If You Don't Offer Legit Versions, Is It That Big A Surprise That People Want Unauthorized Copies?

from the if-that's-all-they-can-get... dept

Sage Freehaven points us to an amusing, but telling, customer service chat between a guy in the UK who wanted to buy the latest version of RosettaStone’s Vietnamese language program, and a RosettaStone customer service rep. The guy’s main concern is that it appears an older version is available in the UK, but he wants the newer version, which the company refuses to ship to the UK, even though it’s been out elsewhere for a long time. He then asks if the company will give a free upgrade when it finally launches the newer version in the UK, and the customer service rep has no idea. The response, not surprisingly, is that it’s just easier to get an unauthorized copy:

There’s simply no logical reason for Rosetta Stone to do this. I’m sure it has its excuses, with talk about localization and different regional rights and whatnot, but those things don’t make much sense in a global economy these days. If a product is available somewhere, not offering a legal, authorized version somewhere else is simply setting yourself up to push people who otherwise want to buy into seeking alternatives.

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Companies: rosetta stone

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Comments on “If You Don't Offer Legit Versions, Is It That Big A Surprise That People Want Unauthorized Copies?”

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chris (profile) says:

action is cheaper than control

it’s just easier and cheaper for individuals to take action against something they disagree with than it is for a company to keep control of its products.

you see this with game consoles: the ps3 eye camera has no official PC support, but it’s not hard to get it working in both windows and linux, same with the xbox kinnect camera. and don’t get me started on the alternate OS support for the PS3.

incidents like these should be a warning to companies: make your products open and easily accessible or they will be made open and accessible in a manner that you do not agree with.

Steve R. (profile) says:

The Individual Consumer is Irrelevant

This illustrates a “friction” in the free-market that many people dismiss. The typical assertion is that when a company does not treat the consumer well, people will move to a another product offering the same features and the offending company will go out of business.

Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. The consumer’s ability to “force” market reform at the individual level is virtually non-existent. Fortunately, websites such as TechDirt can expose these outrages to the world and prod reform.

halley (profile) says:

Re: The Individual Consumer is Irrelevant

Agreed. I think that ‘democracy’ only scales to about 1e6, and the same goes for corporate user-base. Motorola and Wal*Mart are virtually immune to boycotts because the customers are by and large apathetic. National-level politicians have a little more to worry about, but not significantly, for the same reason.

Also, I hate the over-use of the term ‘consumer.’ A customer buys a product and service. When I’m called a consumer, I realize I’m not the customer, I’m usually the product being sold to some third party.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

Re: Consumer is the king

There are actually may be reasons they CAN’T release that version in the UK, notwithstanding Mr. Masnick’s sweeping dismissal of reality on this point.

If, say, they licensed a chunk of code from another software producer to include in their new product, but, for whatever reason, they don’t have the rights to distribute that code in the UK, that would prevent them from satisfying that particular customer.

I don’t mean to say that it might not very well be some sort of dumb “windowing” staggered release schedule that is purely a contrivance on the part of the Rosetta Stone people. I just think it’s not clear at all that all they are is stupid. I’m sure they’d love to make some money in the UK.

I also object to the implication that one is somehow justified in stealing merely because you can’t get the product you want (not NEED, but WANT – this is not like stealing food to feed your starving children) through legitimate channels. Good on Adrian for trying to buy it legitimately, but his failure to succeed on that score is not a license to turn to pirated copies.


John Doe says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

You do know the difference between copying and stealing don’t you? His “theft” hurts nobody. They wouldn’t sell him what he wanted so he found another way to get it. So they would have lost the sale anyway. Now, maybe he will like it well enough that he will become a legitimate customer in the future, assuming RS gets their act together.

Oh, and I don’t pirate myself and wouldn’t have in this situation either. So I am not saying he should do it, but it is not nearly the crime people like yourself make it out to be.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

“If, say, they licensed a chunk of code from another software producer to include in their new product, but, for whatever reason, they don’t have the rights to distribute that code in the UK”

This is possible, but even if it is the case, they have done two things wrong. First, rather than just dismissing your potential customers and telling them there is no remedy – explain the reason you cannot satisfy their needs. It’s like getting to a cashier who is just standing there at the counter not waiting on you – if she told you she was waiting for a manager and would be right with you, you may be ok with waiting – instead she just stands there silent while you wait. Second, making some kind of licensing deal that screws some of your customers is a pretty dumb thing to do.

