Editorial: Making the World Safe

Many people are not aware of it, but copying software and giving it away, or selling it is illegal. Or even allowing someone else to copy your software.

The unauthorized duplication and distribution of computer software makes it more expensive for honest people to purchase software. This is because such a large number of people steal software instead of buying it. Software companies are then forced to charge more than they would like for those units they actually do sell.

On the other hand, if software thieves grew halos and started paying for their disks, software companies would sell much larger volumes of product, and could afford to drop their prices significantly.

Now, perhaps you think that this issue doesn't affect you. Certainly, if you received a copy of this newsletter you have, at one time or another, paid real money for a Sierra software product.

Perhaps you have never copied a program in your life, for yourself or a friend. Nevertheless, this issue does affect you directly — not in your conscience maybe, but in your wallet.

In the interest of starting to do something about the pirate problem, the Software Publishers Association is collecting information on all commercial enterprises and educational institutions that engage in software theft (or whose employees do). This group includes business who are using programs illegally (who perhaps have one legitimate copy and a great many more illegal copies of a spreadsheet or word processor in use in the company), or who copy and sell or trade stolen software.

The Association is also interested in collecting information on Bulletin Board Systems which list copyrighted software for duplication, or which encourages and abets its subscribers to engage in piratical activities.

You can help stop this illegal activity by reporting it to Ken Walsh, Executive Director of the SPA. Write to him at the Software Publishers Association, 1101 Connecticut Ave., Suit 901, Washington, D.C. 20036.

The SPA has a fund set aside to investigate complaints, and to shut down illegal activities or even to prosecute the offenders.

If you see pirating going on, and don't wish to be the one to blow the whistle, at least remind those concerned that what they are doing is not only wrong, but likely to get them in trouble. After all, the next person who catches them at it might not be so backward about turning them in. And even if they never get caught, by passively acquiescing in their behavior, you are making yourself part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

Please note that the majority of the SPA's investigative activities will be in businesses, and therefore outside Sierra's market area. However, even though business piracy doesn't affect us very much, we still feel obligated to support our fellow software publishers in their efforts to stamp out piracy. We feel a sympathy, since piracy of home computer software hurts us and our customers as deeply as business software piracy hurts Lotus and Word Perfect.

We want to be in business for a long time, producing the software you have told us you love. However, the development of quality software is very expensive.

Just think: it takes one game designer, one systems programmer, one logic programmer, and one graphics programmer, nine months to design and program one machine version of one game. That's three person-years of highly skilled personnel's time. Then we have the six testers for three months, plus the time and materials to design and produce packaging materials, plus the cost of producing and packaging the software itself.

To top it off, there's the overhead costs of hardware, support staff (customer service, accounting, sales, etc.), office and warehouse space, research and new technology development (as you may guess, Sierra's R & D costs are quite high), and much more!

Bet you didn't know it cost so much to produce good quality software. Well it does. And if we don't sell enough units of our products (because people are playing our games without buying them), we will be out of busines.

On the other hand, if we sold more units, we could amortize our fixed costs (loosely, referred to above as "overhead") over the greater number of units, and ultimately afford to charge less for the software!

So the next time you notice software prices, take a look and see if they are going down. Because that's where publishers and purchasers would like to push them. If prices are staying the same, or they are even going up, ask yourself if you are doing all you can to help.

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