Vendors don't play fair on piracy

Another week, another BSA raid, and yet another reseller finds themselves facing fines and imprisonment for selling counterfeit software.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  February 2, 2002

Another week, another BSA raid, and yet another reseller finds themselves facing fines and imprisonment for selling counterfeit software.

This time the culprit was a Dubai reseller, caught selling two PCs loaded with illegal software. The message from the authorities is clear enough—break the copyright laws, and we will punish you, so why do resellers, who surely know better than naive customers, keep on doing it?

The answer, unfortunately, is not lack of education on software licensing. It is not purely market demand for cheap software. It is because many resellers are finding that they have little choice if they want to compete with the big brand OEMs.

It seems that while some of the larger local assemblers enjoy a small discount on software license cost if they are doing a reasonable volume of business, the smaller system builders don’t get anything.

Not only that, but they are competing with international OEMs who get licences at a huge discount—the cost for certain applications can vary from $10 for a global assembler, to $90 for a small reseller. How can resellers compete with such a gulf between prices?

You have to offer discounts for bulk—everyone recognises that, but you also have to talk about a reasonable discount. Intel recognises this, and while it offers competitive pricing to different buyers, the difference is not big enough to create an impossible situation.

With such an uneven playing field, small systems builders are faced with a tough choice—try and sell systems without applications, and pass the decision of whether to buy legitimate software or not on to the customer; sell machines with counterfeit software and risk jail; or try and find alternatives to the applications that they can’t afford to compete on.

Software vendors need to realise that by just using the law, without any concession towards a fair deal, to fight piracy, they damage their own business as well, by making piracy an attractive option, and by making free, open source alternatives an even more attractive option.

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