“one is somehow justified in stealing merely because you can’t get the product you want”

The article in NO WAY suggested it was ok for him to pirate the software. All it indicated is that is what the (former) customer intended to do. Don’t shoot the messenger. Read the post.

This is another case in which nobody is discussing the right and wrong of the customer. All that is being discussed is what is actually happening. Saying it is wrong is clearly not going to stop it. In this case, meeting the customer’s needs absolutely would have – and he even gave them the option to meet his needs with an upgrade when they did work out their crazy restriction.

Mr. LemurBoy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

If there is a legitimate reason to not release the code in the UK, such as licensing or laws, then shouldn’t the company at least let its customer service reps know that so they can give a reasonable explanation to customers? If I was truthfully told a bad law was the reason I couldn’t get software I wanted, I’d be much less likely to be upset at the company and more likely to be upset at the government, which may mean I’d settle for the older version.

Also, if there’s a legitimate reason to not sell in the UK, why even prohibit customers from buying a copy in another region and importing it? Did they sign a deal so draconian that they can get in trouble for the actions of individual consumers?

And I don’t see this so much as justifying pirating. It’s not saying “If a company is stupid, you can go pirate from them, guilt free”. It’s more the point of “If a company is stupid, this WILL happen. They should anticipate it and stop being stupid”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

Taking your idea…I’m sure they’d love to make some money in the UK.
Must not if they would use code in their program that doesn’t allow them to release it in the UK.

Also, how would you know if it wasn’t needed? I know people get those two words mixed up often. But that doesn’t mean that they mess it up all the time.

Also it’s not “stolen”, stealing implies taking an object. Best way to keep this straight in your head (anyone’s, not just you in particular): Strategic Transfer of Equipment to an Alternate Location.

Mike C. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

I didn’t read it as a justification for stealing. It’s more of an example for corporations to help them understand that people’s attitudes towards piracy are partly due to frustration.

To put on my “old man” hat for a second, it used to be that “Adrian Verne” in the UK would never have known that version 4 was out unless he had friends in the USA who used the app. He would have seen that the most recent version in stores was v3 and bought that. Unfortunately, in the current age of instant communication, everyone around the world has the ability to find out that version 4 has shipped.

Can you honestly say that you’d be happy to hear that while there’s a newer version of a product out, the company won’t sell it to you because you happened to be born in the “wrong” country? Even worse, when you contact the company to find out if there’s an option for you to eventually get that latest version, you’re stonewalled? Finally, given major corporations fanatic obsession with alerting the public about piracy in their attempts to stamp it out, is it any wonder that more and more people see it as an option, even if it’s contrary to written law?

More and more, because of corporate overreach, I’m seeing people react to copyright and patents the same way they react to speed limits. They’re seeing it as a guideline of where the boundries are supposed to be, but also realize that it’s also yet another way for someone else to separate you from your money. Some people still follow the limit. Others go over, but only by a few miles an hour. A few reckless folks ignore the limits completely and run the risk of getting caught.

Something has to change because the system, as it stands, is horribly broken. Unfortunately, the corporations have all the power right now, so I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

there actually may be valid points in your post, not withstanding your inclusion of nothing but speculation.

if, say, you actually posted something with a basis in fact rather than just a bunch of wild guesses we would have a better way to measure it.

i do mean to say that it is due to a dumb windowing of staggered releases that serve no point regardless of whatever implied (and unproven) reasons you would like to point out.

i also object to your condemnation of a company that refuses to sell the same goods in all markets. especially when, even if there IS a reason they are doing it, its not a valid reason and can be easily addressed especially given the fact that the differences in products have been apparent for an extended period of time in a world where i can just as easily go to their australian site as i can their US site to see what different products are being offered where.

feel free to sue me for copyright infringement after having copied and altered the major tenor of your post to suit my rebuttal needs.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

I also object to the implication that one is somehow justified in stealing merely because you can’t get the product you want

object away. it’s not going to change anything.

the fact of the matter is that piracy makes paying for a digital product optional. companies need to offer a reason for people to choose the pay option.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consumer is the king

“If, say, they licensed a chunk of code from another software producer to include in their new product, but, for whatever reason, they don’t have the rights to distribute that code in the UK, that would prevent them from satisfying that particular customer.”

