We’ve had an interesting end to this week at CET. After all the snowfall and ice in the Mooresville and Lake Norman area, we’ve been dealing with pirated software and questions about “free” software from our clients. In this economy, people are trying to cut costs – it’s absolutely understandable – small businesses like ours are feeling the pinch. Individuals and local small businesses are hurting. To help alleviate some of that pinch, CET offers some free software options with open source programs to our clients but pirated software isn’t an option here. However, it seems that there are some unscrupulous “computer repair shops” in our area – competitors who will do anything to earn a buck.
A young man brought in a laptop with a failed hard drive and asked if we could replace it – sure no problem but he didn’t have an operating system license key attached. He had bought the machine less than six months ago from a “now out-of-business” competitor in the Cornelius area who had installed a pirated copy of Windows 7. Without a license key, we could not reload the new hard drive with a Windows 7 operating system. In the end, he had to buy a licensed copy of Windows 7 for us to install on his system.
Another young lady asked us about replacing her Microsoft Office 365 because of the annual renewal costs that she was unaware of when she was pushed into purchasing it from a big box retailer. She had no idea that it was a subscription software and was never told by the seller. I told her that we could purchase various versions of Microsoft Office (no subscription versions) with varying prices depending on what she needed from the software. She said that her boss told her that he has had Outlook for years and has never paid for it – his computer guy got it for him. I explained the hazards of pirated software to her and offered her the option of using Thunderbird – a free open source option to Outlook.
We also had a visitor who wanted to buy one of our licensed Windows XP refurbished machines but wanted to know if we could put Windows 7 on it – he had a key written on a piece of paper from his computer guy who had used it on several other machines. I told him that I would sell him one of our licensed system but I wouldn’t load pirated software on it – he could have “his computer guy” do it for him. He said that his computer guy was no longer in business; imagine that…
According to Microsoft’s definition, “software piracy is the mislicensing, unauthorized reproduction and illegal distribution of software, whether for business or personal use”. The end of this week at CET has shown that software piracy is a problem but it’s not just a local issue here. Back in November, it was reported that the Obama administration had to pay Apptricity $50 million dollars for pirating the company’s logistics software that had been licensed to the United States Army. Software piracy is a big problem. According to the Business Software Alliance, “piracy costs software companies billions of dollars in revenue”. Many critics claim that the Business Software Alliance is funded by software providers and, therefore, their claims are exaggerated. Exaggerated or not, it is obvious that software piracy is a big concern to software companies, many of which are based in the United States, and it needs to be a concern of ours too.
The Pirate Bay, a Swedish-based organization, is one of the prime providers of on-line software downloads. In a report on software piracy, the office of the United States Trade Representative states that “despite the criminal conviction of its founders, The Pirate Bay continues to navigate the globe and the country code top level domain system to facilitate user downloading of unauthorized copyright-protected content”. In their defense, the attorneys for The Pirate Bay founders noted that the sharing of files by individuals is not illegal under Swedish law – still piracy of copyrighted material is illegal and dangerous.
Symantec, the parent corporation for Norton Antivirus products, offers several reasons for not using pirated software:
1. Pirated software can crash your computer. You lose time. You could lose irreplaceable files or data. You could even destroy your PC or all your other software.
2. Counterfeit software can contain spyware that loads onto your computer and reports personal information without your knowledge – like credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, and address books. Stolen information can be exploited immediately by identity thieves.
3. Cyber thieves periodically find vulnerabilities in software, and software vendors provide patches that fix the vulnerability. If you have counterfeit software, you won’t be able to incorporate these legitimate updates – making you vulnerable to attacks.
4. A seller proposing to violate the law might not stop at pirated software. Any credit card data or personal information you provide could be exploited by identity thieves.
If you need software options to help cut your costs in this economy, let us know. CET is about helping our clients however we can. There are open source options like Linux operating systems, Apache Open Office productivity suites, GIMP picture and photograph editing products, and Thunderbird email management applications. In fact, there are hundreds of reliable open-source options out there. If you need licensed Microsoft, Adobe, Symantec, or other software products, we also sell legitimate “large vendor” licensed software. But at CET, we can’t help you with pirated software. We just won’t do that.