When I hear someone saying, “Man, I just nicked [Photoshop CS2][Windows 7][*] from a torrent site. Cracked the serial with this mod I found”, it really gets under my skin. I hear this from Linux users who happen to use a lot of Windows applications, and from non technical people, and I’m sure its still rampant in the Windows-based script kiddies scene. It doesn’t peeve me from a moral perspective, nor am I sympathetic to the lost revenue for that particular company; what annoys me is the lost opportunity for open source.
Like many other open source advocates, I have great respect on a fundamental level for software licenses. They may be used in ways that I don’t like (closed source, anti-tampering, DRM, and the like), but on the flip side, without respect for software licenses, open source could not exist. All open source applications are strongly shielded from abuse and misuse by a license like the GPL, BSD, etc.
When someone goes to download Windows 7 illicitly, they’re fundamentally saying, “I need an operating system. I [don’t want][can’t afford] to pay for a Windows license”. This seems like the perfect breeding ground to promote open source alternatives to closed source operating systems or programs, no?
So when you hear your friends going on about how they ganked this software or that software from some shady internet site, remind them that because of the hard work, dedication, and passion that me and my fellow open source coders have, there already exists good, free, and open alternatives to whatever they’re downloading.
PS. You will get a common response like, “Gimp isn’t as good as Photoshop!”. I usually will discuss that indeed, Gimp is different than Photoshop, but building a mastery in a new program is worth avoiding the risks of guilt, viruses and lawsuits.