Are we doing enough to stop piracy?
Just a couple of days ago, my university hosted an event to curb piracy aiming to educate students on the consequences of piracy. Students witnessed a discussion on Protecting Intellectual Property by four notable people from the enforcement and industry (Apologies for not taking down their names). Students were also allowed to engage in this discussion by asking questions which were later answered by the panel. I live tweeted part of the event on my tweethandle with the hashtag #stoppiracy, and shall leave my opinions on it for the rest of this blog post.
The event started of with the panel reminding students on the consequences of piracy, especially from the industry perspective. Most of it was based on the amount of effort put in by developers to create this software or masterpiece. There was also loads of talk on mutual respect and professionalism. Below are just some quotes from the event.
1. “In the end of the day, one must appreciate the work put into the development of a software”
2. “As a student, the last thing you want is for another student to copy your work and hand it in”
3. “If you want quality, you have to pay for it”
4. “It’s always easier to do the wrong thing that the right thing”
The stuff stated by the panel gave students a huge other perspective to think from, but students too argued their perspective with many great questions and suggestions:
1. “Why don’t the producers produce low-end products that are affordable for us”
2. “We should get original software shops on the streets so people can buy it” (This is a great point, especially since most people are unaware of ways to get copies of legit software)
3. “If we spend millions on advertising to stop piracy, but we can’t spend a fraction of the money on advertising other alternatives” (a personal favourite)
My opinion on this matter
I completely agree with the third suggestion stated above. Are we doing enough to stop piracy? We keep advertising the words “Stop Piracy”, “Lets put an end to piracy, “Membanteras Cetak Rompak” (Curb Piracy, in Malay) et cetera but we do not give alternatives to students and all other computer users. A campaign that does not give solutions is a failed campaign.
One of the panel members spoke many times on finding alternative softwares that are largely available on sites like download.com (he said download.com so many times like he was their sales agent, no offense) or switch over to open source software. To me, he has a very good point and I being an Ubuntu Linux user found myself getting used to a whole bunch of alternative software after switching from Windows. For example, LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, GIMP instead of Adobe Photoshop and CodeBlocks instead of Dev C++.
However, the only problem here is that when students are completing projects or assignments, lecturers are specific on which software to use. For example, if they want a poster done on Adobe Photoshop with you having to hand in a .psd file, they would not accept something done in GIMP or Paint.Net. Therefore, students are forced to find ways to get a copy of Adobe Photoshop, may it be legit or not. Are you still going to blame students for this? The same panel member also stated about using the computer labs in the university if students can’t own a legit copy of the software. While this argument has its plus points, I find it rather impractical for computer labs being a students main computer, especially if it’s a piece of software that is to be used for most parts of their course.
My main argument here is why are universities/colleges supporting commercial softwares as if they were paid to do so? I have not been informed of a university, college or school in Malaysia that doesn’t use Windows or Mac. While Macs have their edge when it comes to design-related work, I fail to see the logic of having Windows PCs for normal, daily student use. Why don’t universities and colleges promote the use of open source software instead? Why just support a bunch of software that keeps getting things in its way despite there being other software that are most efficient, light and unique while being able to complete the same tasks.
Here’s a list of 10 pros of using open source software at a university:
1. It’s a cost-cutting move. Universities can save loads on licensing cost of the Windows OS. There is also no cost when it comes to upgrading to latest versions of the OS.
2. It solves a huge problem computer labs face – virus attacks. Everybody knows how Linux is free from viruses. So free that it would make you a fool to install an antivirus software on Linux.
3. Students as well as Universities can save loads of money on paying for commercial software.
4. This supports various open source developers, web applications and startups and encourages more programmers (including students) to develop their own software without depending on big software corporations. This also encourages startups (something a growing country like Malaysia would need).
5. Students get to learn how to use a whole different operating system, thus giving them an edge when they go out to the working world. They won’t be completely dependant on Windows or Mac but realise different operating systems just do the same thing, but differently.
6. Similar to using different operating systems (Point #5), students will also be open to other alternative softwares. They would know how to not just use commercial softwares available on Windows but also other softwares capable of completing the same tasks. Something that would come to their advantage.
7. Open source operating systems such as Ubuntu Linux are much lighter than the Windows or Mac OS. So do expect computers to perform faster, lag less and live longer. This also calls for less maintanence which also saves money (again, cost cutting).
8. One thing I personally love about Linux is the Linux community. If students encounter any problems they can always Google for help from the Linux community. This community is also a great way to learn new tricks and in the mean time exposes students to a whole truck load of knowledge out there.
9. This would also encourage students to work together in software projects. Maybe students from the same university can come together and create applications for other students, the same way open source works. Software collaboration at its best.
10. It solves the whole piracy issue. The main reason students download pirated copies of software is because they can’t afford it right?
To get straight to the point, universities, colleges and schools should be promoting open source software instead of being the backbone of commercial software. It is the best way to curb software piracy as student would get quality software that is affordable (and most of the times, free). This for me is the best way forward to not only curb piracy but also encourage students to use alternative software and introduce them to the open source community.
SOPA & Do We Need Laws?
I would also like to add on my opinion on SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) that would soon be tabled in the United States and if passed would see the Internet being more of a jail, where even posting a cover song on YouTube would be deemed illegal. This is obviously outrageous, and being on the other end of the globe I am pretty sure that every other Internet user despite their location would be affected by this. Furthermore, Tim Berness-Lee didn’t create the Internet for it to be jail-locked by the government and industry. I am pretty sure the Malaysian government has its own set of rules for Internet usage here (do note, they blocked ten file-sharing sites here). I find it rather dumb for laws to be imposed on this kind of stuff. In this much globalised world and in this democratic country, we do not need laws to control everything we do. The next thing we know, we might have a rule for everything small action in this world. Creating more and more laws against piracy would not have any effects on the long-term, especially if the enforcement ain’t giving any solutions. The best way of course is to educate (educate, not brainwash) netizens to be rational and responsible with their actions. And that is also why I applaud the event that was recently held in my university as it was a great way to get the message across and I hope the message got across.
This is truly my opinion. I would love to hear from the rest of you? Any other suggestions to stop piracy?