Harshdeep 2.0

February 25, 2007

The bright side of software piracy

Filed under: Ramblings — harshdeep @ 1:54 pm

A lot of mouths were left wide open, most probably including that of Bill Gates, when the Romanian President sang praises of pirated software in front of him.

According to Reuters, Basescu said, during a joint news conference with Gates, that piracy helped the younger generation discover computers. It set off the development of the IT industry in Romania.It also helped Romanians improve their creative capacity in the IT industry, which has become famous around the world. He claimed that all this piracy “ten years ago” was an investment in Romania’s friendship with Microsoft and with Bill Gates.

This holds true for India as well. Now I’m not saying that everyone should use pirated software. I wouldn’t get my monthly salary if they did. All I’m saying is that the booming Indian IT industry (and that of Romania and other developing countries) would not have been so high on steroids if there were no pirated software. (Pirated music and video is another issue altogether – let’s not get into that)

Buying a computer is still a major budget decision for a middle class Indian family. It was more so till some years back when the prices of computers had not yet plummeted. Add to that the cost of minimal software that one needs, and it becomes totally unaffordable.

Thanks to piracy, a whole generation of Indian students could use Windows, Visual Studio, Office, Matlab, Photoshop and other expensive, but necessary, pieces of software. One trip to the legendary Nehru Place (in Delhi) was all it took. And I think a lot of small businesses would not have tried out computers to manage their accounts and catalogues, if they had to pay for the software.

This did result in loss to the software industry in terms of lost sales, but in the long run, the industry has benefited tremendously. Students who trained themselves on pirated software have grown up to be a part of the vibrant technology industry in the country. They form a skilled, but less expensive, workforce for the industry. Some of my batchmates, who had pirated copies of Windows on their home computers as students, went on to Microsoft to develop (if peripheral) components for Vista.

When students turn into professionals, they become willing to pay for the software – since many of them create software for a living themselves, and/or work in corporates that buy their software for them. Similarly, as small companies become mid-sized, or large, their dependence on software increases, they feel the need to comply with the law morally and because of greater visibility and the price of the software becomes less daunting – so they also start paying for the software. Hence there is this huge market, that has been, and will continue to be, developed because of pirated software.

It’s a fair world, after all.

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