Bit by Bit: Pirate Software and Educational Ethics

I teach at California Polytechnic State University — known as Cal Poly to most of you– in San Luis Obispo. Over the past four years my course load has steadily increased to more than half time. My schedule now includes classes in typography, color quality control, and image management. Teaching is interesting and fun, and the quality of the students is extraordinary.

But where the students are smart and serious, they also provoke controversy from time to time in their out-of-school activities.

After a class in Typography in the Spring quarter, I found a pirated copy of the Adobe Font Folio, a CD-ROM set with more than 2,750 Adobe fonts on it. Adobe sells this product for $8,999. I confiscated the disc, made a deep scratch across its data side, then attempted to find its source.

After some investigation, I learned that a student had received the disc as a copy from a former employer, who also had a copy, not an original. Though the student understood the reason for the confiscation, he was angry that I had removed his CD from circulation, making it harder for him to create designs using these Adobe fonts.

It wasn’t an isolated incident.

On another day I found an unlabeled Zip disk on a desk after class, and popped it into a machine to try to determine its owner. On the disk was the complete software collection for Adobe Illustrator 10, taken from our classroom computer server. The student didn’t realize that this copy will not work without a keyserver serial number, something our classroom computers get from our key server software on launch, but that didn’t stop him from copying it.

Illegal Review
Alarmed by these discoveries, at the end of Winter quarter I took a poll of my Advanced Typography students, asking them a few questions about software and their personal computers. Of the 33 students enrolled in my class:

  • Only one had a legitimate copy of QuarkXPress, though all 33 said they had the program on their personal computers.
  • One had a legitimate copy of Adobe Illustrator, though nearly all of the rest admitted having the program on their computers.
  • All 33 have a copy of Photoshop 6 or 7 on their machines, though only one has paid for her copy (the same student).
  • Three students had legal copies of Microsoft Office, though all 33 admitted to having complete copies of Office on their computers. (It’s interesting to note that Microsoft makes a $30 disc-only version of Office available through our campus bookstore — I recently bought a copy.)If I calculate the value of the software that these students acknowledge having, even at discounted student prices, the total is in the neighborhood of $24,000 — and that represents only one classroom of students.

    Legitimate Concerns
    Our program is faced with this problem, as are all the educational programs that promote training in the graphic arts. Students and their parents are asked to pay tuition, to rent student apartments, own an automobile, pay for food and clothing and utilities, and then buy a powerful computer and expensive software in order to complete their lab assignments. None of this is beneath the expectations of a professional person.

    The students argue that software is beyond their means, that they just can’t afford it and the other costs of student living. Passing a copy of QuarkXPress around is a harmless thing, isn’t it? I think not.

    Is my university alone in facing the Student Software Piracy Scandal of 2003? Heavens, no! I suspect that thousands or tens of thousands of illegal copies of Photoshop and Office and Illustrator and XPress are floating around the student communities of North America. Let’s assume, for the sake of example, that of the approximately 275 students in our department at Cal Poly, the same percentage of software piracy is going on (about 97 percent). That would mean 266 students have pirated copies of the major graphic arts applications on their computers. If we take just Photoshop as an example, the loss in sales represents nearly $80,000 to Adobe and its retailers. This is simply unfair to these firms. Cal Poly University has a strict policy regarding software piracy, treating it as they would any serious theft. Nonetheless, the university does not control the off-campus use or abuse of software, except to prohibit unlawful copying of software on campus, or using campus computers.

    Where do students get pirated software? Pirated software passes like rumors from student-to-student, proliferating through educational communities like a sanctioned virus. Software serial numbers, either stolen, copied, or reverse-engineered by hackers, make their way into the community, and allow the software to operate without hindrance. There are also online sources of complete software and accompanying serial numbers.

    This unauthorized software problem is not limited to education. I recently did a consultation with a local non-profit organization, whose copy of PageMaker was registered to a distant company not at all related to the work of this group. When I asked about the software, the administrator of this very proper organization said, “We would never give it away to anyone else.” Does this mean that larceny is OK, unless you’re the one providing the stolen goods?

    Theft Prevention
    Manufacturers do try to prevent wholesale theft of their work. Some applications use network security checks, looking over the local area network to see if another copy of the same software is running with the same serial number. If one is discovered, the software disables itself temporarily, making further use of that application impossible. Other software firms have come up with schemes where the software will check-in with the home office occasionally, checking the serial number, and checking for updates. If the serial number is already taken, or is in use elsewhere, the copy checking-in will be disabled temporarily.

    But there things get a bit more complicated. Software publishers don’t want your copy of their software to fail — ever. And, these firms will usually opt for doing nothing rather than to disable a pirated copy of software found over the Internet, even if it is possible to do so. Generating bad will among customers is not one of the goals of software companies. They would rather earn the loyalty of customers now in order to make an upgrade sale later, than send a student to jail for copyright violation.

    Another approach to prevent software piracy is to require the use of a hardware protection key, sometimes called a dongle, that plugs into the USB port on the computer, and allows only a single copy of the software to work on that machine. If the software is copied to another machine, it will not work unless the dongle accompanies it.

    Dongles are an effective way to prevent unauthorized use of software, but they take up a USB port (older ADB and parallel dongles were pass-through devices, allowing another device to be plugged in piggy-back) and they are not popular with customers because they are just another high-liability gadget to protect. If a dongle walks-off, the software is unusable.

    The Business Software Alliance works within the business community to preserve a modicum of legality in software use. The organization, supported by the major software publishers, seeks out illegal software use by businesses, and then works with the courts to prosecute violators caught with such software. BSA often works on tips from disgruntled or recently fired employees of companies that do not follow the letter-of-the-law in their software ownership. The organization boasts of some impressive busts and collects damages from convicted offenders (to compensate the publishers — or to enrich their organization?).

    After learning of the volume of unauthorized software in my class, I reminded the students that such piracy is theft, pure and simple, and that they are honorable people in every other aspect of their lives (though a five-foot carved tiki at our local Trader Joe’s was stolen last week). I reminded them that they don’t steal food from the grocery, gasoline from the gas station, books from the bookstore, or supplies from local art stores. I suggested that they decline the next offer of “free” software from a friend or classmate. It’s hard to turn down such offers, but in the long run, it is the only solution that will stem the tide of illegal software among our student populations. The students must learn to say “No, thank you.”

    And, as people entering the business community, students must develop a sense of ethical behavior that is fair to their suppliers and customers alike. We don’t tolerate theft in other forms in our business lives, and we shouldn’t tolerate it from our graduates. I encourage all students and teachers to work to abolish software piracy through ethical behavior and tighter control over the software in our care.

Posted on: January 23, 2003

Brian P. Lawler

Brian P. Lawler is a graphic arts and prepress consultant and writer based in San Luis Obispo, California.

81 Comments on Bit by Bit: Pirate Software and Educational Ethics

  1. I strongly disagree with the black-and-white
    vision of the problem of piracy. Sure,
    illegal copies are bad for business, but
    there are other issues: the high cost of
    software, the irrational requirements of
    universities placed on their students in
    terms of equipment and software, and the
    final use of the software.

    If the software is used for final production
    and you are getting paid for that work, then
    you should, by all means, own the software
    (again, can you really own the software or
    you are just given permission to use it?).

    Most students do not have the means to pay
    for all this, so there is a huge gap between
    the students and legal copies of software:
    how do you close that gap? I didn’t see any
    alternatives in the article.



  2. As an educator, it is your responsibility to teach your students about software piracy. Your article seems to indicate that students already understand and choose to ignore software licensing agreements. Even if this is the case, it is up to you to change that behavior.

    Why not have applicants to your university sign an agreement regarding piracy? An honor code would allow you to inspect a student’s computer and show that you are serious about the issue. Perhaps you could also require receipts or serial numbers for the software required for your class. Vandalizing supplies is childish and immature – especially when dealing with fonts. That font CD could have (should have) been a back up copy of a legally purchased original. Most Adobe fonts come with a 5 computer license agreement.

    It seems that your students don’t know how software is installed or how serial numbers work. You don’t recognize the importance of making backup copies to carry around. Your students don’t know that it’s better to know a few fonts very well than to use thousands of fonts randomly, and you don’t mention here that students can obtain legal copies of most professional programs at a very large discount.

    If you expect your students to recognize and value intellectual property, you need to be better informed and set a better example.

  3. I certainly don’t advocate the stealing of software, but a ‘just say no’ approach simply will not work. The costs of attending the average college for the average student is already prohibitive. Students are going to continue to pirate software, simply because many of them do not have an alternative.

