Rhodri Marsden: Cyberclinic

Has the battle against software pirates been forgotten as the computer industry wages war on music and video thieves?

STOP, THIEF!

Q. Most people I know have a copy of Microsoft Word, but barely anyone has paid for it. Is the battle against pirated software being forgotten?

Scarcely a week goes by without a news story highlighting music or video copyright infringement via the internet, but the lack of publicity about software piracy has allowed us to forget that it's illegal.

Cracked versions of commercial software are swapped on the same file-sharing networks that carry music and videos. With a broadband connection, it's relatively simple to avoid spending a small fortune on, say, Adobe's Creative Suite 2 Premium Web Bundle.

Our correspondents are predictably cagey about what's on their hard drives, while hinting that this is a significant issue. "Software that I've actually purchased?" writes one anonymous reader. "I think I might have a legitimate copy of Windows 2000. Somewhere."

Edith B is more forthright: "When I was a music student, I felt no guilt whatsoever about using pirated music software; it was ridiculously expensive, and resources at my university were scarce." Al Thomas continues in this vein: "I have a thought that expensive professional software should be free for personal users, who then pay if they start making money using it."

A similar idea was launched this month by the blogging software company Movable Type, which is giving away its software for personal use in the hope that businesses will start using a paid-for version.

It may be naive to assume that businesses are any more conscientious than individuals when it comes to software; the Business Software Alliance estimates a 27 per cent software piracy rate among UK businesses, and offers rewards of up to £20,000 for reporting offenders. Some readers share the BSA's hardline stance; Edd Turner says: "Some people seem willing to take for free what they should pay for, while refusing to believe that they're doing anything wrong."

There are legal ways to avoid shelling out for the big software packages. Free, open-source programs are increasing in popularity - particularly the OpenOffice suite, which can read and write files in the ubiquitous Microsoft Office formats. "It's not brilliant," writes Nigel Armstrong, "but it's free, and isn't bloated with pointless features." Equally, the unfortunately named GIMP is a free and highly-regarded image-manipulation software package, perfect for those who use an illegal version of Photoshop but don't need its huge array of features.

But if Word or Photoshop are perfect for you, your conscience will no doubt advise you whether to pay up.

Diagnosis required

Mike Kingston writes with next week's question:

"Keeping up with the quantity of interesting writing on the internet is a bit daunting. A friend said I should make use of RSS feeds. What are they, and what I should be doing with them?" Any comments, and new questions for the Cyberclinic, should be e-mailed to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea