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The truth about open source and piracy

There are a lot of stereotypes about Linux users as socially awkward too-long-bearded 30-somethings living in their parents’ basements hacking illegally into government servers and indulging in “free” software that’s really pirated software. After all, isn’t that why Linux users use filesharing programs like Frostwire or visit sites like PirateBay?

The truth is that many open source advocates are against software piracy because piracy of proprietary software hurts open source adoption, and if you use open source software, there’s no reason to pirate. I know people who are dependent on Adobe Photoshop, and so when they can’t afford Adobe Photoshop, they pirate it. Same deal with Microsoft Office. Well, there’s never a time I can’t afford GIMP or OpenOffice. They offer freedom and they are cost-free.

Bill Gates may not always be ethical (or pretty to look at—sorry, but it’s true!), but he is a savvy businessperson if nothing else, and here are some of his insights into piracy:

From Gates, Buffett a bit bearish (2 July, 1998):

Gates shed some light on his own hard-nosed business philosophy. “Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software,” he said. “Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

and from How Microsoft conquered China (17 July, 2007):

Today Gates openly concedes that tolerating piracy turned out to be Microsoft’s best long-term strategy. That’s why Windows is used on an estimated 90% of China’s 120 million PCs. “It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not,” Gates says.

There you have it from the man himself. Who should be (and probably are) against piracy more than anybody? The Linux and open source people.