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Oh It’s Free?: The Act of Software Piracy -Final


Did you know that you’ve never owned the computer software that you’ve spend all of that money on? In fact, according to Adobe, the reason computer software piracy is such a mainstream issue is because “Unlike other things you purchase, the software applications and fonts you buy don’t belong to you. Instead, you become a licensed user — you purchase the right to use the software on a single computer, but you can’t put copies on other machines or pass that software along to colleagues.” (

Software piracy reaps havoc in the cybernetic world and the software developing industry. With unlimited access to bit torrents, and software like LimeWire, it’s incredibly easy for anyone who knows how to work a computer to pirate software. It has been made very clear to computer users that piracy is against the law, especially since every time we install software on our computers, we must comply the terms and conditions agreement which state that it is illegal to copy, and pirate software to non-customers. If this is the case, then why is software piracy becoming such an issue, more specifically that of graphic design software?

Graphic design software ranks among the highest pirated software around. If fact, according to, Adobe is finding its products listed multiple times within the worlds top 10 most pirated software’s. So why is it that these programs have such high theft rates? Many contributing factors come into play, especially among college students, which lead them into feeling justified into pirating software.

So what drives college students to resort so quickly to pirating software? Is it even a quick decision or is there some contemplating that takes place? For many, piracy has become second nature. For a generation birthed into the use of bit torrents and Limewire, it’s a rarity to find people who go out and buy CD’s or movies anymore when the convenience of having them right in front of you is at your fingertips. So if it’s this difficult to get young people to purchase a ten dollar CD, how much more difficult will it be to get them to buy software that is going to cost at least $300?

From tuition payment, groceries, rent, and night club cover fees, anyone who has been a college student knows that finances can be incredibly difficult to manage, and a part time job doesn’t cut it when it comes to paying for this laundry list of things. So what’s a graphic design student to do when you have all these things, plus the expensive software packages stacked on top to pay for; ask your parents to cover it? That’s one way, but for many, that isn’t an option. So what other routes are available for the ailing college student?  As a graphic design student myself, I understand the hardship that comes along with school and finances, but also as a former computer/software retail employee, I also understand the severe legal implications of piracy, and the alternatives provided to those who might find it financially straining.

Another means in which college students are led to pirate design software is that they believe that it is their right and a necessity to make use of the design software, even though every good designer knows that having the latest software package won’t makes you a good designer. Many students believe that manufacturers such as Adobe need to be more aware and sensitive to their situation and provide the software as freeware or at drastically discounted student prices.

The fact of the matter is companies that manufacture design software are by no means obligated to provide this software for students. Companies like Adobe are different from companies like McGraw-Hill Learning Group that produce textbooks for college students because Adobe’s client spectrum goes far beyond college lecture halls and computer labs. Adobe actually does provide a very generous service to students by providing the benefits that they do. In many college bookstores and computer stores, Adobe has provided software discounted at rates up to 80%. In addition to this, they provide licensing to campus computer labs, which are typically at student’s disposal outside of class hours.

So if Adobe and other software companies have already jumped through these hoops for college students, why does such a high rate of piracy still exist? Maybe laziness is an issue? At times, students don’t feel like making the hike from their dorm to the computer labs only to find that all the computers are already in use, or once they get to the lab, they realize they left their zip drive sitting on their bed. Maybe the issue is inconvenience. Many labs on campuses have inconvenient hours for students balancing work, class, and homework.

That being the case, are these students entitled to treat design software as open source and downloading it for free? I believe this is where the concept of piracy of design software starts to become disputable. Is it wrong to steal food if you are hungry and have no money? Is it wrong, as a graphic design student, to download software and use it solely for educational purposes? There’s a pretty divided opinion between students and professors on this issues. I have seen both professors and students who condone the action of pirating for educational purposes and rebuking the idea of pirating, backing it with the notion of students should be making an investment into their future by purchasing the software. I must admit I myself began to feel sympathetic towards condoning the idea of pirating the software for educational purposes, especially as someone who’s been completely engulfed in work, homework, and class. But then another issue came to mind.

Often times, professors encourage students to pursue freelance job opportunities to build their portfolio, and get some design experience outside the classroom. Where this is all good and dandy, this begins to present a major issue for students who are using the software solely for “educational purposes.” Once pirated software is used for financial gain, the student has completely exited the realm of using the software for educational purposes and is back into the realm of technically being a thief, or pirate.  Even if the job was pro bono the fact that a company or organizations logo, website, or print work was developed with pirated software could present a potential problem.

Realistically, unless companies in the industry make a drastic change in how they deal with this issue, it’s not likely anything will change, and I don’t think anyone is expecting an altercation in how it’s dealt with anytime soon.  Does that make software piracy something that should be ignored?  Not necessarily, but I do think its something that industries need to analyze a little closer.  It’s often the case where if you give an inch, people take a mile.  If the act of software piracy isn’t met where it’s at right now, who knows where the next mile taken is going to take the industry.    

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