    I would argue that the college itself should take a more proactive approach to the issue. It is in the best interest of the software company to have colleges teach students how to use their software. It seems likely that these companies would be receptive to negotiations with the colleges to provide their students with copies of that software. The college could use this as an incentive for attending (“You will receive a full version of the following software packages, valued at $—“).

    I would think software companies would be happy to get a piece of the pie rather than none at all, knowing that these are people that will most likely become professional with companies that will be paying for full licenses.

  4. This is the REAL world! Are you going to pay my bills!

  5. $24,000 in one classroom even at student prices. How many similar classrooms are there? A conservative estimate might be 2,000,000 and maybe as many other illegal users.

    If everyone got legal tomorrow that would make a 100 billion + dollar increase in revenue for the software industry and I do not think they are starving. I suspect there are very sophisticated models of price/profit/piracy used in setting software prices and the very high prices are set at the maximum profit point on the curve even if it encourages piracy of over priced programs.

  6. The fear of God or prosecuting attorneys should not be the emphasis when promoting the evils of software piracy. I have used the following concepts with my students:

    1) Software programmers and digital artists are the same breed. They both create ephemeral works. It is important to be compensated for one’s effort. Value is lost when work is stolen. These individuals should be accutely aware of their similarities and respect copyright law. When I discover that a student is using pirated software, I offer all of his own work to the other students. The student pirate soon learns to respect the ethics of copyright law.

    2) An individual loses respect when they steal software. Why would an employer want to hire someone that steals software? Would that same employee steal confidential company information as well? Instructors are often called on to provide references when students hit the job market. How helpful would this character reference be if the instructor noted that the student stole software?

    Instructors should offer this kind of information. The lack of money is what motivates students to steal software. Equally, money (or the lack of it when one cannot find employment) can be the motivation to behave ethically. It also helps to promote the free and low cost software that is available to students. There are too many easy, legal ways to obtain free or cheap graphic software. Piracy demonstrates a lack resourcefulness.

  7. As an educator I can say that Brian’s experience is hardly unique. What is amazing, though, is the lengths to which the user comments are going to rationalize theft.
    Software is expensive, sure. But it seems to me that unless those students stole their computers off a counter, they were able to pay for their computers. The software is all part of the price.
    What I find amazing is that a STUDENT finds it necessary to own the entire Adobe Font Folio. God, I know very successful designers who can’t afford the whole damn folio. There is absolutely nothing that would require a student to own the entire Font Folio. Everything a student needs to learn could be taught using the fonts that ship with the computer or the fonts given with Illustrator or InDesign. (Sorry, I know Quark doesn’t give away fonts.)

    But what I find interesting is that for about the price of one legal copy of XPress, any qualified student can get academic versions of XPress 5, Photoshop 7, and Illustrator 10. Even better, for less than that, any student can get a copy of InDesign, Acrobat, Photoshop 7, and Illustrator 10.

    As Brian points out the student bookstores sell very good deals on academic software. So, too, are there many online retailers as well as special programs direct from the companies.

  8. Here in South Australia, the situation is very similar. I have taught multimedia at a tertiary level since 1997, and have always encouraged students to get legal by buying at educational prices, or to obtain slightly older retail versions on sale or auction.
    My own example: I bought Edu AfterEffects v3.1 for $250AU, then updated a couple of years later to v5 from eBay for less than $200 (Adobe is very good in allowing educational buyers to upgrade to retail later with no penalty).
    It is a problem, however, when the educational version of Director goes for OVER $1100 and Macromedia will not allow commercial cross-grades from eductional versions.

  9. this is a non-issue.the author of this article needs to come down to earth on this issue. what student can afford the price of this software? There is no lost revenue from this type of pirating, these kids wouldn’t be buying it if pirate copies weren’t available, but they are training for a lifetime of legitimate ownership and upgrades(business pirating is another issue). if 95% of the class is using pirate copies at home, where do you think they would be if these were unavailable? my guess would be overcrowded, underequipped computer labs at school. – eliminating student piracy would create minimal increased revenue for adobe, and maximal increased cost for schools and eventually students or taxpayers. adobe realizes this, the only reason they don’t provide free or reasonably priced software to students is because they would be unable to stem the flow of this software to the general pirating public-people who will never buy the product.

  10. I think that software companies should perform one-time amnisty action, allowing everyone to register his or her copy of “whatever” free of charge. So it would be something like a 2 weeks event after wich companies would get their profits on the upgraids and such.
    Sorry for mistakes, English is not my first language.

  11. If I may make a second response…

    The first response from ‘fcasas’ noted that the ethics of piracy may be bent if the software was not being used for profit. This is a common argument. But does this same reasoning apply to playing a pirated copy of Quake? Since you are not profiting from the pirated game, is it okay to play it? Piracy is piracy.

    ‘fcasas’ also noted a lack of alternatives in the article. While promoting the evils of piracy, an educator should offer these alternatives. Software developers have done an admirable job of offering alternatives recently. The best effort seems to come from Alias-Wavefront’s PLE of Maya. Lightwave and Softimage are also offering learning editions for free.

  12. The procedure some large Information Systems and Database software companies use is interesting. They give away 120 days evaluation full featured versions of their ultra-expensive software to companies and individuals that somehow will contribute to improve future versions, and companies that will eventually become licensed and invest large amounts of $$ in their software, once they are “married” with their technology.

    The Graphic Design comunity is pretty much the same, why don’t Graphic Design software companies provide “evaluation” versions for students, that last as long as the course they will be using it for (120 days, or more). After all, Designers are determinant in a given moment over software evaluation and purchase when they are in the productive environment.

  13. Why don’t software companies offer free short term licenses to students who need these particular software applications for the term of a semester at school? The software would then expire ten days after the semester is over. Each instructor would be accountable for distributing the fee licensed software to their students. After the semester is over, the students can decide whether they want to purchase a discounted copy of the software. It’s that simple.

  14. The copying of software for personal use, especially by a non-profit student user, is not creating a loss for anyone.

    Hypothetical case:
    I’m a student with a project to complete, but I have (for the sake of argument) no funds to buy the software I need. If my roomate doesn’t let me have a copy of, say, Photoshop, I’ll simply borrow his computer and use his (legal) copy.

    Adobe still hasn’t sold me anything, and the downside is mere inconvenience; no laws are being broken.

    On the other hand, if I do load the software onto my machine, nothing has actually occurred to cost Adobe anything. They’ve lost nothing because I have no money to buy software anyway, and in fact by allowing me to use and become familiar with Photoshop, much as any try-before-you-buy demo offer, I’m on my way to becoming a real customer.

    Later, when I become employed and have a legitimate business that is in fact profiting from my use of Photoshop, I’ll certainly buy it to keep up with the upgrades and to be legal, because after all I am an honest person.

    There is a huge difference between Piracy–making copies to sell illegally–and copying by a student for unpaid educational use.

    Brian Lawler strikes me as more than strident. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume his motivation is genuinely to instill a sense of ethics in his students. But there are other, more reasonable and less aggressive ways to do this than by foisting his own (salaried) standards on the most vulnerable population of software users.

    To create professional-level work in school, you’d need to invest in the same equipment and software that a full-blown pro would have. What’s fair about that?

    And then, for the rest of us who are paid-in-full customers, what are the software companies’ responsibilities to us? We get nailed for expensive upgrades, bad customer support, and buggy software.

    I’ve bought software that sounded good only to find it doesn’t meet my needs and ends up back in the box, on the shelf. Shouldn’t there be a guarantee that it’ll be as wonderful as they claim? Guess not…

    So, of course thievery is thievery. But copying is not necessarily stealing. Get your mitts off the students, and if you want to persecute thieves, go after someone who’s really profiting from it!

  15. Say an individual starts a business with pirated software because they’re poor. The intent is to get legal when the business has generated enough income. Along the way they find out that some software companies give great student discounts. That person registers for school, buys the software (out of state to avoid sales tax-another ethical issue), then drops out of school in time to get a tuition refund. Are the programs you buy as a student legal afterwards? If they cost half as much would twice as many people purchace?
    The same issue is faced by the music industry. I flat out won’t pay $20 for a music CD. Again, if they cost half as much would twice as many people purchace? I would.

  16. One possible solution I have been rattling arournd in my head would be to have the design department purchase a site licence and pass a percentage of the cost on to the student allowing each student to have a registered copy of the ap on their home computer. Another woudl be to have a server based application that only the current students could access with a code either from the lab or their home. The code could be set to expire at the end of the term. Neither solution would generate much revenue for the software companies but I think they would eliminate most of the piracy issues. Also, student versions of software are available and only cost a small percentage of the MSRP of the product. If students would value their education more and spend less on partying and clothes they might find the cost bearable.

