Software Piracy & Illegal Downloads: Not necessarily wrong

And not necessarily right either.

Say what?  Yes, you read that headline right.  Don’t confuse the words “wrong” and “illegal”.  It’s still illegal, but is it morally/ethically wrong?  It’s entirely possible for something to be against the law, but now wrong, such as speeding up past the posted speed limit to prevent being squashed by an 18 wheeler.  It’s also possible for something to be wrong, but perfectly legal, such as being rude.  So, let’s not confuse the 2 terms and note which word I chose in my headline!

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) would have you believe that downloading one song is the equivalent of walking into a record store and stuffing a Lady Gaga CD down your pants and sneaking out the door with it.  They would have (and have had) judges believe that allowing 24 songs to be downloaded from your PC is the equivalent of a major crime ring stealing 100,000 CDs worthy of a fine of nearly $2,000,000.  They would have (and have had) a UK court believe that simply providing a hot link on your website to a Michael Jackson MP3 file on someone else’s website (not even offering the MP3 on your own site) deserves a harsher prison term than actually KILLING MICHAEL JACKSON!

You think those are crazy examples?  Nope!  Well, actually yes, they are crazy, but unfortunately, each one of those really happened!

But, let’s get back to the main topic:  The morality of downloading digital files that you didn’t pay for, whether it be MP3 music files, movie files, photos, or software.  Is it the equivalent of stealing a physical product from a store?

Absolutely NOT!  And it doesn’t take a lot of brain power to understand why.  But, apparently, the lawyers at the RIAA and MPAA don’t have enough of that gray matter to understand it, so please allow me a moment to explain it to that crowd:

You see, when you steal something tangible (like a CD or a car), the person you took it from doesn’t have it anymore!  There’s an actual loss there.  Something of value is no longer there.  Actual loss occurred.  Now, when someone downloads a file, the original file is… guess what?  STILL THERE!  The file it was copied from is unaffected.  The person that owns the original file still has it.

Hey, RIAA and MPAA… Still following along?  Good.  Now, that’s NOT a justification for copying.  That’s just an important part (a really important part) to understand.  You must understand and accept that to move on.  Denying that simple truth proves 1 of 2 things:

  1. You’re excruciatingly closed minded.
  2. You’re an idiot.

Those aren’t insults.  They’re just simple, factual observations.  It’s not possible to logically deny the fact that when you copy, the original is not gone.  Therefore, making a digital copy is NOT the equivalent of stealing something tangible.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a loss.  There very well could have been a loss.  But, copying, in and of itself, does not equate to loss.  There has to be something else:  That being that the file being copied was for sale.  Those two things still don’t equate to loss.  It also has to be true that the person copying the file didn’t pay for it.  But, there still has to be more.  That file would have to have been available for sale to that person at the place and the time when they copied it.  What I mean by that is say a file is only available for sale in America, but the person copying is in the U.K.  If the UK resident can’t buy it anyway, it’s impossible for there to be a loss when he copies it.  That person that copied the for sale file without paying for it would also had to have paid for it had they not been able to copy it and it would had to have been available for sale in his location.  In other words, if that person would have and could have paid for it had it not been possible to copy otherwise, yet they still copied it, then, and only then could that be a loss.

I submit that the vast majority of copying does NOT fit that category.  For example, in the 1980’s, when I was a pre-teen and teenager, the “thing to do” for all us computer enthusiasts was to share all the software we had.  I’m talking hundreds of games and utilities.  Now calm down RIAA and MPAA readers… No one’s saying that’s a justification.  Just follow along.  Now, think of that situation:  Teenagers copying thousands, or possibly even millions of dollars of software (per teenager), if you add up the retail value of it all.  Do teenagers have that much money?  No, of course not.  Hey!  I said CALM DOWN!  Again, this is not meant as a justification.  Please follow along RIAA and MPAA readers…  We’ll all pause for a moment while you unbunch your panties.

All better now?  Good.  Let’s continue…

So, back to the teenagers that copied thousands of dollars or even a million or so dollars of software.  Was that an actual loss by the software companies?  Well, only if those kids would have forked over thousands or hundreds of thousands, or in some cases, millions of dollars (per kid) had that software not been copyable.  Obviously, that is not the case, so it’s impossible to claim that they lost sales for each of those copies for the full retail value    It’s mathematically impossible for there to be a loss greater than the value of money the copier has available.

Further more, there ARE cases where pirating digital content actually HELPS sales.  How? Let’s go back to the 1980s again.  Why did so many teenagers talk their parents into buying them a home computer in the first place?  Because of all the “free” games!  Yes, software piracy kick started the PC revolution in the 1980s.  The possibility of free software caused more sales of hardware.  And, as a natural feedback loop, once people had the hardware on hand, they were now entered into the software market.  No one will buy software if they don’t have a computer!  So, even though lots of software was pirated in the 1980s, it let to a larger market, which in turn, led to more software sales.

