Message To The BSA: You Aren't Fooling Anyone

from the let's-try-this-again dept

Every so often the Business Software Alliance comes out with a press release, based on a study they paid IDC to do, where they misrepresent the issue of illegal software copying. They make huge claims that anyone with half a brain can see is incorrect. The problem is that this makes the BSA look untrustworthy. If the organization was actually willing to take a more balanced view, perhaps they would be a lot more effective. As they did earlier this year, the focus of the latest announcement is on how cracking down on illegal software copying would stimulate the economy -- and from what they're saying, they're making the exact same mistakes they made half a year ago, even though they were widely trashed last time around. Even IDC, who does the study, has said that the BSA is misrepresenting their results. The BSA pretends that every copy of software would have been bought if the copy wasn't available. That seems to be their basis for saying it would help stimulate economies. They say things like: "Some companies know they are losing 40 percent of their business. If they could recoup that, they could employ more people." Indeed, any company would like to sell more product -- but many of the people copying software could never afford it, and never would buy it -- so it's pretty difficult to say they're really "losses." At the same time, the BSA seems to completely discount the other side of the equation. That is, companies who are illegally copying software are saving money that they can then invest in hiring more people. Also having the software often makes companies more productive, thereby helping the economy. This isn't, in any way, to condone illegal software copying. It's just to point out that there are two sides to the question of what it's doing to the economy, and by completely pretending the other side doesn't exist and that every piece of copied software is a lost sale, the BSA is making an argument that everyone (except much of the press, unfortunately) knows is ridiculous. It doesn't do their argument any favors. If they were willing to study the real impacts, both pro and con, and came out with a balanced report, that would be very interesting and might give everyone some real insight into how to better stimulate economies. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely to happen.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    giafly, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 10:16am

    Oh Yes They Are!

    Re: Message To The BSA: You Aren't Fooling Anyone

    Unfortunately, as the previous news item shows, 49% of ordinary people are depressingly easy to fool.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Rikko, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 10:51am

    Business as usual

    It seems the norm for businesses who can be affected by IP violations to scream the sky is falling as loudly and as often as possible.. I'm not too surprised.

    Another thing I'm sure they'll refuse to entertain is that pirated software also increases sales on some fronts.

    I can think of many, many games (and some apps, and music CDs, and movies) I've downloaded that were such garbage I deleted them after a half hour. If I'd dropped the 50-100 bucks on any of them I would have been outraged. I can also think of several that I ended up buying that I wouldn't have looked at on the shelf because they weren't very strongly advertised or the packaging didn't sell the product well enough.

    The counter is that demos are somehow a good substitute.. That's rarely the case. Any evaluation I've seen in software has only pushed me away - either crippled beyond any sort of usefulness (what good is it if I can't save? Or if it prints a huge annoying DEMO logo on the print out?) or there are so many ads and banners pimping their product and company that I get frustrated and kill the process.


    I think the monsters need to take a chance and drop prices.. Yes, some people just pirate everything because they can and it's somehow fun. A lot of "thieves", however, do it because the trust with the company is broken. I can't get a refund if what I bought was shit.. Why should I give them my money then? I work hard for my money, and I'd sooner put it towards more important things than entertainment that really isn't entertaining. I challenge someone to try it. Let's put out Quake 4 for $10. Make the next 50 Cent CD $5 or a $3 download.

    I really bet that if Microsoft had just dropped the price of their consumer operating systems to $40-50, they would be ahead simply by 1) selling more copies and 2) not having to employ an entire division to try and copy protect the shit out of everything.

     

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  3.  
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    RevMike, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:03am

    Re: Business as usual

    I think the monsters need to take a chance and drop prices.. Yes, some people just pirate everything because they can and it's somehow fun. A lot of "thieves", however, do it because the trust with the company is broken. I can't get a refund if what I bought was shit.. Why should I give them my money then? I work hard for my money, and I'd sooner put it towards more important things than entertainment that really isn't entertaining. I challenge someone to try it. Let's put out Quake 4 for $10. Make the next 50 Cent CD $5 or a $3 download.

    I really bet that if Microsoft had just dropped the price of their consumer operating systems to $40-50, they would be ahead simply by 1) selling more copies and 2) not having to employ an entire division to try and copy protect the shit out of everything.