  17. I totally agree with you Brian. Don’t let the degenerative ethical values in today’s society ware you down. The world needs more people like you, solid in their convictions that stand for ethical honesty and integrity. While I believe software prices are too high, way to high in some cases, I don’t think that it’s an excuse to steal from software companies that invest many thousands to millions to produce applications.

  18. It is all too easy to get software, and therefore, it is all too easy to justify that it is OK to make copies depite software license requirements. The same person willing to accept a copy from a friend would probably never consider walking out of a store with an unpurchased disc. It is a virtual world and therefore much easier to ignore the realities of one’s actions.

    I do a lot of shopping on E-bay and see plenty of illegal sales taking place. It would behoove E-bay and the producers of softwware to establish a format for required transfer of ownership in order to even offer the software for sale. It would also be good to set up the format of the sale page so one would have to check off boxes to show that it was a legal copy with registration rights. There could be a hot link or downloadable page containing the legal paperwork allowing transfer of ownership.

    These will not solve the whole piracy issue, but such a popular website could at least lead in promoting legal ownership and transfer of software.

    Also, I think the software companies need to reevaluate their requirements. As a graphic designer, I know that, to have my designs executed into film and plates it is often illegal to give the designs to a company to print or make film if they do not also own the fonts. I believe the right to have this service performed by someone else should fall within the inherent rights to the software; i.e., full use of the software shoud include the steps necessary to arrive at the end product.

    I realize there is some valid consideration about the dissemination of copies of the software and the fact that others may keep and use these for themselves. The problem is in selling software in such a way that the owner then has to become a policeman. There is an inherent flaw in the rquirements place on the purchaser as he is not truly given full rights of ownership, and this, I believe, is one of the main difficulties with software licensing.

    I do not have a full solution worked out for software piracy, but I hope that my comments will provide a basis of thought for those who may be interested in carrying it further. It needs to approaced from several fronts. Certainly, clarifying wherever possible, and making anyone (like E-bay) who provides services for the distribution or resale place more of an imperative on honesty will help. It would also be good for the software producers to have tighter communication lines with such people and organizations.

  19. While software IS expensive. (I forked out the $14,000 CDN for Font Folio guys) it is what we make our living with. It is the cost of doing business. Software companies already have educational pricing available for students but perhaps they haven’t made the prices low enough yet. I would love to see them make it easier for legitimate students to purchase software at a DEEEP discount (say the price of the packaging and shipping). Adobe and Quark will make their money in the long run if they make their particular software ubiquitous. Heard of upgrades? We never buy software just once. We subscribe to an ongoing upgrade path a few hundred dollars at a time. The real cost of software isn’t the onetime purchase but the ongoing upgrades. There is in my opinion though, absolutely NO EXCUSE for stealing software. Theft is theft.

    Brent Flink
    Indivisual Design Inc.
    Vancouver BC

  20. I think that companies should make available FULL versions of their software so that students and someone that is learning the software can use it for training and learning purposes.

    like Microsoft did with their windows xp I tried out different versions (pro & home)that came with 180 or 240 day versions and then when I was satisfied that they did their job i purchased and recomended them to others.
    as a consultant (and sometime student)the cost of trying out software packages can take a very BIG bite out of operating cost especially when you want to try-out software packages over a multi machine network.

    Is there any solution besides piracy? I think yes. The companies Adobe,Microsoft,Quark etc. should make avilable timed copies of software and teachers should tell their students that they can purchase most if not all the software thru campus stores at great discounts.

  21. In reading some of the responses to this issue, I ran across one in which the person rails at the requirement for a student to invest in the same hardware and software that a professional would have to own.

    This person is basically justifying the misuse of software. It has always been the case in many professionals-in-training that they have to buy the tools of their trade. Witness any good automotive school where you have to own the tools in order to take part in the classes. The expensiveness of the tools is not a valid reason for illegal activity. If you are studying to be a professional you should be willing to own the tools. Also, I know of no program outside of the software and computer industry that gives a student the fantastic reduced student prices. If only I could purchase my software for 20-30%!!!

  22. Most of these sofware makers have virtual monopoly control over their respective niches. Students have no choice but to learn design on computers and on Adobe/Quark/Macromedia software. Punishing students with high software fees just so they can graduate into low-paying entry level jobs as underpaid graphic designers is fair to you?

    Macromedia ought to be ashamed! Where’s the software companies’ committment to education? Right now, it’s in the legal department. Don’t forget, some of these students will decide on other careers and won’t even use Photoshop or whatever.

    What’s at issue is the overarching greed evident in the software makers position on education. Certainly, by all means, sell site licenses to schools.

    For the teachers to then narc students out smacks of corporate control of education. Enough is enough, I say. Let them introduce programs that are more compassionate and level the playing field for poor students.

    As for those of us who DO become graphic artists after university, Adobe’ll own us soon enough. Fine… I like Adobe (for example), admire their products, and pay good money to be a completely legal and professional design office. But nailing impoverished students is simply cruel.

    This guy must be a corporate lawyer, but even he admits software prices are’ “way too high”:

    >>>On Tuesday, January 28, 2003, bholm wrote:
    I totally agree with you Brian. Don’t let the degenerative ethical values in today’s society ware you down. The world needs more people like you, solid in their convictions that stand for ethical honesty and integrity. While I believe software prices are too high, way to high in some cases, I don’t think that it’s an excuse to steal from software companies that invest many thousands to millions to produce applications.

  23. When I was a student (25 years ago), art supplies for the year cost around $200 complete. Now even with educational discounts, my students must buy computers & software costing in excess of $6000 just to learn the skills they need to get a $40K per year job.

    It would be in the software companies’ best interest to find a way to provide more affordable versions of their products for educational use. If students start out as pirates, they just might continue to be pirates throughout their career. If students can afford to buy software legally, they will become lifelong customers.

    Graphics software could easily cost a lot less, and still provide the same revenues by trading volume for profit margin. There’s way too much short-sighted greed in this business.

    Pigs get rich, but hogs get slaughtered…

  24. I may be old fashioned, but I still believe that honesty and integrity are worthwhile values to instill in students. My daughter is attending college and studying graphic design. I’ve bit the bullet and bought for her legal/licensed copies of the graphic programs she needs. My 13 year old son was interested in learning flash and I helped him earn money to buy his own flash software. He’s very proud of that. I believe MY actions speak louder than words. I don’t believe you can teach children that it’s okay to be dishonest while you’re a student, but once you’ve graduated then you have to become honest. Honesty and integrity are basic values that apparently aren’t overly encouraged or appreciated in the graphic community that responded in the other VoxBox. I appluad the teacher for having the courage to confront students. I wish the teacher’s peers, the graphic community, and parents would rally in support for such actions instead of condemning them. I don’t think we can afford to teach another generation that honesty and integrity are not values, but something you pick and choose based on your personal convenience.

  25. Before posting this I read through all the messages in this topic. I was surprised at the number of negative responses to Mr. Lawler’s article, particularly ones that said piracy was “overlookable”. In fact, I was almost appalled.

    I wasn’t a rich kid, and I didn’t attend school on scholarship (I’m paying off student loans right now), but I managed to make it through without making illegal copies of software. When I wrote a check for $367 to Quark for Passport v. 4.0, it was the largest check I’d ever written, but I was making an investment. Illustrator cost me $99, and I asked for Photoshop as a graduation gift. But until that point in my senior year when I decided I needed to outfit myself as a real graphic designer, I had gotten by using the computers and software my college provided. Maybe I had to wait in line to use a machine (we had one design lab with 7 Macs and two scanners), but that taught me the importance of budgeting my time. I worked on the yearbook, where there were Macs with Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand and the like at my disposal. And I also held down a paid student worker job for three years in the college’s Creative Services office, allowing even more opportunity to use the programs I needed. My point is, access is there, but you have to want it enough to go out and look for it.

    Paying for software is a necessary evil. Do I think Quark charges too much? You bet. Photoshop is a bit pricey, too. However, it should be impressed upon students that buying software with a legitimate serial number while they’re still in school is a great deal. It’s a question of paying $800 vs. $350 for Quark — anyone can see the better deal here. What makes people think that the student who steals software from his college for schoolwork isn’t going to turn into the professional who steals software from the workplace for his freelance career? In a time when designers go on and on about the worth of their creative and intellectual property, it’s amazing to me that so many here seem to be saying stealing is okay.

  26. I agree that one must own the tools of their trade.
    But in the automotive trade, for example, one can buy less expensive tools for school (they perform the same function, but may have other drawbacks), then purchase (or not) quality tools when they can afford them.
    Is there an alternative to Photoshop7 on OS X? Remember the LE version is like having a socket wrench that can only losen a bolt–no CMYK capabilities.
    Forget the student pricing idea! What about those of us who are are capable of learning a craft by buying a good book then practicing diligenty with the software, we have to pay full price for our learning experience.

