Software Piracy in Asia Exposed

By Van Smith

Written: January 29, 2002


Hi Mike,

I hope everything is going well with you.  I haven't asked lately, but have you fully recovered yet?

I just read the article you published today about software piracy in Asia ( ).  While there is no doubt that piracy is big business in Asia, the expose has the canned feeling of Microsoft PR.

I realize that you run the inquirer similarly to how I run VHJ, where articles are often submitted freely and out of good will, but this article feels very much like a propaganda exercise meant to manipulate and sow fear.

So-called software piracy is not the next big threat to Western Civilization.  Our way of life is not going to be undermined by the rampant copying of software in the Far East.  Microsoft has risen to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in the world under conditions that were arguably worse than what they are today.  Software companies whose products have not yet been hijacked by the Redmond bandit will continue to find success in the future, although room for such operations are diminishing rapidly as Microsoft continues to expand the breadth of their offerings.

Yes, the biggest threat to the vitality of the software industry is Microsoft itself, a pirate far worse than any found peddling CD's in a Beijing alley.  Instead of copying the code and redistributing it for profit, Microsoft steals ideas, throws truckloads of programmers and marketing at producing clone products and kills competitors that originate ideas.  Additionally, Microsoft leverages its dominance in the OS arena to serve as an exclusive delivery vector to coerce Windows users into these Microsoft initiatives.

This article also avoids any critical examination of WPA and the reasons for its implementation.  Microsoft positions this apparatus as a way to protect its revenues against piracy, but the majority of people impacted by WPA are those who casually copy installations across multiple PCs in the same house - certainly no threat to Microsoft's bottom line, as the software giant has even admitted on occasions.

Organized piracy has far more impact on Microsoft and other software vendors, yet even here the damage is unclear since many purchasers of pirated software might not have otherwise obtained the software.  Secondary profits from books, related software and upgrades are also not typically considered.

The refocused attacks against piracy by some in the software industry (I worked a software engineer for years and can state that these anti-piracy efforts fall short of reflecting everyone's sentiments) coincide with the proliferation of digitized entertainment media along with the rapid availability of broadband.

It is no secret that Microsoft, Intel, et al have been courting the entertainment industry to enable the PC as the next delivery vehicle for digital entertainment content with the intention of extending the PC's reach into living rooms.  The entertainment industry has been reluctant to wholly endorse this idea out of fears of lost revenue from illegitimate copying of their intellectual property (an acute oxymoron when applied to most of what Hollywood offers).

WPA is an invasive measure that cracks the door for increasingly bold initiatives.  With its success, we will see other, more extreme programs to ensure that all software installed and, more importantly, digital content being played or copied have "legitimate" licenses.  Moreover, these licenses will be tied to specific hardware.

This is not some conspiratorial pipe dream, as Microsoft has already established such measures for device drivers to earn WHQL certification.  Of course, Sony has similar mechanisms in their memory stick-driven MP3 players.

Connecting piracy with terrorism is also disconcerting, especially since no evidence is provided.  If the author does not work for Microsoft or some associated organization, he is serving as an uncritical mouthpiece for them.  Tying piracy to Osama bin Laden has the feeling of a cheap attempt to leverage current fears in order to make the public more compliant to increasingly invasive and insidious measures that will be rolled out in the coming months.

I consider you a friend and know you are a good man, Mike.  Please pay close attention to further material coming from this source as this article is more fitting for the Register rather than your fine site.

Take care,




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