Why History Needs Software Piracy

January 23rd, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Why History Needs Software PiracyOver at Technologizer, I've written an opinion piece that argues why history needs software piracy.

I had the idea for this piece a few years ago, so it's nice to finally put my thoughts into written form — especially at a time when public debate over digital piracy's role has reached a new high.

I don't claim to be laying down the final word on the subject; instead, I view my piece as the beginning of a broader discussion about piracy's role in the study of history. I hope you enjoy it.



10 Responses to “Why History Needs Software Piracy”

  1. JackSoar Says:

    Benj, I think this just might be the best and most important article you've ever written.

  2. Eagles409 Says:

    Totally agree with JackSoar - Great article with very important information.

  3. Benj Edwards Says:

    Thanks, guys. I'm glad you like it.

  4. Arlandi Says:

    wow… i never thought about it that way before!
    i like your comparing the software of this era with books from the ancient times.
    software also represent the accumulated and relevant knowledge of a certain topic. even if it's just a simple game, it represent what the author(s) know at that certain time of history.
    will definitely share this on fb!

  5. TheSaintOfPain Says:

    Just yesterday (1/22/2012) I was discussing the legislation with an acquaintance that thinks SOPA could work, and I somewhat casually made the point that without the work of pirates and places like The Pirate Bay and BT Junkie, as well as the myriad of emulation/ROM and abandonware sites, are somewhat like archives for old software that newer generations might otherwise never have even heard of, much less get the chance to experience through actual play. I didn't think much of my argument, other than the acquaintance did concede the point, and then today I come back to this site, and this is posted. It's a fantastic article, with which I agree completely, and I sincerely hope that everyone that reads it or otherwise sees this will share it for the good of all of us who enjoy our online experiences they way they're supposed to be.

  6. Alexander Says:

    I can't agree more that this is one of the most important things that you have produced. I will see to it that this is passed far and wide.

  7. Benj Edwards Says:

    Thanks, Alexander. I am grateful of anything you guys can do to spread the word about my piece.

  8. Thomas Says:

    Great! I feel a discussion opening up already, but perhaps not as you intended. I don't want to be the party pooper here but my reaction to your article was a bit different.

    Maybe I've been too involved in similar discussions too often these past few years, but I didn't find your article that much of an eye opener as some other readers here did. I've been using the some of the arguments for some years now, and it's the same arguments that Abandonware sites (and the likes) have been using for years to justify their existence.

    When it comes to piracy I think it needs to be carefully balanced. And a point I feel need to be made is: Even though piracy preserves software that are threatened by DRM, without piracy there wouldn't be much of a need for DRM. Even though that brings us back to the old "Egg vs Hen"-argument I still think it's necessary to keep this in mind when reading your article. It's easy to point your finger at either piracy or DRM, but they are both at fault here in their own ways.

    I'm careful not to say that piracy is good, I do however use the same arguments as in your article as strong statements for the need of emulators. Because without emulators there wouldn't be much point in preserving a lot of old software. I'm not as comfortable as you seem to be saying that we *need* piracy to preserve software history, no matter how useful it has proven to be in the past, but we absolutely need emulators.

    What I would like, for discussions such as this, is for the software companies to realise the importance of preserving history by removing DRM. By doing so I fully believe they will remove a big chunk of the piracy problem. Now, imagine that - preserving history AND eradicating piracy! That would be something to strive for and not a totally alien concept for companies whose primary goal is to make money. As a fellow historian that's the argument I try to make - not give another good argument why piracy is good.

    (Sorry if this got a little long, I sometimes get carried away when the subject is so close to heart!)

  9. Benj Edwards Says:

    Nothing you said pooped any party, Thomas. Those are all good thoughts. I'm not surprised that people other than me have had similar ideas. If you work with vintage software, it's hard not to realize that we rely on illicit duplication and the defeat of copy-protection to preserve things, and that either the copyright system, DRM practices, or both need to change going into the future.

  10. Jim Leonard Says:

    So all these decades I haven't been a software pirate — I've been a digital historian! Yer welcome!

Leave a Reply