I live in a fast-growing town in Kerala, India. Fast-growing also means a town loaded with computer-fans. Without doubt, almost every computer-user here seems to be loaded with the latest version of MS Word, Photoshop, Video editing software, audio editing software, neural-network-emulation software, automation, and what not. If I need to know about a software today that is going to be released tomorrow, the young people in this town would not only give me the correct information, they also have the genius to deliver it yesterday.I sometimes feel like a moron because I started using computers when some of these whiz kids were not even born. They also at times (at least in the first iteration of our talk) use the same adjective about me in their minds. It takes a lot many more cycles of question-answer to exorcise them of the contempt (or pity) they feel about me. It all typically starts with the same question put to me: what computer do you use. My reply usually startles them because they feel it is a system too powerful for ordinary use. So they think up numerous fancy uses to which I might be putting my computer and pop the next question: what all software do you have. My carefully compiled list of programs does not impress them because it does not contain the software, such as PageMaker and Turbo Racer that they deem essential.
When I tell them that PageMaker or Photoshop cost a fortune and that I cannot afford to buy them, they simply cannot believe themselves. “Pardon me” is a common response. Pity about my ignorance of the ease of copying is their feeling. But once they are sure that I meant what I said (or vice versa, for some young ones in this town think in reverse), then without exception the next question is: why, you do not have to pay to copy! My answer to the above question startles them yet more: of yes, one has to pay through the nose (and every conceivable organ) to freely copy software. It takes a little longer for them to understand that I meant it when I said that copying commercial software is illegal, and copy-and-use is stealing. That there is no essential difference between the common pickpocket and such people, except that he is uneducated and we are terribly educated (of courses, the pun here intentional). Without exception I hear two arguments. The first one is: uncle, the computer vendor allowed me to copy it freely. The question I ask in return is “If something is available freely, does it also make it moral”. What is the meaning of: For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, And I saw among the naive, And discerned among the youths. A young man lacking sense, And behold, a woman comes to meet him, Dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart. “Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with caresses. “For my husband is not at home, He has gone on a long journey. Proverbs 4:6, 7, 10 , 18, 19
What does not belong to us simply does not belong to us even if offered freely. It is stealing, it is immoral (even if it is a non-sex sin). The second question which comes to me then is: I cannot afford expensive software, so what to do other than copying. I usually ask “there are a lot of things that you desire but cannot afford. How many of these things do you simply appropriate when you are assured that you will not be punished for a little “shop lifting” of that item”.
Everyone agrees that that would be stealing, and they would not do it. So why is it that the “higher” we grow in our intellect, the lower we stoop down in our perception of what is misappropriation (read, robbing). So the morale of the story is, buy as much legal stuff as you can afford, and use freeware for the rest. Oh, you may say, freeware is written by all kinds of people. Exactly, I agree. Since it is written by ALL kinds of people, some of them would be experts. Stick to the software developed by them, and you will never regret. Such freeware is second to none in the software industry — take my word for it as I use and distribute hundreds of freeware to my students every day. Only fools seem to use freeware when one feels that misappropriation is one’s moral might.
Copyright © Jan 2007. Johnson C Philip
Author: Dr. Johnson C Philip is Ph.D in Quantum Physics. His website is apologeticswiki.com