    Well put.

    I always find it interesting that the music publishers sell CDs at roughly the same price as the movie studios sell DVDs. DVD piracy is a much smaller problem, and in the US generally confines itself to new releases not yet available legally. When video tapes first came out, the studios tried to charge $80 or $100 for a movie and no one bought. They had a second chance with DVDs and kept the price at a level where consumers would be interested in buying, and not too interested in pirating.

    In contrast, the music business did the opposite. They charged us more for CDs than for LPs, and they kept the price high even as the costs of stamping a CD fell to a few cents.

    At a price under $10, would people really be interested in piracy?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:16am

    Re: Business as usual

    I know I'd sure buy a lot more CDs if they were under $10 bucks. That's impulse-buy price. When they get near $20, I'm turned off.

    This is why I only buy CDs at concerts. They're usually 10 bucks or less, I already know that I love the band, and I know that every cent of profit goes directly into the band's pocket.

    I know this sort of thing gets said *every time* we have a story about copyright protection and business models, but that's because it's true. Lower prices *always* mean higher sales. They don't always mean higher profit, of course. But I sincerely believe that dropping the cost of CDs and such significantly would generate more than enough sales to make it worthwhile.

     

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  5.  
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    Andrew Strasser, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:25am

    Re: Business as usual

    It would tend to make one think. My wife alone would rather pay 4 times the value for something than have 1 without it's proper box and paperwork. It's more what sort of person you are.

    If you're the average person(older than your early twenties and not computer savvy then you'll normally think of buying CD's. Other than that your on your computer. You have a burner just as our parents had VCR's. You have access to literally anything you'd like to listen to.

    What would you do?

     

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  6.  
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    dan, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:31am

    Re: Oh Yes They Are!

    not to mention the fact that they flaim if they had those revenues they would hire 2.4 million employees? For what? They already produced the software, no extra emplooyees are needed, unlike manufacturing where as demand grows more employees are needed, in software you can make great software for millions with a handful of workers. So except for a tiny bit of extra spending all the money would just go into MUCH higher profit margines which the board, CEO, CTO, COO, and very rich share holders would profit off... not employees not new hires... probably wouldnt even result in pay raises. Microsoft is pulling in over 35 billion a year and could afford to spread the wealth plenty to empoyees, but instead back work visas and pay those employes 35% less than other employees... Dont buy into this crap.

     

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  7.  
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    ntimid8, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:39am

    Re: Business as usual

    Do you honestly think the $85 you paid for the ticket was split 4 ways between the band members? Come on. 20% went to ticketmaster, 20% went to the house, 57% went to the record company, and 3% went to the band. So you spent $85 to save $5 on a CD? Brilliant.

     

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  8.  
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    thecaptain, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:44am

    Re: Business as usual

    I totally agree.

    I don't mind paying 12 bucks for a movie I like, and at 9.99 (or hit a sale at Walmart and find some for even less) I don't mind taking a chance on a movie I "might" like.

    For those prices, its NOT worth hunting for the image, downloading the image, burning it to find it lower quality or its not what I thought...its also not worth renting then burning either.

    For a CD, most new stuff SUCKS and at 20 bucks...no thanks. I downloaded the tapes, LPs and CDs I had, and every once in a while I'll go get a song that appeals to me...but give money to Sony, the RIAA and al? No way...

    Besides, they ALREADY get my money due to the levies in Canada...

     

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  9.  
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    Shoal Creek, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:50am

    Re: Business as usual

    You said it. If software makers would 1) offer full refunds for defective software--or even better--a full refund if a customer is not satisfied with the software, and 2) lower prices to reasonable levels (e.g. $5000 for something as un-user-friendly as AutoCAD is a bit too much) then I think that ALL of the piracy committed by businesses and MOST of the piracy by individuals would essentially DISAPPEAR!

     

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  10.  
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    CompuVeg, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 11:58am

    Re: Business as usual

    Better yet, Microsoft could have made their OS product a bare bones item that provided nothing more than hardware drivers, some basic interface APIs, and a method of booting to a point where a user could run software from their available hardware. From that point on, if I wanted a really slick windows interface that did this that and the other, I could go get a copy of dashboard for $10. If I wanted some multimedia viewing capabilities I could go buy a media player for $25. If I wanted to master DVDs I could go buy the DVD editing software for $25. If I wanted a plain text editor I could go buy one for a buck from iApps. The industry would sell a LOT more software, the people who own the computers would have more say over how their machines operate, and it wouldn't cut into Microsoft's business at all.

