To Terry Bradley of Sirius, who says that the people who market nibble copiers are crooks,
I say that they are providing a support to my rights as a purchaser and owner that Sirius and other companies that copy protect have thwarted. They do not mean to thwart it, but I am not obligated to respect their copy scheme either. It boils down to this: The publishers have a property right and I am obligated to buy from them rather than steal. Once I have bought, then I have a right to use what I bought without it being a time bomb. This means backup. The publisher has a right to copy protect if he wants, but the purchaser has a right to know that one of his rights as an owner is excluded. Do you advertise on the package that your software is copy protected, Mr. Bradley?
Finally, if software is copy protected, I see no obligation binding me not to touch that protection scheme. Right on to Locksmith and the nibble copiers. They open up a right that the publishers have foreclosed. I'm sorry that some people abuse these tools and use them to steal, but they also have a legitimate use, the opportunity for which Mr. Bradley, among others, creates. I'm not going to be morally outraged by Locksmith. I am obligated to Mr. Bradley's property rights, not to Mr. Bradley's intentions. I'll buy from Penguin and honor Mark Pelczarski's rights, and his request not to steal. I won't buy from Sirius unless I have to, and if I do have to buy from Sirius, my next purchase will be Locksmith.
Peter Fallon, Philadelphia, PA - V3N1
I would like to thank the readers of Softalk and other magazines for the very positive response to Penguin Software's policy change with regard to protected software. I'm certain that we made a good decision, and so far the move has had no negative effect on our sales. This doesn't mean that every publisher should go out and remove their protection immediately; that's a decision that has to be made with time. It takes a certain amount of trust in your customers to take such a step. I happen to think that it's helpful for any customer to have working backups of software that they purchase, as long as they keep the copies themselves. I also occasionally have this silly notion that everyone is honest if you treat them as such. I like to think that 99 percent are. Mr. J. Barry Smith's letters in the May Softalk, and other people's various letters and comments elsewhere in the world, lead me to believe that in order not to be dishonest people, they twist their morals with rationalizations in which they try to keep themselves honest in their own minds. "To quote Mr. Smith, "Piracy is a biased word, it implies theft." Sorry. It doesn't imply theft. It is theft. There are no two ways about it. When you take something that doesn't belong to you, it's got a simple one-word definition: stealing. "But," you say, "it's so expensive." Sorry again. Yes, selling Apple software is mass marketing as far as computers go, but it's not really that huge of a marketplace. Would it surprise you to know that advertising costs us about $6,000 per month? Or that most publishers are paid only forty percent of the retail price after distributors and dealers get their cut? What about packaging, people to take and ship orders, customer service, office space and supplies? Dale Archibald was an order of magnitude or so off when he jokingly said that we're so small that it takes weeks for our distribution to reach double figures (Softalk, May) ; but even so, it doesn't take a mathematical wizard to compute rough sales figures to see how much money actually finds its way to the publisher and author. For the most part, software packages are priced close to what they have to be. Sorry. So Barry, your excuse is your wallet. Do you buy gasoline without paying? Do you leave restaurants without paying the check? Do you stuff your pockets in the supermarket? It doesn't make any difference who you steal from, it's still stealing. If that's the definition of a pirate, then yes, you're a thief. And if you steal because you can't afford the software then you had no business buying a computer in the first place. To the 99.9 percent of you who are honest, thank you for your kind words and support.
P.S. Despite the column bio, I taught at Northern Illinois U. in DeKalb, home of the famous flying ears of corn. Is there an arcade game in that somewhere?
Mark Pelczarski, Penguin Software, Geneva, IL - V2N11
This letter is an addendum to my letter of 22 March 1982.