  27. When a student purchases an educational version of software package, they have effectively purchased a timed version of the software. From a strict ethical standpoint, the software times-out when they leave school. Of course, it doesn’t actually stop working. The option then is to continue — unethically, or even illegally — to use the software, or spend hundreds of dollars for the professional version. Software companies should provide another choice. They could offer moderately priced Educational to Professional License Upgrades. This would encourage students to purchase educational software, rather than pirated software, because there would be a longer-term economic benefit.

    Several of the postings seem to excuse student piracy by pointing out that most of the students will end up giving the software companies plenty of cash in the course of their professional careers. Why should someone buy the educational version of Photoshop for $200 when they’ll have to buy the same software with a different license a year or two later for $600? If they could upgrade that student license for, say, $200, they would be more likely to buy the educational software and more likely to be an ethical user in the long run.

  28. Congratulations on stirring up some opinions! We are teaching Photoshop, but perhaps we should look instead at Elements as a more realistic prospect for students to afford at home, especially when it is frequently bundled with a scanner or printer. CMYK issues and the like could become part of a professional apprenticeship/induction or explained with handouts, leaving more time for creative work.

    I like the suggestion that educational site licenses would cover students at home – with built in cd-rw drives and zips this is simply acknowledging the reality. Honest students are otherwise put at a disadvantage by the many who steal a march on them when they steal the software.

    Student copying is inevitable but those that turn professional will eventually use licensed versions. It benefits Adobe if future staff know and insist on Photoshop rather than Paintshop Pro.

    We might switch to InDesign from QuarkXPress (we are firmly staying mac – do you hear us over there at Quark?)

    It worries me that Macromedia chose to make Dreamweaver MX a big professional tool incorporating the database aspects of Ultradev. Students here don’t get that advanced, neither do the staff, but there is no cheaper, slimmed down version. This risks leaving space for a competitor – and I have invested a lot of time in learning Dreamweaver and preparing teaching material!

    Mac Lecturer/Technician
    Southampton City College UK

  29. you look me in the eye, and tell me what 80k means to the software companies.
    isnt it more reasonable to have the students listed in a legal list allowing them to use the software for free? wouldnt they be more greatfull to purchase the thing once they graduate?
    will you not agree that this software is not being used for profit but for learning, and that GIVING IT FREELY to students will simply GAIN THEIR TRUST and loyalty?

  30. I understand the author’s dilemma, and truly symapthize with his stance. However, I also understand and symapthize even stronger with the students, who simply don’t have $8,999 to plop down for Adobe’s Font Folio (or anything else, for that matter.)

    Perhaps a compromise could be worked out between the software companies and those students who need to learn their software but can’t afford to purchase it.

    What if the software companies worked with the schools to provide time-coded versions of their applications that the student could take with them and install on their home systems. Upon installation, the program would begin “counting down” and would expire after a certain amount of time has passed (perhaps a semester, or even a school year). I doubt that making these types of discs available to students would be much of a burden to the software manufacturers – particularly in light of the fact that these students would be eventual end-users of their products. If necessary, however, the school could charge a few extra bucks in lab fees to help offset production costs.

    Software piracy is a problem that will never be completely eradicated, but, in this instance, at least, a co-operative, problem-solving approach will be a much better (and ultimately more effective) method of controlling piracy than any form of copy-protection.

  31. The consensus, and I agree, is that stealing is bad.

    Copying software is the result of greedy software companies charging too much for strapped students to pay. I suppose the ‘education’ here is: “Pay up now, so when you grow up, you can squeeze your least affluent customers dry, too.” This is the Ebenezer Scrooge school of corporate citizenship. I’m appalled at the self-righteous posturing of the ‘moralists’ who have the cash (or the parents’ cash) to pay for whatever they need.

    Not all students have money or parents to spare. It’s the English Department for them, I suppose, where a legal pad and a Bic will do in a pinch.

    Education for the rich, by the rich, and of the rich.

    By the standards applied here, the Boston Tea Party is to be condemned since it was, uh, ‘stealing’. Please use a little judgment before sending kids to the slammer for copying software to pass the mid-terms, ok?

  32. In regard to the problems of graphics arts programs in college. It seems a systemic problem to me. The instructors insist on the latest-greatest toys, and the give lower grades when the students are bending over backwards to make due with what they have.

    On the other hand the vendors, insist on high royalty prices because they believe it will be used by multiple users. The academic prices are often still to high a price for a student on limited means.

    The concept of a “discount” for a “new graduate” does not address the problem of software theft by students. The new graduate doesn’t need low cost software, they needed it for the previous four to eight years, while studying. A solution would be to permit students to utilize an even deeper discount on academic versions which are fully capable, including the 30,000 fonts. The vendors could also include extensive supplemental documentation not included in the professional versions. A deal like this, especially a complete Adobe design suite for, say, $100, would very attractive. The student would have to upgrade when the operating system was upgraded, or a new computer when he graduates, the vendor could also offer a 50% discount for upgrade. This would reduce piracy, and help people be honest.

    Dennis Spohrer

  33. Expecting students to lay out that kind of cash is a bit much.
    Here are a couple possibile solutions:
    1. require that all work be done in class, on school comps, with school-paid-for software.

    2. Supply full, legal copies of the software to students and jack tuition to pay for it.

    Otherwise, buying Quark for $350, or 4 months worth of groceries…
    hey- maybe if we all had bought a copy of Quark in college they’d have been able to make an OSX version by now 😉

  34. As a freelance designer I’ll tell you that I’d never pay those greedy corporations thousands of dollars for their software. These applications are horribly over priced and quickly out dated. Plus, these (any program I want) are extremely easy to get. With that said, I don’t think I’ll ever give a single dime to those corporate tyrants and I can’t wait to attend graduate school with thousands of dollars in stolen software!

  35. The software companies can either lose money because students will pirate software, or they can make a little less when they make the software available for much less than pro-version, or even current educational pricing.
    I don’t agree with pirating in any sense, but it is necessary for students to learn the packages to work in them… but to expect nearly $9000- for a set of fonts???? That’s just absurd. Not only does that leave out every student, but it also excludes the many freelance designers out there who must provide their own software to work with!
    There’s just no way that any software company requires that much money to break even. This goes for Maya, Director, Quark, AfterEffects and the rest of those programs that hover in the stratosphere of pricing. As long as they continue to price them waaaay too high, students, company employees and users around the world will turn to “borrowing” versions from friends.
    Adobe, Quark, Microsoft, Macromedia, etc:
    Cheaper software prices = more licenced users!
    That’s just basic economics 101!

  36. I just posted a response and then read the other responses. I am appalled at my illustrious colleges who have no concept how the other career fields are trained.

    In most schools that teach certified auto mechanics, which included the community colleges four of my brothers went to, they did not provide all their own tools. Most auto shops, post graduation, a.k.a. real world, own some higher priced tools, such as diagnostic computers, lifts, and other major capitol investments, so the mechanic can do his job. Mechanics do accumulate many professional level tools, like I accumulated my cameras. But like my photo school, the automotive school also owns some major items. That industry does not expect the students to own everything when they show up to class. Occasionally, the schools work out sweet heart deals to get bulk amounts of the tools from the vendors.

    This goes for medicine as well. Would you expect a cardiac surgical resident to purchase a heart lung machine, a live motion x-ray machine, a cat scan, a mri machine, an operating table, lights, ekg, an examining table, dozens of retractors, pickups, forceps, clamps, scalpels, medications, bandages, and other pieces of equipment, and supplies, so he could learn how to do that by-pass you will need in a few years? No, the teaching institutions provide for the students equipment, often the vendors are lining up to get the new equipment and drugs into the hospitals, and clinics, for free, or even paying to get them in, so they can say “X” number of physicians are using “Y.”

    My illustrious colleges please do your homework before making claims you cannot support. Many industries go out of their way to support their students. Should not the visual arts be the same? It may not make sense on a quarterly report, but providing low cost options, and subsidies to education, makes sense in the long run. In some ways that is how Microsoft seized the market. They made deals to get their product onto as many machines as possible. Now 90% of the market is delusional thinking they have the best product on the market, because they never looked at the superior competition. The idea is to provide an entry-level market with the product at a low cost. They develop a relationship with the firm, and the software. They develop a trust for the vendor, and they believe in the vendor. When they have the purchasing authority in their job after graduation, they continue the relationship.

    The idea of charging thousands of dollars for a software title, and complaining about piracy is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The vendors can choose a reasonable option if they desire to make more money in the long run.

