs is to introduce a software asset management programme to highlight unused software in the system, said Lovelock.

The survey also found that 80% of respondents felt that obtaining illegal software was "very easy", with 31.5% of the sample citing the Internet as the easiest way to access illegal copies of software programs.

A further 22.5% cited peer-to-peer file sharing, 11.5% mentioned online auction sites, and 13.6% suggested car boot sales. Even the pub came in for a mention, suggested by 9.5% of the sample.

But there is, in many cases, if not indeed most or all, no need to pirate software as there will be an Open Source and free equivalent available. Open Office is one example, for instance. It can be a substitute – then again, why should it be seen as a substitute – for Microsoft Office and it can read most, if not indeed all, MS Office files, whether those be databases, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, Power Point presentations, etc. While it is true there is no equivalent for the “notes” and for Visio in Open Office the question must be asked anyway as to whether that is something one would need anyway.

Also, theoretically, Open Office does not have an Outlook equivalent within its Office suite. However, Evolution Mail can, so I have been assured, more than adequately replace Outlook. Hence there should be, at least in this field, be no need to pirate software.

PDF makers too, some as powerful as Adobe, are available as Open Source and free software, and the same is true of a free nigh-on replacement for Adobe Photoshop. Even entire operating systems can be had for free in the form of the various Linux distros.

There is, however, much Open Source software that is written and designed to work on Windows and there is, therefore, no need to go an illegal route if one wishes to save costs, as alternatives are, as said, available for free. Even business may use such software, as it is Open Source, under the standard GNU license for free. Hence I cannot see a reason for going the piracy route.

Piracy is not the right course for cost cutting but Open Source software, on the other hand, sure is.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008