Piracy and Malware – Pfft!
Brendan Scott July 08
A frequent meme in piracy trash talking is that piracy is linked to malware (example). If your child is downloading pirated material (so the argument goes) they will be downloading it from a malware infected site and infecting their own computer resulting in poor performance, data loss and ID theft. A variant of this argument is that the downloads expose the kids to evil pornographers. Therefore piracy is bad and the government should pass laws to stop it.
Neither malware nor pornography is present on legitimate sites. If children are avoiding legitimate sites it is because the prices charged for the material are unreasonably high. It is these high prices (combined with marketing and network effects driving demand for these products) which are causing children to visit illicit sites to acquire software. No children are infected by malware when acquiring open source software. There is no pornography on open source websites. All open source software is legitimately available from legitimate sources. If all software was open source, this problem would not exist.
Increasing penalties for infringing copyright will do nothing to change this dynamic. Indeed, it will make it worse. Any expansion of copyright further, or more rigorous enforcement of existing rights, simply insulates copyright holders from competition, permitting them to raise their prices further, thereby pushing more children towards illegitimate sites. Increasing penalties or enforcement in the hope of reducing malware infections would be like pulling the control rods out of a reactor in the hope of shutting it down. It is exactly the wrong thing to do.
We can concede that malware infecting children’s computers is not only a serious problem, but also a problem on which the government ought to take action. However, further subsidising the closed source software industry is not the solution – these subsidies are the problem. If government wishes to protect children from these evils it would use only open data formats for data storage and interchange and strongly promote the widespread adoption of open source software.