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by earl, 7469 days ago
Nick Bradbury wrote a piece entitled "On Piracy" complaining about software piracy where he claims that "Shareware developers are losing enormous amounts of money to piracy" illustrating this thought by conducting an experiment with a "cracked" version that "pings home", i.e. informs Bradbury of it being used. Bradbury summarizes the results: "in just a few weeks more people had used this cracked version than had ever purchased it."

Now the problem is, that Bradbury seems to assume that each person that uses a cracked version is a lost customer. I think that quite the opposite is true: basically, someone wants to achieve a certain task and looks for software, with no intent at all to spend money for software. So it's simply a matter of availability: if a piece of software is deemed good and can be cracked, it will be used. If it can not be cracked, no, the software won't be purchased but the search for another software (crackable or free) will go on.

I assume, that people are either principially willing to spend money for some piece or they are not. If they are not, they will in the end rather turn to a free but maybe worse piece than pay for the superior piece. On the flipside, long-term users of a certain software may well start appreciating it that much, that after having used it for months, or years, they will finally find it worthy to purchase a license (if e.g. their financial situation changed or if they have gained such a high regard of the certain piece, that they finally decide that the creators deserve to be paid.)

The effect is quite similar to something well-understood by "mega corporations" like e.g. Adobe, who are well aware of the amount of non-licensed Photoshop copies in circulation - at least users of cracked versions get accustomed to the software and a in a certain way "bound" to the software once they use it over a longer time. So the use of cracked stuff basically increases the "potential" customer base.

Don't get me wrong, there are loads of problems surrounding software piracy that have and will have severe impacts on our industry. Nevertheless, I think a more elaborate discussion than "every user of a cracked copy is a lost customer (lost income)" is necessary.
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