    Dennis Spohrer

  37. I make my living as a commercial photographer, I’m over 50. Any software to use in my buisness I buy it! If I want software to play with… I steal it. that’s the word for it right.. steal. And I do not feel bad about it. Any work I do, or have ever done is work for hire. Why?…. because life is to short to be chasing around looking for bandits. I charge what I need to charge going into a job and let it go. I also sell stock images that I like to think are protected from copy bandits but they are not. They have been used on calanders etc. without my prior knowledge or payment. what did I do? Nothing….. life is too short to spend it chasing around trying to stop things we can’t. I lose money but not my sanity.

  38. Stop charging almost $1000.00 for a CD of easily reproducable software. It’s not like they have to code each copy by hand, is it?
    On the other hand, I’m always happy to pay for shareware and commercial software, as long as it’s under $100.00 and good (ahem, M$).

  39. If it costs “amount x” to be properly educated as a professional, then either schools need to cover the costs(the best option), or, if they can’t, then add it to tuition, or impose it as a lab fee. In all cases, make the purchasing of licenses mandatory as a part of attendance. If design programs tell people they don’t need their own copies of the major software packages, they’re not being honest. And by not including those costs in tuition, they do the following: mislead the students, deprive them of the ability to roll software costs into student loans, and encourage piracy.
    Teaching your students ethics starts by behaving ethically as an institution.

  40. Hey Brian,
    Take a look at your own figures. That one student who claimed to have legit copies obviously has some wealthy parents.
    Most people don’t have to steal food, books, or art supplies because nobody is charging $799 for a set of pencils. If the people at Adobe and Micro$oft, et al, are starving, it’s because they price themselves out of the market. If you really feel sorry for them, advise them that they would sell 20X the number of CD’s at $70 than they do now at $700. Heck, I’ll buy one!

  41. And it does not come with a manual (or run on OS X).

  42. While Lawler makes an interesting point, I think he has missed an important point. I don’t know how old Mr. Lawler is, but judging from his picture, he is no recent grad. My point is as follows:
    I graduated from the University of Texas in 1998 with an Advertising degree (my focus was interactive). I could not afford all of the software necessary to stay ahead, or even keep up. I did buy some Macromedia titles, because they were $99, and I could swing it. I had tons of projects that had to be done and the computer lab was not always an option (long lines, short hours, etc.)
    I had many pirated copies of software that I used for school. I have since graduated and bought software that I once “stole”. The very first copy of Dreamweaver I used was pirated, since graduating, I have bought EVERY Macromedia title and version. If I would have had to buy all of this software as a student, I could not have done it and would have had to get a social studies degree, or something else. Macromedia and the other vendors would have lost my business. While piracy may never lead to legal ownership, I am fairly certain that it does much of the time.

  43. Companies like Adobe and Microsoft employ thousands of people and spend lots of money on R&D to produce their products; they deserve to cover their costs, and yes, to make a profit!

  44. This is the strongest response to any article I have ever written. I have a number of comments to make regarding the controversy over students and pirated software.

    1. Please understand that Cal Poly University has legal, licensed software and numerous computers on which to use that software.

    2. The Adobe Font Folio I mentioned in my article is not required software. No instructors require students to have any fonts at all. On the department computers we have a large number of fonts (but even our department does not own the Font Folio).

    3. I have never given a grade based on a student’s ownership of any software or fonts. My grades are based on student performance of the required course assignments — in lab, using computers and software provided.

    4. I believe that we should all live our lives legally and ethically, and we should teach young people to do the same. I do not steal. I don’t want my students to steal. I also don’t establish the prices of software, so I cannot control the costs of tools in our industry.

    5. I believe that most software companies make reasonably-priced versions of their products available to students, and I think that students should pay for the software they use. It is expensive to be part of this high-tech world, and I know that students can be part of it legally and ethically.

    Please keep the comments flowing. Quark and Adobe are following this commentary.

    Brian P. Lawler

  45. “…the loss in sales represents nearly $80,000 to Adobe and its retailers…”

    I strongly disagree with that statement. If I can’t afford $600 for a program I will either get something cheaper from another company or not get it at all. I suspect the actual loss of revenue would be a fraction of that amount.

    I learned Microsoft Word on a “borrowed” copy of the program. When I needed to buy a word processor for my company, I bought the one that I knew how to use: Microsoft Word. Software companies should offer deep discounts or “lite” versions to students who will become future customers. And they should offer big discounts for multiple copies so a company can afford to put a legal copy on every computer.

  46. When I equate someone just taking their work to use as their own, most students “get it.” As instructors, we must make student pricing that most software manufacturers offer, known to our students. I’ve helped several of my students purchase both hardware and software for their homes – and was knocked out by some of the package deals students could get from companies like Adobe, Apple, and even QuarkXpress.

  47. Microsoft and most other major software companies owe their existence to piracy. It’s the reason so few of them hunt down individuals using illegal copies.

    Here’s why:
    1. Businesses are the primary market for software.
    2. These businesses do not want the expense and inefficiency of training people to use the software they adopt.
    3. The proliferation of illegal copies of prohibitively expensive software creates a skilled work force and popular applications.
    4. Businesses commit to software based on how difficult or expensive it would be to find people with the skills to use it. (Have you ever seen an ad that states: ‘Quark layout artist wanted; will train’? DidnÕt think so.)
    5. Businesses invest in long-term adoption and upgrade expenses for this software, allowing software companies to charge an amount that far offsets any additional sales they would have gotten if they had to lower their prices to compete in a pirate-free market. This also helps them quickly recoup development expenses.

    Everyone wins:
    ¥ Private individuals gain the use of convenient software.
    ¥ Businesses gain a skilled work force.
    ¥ Software companies gain financial security; increased product value and salability; and free, self-perpetuating advertising that even the biggest corporate budgets couldn’t dream of affording if THEY had to pay for it.

    Software companies aren’t losing any money — just the opposite. Now that some companies have monopolies, it’s understandable that they would want to start cracking down. But the way I see it, that’s like byting the hand that feeds.

    P.S. Sorry, but Brian Lawler’s article comes off as self-righteous elitism. Perhaps the sheltered, noncompetitive world of academics has deprived him of the ability to see the big picture.

  48. I’ve said this before, but when I make an expensive purchase such as a washing machine, I get an expert salesman who spends time explaining this or that machine, glossy brochures, free installation and a warranty. When I am faced with similarly priced software, the information I need is INSIDE the sealed box, I cannot test it, the sales people cannot demonstrate it, and the warranty is poor.

    I too used to “borrow” first, then buy after the product had proved its suitability. (No educational discounts here – Australia.) Now I buy only software I can first download for an adequate, fully featured free trial.
    As a result I own some excellent software at a fraction of the price the big boys charge. If JASC can sell Paint Shop Pro at $200 +, why would I buy Photo Shop ? And it is very hard not to draw the conclusion that Photoshop is grossly overpriced. Just how much am I expected to pay for a pretty box and a retail markup?

    Those who cannot afford the product are not lost sales – they never will buy the product.

  49. This teacher may be the only American who lives in his stilted reality. Yes, a thief is a thief, but Enron, The American Government, etc don’t. Throughout our history all great fortunes and social advances are created by cheating, stealing and using force over the weak and powereless.
    We continue going to war against a people who have done nothing to us. Using Moral Justification and principles based on double talk, or no talk.
    Students resale books, equipment for under market prices, why not software, oop lic. agreements(?), yeah. If I purchase something it is mine to use however I wish, he must not be aware how the software industry pulled a fast one on all of us years ago, by convincing law makers to allow them these special added powers in the market place, not rights.
    Even with this type of piracy they still are pulling in $$$$ hand over fist, at prices they set.
    A student should be able to lend a book to a friend, but not software? So maybe this is about degree of correctness? You make $ from the software buy it, otherwise so what, his actions justify restricting access to information, ability, experience only if you are able to buy into the game as a professional. No level playing fields here.
    Given what school this is, don’t play games guess he hasn’t asked what ‘projects this school is involed in or what is funding research there.
    By destroying something before he was sure it was ‘stolen’ he steped to far who made him judge and jury, what would he have done if this student had left his legit backup copy? Said he was sorry?
    America plays moral games , why not stop our violations of human rights of fellow Americans and those who share this earth with us? Instead of teaching a morality class, not on the study guide.
    What can be done? The institutions should provide anything needed for the class, either thru tution or free.That would be moral. Getting any eduction is a struggle, and yes some do go hungry to by the books.
    The product of any school must be individuals who can make a living using that eduction, at which time taxes will be paid and add to the economic growth, we all benefit. So don’t deny that the founding fathers, those who made America great, and those running it now are not saints.
    As a vietnam vet I saw what moral high ground he pretents to enforce and expond for, I saw what we did and what we will always do because of people like him.
    Change that then just maybe we can address other things, throughout history morality has alway be plastic and an individual choice, oh except under Pres.Bush’s reign.
    I alway felt it was between me and my god not some teacher.

