Piracy an outdated approach
Internet piracy is not a new phenomenon, but steps have recently been taken to counter the problem.
Many students, however, treat Internet piracy as completely normal and excusable.
The majority of Internet piracy goes by undetected by government authority. Internet piracy is both ubiquitous and virtually unstoppable.
But it is still is a crime. Piracy is ultimately stealing.
Nevertheless, there is something intangible about Internet piracy.
Stealing a game from a store, for instance, clearly translates into the store losing the profit it would otherwise make.
Stealing a game off the Internet, by contrast, means taking a virtual copy from an essentially unlimited supply. If it costs a company virtually nothing to produce a copy of a piece of software, why should we have to pay so much for it?
Feelings of entitlement to pirated software, music and data are the underlying causes of most Internet piracy. With increased accessibility of data, anything in the realm of ‚Äė0s and ‚Äė1s appears within reach.
Going further, many argue the consumer, rather than being the criminal, is the victim. The pricing of software, graphics software in particular, often creates circular arguments.
A copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5, for example, costs $299 ‚ÄĒ is this high price essentially the developer stealing from the user? Does the user deserve reasonably priced software? ¬†Who decides what is ‚Äúreasonable‚ÄĚ?
Justifications for Internet piracy or hacking are based on arguments about who deserves what ‚ÄĒ either information is for everybody, or companies can delay technological development to increase profit.
Suppose nobody is entitled to anything. If we believe that to be true, then anything we possess is a gift. And since some of us are given more than others, we decide to share, believing we are all equally undeserving, and that we should celebrate what we have been given by not keeping it to ourselves.
A Utopian portrait? ¬†To some degree, yes, but among the software developing community, not so far away.
The solution to Internet piracy does not lie in attacking developers or punishing pirates.
Instead, one solution is to use open- source software. ¬†There is already a very large (and growing) community supporting open- source software.
For the non-developer, ‚Äúopen-source‚ÄĚ simply means free software.
For the developer, it means computer software with available source code, which would normally be retained by developers under copyright, that is free to be analyzed and altered.
Open-source alternatives exist for most commonly pirated software. Applications like OpenOffice.org Writer, an alternative to Microsoft Word, and the GIMP, an alternative to Adobe Photoshop, permit users to export files in the formats used by their non-free ¬†alternatives (such as .doc, .ppt, .psd, etc.).
As an open software user myself, (I‚Äôm writing this using Open Office Writer on an Ubuntu platform), I can say I have gotten by fine technologically at USC.
For some USC students, the concept of buying software might be foreign. ¬†The most basic users likely never have to use any application not pre-installed on their computers.
If the opportunity does arise, however, consider open-source software a means to kill two birds with one stone. You can preserve both your wallet and your integrity.
Internet piracy is a product of sentiments of entitlement that reflect a dangerous pride that has plagued humans for centuries.
With a relatively low chance of legal ramifications, Internet users must decide for themselves: What is integrity in this digital age, and am I willing to pay the price of maintaining it?
Alan Wong is a freshman majoring in East Asian languages and cultures.