The point is not to legally justify digital pirating.  The law is clear.  It’s against the law.  But, on the moral front, there ARE cases where it actually HELPS!  That environment in the 80s actually got ME into computers and since then I’ve spend probably over $100,000 in hardware AND software!  Not only that, but because I’m an expert in my field, I have somewhat of a rippling effect of software and hardware purchases due to my recommendations.  I even brought other people into the computer market in the 80s that otherwise probably wouldn’t have until the mid to late 90s, increasing both hardware and software sales.  So, there was most definitely a net GAIN.

Take another example:  Say a really expensive piece of software like some high end CAD software or 3D rendering software… Some teenager gets ahold of a copy and learns how to use it, decides that’s what he wants to do in college, gets a degree, gets a job, starts a business and BUYS CAD software.  When teenagers pirate software, many times it creates a whole lifetime of a career including all the hardware and software they purchase along the way.  And, since the teenager could never have purchased the software in the first place as a teenager, it wasn’t even a lost sale.

Now, what about today and what about music and movies being copied and shared online?  Let’s take some real life examples.  It’s not unusual for college students to amass a library of say 100,000 songs.  If they were to pay for those, it’d be $100,000.  Clearly, no college student is going to (or even COULD) spend $100,000 on music files.  They’ll never even listen to the vast majority of them.  Clearly, the vast majority of that collection does NOT represent lost sales.  There’s no way those sales would have EVER occurred.  In fact, many studies show that as people download songs for free, they get exposed to new music they’d have never been exposed to in the first place, generating new interest in new artists, eventually generating actual sales!  Again, this is still illegal, but is it immoral?  In many cases, it is an emphatic “NO!”

Got it RIAA and MPAA members?  Good.  Apologies to everyone else that followed along with something they already knew and was so blatantly obvious, but someone needed to point this out to them.

[poll id=”7″]

Quicken 2010 bugs

Update 2012-03-03

This is just an online, public bug report about bugs in Quicken 2010. I’m hoping that publishing them will quicken (pardon the pun) Intuit into fixing them.

