Much of what has appeared in Open Discussion concerning copy protection has missed the point. Cost versus retail price of a program is irrelevant when dealing with the ethical and legal issues of copying a purchased program. If a program does $500 worth of work and can justify a $500 price tag, then fine—it should sell for that. People don't go into business just to cover their costs, and cost-based pricing of a product is a quick way to end up in bankruptcy court. I have written several programs and my initial reaction was to copy protect them. On reflection, however, it becomes apparent that copy protection is a knee-jerk reaction that is self-defeating to the software publishing industry. If you treat people like you expect them to be thieves, then they will react accordingly, while if you treat your customers with respect, they in turn will respect you and your product. Sure, some people will rip you off and copy something, but more people will buy your product because it will be far more useful to them if they can modify it to fit their needs. Look at the book publishing industry. Have Xerox machines or public libraries cost them money? Have Xerox machines located in public libraries cost them money? Hell, no—the publishing industry has grown like a weed since the introduction and wide dissemination of the copy machines, and anyone who would outlaw libraries because the readers of the books there can copy them has to be daft.
Copy protection has some major disadvantages for the customer. Most software is sold on thirteen-sector disks so that they will boot on all systems; therefore 25 percent of the disk storage capacity is wasted. Any program that writes to its own disk (like word processors) has less value in this format than it would if it could be copied to sixteen-sector format. I am wary of buying a locked up program because I will be frustrated when I can see how to make it better fit my needs. Most locked-up programs cannot be used together, and most cannot be used with all of the peripheral devices available to the user. I have used Super-Text II for some time, and have been very pleased with it. Because Super-Text is locked up, it cannot be used with a modem to prepare and edit files for remote transmission. What am I supposed to do, throw away my Super-Text and search for another word processor, investing more money and time to learn to use it?
As for the disadvantages to the publisher, presuming his customers to be thieves casts a very serious, harmful attitude upon his organization. Locked-up programs are limited in their utility and lock the publisher out of many sales. Many people have limited budgets; kids are a prime example. Many would purchase more programs if they could get together and each buy one program, copy them for each other and trade, making their money go twice as far. Why try to prevent it? Two more programs have been sold. Sure the publishers feel ripped off, but they can cry all the way to the bank. What is worse : no sale at all or two sales that turn into four copies? Being able to copy programs encourages people to buy them because they know that they will get more value for their money.
The whole issue of copy protection also breeds questionable ethics among the publishers. Sensible Software sells to the public a nibble copier on the premise that it will allow its purchasers to back up copy protected disks and sells copy protection schemes to publishers that it claims cannot be copied with its own nibble copier. And if the publishers think that copy protection schemes are going to prevent large-scale duplication, they are awfully naive. They won't inhibit the large-scale pirate in the least, but only prevent the little guy, the average customer, from making a limited number of copies—presuming him to be a thief. Copy protection encourages thieving because it is a challenge to outsmart the publisher who presumes you to be a thief and then to laugh at him when you are done. Most of the illicit copies are going to people who would not have bought the program in the first place, and therefore do not represent a lost sale to the publisher.
Come on, publishers, unlock your programs. Quit looking backward and worrying about all those illegal copies and, instead, look forward and concentrate more on how to increase your sales by making programs more useful to the buying public.
Gary Griffis, Concord, MA - V2N12