I said something in that letter about copying and now find myself caught up in this moral morass. I said about programs, "If I can get it, I will." That sounds bad but I have found a new rationalization that eases the guilt. Here it is. One of my friends was very, very close to buying an Osborne. When I told him that I would give him copies of some basic programs if he buys an Apple, he changed his mind. When he gets his system up and running, I will ask him to write to you explaining why he bought the Apple. Of course, he will now be buying other Apple software for his machine. The authors of those earlier transferred programs can take solace that they died so that others may live. The answer to one problem is to include in ROM, or on internal chips, the four basic programs every microcomputer should have:
It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a $10 record album. A $200,000 program will retail for $60. How much did aural records cost when there were only a million phonographs around? If the early aural records cost the same, relative to time and inflation, I will concede a point to the software publishers. The whole point, of course, is the producer trying to control a product for as long as possible to milk the most profit out of it. I don't blame them; that's what good businessmen do. Apple did it when they excluded mail order sales. Soon it may be such that only college graduates may purchase computers—after a written test—and a recommendation—and an interview—etc. Imagine selling an aural record and saying only one member of the family can listen to that particular record on Sundays only. That rule would require many more records to be sold if the whole family wants to hear it every day of the week. The software contract that stipulates that the buyer can't copy is a nice try to control, but it just makes criminals out of us. Once the product is sold (not leased or rented) the product must be allowed to be used as the buyer sees fit; that is, resold, copied, or used as a frisbee.
When I give my dollars for a program, maybe I should stipulate to the software company that the dollars must not be used for lawyers' fees. I gave them a product which took time and money to produce—dollar bills—now I will control and limit how they use my product. (And no dollar bill paper airplanes either!) The rebuttal to that is dollar bills can't be copied, right? Right! Dollar bills can't be copied and that's the only thing that can't be copied. I would hope in a few years that this whole question will appear quaint and dated.
J. Barry Smith, Barstow, CA - V2N9
In response to Softalk's March Open Discussion, I would like to comment on the greatest irony facing the computer market today. In the industry's attempt to protect itself from malicious copying of precious software or from casual piracy, publishers have actually opened the door for their own bankruptcy. I can only state my present dilemma. In calling various software companies in an attempt to review various software packages for medical and dental office administration, I was bluntly informed of this fact: if I did not put up (pay) literally hundreds and often thousands of dollars just to look at their software, I could just continue looking. In other words, if I did not care to purchase their software sight unseen, then I just cannot purchase it all.
Correct me if I am wrong, but the old saying still stands even in the computer market, "Let the buyer beware," even to ask to possibly order software business packages for review from your local computer store, you will get the same answer that you received from the software dealer, "If you don't promise to buy, then don't look." The laugh is on them, however, since I cannot "review," various software packages for my business, I have now decided to write my own software to meet the medical market's needs and to do it so well that I truly hope to become one of their biggest competitors. In fact, I am so mad, at this point, that I am considering selling my business package for as little as $10 plus the price of the diskette to prove that you cannot expect the buyer to purchase software sight unseen. What would have been my present vendor will now be my current competition. I do hope this letter is published, as I would hope to bring to light this industry absurdity.
Maybe in this age of the computer, the saying should be, "Let the protector beware." It is absurd for these software dealers actually to think that everyone is out to get them.
Patricia L. Adler, Boulder, CO - V2N9
I challenge you to publish the attached letter. [The letter:]
In glancing through the "letters to the editor" in your January 1982 issue, I noticed the usual assortment of complaints about "uncopiable" software; one person found his purchase (a diet program) so protected that it didn't even do the tasks that it was advertised to be able to do; another person bought a game that was subsequently discontinued by the company that made it. Then there were—and are—the countless others who didn't write to you to tell you that a "protected program" they bought couldn't be modified to suit the buyer's needs, couldn't be saved on eight-inch disks or other recording media that suit the buyer, couldn't be backed-up with a copy, etc., etc. I was amused to see that, predictably, you sided with your advertisers in seeing nothing wrong with such practices; yet you condemned any suggestion that buyers of such software can do as they please with their purchase, be it removing the "protection" scheme, modifying the program, etc. How hypocritical! Consider the following arguments:
Having long watched the pirate manufacturers controversy swirl in the pages of the computer magazines, I have concluded that both sides spend more time rationalizing than reasoning, and what I have to say will make little difference either way. From several minutes of distracted study I have summarized the major points of both sides. First, for the pirates:
And now for the manufacturers' side.
Such homilies as "There's truth to both sides" are banal, and, in my opinion, both sides are probably hypocritical. First, I don't care what software costs, if people can get it free, they'll probably take it. Since I have not met one single person—including software manufacturers, dealers, distributors, and software authors—who does not have pirated software, I seriously doubt that anyone can cast stones. Secondly, manufacturers do have various costs, but any businessman worth his salt doesn't figure the minimum amount he can get for a product and sell it at that. He figures the maximum, and if he doesn't go too high, he'll get rich. Look at VisiCalc, for example—they got their development costs back a long time ago and they're making a bundle selling both old and new versions. However, as for manufacturers supporting their software, with "low cost" updates—that's a joke. For example, one piece of software I bought with promises of updates for $7 charged $20 when the updates finally were made. However, one of the updates was on the original—only you couldn't get to it unless you had a "broken" copy. (That's how I found it was there.) If manufacturers came out with high quality, low cost, and well supported software, I doubt it would make a bit of difference. Pirating would go on regardless. The fact that there is a lot of junk and unfulfilled promises does shore up the excuses of the pirates, but, let's face it, as long as there are ways to copy software, everyone is going to end up with some hot programs. About the only bright spot in this (for the manufacturers) is that I have only come across one person dumb enough to try to sell pirated material. He didn't get very far since no one was willing to pay him for what they could get free. So what's the point of this letter? Well, I'm tired of hearing bull from both sides—mainly in the form of lame excuses. The pirates are trying to get something for nothing, and the manufacturers are trying to get rich. Maybe they deserve each other, who knows?
But, please . . . let's not hear any more of the false morality that has pervaded the whole issue.
Bill Sanders, San Diego, CA - V2N7
Being an Apple owner and being in education, I want to state unequivocally that what our hobby needs most is more free public domain software—especially in the field of education. We in education are in the business of disseminating ideas, methods of thinking, algorithms, and so forth, which by their very nature cannot be copyrighted or possessed in any way. No one can own the Pythagorean theorem! No one can own our language, or our history, or our science. There is a contradiction in principle between public access to this knowledge and private ownership of the materials that communicate this knowledge. So, for example, when the order for textbooks is late arriving at the bookstore, we quite readily photocopy whole chapters for our students to use. And we copy these chapters in class-sized lots—by the dozais. I feel exactly the same about software. Why do we in education make students buy books? Certainly they don't need the books to learn the material. The libraries, both school and public, have copies. And the teacher teaches. I have all the material in my head and I do my best to present it in class. All the students really have to do is pay attention. But they cannot take me home and pick my brain at their convenience. If they do, they will have to pay me a fee for tutoring. The content is free; the convenience is not. That's why they buy textbooks—so they can haul them around and peruse them when and if they wish.
The same applies to software. The content simply cannot be protected. The convenience and ready access really is something worth selling. It is certainly worth what textbooks of comparable content are going for in the current market, but no more. Yet, there is another issue involved A few big textbook publishers have an unhealthy stranglehold on the education of our youth. One particular biology text, for example, is used in over half our country's school systems. And that text, in the last few years, has watered down its treatment of evolution to an innocuous few pages, seeking the lowest common denominator and the big business. We do not want to allow a similar thing to happen in educational software. Recently, Softalk began a regular column on educational software that is nothing more than one review after another of software that almost no one can afford to buy. These reviews end up being nothing but more detailed advertisements than the ads that the publishers actually pay for. This is useless. It just helps me decide ahead of time which software I will bother to copy illegally whenever I get the opportunity. What is needed is a column on educational software that gives listings, that tells us where we can get something at a reasonable cost (say, under twenty-five dollars), and that helps the people in the classroom learn to program in order to take up the slack until the publishers learn what education is really all about.
Ellis R. McDaniels, Williamsville, NY - V3N1
I am sympathetic to the plight of software companies—but the record industry has had the same problem for years, and records are still being produced. If a software company can make a professional, high quality, usable product, people will buy it. The small-time software pirate only distributes the software most in demand. And the people who receive the pirated program are exposed to a quality product they probably would not have purchased anyway. I believe a good software company benefits more from this exposure than from advertising, in terms of additional sales. The jerk who copies a program, slaps his name on it, and sells it as his is another matter entirely.
Gary Lewis, Las Vegas, NV - V1N4
The top thirty bestsellers is an excellent idea. But how about a reader's top thirty poll also? I would like to know how that bestselling software stands up to a user evaluation.
Gary Lewis, Las Vegas, NV - V1N4