Which is exactly what’s being criticised, to be honest. If they have a valid reason to withhold the software from the UK (such as licensing or patents), that exposes a ridiculous flaw in the business model which should be an anachronism in the modern world – something that reflects badly on the industry as a whole.

If they don’t have such a valid external reason (such as overstock old product), they’re running their individual business badly to the detriment of their customers. The terrible customer service only exacerbates this.

“justified in stealing”

Sigh… Again, I ask, what is “stolen” here? IP infringement is not theft, because the “victim” loses nothing of tangible value. A storekeeper loses out on the cost of the bread’s production plus his own overheads and restocking if you steal it. A “victim” of IP infringement loses nothing except a potential sale – and even that is not guaranteed (Adrian could pay for the software anyway once finally released to obtain a physical box, manuals, etc. that don’t come with the “pirated” version).

Rosetta Stone still have their product to sell to anybody they wish. If Adrian did “pirate” the software, there’s nothing to say that he won’t buy later if given the opportunity. No sale is lost in the immediate future, because no sale is offered.

Nothing is lost by Adrian’s actions here. Somebody explain to me what is lost, because I certainly don’t see it.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not for Export...

well, given that it’s technically illegal to export ANY computer hardware from New Zealand (technically speaking, it’s all cryptographic equipment, which is illegal to export as of some point in the mid 20th century) this wouldn’t actually surprise me and it could be Anything.

(amusingly, the official stance on exporting computer hardware here is: so long as you don’t go through official channels to find out if it’s legal or not, and aren’t violating any Other law, they treat it as legal. if you ask, they have to say no, then it’s not… )

Basin says:

Music Parallels

I just ran into a very similar issue while purchasing music. My favorite band is a German rock band on Warner Bros’ label. They just came out with a new album, but they didn’t release it in the U.S. because they’re not very popular here. “No problem” I thought. I’ll just log on to amazon.de, and with Google translate I should be able to purchase the mp3s. Everything was going fine until I got the message “This content is not available in your region”. They were blocking my IP, preventing me from buying a digital good because of where I lived. I wanted nothing more than to give them money in exchange for these files. I would have even paid an exorbitant price, this is my favorite band we’re talking about here and I had been waiting for this album for a long time. It will probably never be released in the U.S., but it was on torrent sites a few days after release in Germany. I don’t understand how they can think that stopping customers who want to purchase their music is a good idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Music Parallels

I don’t understand how they can think that stopping customers who want to purchase their music is a good idea

I am sure they don’t think it is a good idea, but that perhaps because of the way these things are released, it isn’t so easy to do. Selling outside of the market (Germany in this case) may violate the distribution agreement. It may violate the exclusive contracts granted from Warner music to it’s affiliated companies in each market place. Perhaps Warner US doesn’t want to have to pay a large up front licensing fee for the content so that one or two people in the US could buy it. It may just not be financially viable to do it.

Perhaps the band isn’t signed outside of Germany, and have chosen to keep those rights themselves. Perhaps they have no music publishing agreements outside of Germany.

There are plenty of possible reasons. You don’t even have to work hard to imagine them.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Music Parallels

This reminds me of the problem between Hulu and Boxee.

“We notice you’re trying to access Hulu from Boxee. It’s not available, but we’re working hard to bring our Hulu plus subscription service to Boxee! Stay tuned for updates.”

Really? I was just watching free content from Hulu on Boxee just a few days before this message came up. It’s not available? As if the technology doesn’t exist. Fine, I’ll just go get my favorite shows from a torrent site that doesn’t even have advertisements. That’s what I have to do to watch the UK Top Gear in the US too. Torrents and Boxee are great!

Greg G (profile) says:


That’s pretty bad customer service. How do you NOT know if someone gets a free upgrade from V3 to V4? That should be common knowledge for a CS rep. And if you’re new and don’t know, tell the customer that you’ll find out.

And, after that chat, the rep probably just closed out of it and laughed about it with his co-workers instead of showing that to a supervisor/mgr that could escalate the concerns of a customer that wanted to actually buy it.

