When something costs money, people will find a way to acquire it without
paying for it. Shoplifting, Grand Theft Auto, Embezzlement,
pickpocket’s, is all forms of criminal activity, and each has the same
goal: to acquire illegally that which you want. In ship-faring years of
the 1700, they had Pirates. Today, in the new century, the term Pirates
has a new meaning, referring to those who steal, or Pirate, software or
For years, Macintosh users have been a little different than our PC
using brethren. We used a superior machine, and used our Macs much more
creatively and productively than the average PC user. We felt a little
superior in our belief that all the PC users out there just did not, or
could not, “get it.” This is not as true today as it was, say, in 1997,
but it still hold true for many Mac users. We always considered
ourselves the true innovators, the people the Internet was REALLY made
for. We get it, we do things differently, and we are not really like
those PC users. Right?
Wrong. Mac users are some of the biggest Pirates our there today.
Once upon a time, to get a copy of a program illegally, you had to
actually know someone who owned it, and you had to physically meet with
that person so that they could make a copy of the software, put it on a
disk, and give it to you. Modems were to slow and unreliable to even
consider trading illegal acquired software over the phone lines. Today,
with Cable modems and other high-speed Internet access, downloading a
5MB only takes a few minutes, if that. (I recently downloaded a 650MB
file, and it only took an hour and ten minutes with my AT&T Cable modem)
When I first decided I wanted to create some of my own artwork on the
computer, I read up on the subject. At the time, the best tool to do
what I wanted to do was (and pretty much still is) Adobe PhotoShop. The
problem was it cost much more than I could afford, so I had to make do
without. It bothered me that here is the tool I needed, and wanted, but
for more than a few hundred dollars in price, how could I justify buying
it? Thankfully at the time, did not have to.
A friend of mind, and at the time a bigger Mac enthusiast than I was,
invited me over to his house. Once there, he showed me all the programs
he recently had acquired, and though I did not asked him how he got
them, I suspected the software was bootlegged.
“Hey, what’s the program with the Eye icon?” I asked, knowing (hoping)
that is was PhotoShop. It was, and he asked if I wanted a copy. Gulping,
sweaty palms and a tickle of moisture ran down my back. Here was that
expensive software, right at my fingertips, and all I had to say was
“Yeah, sure. Cool, thanks.” I said.
“Got any blank disks?” Mike asked, pulling a floppy disk caddy onto his
lap. I had, in fact, brought blank disks with me.
“PhotoShop takes six blank disks. How many you got?” I had just bought a
whole case, so I had twenty blank floppies on me.
“That will do. Hey, you want anything else? Here, take a look” Mike
handed me the floppy disk caddy, and I started flipping through the
store bought disks marked up with pens. Illustrator, Director, Aldus
Freehand, Norton Utilities, ColorIt!, Microsoft Office, and a host of
others. Thousands of dollars worth of software, all mine if I so
desired. And desired I did. A few hours later, sitting at home, I had my
bounty, and all it had cost me was $6.99 for the box of blank floppy
Sure, I felt guilty. I felt like a thief. But all this software! All
free! And now, all mine! My first wife, when I told her what I had done,
just gave me “the” look and shook her head. More guilt. After all, my
parents did a good job of raising me. I know it was wrong, that is was
theft, and I felt bad about it.
Oh, I kept and used the software. You better believe it. In fact, much
of it was used to create the first few issues of My Mac.
I don’t bootleg much software anymore. Nope, I have cleaned up my act.
Today, I bootleg music.
Unlike my bootlegging days of 1995, today people have it much easier to
download not only software, but copyrighted music as well. With Napster,
and its Macintosh twin Macster, users simply enter in the name of the
song or artist(s) while connected to the Internet, and download almost
any song you can imagine.
Software, at least right now, is a bit more difficult, though I suspect
you will soon be able to search for and download programs just as easy
as you do music. Today, you need to either get online with an illegal
FTP server, mount an AppleTalk volume, or use HotLine to find and
download software. But again, this will change soon.
What does all this say about Mac users? Are we any different, then, than
our PC using brethren? We all know it is wrong to download music,
regardless of how we try and justify it to ourselves. Sure, I download
music using Macster. I also buy more CD’s than ever before, usually
after hearing the music first in MP3 format that I downloaded illegally
using Macster. (Napster)
Times are changing. Those who trade in the digital medium (music,
movies, and software) are now facing a new paradigm. Theft is rampant on
the Internet. For every software title, one song or an entire album, and
even full DVD movies you sell, how many other copies are being
distributed illegally? How many people are REALLY using your software?
Are these illegal copies the reason prices are so high?
Can the companies who make the movies, software, and distribute the
music do anything to stop the illegal activity, or should they even try?
Perhaps they simply change the way they do business to reflect this
future world we live it now? What ever the answer may be, you can be
assured of one thing: If someone charges a price for something, there
will be a way to get that something for free.