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Freedom is contagious.

Piracy really does slow down the uptake of open software

I don't do a lot of paid consulting work anymore. Much of the computer support I do these days outside of the day job is done to support organizations and causes I believe are working to make the world a better place.

At one of these non profit organizations where I volunteer, I was asked to help a paid staff member install some proprietary copyrighted software at her home. Her computer at work had been a bit unstable and the idea was that she could do her work at home if her computer at work failed. This was a fine idea except that the organization had only purchased one license for the software in question.

In the past, I would have fretted about what to do. But, these days it's a lot easier to politely say no to such requests. In fact, I'm now an advocate for paying every dime the commercial vendor wants. Why? Because it's exactly this type of piracy that slows the uptake of open software alternatives. So, I politely explained the situation.

"If you want the staff member to be able to work at home, you need to spend $300 to buy another license for this software."

"No, the vendor does not have an "at home" provision in the license agreement."

However, I also offered another option. I pointed out an open source alternative that was quite capable of doing the job, offered to help install the software, move the data, and train the staff member how to use the new software.

"We'll have to think about that" they said.

I hope they take me up on the offer to migrate this work-flow to an open alternative. But, if not they need to hand over the $300. Think about this the next time you are asked to install unlicensed commercial software. One way you can help the open source movement in a significant way is to never again help organizations avoid paying what they should have to pay if they want to use proprietary commercial software.