Amiga News and Thoughts on Piracy

by Eric Schwartz
from the AmiTech Gazette, August 2009

Often I lament how there's never any news in the Amiga community. This is not one of those times, however. There's actually a fair amount of stuff going on. The bigger news of the moment is that MorphOS had another update, and is now at version 2.3 (free if you are already a paid customer for other 2.x versions, but you can still use it in a limited capacity if not). As usual, it's for the Pegasos or Efika systems, and word is a version for PowerPC Mac Mini is on the way shortly. I only recently installed 2.3, so I can't say much about it yet, but have no complaints. I may try to show it off at a meeting once I have the chance to look it over in more detail. One of the more interesting changes I've noted so far is the "enhanced layers" system, which uses your system's video card to improve and enhance the performance of the user interface, is now selectable on a screen by screen basis, instead of the all-on or all-off of the previous release. Also the OWB web browser (version 1.4) is now included in the standard software suite, giving the system a reasonably modern way to surf the web. Apparently Flash and video support is in progress, so things are moving along nicely. I do plan on showing "GrafX2" at this month's meeting. It's a paint program similar in style to Deluxe Paint or Brilliance, which is used to create bitmap art in 256 colors or less. I understand it started as an old MS-DOS program, which was later ported to a wide variety of systems (mainly ones that can use the SOL package). In this case, I'll be showing it on my Linux laptop, running under AROS, for the sake of being properly convoluted. I'll see you all there.

I feel I may have rambled a bit much in my little piece on software piracy last month, in my efforts to write something objective while being fundamentally biased myself. I hope you'll indulge me as I tackle the subject again with a tiny bit more brevity. As I've said previously, the fundamental issue is whether or not digital material such as software, media, or pretty much anything capable of being copied is subject to the same rights of property and ownership as tangible, physical things. There's already one difference in that one can "steal" a file without actually depriving the previous owner of it, unlike a physical object. On one end of the spectrum are those who feel they have every right to copy and distribute any digital anything they wish. Some go so far as to decry any attempts to claim ownership or make any profits on "intellectual properties," though how much of that is some socialist free information ideal and how much is simply justification for piracy is up for debate. On the other end of things are those who wish to protect their properties, for reasons of profit or just control. On the extreme side they would dictate exactly how you use any software or files you got from them, either by legal documentation or "copy protection" which controls how their other software can be used. These measures are meant to protect the creators' interests, but just as often can be too draconian and unfairly punish those who only wish to use their purchased software or media normally and honestly. Most people fall somewhere in the middle. While they probably wouldn't turn down free stuff given the opportunity, they don't mind paying for their digital data, as long as it's reasonably priced and doesn't punish them for being a customer by such means as "one machine licenses" that force one to buy again if their hard drive crashes or they change or upgrade their system. (It's not bad to not be breaking any laws either). I think the success of iTunes and similar online media sales services is some testament to this. It's a matter of finding the balance in a constantly shifting marketplace with its shifting paradigms. While piracy will probably never be totally stopped, it can hopefully be marginalized, so those who want to make a profit can do so without taking measures that punish the honest folk, and those that hurt their honest customers protecting their properties get passed over for the kinder, gentler software and media providers.

Tune in next time when I write about how terrible everyone is on the Internet.