Who does piracy really hurt anyway?

Despite recent efforts at copy protection in Photoshop CS, Adobe really has nothing to lose from the average homeuser pirating their software. The only people really hurt by software piracy are shareware and low-end software authors.

Currently, a full version copy of Photoshop CS is $649 at the Adobe Store on their website. Is this a good price? I'm not the one to say, but for a professional user this would probably be a reasonable business expense. After all, a graphic designer could probably make that sum back after one project. To the average home user $649 dollars is an insane price to pay for something they probably just use for cropping their photos and such.

So why don't these home users buy a copy of Paint Shop Pro, or some other shareware program? If they are feeling particuarly brand loyal they can even buy Photoshop Elements for $99. Photoshop Elements probably sells better than other low-end photo editors if only because it has the word Photoshop in its name.

Photoshop has become the defacto standard through rampant piracy. Here is how this process works:

  1. Uberuser needs image editing tool, hears from friends that Photoshop is the best one.
  2. Since he is a poor college student, Uberuser gets a warez copy of Photoshop.
  3. This user becomes proficient with Photoshop, and is now using it as his sole image editing tool.
  4. He never ends up buying his license from Adobe, but becomes interested in Graphic Design.
  5. Finishes college with a degree in graphic design, eventually gets a free education copy of Photoshop from his college somewhere along the way.
  6. Never becoming acquainted with any other utilities, he prefers Photoshop.
  7. Jill Newbie asks Uberuser for a recommendation for image editor
  8. Uberuser gives Jill his educational copy since the warez one on his computer works just fine.
  9. Jill never considers alternative utilities and sticks with Photoshop, which is mostly overkill for what she does anyway.
  10. In the meantime, Uberuser is now employed at a graphic design firm, and since they can't risk pirating software, there is a copy of Photoshop for every employee.

The end result of all this is that Adobe has gained several copies of Photoshop sold, and customers who know it as the only image editor. JASC has lost several potential customers who are in the perfect price range to get a copy of Paint Shop Pro.

The big expensive professional software ends up replacing all the little guys, because why would a home user pay $30 for the software in their price range when they can get the professional level stuff for free.

The copy protection turns out to be a non-issue for home pirates, because by the time they get their copy it has already been cracked by a warez group. The copy protection really only hurts the legitimate users like the businesses and professionals. Logically, a company would not want to make a larger annoyance for legitimate users.

In reality, Adobe should not worry about the piracy done by the little guys, they aren't potential customers anyway. Their big money is coming from the companies that need site licenses so the software on work computers are the same as the software their employees pirated at home.

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