Having covered multimedia, it’s time to focus on an area of digital piracy that is strangely overlooked, which is software. Let’s look at the reasons for piracy, and see how software works out:
Obviously, if you download something without paying, it’s cheaper than if you paid. The problem here is that there’s a free version of practically everything, so if you download Nero 7 without a license instead of DeepBurner, well, you’re just not being efficient.
Actually obtaining software without a license is going to most likely be harder that going out and getting it yourself. It’s just not as big of a market, and the market is more splintered, so getting an unlicensed copy of a program can be quite difficult in most cases.
Reliability is most significant issue. If you’re going to spend money on a product, you want to be assured of its compatibility, which is almost impossible to do. This is where games factor in quite prominently, as they can be the most picky due to being among the most hardware intensive. Testing beforehand is more important on software than anywhere. If you can get a shareware version, that can be of benefit, but that’s not always available. Ultimately, pirated software is typically less reliable, but it’s also common enough that commercial software for whatever reason will completely fail to run.
Games are also most significant when it comes to DRM. Valve games, for example, require Steam in order to play your games, regardless of whether they were downloaded. Steam requires an Internet connection, and needs the Steam servers functional. All of things are pushing things much too far.
Software is difficult because of how expansive it is, and the case-by-case basis of the implications of downloading unlicensed versions. Typically, in all practicality, there should be a free version. Whether it’s OpenOffice for Microsoft Office, Paint.NET for Adobe Photoshop, IZArc for WinRAR, or even Ubuntu for Windows. While it’s not always perfect, there’s usually a good substitute.
Judgment: Medium-High objectionability. There may be the occasional instance that you need a license product to do something specific, or you can’t find something to buy anywhere, or whatever the issue. But for the most part, you should be able to find software for free. Games are a different beast, and I find the acts of Valve with Steam, and 2K Games with Bioshock utterly dispicable, there are cases of beautiful lack of intrusion, such as Ubisoft with my new copy of Chessmaster 11 (although there’s no demo available for it :(). I’d suggest console or boycott, but just use your best judgment here.
Part 5 will bring general conclusions to the issue of piracy.