  50. I am a recent college graduate with a bachelors in Graphic Design. When I was in school, I bit the bullet and purchased a G3 computer with all the very expensive software needed. (Photoshop, Quark, Illustrator, etc) It’s something you need to do your job for the real world also. Yes, it set me back, but I was also able to get a loan direct from Apple for the entire purchase. I also received discounts through the school because I was student and able to defer my principal payment until I graduated, only paying the interest each month. (Better to buy everything in school when it’s cheaper.) So, there are already incentives in place that help students. Though I do agree that software is REALLY out of control in the pricing aspect, it’s still a fact of life and everyone should “abide by the law” so to speak and pay the price for good software that is actually legally theirs to own.

  51. I can appreciate Mr. Lawler’s alarm at the amount of software piracy in his classroom — but I wonder if he’s taken stock at the amount of same in the real world. And I wonder, too, why he’s surprised at the ambivalence on the part of the students toward copyright protection laws. After all, wasn’t everyone willing to download free music from the internet just a while ago, without compensating their favorite artists for those much-admired creative endeavors?

    Unfortunately, this situation exits in the world beyond the ivy league walls. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered graphics professionals willing to do the same thing — “I’ll swap you a copy of your latest version of Photoshop for my latest version of Illustrator.” (wink, wink; nudge, nudge).

    And while we sit here, calculating how many thousands of dollars the developers of all these fine programs are or are not getting, let’s consider this:

    1. Software is as expensive as it is because it takes brains and time and money to create it, and, like any product, it has to be priced to recoup the investment and make a profit. If all those who steal it went out and bought it, the damn stuff would be more profitable, and it would soon cost less per copy.

    2. Stolen software cheapens the industry. Essentially, those who stay legit have to charge more for their services; those who don’t have to figure software licenses into the cost of doing business can charge less.

    3. Since when is it excusable to steal something just because the software developers are making (name the amount) dollars? This must be some new rule I’m not familiar with… Let’s see — my neighbor makes more than I — so I guess I can just go in his garage and take his car, is that it? Perhaps the only cure for this line of thinking would be to place some modest annual cap on income. After you’ve reached that amount, you can continue to work the rest of the year for free. I wonder how well that’ll go over…

  52. Obviously Brian has forgotten the days when software manufacturers were happy to allow students the use of their products for little or no cost. The manufacturers realised that students were going to be their potential customers in the future and wanted them to get used to a particular program. I believe that it IS beyond the means of most students to not only purchase the relevant software but to keep up with the interminable number of expensive upgrades.

    Happy days Brian. I have a friend who is a lawyer, and when I ask him how his day has been he inevitably answers “It’s been good, I’ve made several people’s lives miserable today.” Go and do a law degree Brian!

  53. I am being trained to use Photoshop, Quark, etc. at school because that’s what I’ll be using when I get out. That means the company I work for will have to purchase and update the software. Why not lower the price for students who are going help insure sales to companies who hire them when they graduate?
    I find it interesting that Macromedia will sell Studio MX (four programs-retail $799) to students for $199 while Photoshop 7 (retail $699) costs students $279. I know Macromedia doesn’t really care about me, but they are pricing their products to students at prices they can afford. If I buy Studio MX now because I can afford it, I will probably use Dreamweaver forever- even when I graduate and can afford GoLive. People are creatures of habit and will stick with software they know. By giving me a good deal now, Macromedia is gaining a customer for life because I won’t want to be bothered with learning new software. Very smart on their part…

  54. The intangible quality of software makes it easy to perceive as ‘public domain’. Software IS very expensive. Most students are very poor. But they are the users & consumers of tomorrow, learning their craft. I believe it is the responsibilty of the software marketers to address and deal with the problem of students requiring their software, and acquiring it with the least expense. Piracy is piracy, whether or not it can be rationalized by poverty and/or need.
    Sean Bishop

  55. Despite my previous comments I am NOT in favour of developers using pirated software. Every piece of software that I now use, I have paid for and I can sleep OK at night. However, I feel this way because I am using this software in a commercial application; in the public domain if you will. I feel differently about the use of software in an academic situation where the results are generally kept ‘in house’ as assessment items.

    As a student I was expected to produce assessment items in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Director. I had no choice. So, given that I now never use those three programs, would I have been feeling stupid if I had purchased them, three of the pricing heavyweights? You bet I would.

    Additionally, I didn’t fancy the competion for the small numbers of computers in the labs on which this software was available, nor did I like working on those computers when I could because I did not have things ready to hand as I do on my own computer at home.

    I believe we should pay for software, I am happy to do so. I think that commercial developers who use pirated software deserve whatever the law throws at them if they are discovered. But Brian, Brian, Brian. I still say, “get a life”.

  56. Working for a small software company, I agree with the “don’t steal software” point of view. It’s interesting that the high cost of software is how so many justify their piracy. Often there are alternatives to the more expensive programs. MicroFrontier is not a big greedy software giant; we’re just a tiny little company (Adobe, I’m sure, has more receptionists than we have employees in our entire company). When customers call us for free tech support, a human answers the phone–there’s no maze of phone menus. Our flagship image-editing program, Color It!, does a great deal of what Photoshop does, yet costs only $29.95 for a single copy on educational discount (and considerably less in higher quantities). Our licenses let customers use the software on more than one computer, providing it’s not be used at the same time (a copy at school/work, and a copy at home, for example). Except for printing and saving, our demo versions let users try out all the features of the software (even testing third-party plug-ins) before they buy to see if the product meets their needs. So using most of the arguments presented for using illegal software copies, you’d think that we’d have very few problems at all.

    Sadly, we have a great many people pirating our software. The “software is too expensive” argument is just an empty excuse. Beyond the the moral fact that piracy is theft, many people don’t consider that each pirated copy makes it that much harder for us to stay in business, because each lost sale is a much larger part of the income for a small company. With lots of piracy, sales go down, we can’t afford to pay our programmers and support people, the company ends up going out of business, and there’s fewer alternative available for everyone.

  57. The price for graphic software can be astoundingly high and the temptation to cheat by duplicating your friend’s copy can be very enticing, but costly in the end, if caught. If you were to do perform a job using that bootleg copy and it was discovered and then reported by, say a co-worker, you are in deep trouble. But, if you truly want to stay on the legal side of the law, there are places to purchase that software at greatly reduced prices, online auction sites, such as eBay and That is what I did after shelling out nearly $600.00 for Photoshop 5.5 to an online retailer. But you need to be careful not to be ripped off with downloaded software like I was on eBay. I bought two downloadable software programs but soon discovered that they were illegal copies, which I could not register. I reported this to the software manufacturer and fortunately, I was able to obtain a refund from that eBay seller. Since then, I have purchased Illustrator 9.0, Dreamweaver 3, Flash 5 and CorelDraw 8 at greatly reduced prices. There are deals out there if you are willing to do the research.

  58. Brian P Lawler mentions that students consider software too expensive. Cars and Computers are expensive. Would you steal those? How about squatting instead of paying rent? Sure software is expensive and maybe overpriced too, but software piracy isn’t going to bring the price down in the long run.

  59. The author does bring up some good points, but I wonder how ethical he REALLY expects students to be who are going to be entering a business world where the seeming ethos is “Screw everyone, employees & customers, just to make more money.”
    Faced with that sort of ethos of a community that has proven itself willing to to sell it’s customers and employees out so that the upper echelon of business can live lives beyond the dreams of avarice, is it any wonder that this issue confronts our society on so many fronts? If the business world wants a solution to the ‘problem’, maybe they should look to clean house a little bit themselves to provide the kind of moral leadership if they want to stand a chance of creating a solution.

  60. I agree that honesty should be strictly encouraged, honorable behavior seems to have fallen by the wayside. However, have the manufacturer’s missed the mark? Wouldn’t it be better for the manufacturers to have all of those students as registered users? A more reasonable price for students would give them a committed, trained, potentially lifelong customer. And one that is in their database. Clearly the students percieve the value of the product to be out of their reach. What about subscription fees for students? If the manufacturers took a creative approach to the student population, they would build loyalty instead of resentment over the price structure.

  61. From your article, I see that MICROSOFT is the only company that got it right. $30 for a disk only copy of office.

    Imagine if Adobe offered disk only versions of their software to students for $30…
    Schools could provide it and charge a lab fee. No more piracy. What student needs a manual anyways? Thats what people like Mr.Lawler are for (teachers). Not to mention, If a student really wanted a manual, there are many (cheap) available at bookstores, and in general they are at least as good if not better than the ones provided by adobe.

