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Viewpoints: Software Piracy

 Brian Summers

By Brian Summers
Vice President
CNC Software Inc.
Tolland, CT


As the developers of Mastercam CAD/CAM software, piracy, the unauthorized copying or distribution of copyrighted software, is an issue we contend with daily. Some people are honestly unaware that there is a distinct difference between "owning" something and purchasing a "license" or "seat." Basically, when you purchase software, you are purchasing a license to use it, not the actual software. The number of licenses you purchase is what dictates how many copies of the software you can have running. If you run more copies of the software than the licensing permits, you are breaking the law. The most serious offenders are the people who have businesses selling pirated software to people who are unaware the copy is illegal, but bought it at a deep "discount." I recognize that, on the surface, running an extra copy or two may seem almost harmless, especially in the case when a customer already has one legal seat, and wants to "save money." However, wherever a person fits in this nefarious chain of supply and demand, these pirated transfers can cost far more than the price of legal seats. What pirates don’t often understand is that there are huge risks and costs that, upon deeper consideration, make the price of one seat or even multiple seats seem downright inexpensive by comparison.

There are direct costs and hidden costs that can be traced to pirating software. The direct costs include hefty fines and legal fees should a person get caught, and people do get stung every day. It usually starts with a disgruntled employee blowing the whistle or a programmer innocently calling in for support. Fines can reach up to $250,000 for each infringement, a possible prison term, and forfeiture of everything that resulted from any profits made on the pirated software or as a result of using the software. We belong to an organization called the Business Software Alliance or BSA, which helps us in our anti-pirating efforts. The BSA recently announced that there was $51 billion worth of software theft in 2009. Visit their website at, and just for fun check out the Faces of Pirating Software videos. Those cases could scare just about anyone into compliance. The BSA also offer rewards up to $1 million for qualifying piracy reports, which is a compelling incentive for whistle blowers.

The hidden costs can hurt you and your business just as much, even though they may not be as readily apparent. For example, at our company, half of our revenue is spent on development. That is the percentage, no matter what our gross income is. The more we can put into innovation and development, providing better ways to streamline and improve programming your machine tools, the more efficient you become and thus, profitable. When you are using pirated software, you miss vital updates, such as new tooling and machine parameters that can save significant time. You also miss out on training and technical support. Our software is sold through certified resellers. We are incredibly fortunate to have the loyalty, dedication, and experience of this global group of experts. But the people who benefit the most from these professionals are our customers. They often tell us that their local reseller has proven to be an invaluable resource, helping them get the most out of their software investment with training, on-going support for their specific applications, tips, and in many cases, friendship.

There is interconnectedness among many seemingly disparate activities and behaviors when we take the time to connect the dots. Manufacturing software, such as ours, helps your business operate at its optimum level. Your profitable business can spur a positive domino effect on the local economy, and perhaps even prove to be a robust thread throughout the manufacturing sector, which impacts the entire economy, leading to further innovation and development by others. The logic follows that society as a whole benefits when you play by the rules. ME


This article was first published in the January 2011 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF


Published Date : 1/1/2011

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