Bad customer service + lack of availability = reasons to pira… errr, find unauthorized copies.

Rabbit80 says:

I can see why the UK version might be delayed...

Perhaps the delay is because they are busy translating the American into English?

Lots of us Brits get really annoyed with American language products flooding our marketplace. For a language based product I can see why they might want to translate and re-record all of the “American English” into real English! This could amount to a fair amount of work for a comprehensive product.

There is nothing stopping them selling the “American” version here if they label it as such though…

Rekrul says:

It’s not only software companies that can have crappy service. Toward the end of last year, I was planning to get a new hard drive and a friend in Canada offered to buy it for me. I found what I wanted on NewEgg, sent my friend the URL and she tried to buy it for me. NewEgg.com won’t take payments made with a Canadian credit card. NewEgg.ca won’t ship to anywhere but Canada. So there was no way she could pay for it and have it shipped to me. Buying it from the Canadian store and then sending it to me would add extra expense and if I happened to get a dead drive, it would take too long to send it back to her to have her return it. So NewEgg lost a sale.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I have to ship computer equipment from Canada to the US all the time and it’s a huge pain in the ass trying to get anything through US customs these days. Try shipping a laptop battery from Canada to the US, it’s ridiculous.

Newegg keeps their Canadian and US business separate for reasons. I think it’s silly to say they have bad customer service because they couldn’t cater to your very specific circumstances. Furthermore, if Newegg.ca shipping it directly to the US, your friend still would have had to pay more for shipping anyway since it would be international.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

Newegg keeps their Canadian and US business separate for reasons. I think it’s silly to say they have bad customer service because they couldn’t cater to your very specific circumstances.

I can understand them not wanting to ship outside the country, but why couldn’t the US branch accent payment from another country and then ship to a US address? That’s the part that gets me. Do banks impose some extra fee for processing credit card orders from outside the country?

jonvaljon says:


That dudes last line had me rolling. He is so nice and polite, in the face of an absurd situation… but just to make sure the customer rep knows how stupid the whole thing is, he breaks form and goes

“#@$* it, ill just pirate it”

Does anyone else feel this way about 99% of content out there?

I still have not been able to view an authorized copy of the winter x games finals. Not on the website, not on hulu, nowhere. Guess what content makers? I would love to sit through ads and in return get to see your content. Thats how you make money right? But when you do not give me that opportunity, I will find a way to consume my content, usually without ads.

Do you all like taking your revenue streams out back and shooting them in the head? Dont even get me started on the restrictive cost of Rosetta, that alone is enough to drive a man to piracy.

porkster says:

Sounds like the kindle thing....

Yep, I’m punished almost daily for not living in the US.
There are a bunch of us at work here in New Zealand who want to buy the new Kindle 3. Yet the Austrlia/New Zealand Ebook shop for kindle is very limited. The prices are more than the cost of a hardback book.

An example – My favourite author has 3 books on the Aus/NZ kindle book shop and SEVEN PAGES for the US shop. It is cheaper for me to buy the hardback from Amazon US than it is to buy the NZ ebook version.

El Cobarde An?nimo says:

You can't have it both ways.

I went through a similar situation a few years back. I bought a translation software that came on a CD-ROM. After using it for a while I noticed the disc had a few scratches and when I tried to make a backup copy I couldn’t. The disc was copy protected and all programs I tried, including Nero, could not make a copy. I googled for solutions and this interesting website came up on the list. I went there and tried a few alternatives.

The site was ThePirateBay.org. The rest, as the clich? goes, is history. I never looked back.

When I found out you bought politicians and changed the law to extend copyright beyond an already unreasonable amount of years, I quickly realised who was the real thief.

And then there’s the DMCA, the UK digital economy act, Hadopi, Minde…

You can’t have it both ways. In other words, fuck you.

Karel (profile) says:

eBooks are the same

I have found that eBooks are the same, there are some books that I want to get, but they are not available for purchase outside the US. Makes the choices for getting the books rather limited.

There are 2 series I want to get in particular, both are 25+ books long and I cannot purchase them, my options become rather limited rather quickly (and this is a new thing, I have actually got one book that is now limited to US/Canada only, but wasn’t when I bought it)

It makes me wonder sometime if they really do want our money or not!

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