    How would it NOT cut into Microsoft's business? Well, because most users would buy the junkware bundled version of the OS that typically ships with most bundle systems, and still pay well for the bundle.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Andrew Strasser, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Business as usual

    No disk for you!

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Landon, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Business as usual

    Come on, You have to be a moron or something. He never said he spends $85 to save $5. And people go to concerts for a different dimension of the music. Next time read the post and interpret it before posting something. That would be brilliant

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Fred H Allison, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Business as usual

    Yep. I think the same thing about Lamborghinis. Does this mean I should be able and walk into my local dealer and steal one? Wouldn't making all cars free eliminate auto theft?
    People that justify software piracy by saying there are social benefits to it are really amusing. Someone always benefits from any theft even if it's only the thief. Just because someone is benefitted doesn't make it right.
    If the functionality a software package offers isn't worth the cash for you then don't buy it. Theft is theft and just because you think they are asking too much doesn't give you the right to steal.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Andrew Strasser, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Business as usual

    This from the guy who's never never never never copied a movie because that FBI warning really did scare him.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    AC, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:24pm

    What happens there isn’t anything left to ‘innovat

    And they hit the ‘Innovation Ceiling’ – when there isn’t anything that can be added to an application. Do they really expect us to pay $150 for the 6 or 7th iteration of Windows NT when it’s no more innovative than the last version aside from a new name?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Rikko, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Business as usual

    Yep. I think the same thing about Lamborghinis. Does this mean I should be able and walk into my local dealer and steal one? Wouldn't making all cars free eliminate auto theft?

    Stop being an idiot. IP violations aren't theft. The only people who claim it is are the ones who own the IP. The rest of the world, including the US Supreme Court, say it isn't. It's still illegal, and it's still severely punishable by law, but it isn't stealing. There's no physical inventory being lost by the merchant.

    There *is* a difference between downloading Civ 4 and walking into a Best Buy and putting the box under your jacket. If you can't understand that, there's no point in discussing it any further.

    Stop with the theft analogies, they aren't appropriate.

    The main point is not that software isn't worth the money and thus we shouldn't buy it (duh). It's that the software (and music, and ...) is misrepresented by the marketing and there is no recourse to recovering your money. You take a hit because they lied. And because their marketing language is completely subjective, they aren't violating the letter of any laws.

    So what do you propose? Buy shitloads of everything and pick the ones you enjoy and just suck it up for the hundreds and thousands of dollars that were wasted? No, of course not.

    The norm being that people will pay for what they feel is valuable - and when forced into a situation where they aren't permitted to determine if something is valuable, they'll "steal" it and find out. There is a difference here between piracy because you can and piracy because you want to see how the purchase really behaves before you are permanantly out the money. The former is not greatly different from theft. The latter is about refusing to be cheated by dishonest marketing. There is a moral difference here, but not a legal one.

    If you bought a car and it turned out that the engine was actually missing, but you weren't permitted to look under the hood or test drive it, would you expect a refund due to dishonest marketing?

    Think about it.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:30pm

    Mike fix your typo!

    just hit ctrl+f and look for "they were they were"...

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    The Frozen Frog, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 12:36pm

    Business Acumen

    Pretending that every copy would have been sold is the same as affirming that Demand doesn't increase as Price decreases. Would you follow a business leader with that kind of notion?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    jeduardo, Dec 8th, 2005 @ 1:24pm

