Future Implications: The fight against piracy

Finally! For the first time, I can finally say that the government has gone after the group of people it <i>should</i> be targeting: large pirating cartels.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
3 min read

Finally! For the first time, I can say that the government has gone after the group of people it should be targeting: large pirating cartels.

Earlier this week, US and Chinese officials announced they successfully nabbed a group of Chinese individuals who were allegedly in possession of $500 million of software. That's right -- the government finally took the fight to the bad guys and moved away from the battle against 75-year old Aunt Sally who doesn't know any better.

For years, this has been a pet-peeve of mine. Just like the RIAA in its bid to rid the world of illegally downloaded songs, the federal government and other regulators have been trying to put the kibosh on illegal software distribution. And while I agree this is a necessity for the benefit of all of us, the groups were targeting the people they could pick on most easily: individual citizens.

I'm not trying to let criminals off the hook and say that they were innocent in any way -- they broke the law and they deserve reprimanding. But what about the people who make a copy of Windows for their backup needs or those individuals who want to backup their CDs in case of hardware failure? Is it fair for those people -- pirates under the current law -- to be targeted as criminals for the "crimes" they have committed?

Sure, these people cost us all money when we buy legitimate software because companies need to install protective measures to keep pirated material away from the general public, but would you rather have the big fish crying uncle or the little one?

Simply put, it was easy for groups like the RIAA to attack the little guy because the little guy won't fight back. The little guy doesn't have an AK-47 in the back room just waiting for the organization to walk in and order them to stop. The little guy was an easy target and they took it. And while the little guy was being eradicated, the larger groups like this Chinese cartel were free to profit from an extremely lucrative business. Is something wrong with this picture?

These pirating rings weren't targeted as well as they should have been because of their immense size and power. Believe it or not, the software piracy industry is not made up of a bunch of geeks hanging out in their mother's basements copying another disc of Windows. These groups are true crime cartels with a hierarchy and severe punishment for any wrong-doing. Their cronies are professional criminals who buy one installation of legitimate software, copy it onto hundreds of discs and walk away with a huge profit. Simply put, these groups are dangerous.

But in one of the most important developments in this entire struggle against software piracy, a large cartel was brought to its knees. And while I'm not naive enough to believe another gang won't step up and take it's place, this string of arrests has put the criminal enterprises on notice: we are watching and we will take you down.

And while I know this isn't the end of ridiculous arrests of octogenarians or ten-year old kids, this is a significant step for the battle against piracy. And maybe for once, the powers-that-be will realize that the battle isn't just with individual citizens, the battle is against a formidable opponent who will do everything it can to thrive and succeed.

Every Thursday, Don picks a current-events topic and discusses how it will impact us. Check out more from Don's Future Implications series.