See also

Here are the bugs I’ve found so far:
  • Upgrade Notification Bug: [added this entry 2012-01-15]  Upon starting Quicken Home & Business 2010, I’m presented with this ugly window that IS NOT RESIZABLE!
    • image
  • Online payments lost: [added this entry on 2011-05-20] Sometimes, as soon as you enter a new, repeating online payment, as soon as you hit save, it goes nowhere.  You have to set it all up again.
  • Online payment amount changed: [added this entry on 2011-05-20] Enter an online payment by entering the amount first, then choose the payee, and it will replace the amount you entered with whatever the last amount was you sent to that payee.  If you don’t notice it, THAT’s the amount of money that’s sent.  This can cost you A LOT!
  • Repeating payment schedule changed: [added this entry on 2011-05-20] While entering a repeating payment, enter the schedule (weekly, every 2 weeks, monthly, etc…) and choose something other than monthly, then mark it as “repeating online payment” and it will CHANGE it to MONTHLY, regardless of what you had before. This can cause you in late fees or it can cost you by sending it out too often by not having enough for your other payments.
  • Super Slow Downloads: [added this entry on 2011-04-16] Ever since an update a few months ago (around the time Quicken 2011 was introduced), Quicken 2010’s download transactions went from mere seconds to several MINUTES.  There are a LOT of complaints about this.  There is speculation that they introduced this bug on purpose to entice people to spend money on Quicken 2011.
    • [Updated 2012-03-03]  I timed it today.  It took ELEVEN MINUTES!!!! on a 50mb/s data connection!  This is completely unacceptable! It’s only downloading data measured in KiloBytes.  There’s no reason for it to take 11 minutes.  In that amount of time, I could download 4.1 BILLION bytes of information… That’s almost 2 DVDs worth.  For comparison, let’s give Quicken the benefit of the doubt and assume that what it downloaded was a full megabyte (that’s a gross over-estimate).  With my data connection, that should take 6.25 seconds… Let’s even grant it a ridiculous 10 seconds of delay for each bank it needs to connect to and another ridiculous 10 seconds for each account.  With my setup, that’s 4 banks and 7 accounts.  So that’s an extra 110 seconds we’re granting to it, plus the 6.25 seconds for the actual 1 megabyte of actual data makes 116.5 seconds as an unreasonably high allowance… about 2 minutes, yet it’s taking it 11 minutes!
  • 1st download NEVER works: [added this entry on 2011-04-16] This goes along with the super slow downloads mentioned above.  At the same moment the slow downloads happened, this new bug happened.  After waiting several minutes on the downloads, it never works and pops up the download window again, forcing you to go through the process a second time.  It’s only after the SECOND download attempt that anything ever gets transmitted.
  • Sometimes, accepting a downloaded transaction causes Quicken 2010 to crash.  First though, when clicking the “Accept” button, the register flickers for about 1000 milliseconds (about 1 full second), then the program crashes (this is on Windows 7 Ultimate with all the latest service updates).  Quicken version = Quicken Home & Business 2010 Release 5.
  • No Sound:  Quicken has several sounds for different events like startup (a short tune), accept transaction (cha-ching), and others.  All of a sudden, Quicken 2009 (yes, 2009) stopped playing sounds.  Yes, the play sounds option is indeed checked and yes, sound works in all other programs (this is not my first time messing with a computer, BTW 🙂  I upgraded to Quicken 2010 at the first of the year.  The upgrade involved uninstalling Quicken 2009, then freshly installing 2010.  The sounds worked… for about a week or two, then they stopped again.
  • File corruption:  This is a serious issue.  EVERY TIME I call Quicken support with a problem, they claim the file is corrupt.  This seems to be their excuse for all bugs in the software.  They want to dismiss any issue as a bug and claim it’s a corrupt file.  Fine, it’s a corrupt file.  Now, fix Quicken so it STOPS CORRUPTING my files!  This has been going on through at least 3 versions of Quicken (2007, 2009, 2010 (I skipped 2008)).  A bug this serious requires a complete rewrite of their file access data layer routines.
  • Renaming Rules: This is quite an annoying bug. I personally do not want Quicken to rename my payees, yet there seems to be NO WAY to prevent Quicken from doing so. I participated in 3 online tech support chats and 2 call-back phone support incidents in the last week. NONE of their suggestions worked AND they refuse to accept that this is a bug. Here’s the problem: When you download transactions using PC Banking, then go and accept your transactions, Quicken will suggest renaming rules… actually, it will DICTATE renaming rules. You cannot tell it “No”. Furthermore, the dialog box that pops up informing you of the new dictatorial renaming rules being forced on you, has a check box that says something like “don’t inform me of renaming rules again”. There are 2 problems with this.
    1. I believe that checking it only causes Quicken to not inform you of new renaming rules, but it’ll still make new renaming rules.
    2. You only have 2 buttons “Apply” and “Cancel”. If you click “Apply”, it’ll apply the rule(s) that it’s showing you. I think that’s the only way to enforce the checkbox for “don’t tell me anymore”. If you click “cancel”, you’re canceling the dialog box and therefore canceling your check box “don’t tell me anymore” which means it’ll continue to tell you. Also, canceling the dialog box does not prevent it from enforcing the rule.
    • This has been a bug since at least Quicken 2007. image
    • I’ve reported this problem at least a dozen times to Quicken support since 2007.  It wasn’t until early to mid 2009 that they finally acknowledged that this was a bug and I was told that this was being fixed.  Well, many Quicken 2009 updates later AND a major new version (2010), this bug still remains.
    • Update (2011-01-29):  After building a new machine, installing Windows 7 Ultimate, and installing Quicken 2010…  Below is my bug report to Intuit:
      • I’m on tech support with Pankaj right now who is directing me to enter the bug report here.  Note that I’ve been reporting this since Quicken 2007 and nothing has been done about it.
      • Bug:  “Renaming Rules” always apply.
      • When installing and setting up Quicken, I told it to NOT use renaming rules (it’s really important that I’m able to distinguish between the different walmart stores I shop at and not have them all renamed to “walmart”, losing all info about WHICH walmart (same for any other chain store with multiple locations).
      • When I downloaded transactions, automatically added them to my register.  Fine.  But after a few weeks of using my fresh install of Quicken 2010, it stopped showing transactions as cleared and my paycheck didn’t show up, so I went to edit->preferences->downloaded transactions.
        I unchecked “Automatically add downloaded transactions to register”.  I did pay VERY CLOSE attention to the 3 check boxes relating to renaming rules.  The 1st and last checkboxes were UNCHECKED and the middle one was checked (but disabled).  I changed nothing relating to renaming rules.  I clicked OK.
      • Immediately, the downloaded transactions showed up in a list at the bottom of the screen (this is good).  When I clicked on the first one and clicked “Accept”, a box popped up “Quicken has created a renaming rule for USAA”?!?!?!?!?  WHY?  This is a BUG!  There was no option to tell it “NO”.  I was on tech support and he told me to click “OK” and that it wouldn’t apply the rule.  We went back into quicken preferences and the 3 check boxes for renaming WERE ALL CHECKED!
      • We unchecked them, clicked OK and went back to the downloaded transactions at the bottom of the screen and accepted the next one which did not pop up with renaming rules.  BUT, with Quicken 2007 AND with my prior machine with Quicken 2010, this always happens again after my next download.
      • Again, I’ve been complaining about this since Quicken 2007 when this feature was introduced.  It’s NEVER worked right for people that doe NOT want renaming rules.
      • Please see my blog post where I discuss this bug as well as many other Quicken 2010 and 2009 bugs:
      • Check out the comments at the bottom of the blog entry.  Clearly this is a bug that many people have been frustrated with since 2007.
    • Update (2011-05-24):  This bug just reared it’s ugly head again!  I’ve not changed ANY preference, yet I was just prompted for renaming “Wendys”:image
      • Again, there’s no way to tell it no as clicking the “Don’t offer to rename my payees again” and then clicking “cancel” (so that it won’t rename) will ignore my option on the check box, since that’s what “cancel” buttons do.
      • This time, it didn’t force the renaming rule, but it should never have suggested it at all.
      • Here are my renaming preferences as they existed immediately after clicking “cancel” in the dialog above:image
      • And here are the existing rules (there should be NONE!):
      • image

See also