    Insiders Point of View

    The BSA is just doing what they're supposed to do - which is to act like the RIAA for software - or better said - simply making people think twice about 'stealing' errr.. copying software without proper licensing. That's what software vendors pay them to do.
    The approach of the RIAA DID reduce the amount of illegal file sharing and raised the implied risk of doing so. I know I stopped sharing my 7,000+, mostly legal mp3 files when they started suing students. The BSA has been attempting to do the same for many years. There's no need for emotion about this, and I think the system is in equilibrium. My suspicion and as a former employee of a firm that was a member of the BSA is that the BSA's real charter is to go after corporations which could be paying for software but aren't and true pirates that are reselling intellectual property that doesn't belong to them.
    Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think there are too many 100+ person firms rolling out knowingly pirated copies of software - the risk / reward is too high. The same cannot be said about smaller firms...which behave much more like people - i.e. price sensitive to the point of an occassional filch.
    Some innovative firms are experimenting with better enterprise licensing agreements that recognize the price sensitivity of their smaller customers by offering different licensing models for sub 100 seat customers - often being able to purchase the software for 1/2 the cost per seat as larger customers. Think "Enterprise Edition" for the big customers and "Standard Edition" for not so big customers.
    There is no perfect licensing model. There is no perfect price that will be right for everyone. Short of pay for use scenarios which at least for now are quite cumbersome, we have to live in an imperfect world, with imperfect pricing, and 'thieves' and 'pirates' to satisfy that part of the market that's both comfortable with risk AND not being served by the existing licensing and pricing models.
    Life's messy. Get on with it.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    alternatives, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 6:43am

    BSA means more for Open Source

    If one can't afford BSA baced software, the simple replacement is Open Source based application.

    Let them huff and puff. Let them rant and rave. The more they act as asses, the more companies that can't afford full licenses for whatever will just move to Open Source based solutions.

    Which means less income to feed the BSA.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 6:49am

    Re: Business as usual

    Original Poster: This is why I only buy CDs at concerts. They're usually 10 bucks or less, I already know that I love the band, and I know that every cent of profit goes directly into the band's pocket.

    Uninformed Response: Do you honestly think the $85 you paid for the ticket was split 4 ways between the band members? Come on. 20% went to ticketmaster, 20% went to the house, 57% went to the record company, and 3% went to the band. So you spent $85 to save $5 on a CD? Brilliant.

    Original Poster again (me): *shakes head* So many things wrong here. First, $85 for a concert ticket? Wtf? I'd never pay that much for a ticket, and even if I did, that's the sort of band that *already* is connected to a big record label, and thus has expensive CDs.

    Second, no one goes to the concert 'for the CDs'. They go for the music. They go to get their face rocked off and be close enough to the band to touch them, and usually talk to the band afterwards. They pay maybe $10-$15 bucks to get into the venue, then go and support the band (which they now know for sure is awesome) by buying their CDs. *These* CDs tend to be cheap, and all the money falls into the band's hands.

    That's the sort of music I pay for.

    Read the Frickin' Post. Geez.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    thecaptain, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 7:20am

    Re: Business as usual

    wow...I hope you're just trolling and not ACTUALLY believing the stuff you just typed.

    *sigh* the collective IQ just lost a few points.

    As for the "social" benefits of piracy, right or wrong, they have been proven. Windows gained much of its popularity in the early years exactly by being pirated, it made sure that more desktops had the OS installed and increased the consumer/acceptance base for Microsoft products.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2005 @ 7:53am

    Re: Business as usual

    You said it. If software makers would 1) offer full refunds for defective software--or even better--a full refund if a customer is not satisfied with the software, and 2) lower prices to reasonable levels (e.g. $5000 for something as un-user-friendly as AutoCAD is a bit too much) then I think that ALL of the piracy committed by businesses and MOST of the piracy by individuals would essentially DISAPPEAR!

    Replying to the portion I bolded here. Many people don't realize this but Microsoft will refund your purchase price on retail copies of their software if it's not working for you. On many apps for the home user (Money, games, etc) they'll do it just because you didn't like it. This isn't something that seems well publicized but I've goten these refunds for my clients (I'm a self employed IT guy) many times in the past.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    blinkdt, Apr 21st, 2006 @ 4:43pm

    Beware the Split Infinitive

    "to completely discount"

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:35am

    "Replying to the portion I bolded here. Many people don't realize this but Microsoft will refund your purchase price on retail copies of their software if it's not working for you. On many apps for the home user (Money, games, etc) they'll do it just because you didn't like it. This isn't something that seems well publicized but I've goten these refunds for my clients (I'm a self employed IT guy) many times in the past."

    Are you sure? The license says you can get a refund, but only if you disagree with the terms of it, I think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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