Thursday, October 29, 2009

Please Pay For Your Software (and Music & Movies)

Probably everybody reading this blog knows that I write software for a living.  Many of you may also know that one of my pet peeves is people using software that they haven’t paid for.

The software I have been selling for the last 10+ years, FileBack PC, took me years to develop.  Actual years.  If I had to re-write it again, it would probably take me two full years of long (16 hr) days.  That represents a huge investment of my time.  Tens of thousands of hours even.

Imagine how it must feel to me to go out on the internet and find web sites that are devoted to finding ways to cheat software manufacturers by providing commercial software for free.  My own software has been found on such sites.  And I know that people are using them because occasionally someone who is using an obviously fraudulent unlock key has the audacity to ask me for help.  It is extremely disappointing to me that people will willingly take my work without placing any value on it.  It is if they are saying, “I don’t care that you spent 8 years of your life working on this, that time you spent means absolutely nothing to me.  So I’m going to take it from you anyway.”  These people are robbing me of my time and taking money out of my pocket by not compensating me for my efforts. 

Some will justify that they would never use the software anyway, if they weren’t getting it for free.  But they are still getting the benefit of having that software, which in some way is saving them their own time and effort (or they wouldn’t bother).  Even with this argument, they are saying that their time has value, but mine doesn’t.

Some will justify that the software they are using is too expensive, or that the company that produces it already makes enough money and won’t be hurt by people stealing it.  If it’s too expensive, find a less expensive (or free) tool to do the same thing.  (Or, better yet, write their own software to do the same thing.)  And if that company sold more copies of their software, they could employ more workers, or provide their employees with a better standard of living.  Or create more software.  Most companies aren’t interested in throwing away their money; most will re-invest it into growing the company, or their employees.

The whole “too expensive” argument is kind of funny to me.  If someone were to come to me and ask me to create something like FileBack PC for them, I’d charge them about $50/hour.  And it would take roughly 10,000 hours to do it.  So the project would cost $50 x 10,000 = $500,000.  And yet I only ask $55 for my efforts.  Think how many people and how much time it took to create something like Photoshop, or Microsoft Word.  Those products represent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hours of work by actual real people.  The price the company is asking in return really isn’t so bad.

Without making this post too long, I beg you to be honest in the way you use your software.  Somebody has taken time to create it.  And they are asking for a small amount in return. 

The same goes for music and movies.  It is very expensive to create and market both.  Considering the budget for most movies is multiple millions of dollars, for a movie studio to ask $20 for a copy of that effort is really kind of a bargain.  Recording studio time to create a song runs well over $100/hr for the better studios, and most songs take a lot of hours to record and mix.  Add marketing and distribution to that, and the $0.99 or $1.29 that music labels and artists are asking for their songs is really a bargain as well.

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