The Truth about Piracy is that no one is getting hurt. That’s it.
Current stats via IDC posit that 70 percent of software in East Africa is pirated.
This is then computed into millions of dollars worth of losses.
I disagree. Piracy has greater advantages than losses.
Particularly in the mass market and user application layer, piracy is to mindshare what marketing and advertising used to be.
In a prior article herein, Think Big Vs Think Small, ID games came on to the scene and revolutionized the process of software distribution. They gave out their game, DOOM, for free.
ID were, at this time, already a well known company, with established gaming competence and notoriety through their earlier release, Castle Wolfenstein.
With DOOM, however, they decided to get mindshare and have the whole world know what they are and are about by dishing out DOOM FOR FREE. By word of mouth, direct one on one distribution, the end user was their marketer, vendor and consumer.
Their second release of DOOM with extras, more gore, monsters and weapons was for sale. The effect of this was a market that already knew their product very well, the mind share was incomparable with the other games, which may have been better but went through the traditional marketing and sales model of distribution through chain stores and expensive advertising.
This model led to the growth and the emanation of the freemium business model, which has been the defacto mode of software distribution for mass market end user applications:
a. Free basic Solution ( Mind share, ad revenue, interactive demo)
b. Medium Version (With more features, medium cost)
c. Pro version (With full features, premium cost)
This has sadly over time degenerated into cracks, hacks and patches.
Truth be told, the software company benefits more from the cracks and hacks in mindshare more than any direct marketing would do.
Without piracy, we would probably never know and never use most solutions.
With this structure, the end user demos the software to himself, enjoys it, refers it to others and so on and so forth, until you have an army of users hooked on your solution; you become the defacto leader in your niche.
Off the top of my head I can give a few quick examples from my experience and from those around me.
Desktop search? Avafind.
Zipping files? WinRAR.
Music Player? Winamp (Which, by the way through their notereity got bought out by AOL. Without piracy, this would have never happened.) Real Player.
Video Player? VLC /KMP/GOM .
Desktop Optimisation? CCleaner.(Which up until this year, @gbatosai and I used to read as CCCleaner )
Remote Desktop? LogMeIn, Teamviewer
Antivirus?Avast, AVG. Microsoft Security Essentials is also gaining trust.
Most of the above of the above are not heavily funded, but will be soon on the basis of their current rate of popularity through the freemium business model.
Mavens are society influencers, they influence the decisions of the people around them. The golden pot for most software companies is the enterprise customer. She with the volume licencing purchasing power, multiple sites, steady growth rate and income.
The enterprise client ensures the stability of ones business.
But the enterprise client will not buy your software if they do not KNOW your software.Or are influenced to take it on.
Thousands of dollars are spent in different ways to earn the trust of the enterprise client, to earn their badge of approval, to earn their referal and hence exponential growth.
In the emerging markets, due to a combination of factors, with low purchasing power and industrialisation challenges therein, the industry of ICT has not been with us long enough for there to be a market permeation of solution knowledge and experts to support the solutions.
One would also think that international credentials and reputation would be sufficient, but this is not true.
This is why Google , Microsoft, Intel and Cisco have invested heavily and subsidised heavily solutions for education.
The premise is that once someone is groomed in a particular solution in their formative stages, they are precluded to rely on the same in their work environment. These organisations plan to reap in the next ten, twenty years what they are sowing now.
Through mindshare, mavens are developped, they who will hold positions of power and influence in five to ten years. They will, of course, pick and use the solutions most familiar to them.
In counterpoint, the same mavens emanate enterprise piracy. If one uses a cracked version of software for personal use, and it works fine and is the decision maker in an enterprise entity, chances are that they may attempt to execute the same at the corporate layer.
The other factor shaping the decision making of mavens in emerging markets is the idea of Open Source. Coupled with the standard challenges of developing nations, the Open Source ideal has promoted the notion that SOFTWARE CAN BE GOTTEN FOR FREE.
Best Practice in solution sales is shifting from selling to IT to C-Level selling.
I however posit that at least for the next three years, software companies will still have to sell to IT.
These are the only people in the corporation with the marginal knowledge on technology to give any credible decision. Without his rubber stamp, the project will simply not move on. His word is at par with that of the C-Level executive.
The same person has dabbled with both open source and freemium applications, and thus more often than not, has the mindset that whatever solution being proferred can be obtained at a fraction of the cost, if not for free, and perhaps the only costs to be factored in are the project management implementation and training costs.
This is true for both education and government institutions, which we know are the gateways to the permeation of technology in a nation.
WHAT DO WE DO?
View mass market software piracy as a tool of advertising. If the solution has sufficent reach, the returns from the adspaces just might be sufficient to sustain the solution.
After all, the same concept has kept free to air television afloat for decades.
At the government, education and enterprise layer, educate the mavens.
They need to know the options they have. Most do not know the variety of enterprise subsidies, free versions, home use rights, training trips, financing options, spread payments,certification opportunities that enterprise deals benefit the enterprise clients, so much so that the benifits by far outweigh piracy of the solution.
Fot them it will not be a matter of principle, they will want to secure the home use rights, the training and certifications for their own development, and all other standard benefits that most enterprise software companies offer entities.
In fact, the absence of knowledge on benefits of enterprise agreements is promoted by distributors and resellers who want to sell software solutions at the highest margins for themselves.
In the current social world, building numbers and a user base is what counts if your solution is intended for the mass market. If this is where your solution plays, PIRACY IS GOOD FOR YOU.
So shut up and watch your numbers grow.
Only good things can come from your solution being the defacto market leader in a certain user community.
PIRACY IS YOUR FRIEND, EMBRACE IT!
You can publicly complain and issue all sorts of threats that will serve to increase the allure and danger of cracking your solution.
The result of course is more cracks and increased usage and mindshare of your product.
As for enterprise piracy?
A wise man once said, If You Want to Fight War, Preach Peace.
Education is key. Software companies should act directly with the enterprise customer (skipping the resellers and the distributors, to whom the ignorance of their clients is their gain) and educate them. More often than not, they do not know the options they have.
Policing is counter-productive and pushes back the client into the Open Source stack of solutions.