By now, most people have had enough of the RIAA (Recording industry) drumming into their heads the evils of piracy via peer-to-peer downloading networks. CD sales have been in decline since file-sharing apps like Napster and Kazaa made it easy to find the song you wanted for "free". The battlecry from the other side, however, was that recorded music cost too much. They claim that if CD prices were more reasonable, they would buy the CD's instead. The recording industry has tried various forms of copy protection, but in general they have only had a minimal impact. Recently, two totally different responses appeared. First, the RIAA started suing song-swappers. In the few weeks since the lawsuits were unveiled, there has been a decline in P2P (peer-to-peer) activity. Fortunately, Universal Music group took the opposite approach and lowered the price of their music. Hopefully, Universal's strategy will pay off in the end. However, the recording industry isn't alone in the piracy battle.
I see many parallels between the music and software industries. Software makers have fought piracy since the days of the floppy disc. It was very easy to copy a program from one computer to another and like music piracy, the software industry hasn't had much success stopping it. For many people, the problem is the high cost of the software. For others, it doesn't really occur to them that there is anything wrong with sharing programs. Like the music industry, software makers have tried various forms of copy protection. Product activation and CD Keys have had more success than their music counterparts, but piracy is still rampant. Recently, there were two announcements that give a glimmer of hope that software makers may finally be getting it...multiple seat licenses for home use that don't rip-off the consumer.
Symantec recently announced that their new Anti-virus 2004 would include Product Activation. While that just makes it more inconvient for users, they balanced that announcement with the fact the Professional version would include a two-computer license. That is definitely a step in the right direction. Apple's recent "Panther" OS update, though, takes it a step further.
The new Mac OS X version 10.3 "Panther" will be available for a suggested retail price of $129 (US) for a single-user license, but this is the cool part...the Mac OS X version 10.3 "Panther" Family Pack is a single-residence, five-user license that will be available at the same time for a suggested retail price of $199 (US). Though I can't see many households having five Mac computers, this is still a great idea - only $70 more for four additional licenses (though $129 for a point release is a bit much). I wish MS would adopt that strategy. How many more copies of Windows would not be pirated if Microsoft offered a reasonable home licensing package? Microsoft's current scheme is anemic - only $15 off additional copies :-(
Hopefully, this is the first of many multi-license offers from software companies. Bottom line - if they want to curb piracy, they need to stop gouging the consumer. Offering multi-license packages at a fair price would be a step in the right direction.