Ethics: Software Piracy via YouTube
The online world has now become practically like the real world especially in terms of product availability. One does not have to go to music stores just to purchase a copy of Taylor Swift’s or Ed Sheeran’s new album since there is now iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, Spinnr, and other online platforms that serve as streaming portals or digital music shops. These are good since they are all legal but of course, there are some (okay, a LOT) that choose unethical and even illegal means to obtain these copies.
I tried to search for available illegal music downloading sites (you can also do your own if you are curious) and sure enough, there were several results. Most of them are free-sharing sites which allow anyone to upload files of all kinds making it available for public download. Good for you since you actually spend nothing for a copy but think about how Taylor and Ed feel would feel if they find out how much losses they’ve incurred from illegal downloads of their songs.
Try to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you find out that the homework you’ve let your friend copy (in exchange for a favor) has found its way to your classmates and their friends. You’ve worked hard for it and you certainly did not give the authorization to spread it out. You confront your friend and he/she tells you that you’ve already exchanged it for a favor and since the favor has been made, the copy is now his/hers. Frustrating, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, others go as far as software piracy ― a free alternative for those who can’t afford to buy softwares. I’m sure everyone has at least heard about “torrent”. My online research has returned a large number of still available torrent sites. Although the biggest fishes, Kickass Torrents and Torrentz.eu, has been shut down last year, there are still several torrent substitutes that allow millions of torrent users to download all sorts of things. It may be unreasonable for those who can afford these things but just choose the easiest and free way but what about those who resort to piracy because they really can’t afford them?
Let us limit the key players to those who are in developing or third-world countries, specifically those who need to give up maybe two months’, or so, worth of salary just to buy these licensed softwares. Who do we blame in this case? The government for not doing proper job to alleviate poverty? The producers of these softwares for making the products too expensive for some people to buy? The intermediaries who offer these pirated products to easy customers? Those who make crack and generate sharable keys for softwares? Or the end-users who either downloaded these softwares for free or bought them for very cheap price thus, we may as well call them pirates?
According to Software Management Guide by Business Software Alliance, end-user piracy occurs when an employee reproduces copies of software without authorization. End-user piracy can take the following forms:
- Using one licensed copy to install a program on multiple computers.
- Copying disks for installation and distribution.
- Taking advantage of upgrade offers without having a legal copy of the version to be upgraded.
- Acquiring academic or other restricted or non-retail software without a license for commercial use.
- Sharing account or service access information.
Now, is it reasonable to blame those who can’t afford the actual products just because they used them?
This is just too broad an issue that I don’t know where to begin but fact is, the end-users who use pirated softwares are not free from blame. Yes, they may have resort to piracy due to lack of resources but then again, they know or at least have the idea that what they’re doing is illegal. I mean, some softwares are really expensive to some standards but you can’t really blame the company for the high price because it’s their business. Can you fully condemn the government for your inability to buy much-needed software or the latest version of MS Office? Truth is, even though most don’t want to admit it, end-users are the guiltiest among the key players. It’s like enjoying your neighbor’s harvest in a most convenient way. It doesn’t mater if you have the means to actually purchase or not ― being financially inadequate does not justify such deed.
I myself might not be fully guilt-free but in this technologically advanced age, who isn’t? What’s important is we begin to realize the impact of software piracy in different sectors and how this affects the general economy. And for those who know its detrimental effects, please refrain from supporting software piracy. Let us remember that if there is no consumer, there won’t be producer.
What about those in software industries? What approach should they follow to combat software piracy apart from punitive measures such as pressuring the government to impose sanctions on transgressors? Software companies commonly impose licenses, copyrights, patents, trademarks and so on unfortunately, there is no foolproof method nowadays because so far, software pirates have found loopholes in every license protections but here are some company measures from Techwalla anyway:
- Create and distribute a software policy statement to all employees. Include clearly written rules defining how employees may and may not use company software. Include an anti-piracy statement that each employee must sign and return.
- Learn about the software licenses your company owns, know whether the license allows an employee to install company software on a home computer to work from home, and keep a record of each license cataloged by product name, version number, serial number and a reference to the computers running the software.
- Conduct software audits. Require employees to record the product name, version number and serial number for each software product installed on their computers.
And here are some steps to help IT executives discourage piracy from TechRepublic:
- Develop a clear software policy statement for your company. The BSA suggests that the policy explain how employees can legally acquire software and that you provide a copy of the policy to every employee.
- Require employees to sign an anti-piracy statement. According to Information Security, you should include a provision for civil damages of up to $100,000 and a criminal penalty of $25,000.
- Require regular software inventories. Make sure your staff records the product name, version number, and serial number for each piece of software installed on every computer. You should also perform unannounced audits.
- Know what your software licenses allow. Keep all your licenses in one place and identify which licenses allow home use by employees and which do not. Also, compare the inventory to your license agreements and delete any illegal software.
These are just some measures but as what I’ve said, there is really no sure protection against software pirates. The best way is still to spread awareness. Educate software users and probable users about the adverse effects of software piracy and how this affects their end. Why? Reality check:
People won’t care unless they are gonna be affected.
How to Stop Software Piracy. (2017). Leaf Group Inc. Retrieved April 4, 2017 from https://www.techwalla.com/articles/how-to-stop-software-piracy
Four Steps to Stop Software Piracy at Your Company. (2017). CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 4, 2014 from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/four-steps-to-stop-software-piracy-at-your-company/
Top 20 software license misuse and piracy hotspots via BZ Media LLC © 2017
Illegal music downloads per person and internet user via Pingdom AB © 2017
Ed Sheeran GIF via Her Campus, LLC
Taylor Swift GIF via Tumblr
Software pirate via b-lay BV (n.d)