    Now Quark offering a disk only version for $30? Well, we all know Quark despises its end users. When I was in school I believe quark retailed for around $400. We could get an ‘academic version’ of Quark Passport for $400 (it retailed for something obnoxious like $1500 or so). The only difference was that we could design in a zillion languages. So what. Thanks Quark.

    So there wasn’t a legal copy in the class (or student body for that matter). Now that I’m out of school I’m pleased to report that all my software is legal. Even my copy of InDesign. see ya quark.

  62. Curious that nothing is said about the teacher’s destruction of property without first finding the owner…

    I am actually kind of neutral on this issue; I put disagree because I didn’t like the teacher’s tactics. Regardless of the piracy issue, the $0.39 CD was still not his. Can teachers really have anything they find? Obviously for him the “end justified the means.” I believe he should have simply found the student, returned the CD, entreated him about ethical responsiblity and let the student decide. I fear for the teacher that such radical responses may come back to bite him in the future.

  63. Most if not all software licenses state the software is NOT FIT FOR ANY INTENDED USE. If the software developer and distributer feel it has no value as stated in the license agreements than how can they complain if others spend their time and money on the media and storage for a product that has no value.

  64. There is probably not one single creative professional who has not had at one time a “naughty” copy of one of the many software products needed to get started. The reason is, of course, the cost. But as we move on and put money away we purchase legitimate copies.

    Many software products are already offered at steep educational discounts – one of my neighbor’s daughters bought Macromedia Studio MX ($800 retail) for $200. Quite a deal.

    A better incentive would be to expand the “Lite” versions of software to the education market – full featured, but limited in some way that does not put the brakes on creativity – in other words, educational “tutorial” versions. They could possibly have a school-dictated rotating password required to save a document to a school server, even from home. Students should be allowed to do any work they choose and save it to the school server. At the end of their term, they will get a disc with all of their work stored on it.

    This way, students could get the full creative experience, work from home or laptop, and have access to their files, in essence ‘own’ it, but the software would be useless for extra-scholastic activities.

    The cost? The schools could help to provide subsidies (a tax-deductible “donation” perhaps to the school from the manufacturer), and the students would pay, say, $50 per software product, per semester, as part of their “lab” fee (ie likely the parents would be paying for it!). Since each product could have a shelf-life of two to five years (I still use Quark 4 and it is years old now), and could be legitimately transferred by the school to another student once the current user has finished with it, it would nearly pay for itself over time.

    Then, upon graduation, the student could get a “gift certificate” from the manufacturer for purchasing the product.

    The incentive to the manufacturer? Happy users who will look to their product first before buying a competing package. No real loss in revenue as the long-term cost will be paid in installments by the school, which will collect incremental lab fees to cover the purchase price.

    Greg Gutbezahl

  65. I taught digital video and digital imaging as well as multimedia for 12 years in public high school and in community college. I was unable to dent student opinions on stealing software even when i provided low cost alternative software vendors and made them aware of student discounts. Many of the same answers were given to me as appear in the article. I, too, have known many software designers and am fully aware of how hard they work to make my life so exciting. Interesting, though, were how many students who would admit in quiet moments that the ethically challenged lifestyle they had adopted was modeled in the their homes by their parents.

  66. Software developers offer the would-be pirate choices. Many which I used in college myself.

    First is the 30-day timed evaluation download, though Adobe used to disallow saves, I believe they all offer close to full functionality today.

    Educational versions are great deals for Adobe users. Unlike EdwardG’s assertion, Adobe allows the student to use the software after school. Macromedia was stricter when I was in school, but they may have changed policy since then. So your investment in school can carry over into the “real” world as a licensed contributing member of society.

    Full versions for those without access to educational benefits. As I stated with Adobe you can upgrade their products just as you do the full version.

    $399 for the design collection is a deal. for those of you who think developers need to encourage a relationship for loyalty to their brand, this is laughable. Developers don’t owe you anything and only when you graduate to the real world will you understand the value of the software and how much it can help you do your job.

  67. Information piracy is a hot topic nowdays, whether it be a $10,000 program or just a single MP3. Regardless of what it is, in most cases I strongly believe it’s consumers anger at being overcharged for services and products. They’ve found a tool to express their anger – if the price isnt fair then theyll just take it, and man are they ever expressing themselves!

    Sure some call it theft, and I see their point. So why would someone “steal” $5,000 worth of software they NEED to get their first job? Many many reasons, and all take a blink of an eye to be justified for most. For one the prices are ridiculously abstract when compared to what your getting! It’s ones and zeros folks..all for something like $10,000? Absurd!

    Now the concern “You wouldnt steal from the grocery store, so dont steal from software co’s.” Let me tell you, if a loaf of bread was $200 and I had a anonymous way of stealing it,I’d do it simply to feed my family! And so the analogy works for students trying to get started – these programs are their “bread” REQUIRED to get going in their fields. If its not there they “starve”.

    So for solutions: For starters software companies need to get real about their prices to individuals, espicialy students. These current prices are fine for already established say graphic houses who make an income that justifies it. A student is already going broke from his classes, much less making income at all yet from his astronimcly priced software.

    Now try this: Free software for those interested in learning it (which will in turn create more professionals and more jobs which will need to buy their software). Alias Wavefront Maya 3D software has figured this out, as they have fully funtional version offered for students for FREE. This from a software that ranges in the thousands at full retail price. To those folks I say: Your ahead of your time, kudos, goodjob and maybe even hallelujah! Next try greatly reduced prices for hobby types, and more expensive Corporate licenses for well..companies. Pricing relative to the end user! Everyones happy! (except maybe the software exec whos no longer fatening his wallet from highway robbery, to whom I couldnt care less about anyways)

  68. My personal opinion is that any student caught using pirated software should be expelled, with no chance for readmission. Software piracy is a crime, with penalties ranging from confiscation of all computers and software on the premises to fines of up to $1,000,000. While enforcement is rare, it is important to note that this law is on the books. It is international in scope. It’s there for a reason.

  69. As a grafic design student in Fla. I was stuck using the Mac lab (with constant problems) at my university to “create” my homework, finally a friend provided me with copies of Freehand, Photoshop and Quark, for a PC computer, my mothers, that was only used to write term papers and read email. I had to use these programs on a mediocre windows sistem with a lot of Bugs because these programs worked better on Mac’s, fast forward a couple of years later in a new school in a new country and i was finally able to purchase a used Mac power book G3 from an ignorant house wife that purchased it because i looked “pretty” and had installed the Virtual Windows for Mac. What a disgrace. I still cant afford the programs that are needed to be a succesful graphic designer, and yes piracy is practiced freely with my fellow classmates, when i graduate and become a payed freelance designer i will purchase these programs, in the mean time, I am not making any money off of them, they are providing me with invaluable training for when i start making money.

  70. I know Adobe offers graphics suites at $499.00, but why can’t they offer each product in the suite at a fraction of the total for the suite’s price? Macromedia does this in effect by offering stuff at $99.00 each. Adobe, Macromedia, and Quark are the staples of programs used in graphic design. Cheaper substitutes are not suitable for training to the real world. The substitutes may get the assignment done, but won’t help much in preparation for working in the business world. It isn’t right to steal, but as a public relations approach, the students should be treated to better and more flexible plans of purchasing or use of software. Karma needs be changed by software developers and students. State funding in schools or computer availability for students is not the same in all cases. You may be making the error of believing that your school’s situation is how it is in all schools. Piracy needs to be disarmed from two ways; the developer and the student. I am afraid that if the student cleans up his/her act, then the software companies will make the excuse not to change policies. If the develpoper doesn’t change policies, then the student won’t feel the need to change either. Perhaps it is time for mutual change.

    We don’t steal cars because they are expensive? Please, donot use the apples and oranges logic. Keep in mind that the student is paying for a lot of items already. With cheaper and flexible payment options, the developer will buy lifelong customers. Tell the developer to project the earnings of having a lifelong customer. It would also lead too less piracy.

  71. This guy hit the nail on the head when he make the following comment “If you really feel sorry for them, advise them that they would sell 20X the number of CD’s at $70 than they do now at $700. Heck, I’ll buy one!” If software was $70 or £70 then software manufaturers would still make there money because companies would buy copies for every machine, there employees would not pinch copies from work but buy there own so they could ‘sleep at night’ and students wouldn’t download hooky copies because they could afford it. When will this make sence to everyone cheeper software sell more software make more money. Get it together everyone. You know it make sence.

    PS. Music companies would benefit from the same principles. Who would download mp3’s if you could get the real deal for £5.99 instead of £12.99 ($21.41) I wouldn’t even bother looking for an mp3 if it was cheeper and nor would most people.

  72. I own a small software company. (Fortunately for me, not graphics arts software!) It took me every dime I had or could borrow to develop the software that I now sell. After several years in business, I still haven’t paid off all my loans.

    To listen to your spoiled, sniveling, morally corrupt group of students make every excuse in the book for stealing makes me want to vomit. Remind me never to hire any of your students. They sound like a pack of thieves.

    I do not understand how your students can rationalize that theft is a victimless crime. If I take great personal financial risk to develop software, am I entitled to get paid, only as long as my business remains small and relatively unsuccessful? Am I somehow less worthy if I become successful and provide good jobs, pay taxes, and even (oh, the horror of it!) go public and have stockholders? Does setting a price in a free market morally compromise me? Is letting people decide to either buy my software at my price or use some other software asking too much?

    Maybe I should just release software and let my customers use it and decide on their own whether they want to pay me and how much. I’m sure the employees I’d have to lay off wouldn’t mind. Neither would my loan officer at the bank.

    Since I would quickly go out of business, my reward would be that I could devote my time to my true love, photography. I could go back to school and get a fine arts degree in photography. I wouldn’t pay attention to any instructor who has white hair and is obviously old and out of touch. Of course, my pictures would only be for class assignments at first, and cameras are much more expensive than pencils, so I’ll go steal a Canon 1Ds digital SLR and a few lenses. The guy that owns the camera shop probably will understand that I’m only a poor student. I’m broke and I can’t afford to pay retail, and my instructors might give me bad grades if I don’t use the latest and best tools. I promise I’ll be a loyal customer after I graduate (if I’m not in prison).

  73. I have been expecting the implementation of this for a couple years. I’m sure I can’t be the first to think of it. If each copy of software (with unique serial number) would have to access the web once every 24 hours, with the application running (or maybe with the installer disk in), and was given a 24 hour permission to use. The serial number could be recognized behind the scenes and once submitted would be locked out for 24 hours to anyone else wanting to use a copy with the same serial number. This could also be implemented by phone or cell phone and the temporary pass number keyed in by hand when the web was down. Not a perfect solution and having some negative PR backlash and/or some technical problems with implementation may be the reason(s) why it hasn’t been done. What am I missing?

  74. What do they steal the software for? To put on their $2,000 computer! They probably didn’t steal that. I’m saying that if they think they can afford a machine that costs twice as much as an Adobe suite (cheaper even if educational), they can afford the software. They are both tools to get the job done, maybe the software is just easier to steal, but just as wrong. One thing that did bug me about Educational software (I’m talking to you Adobe) is that once you graduate, you aren’t legally licensed to use it professionally. They should make it be upgradable to professional license with the next time you buy a standard version upgrade or something. I know Macromedia did that for a while, and I took advantage of it.

  75. What a group of amoral, self-serving children! It’s all been said in earlier posts but it is positively frieghtening to see the total void of honesty and integrety in those that disagree with the original article. There is absolutely no morally acceptable justification for their actions nor their attitudes. We are taking immediate action in our company… the thieves will be unemployed.

  76. “Software developers are people too and they work so hard and we shouldn’t steal from them…” What a crock of s*it. Those same developers at one time used pirated software, guarantee it. Who cares about the developer? I don’t give two shits, he still draws his paycheck whether or not I register my copy of software. I don’t think there is anything wrong with students using pirated software, I have said it before and will say it again, “stealing students” of today are paying customers of tomorrow.
    “But you wouldn’t steal bread or a car..” To that I say, I may have had to when I was a student if I didn’t use pirated software. Do any of you judgemental nutjobs want a crazed student putting a gun to your head for rent money because he had to pay Macromedia and Adobe for software? I didn’t think so.
    Anyone who agrees with what I have said post a reply with “Amen” as the subject line. Lets pop this zit and move on…
    BTW, folks, I am employed by a software company.

  77. Okay, so I have read all the responses so far and just have to put in my 2 cents…..
    As a computer trainer, and web designer myself, I have to admit to having very little “paid” software of my own, and this is the problem. Sure there are STUDENT discounts, and even as a trainer, I can purchase some software at a reduced rate, but I have over 35 programs, programs such as Photoshop, Quark, and Dreamweaver under my belt. When someone approaches me and asks me to teach a class they don’t say, “Can you learn Photoshop 7?” for my class, they say “Do you KNOW Photoshop 7” and having me tell them, well I know Photoshop 5.5 cause that was the last time I was able to afford to purchase it doesn’t cut it!
    I personally am sick and tired of constant updates to Operating Systems and Software to match meaning that not only do I have to learn the new software (which is of course the exciting part !), but I have to have copies of it, BEFORE I ever get paid to teach it, and let’s face it, I may NEVER get paid to teach that particular peice of software.

    My point?? Someone likened software to mechanics tools and in some ways they are, however once you buy a wrench it’s yours. You can use it on a dodge, a honda, a car or a truck. It’s universal. If mechanics had to have a special set of wrenches for each kind of car they worked on, trust me, they would be stealing them too! Plus then each new car season if the wrenches they had last season, now no longer work on this years cars, or only in a limited capacity…..Get my drift??

    Software companies need to get their stuff together and provide consumers not only with more universal, upgradeable programs and operating systems, they need to provide them to the consumer in a more “you are the consumer, how do YOU want it way” and less of the current “we are the big giant mogul, take what you get and if you don’t like it who cares” kind of way.

    I personally would like to see a photoshop “platform” (for example) that you buy only once and as new versions come out, you just pay for the add ons. After all if I have a copy of Photoshop that already has a zoom tool, why do I have to pay for that again in the next version. I bought that already, just give me the improvements. AND if that original platform were offered at a reduced instructor/student rate even better!
    We don’t mind paying for merchandise that is apt to last and provide us with value, but who wants to shell out 600, or 800 or 1000 bucks for software that you know is going to be updated in a whole new version in 6 months unless we are using it 9-5 7 days a week. I ask the software companies “Where is the value?”. Software gets compared to a car in some of the responses given, well I can use a car for all my transportation needs, find me a piece of software that will do that and I guarantee you that I will purchase it. As a web designer, you have to be know Dreamweaver, GoLive, FrontPage (ick! LOL), Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw etc etc etc, cause whatever project you start working on, you have to be able to use and/or integrate with the current software on the premises. Tell me a student or a just graduated student can afford all those in the “legal” versions.

    So to end (yes this does have an end!) I just say, I agree with the instructors philosophy, but until the software companies stop gouging the public, I don’t see that many of us are going to change our positions.

  78. Dear Longhorn,

    If you ever stop being an employee, and use your own money to fund and operate a software development company, you will learn very quickly that when people don’t register the software you will not get paid. It’s a fact of life. I wish it weren’t so. My life would be so much easier.

    Rationalize all you want, but the reason you don’t steal bread and cars is because you would almost certainly get caught. People rarely get caught stealing software, so it’s okay. That is beginning to change as more and more developers are being forced to move to a cumbersome interactive registration system where the serial number is checked before the software is unlocked.

    Once all software is registered in this manner, (and take my word for it, it will be and sooner than you think) I guess landlords will have to carry heavy artillery when dealing with gun-totin’ student renters.

    Best regards from a judgemental nutjob.

  79. In my year of 55 students, I appear to be the only one owning legtimate copies of the software useful to have.
    Could this be anything to do with running my own business and fiercely defending the right to licence? I feel frequently shocked and ashamed at the ethical standpoints of my fellow students. Until Photoshop updates _that_ much, or my coursemates no longer know anyone in education; they will _never_ pay somebody for thier professional work. And if Adobe, Microsoft, Quark, et al are listening, I can provide you with names and addresses at $50 a pop…

  80. Brian, you simply are out of touch with your students.

    In the last 30 years cost of education has sky rocketed, incomes have stagnated and cost of equipment has gone equally high. I am not sanctioning theft when the end result is a profit. On the other hand when a student uses a piece of pirated software to educate themselves and complete projects, who exactly have they harmed.

    By being knowledgeable in a software suite actually makes a future employer more likely to purchase a license if they do not currently own it. As an engineering student, most of the software we use for design costs thousands of dollars. If you want to buy it, please be my guest. Fortunately, there are student versions available for free that gives me the ability to learn.

    You are pointing the finger at students who are using pirated software to learn. This simply isn’t fair.

  81. Hi Brian, this is one of the reasons that licences has changed. Has the situation changed for your students with subscriptions? We find we are getting many students that see the value of having a student subscription for their home/portable computers even if we have Computer labs with all the licences they need to complete their studies,

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