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Disclaimer: I by no means condone the use of pirated software.

Have you ever witnessed the use of pirated software for development purposes? May be a company didn't have enough money to buy a piece of software and there were no free alternatives? May be a company wanted to try something out before buying and there were no trial licenses for that product. Whatever the circumstances, have you worked at a company where using pirated/cracked software was accepted? Were there any consequences to doing this?


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closed as not constructive by Adam Lear Oct 18 '11 at 14:41

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Lets be frank: anyone here claiming they do not pirate software is lying and anyone here claiming they might in certain circumstances has a parrot on their shoulder, screaming "arrgggh matey" all the way to the bank with all their pirated software. I respect developer's and good quality products, luckily OSU is willing to pay these license costs otherwise I probably would. Also, if you develop open source software usually there are open source tools to do it so its a win win. – Chris Oct 1 '10 at 18:18
@Chris: I disagree on account of knowing better than you do if I'm lying or not. – Adam Lear Oct 1 '10 at 18:50
I have no illegal software. – JeffO Oct 1 '10 at 21:14
@Chris just because you pirate software doesn't mean that everyone does. – alternative Oct 13 '10 at 20:18
@mathepic: It is hard to pirate open source software. All linux here mate. – Chris Oct 13 '10 at 22:25

19 Answers 19

up vote 31 down vote accepted

While I don't have any problem when some companies or individuals use unlicensed software when they can't afford them (yet), I'm always amazed to see how commercial software development factories do it without shame. They are unrespectful to their own profession!

Thanks to programs like Microsoft Bizspark (3 years of free Microsoft softwares for any startup that generate less than 1.000.000 a year in revenues), you can now get them legally.

"I don't have any problem when some companies or individuals use unlicensed software" isn't this just stealing ? In my youth I was certainly no angel. But its indefensible, whether you can afford it or not. – NimChimpsky Nov 17 '10 at 14:10
@NimChimpsky: "to be more Catholic than the Pope" is not a good strategy long term. You said it yourself, you are not an angel. – user2567 Nov 17 '10 at 15:20
OMG... your rep... it is 9,999! – Carson Myers Nov 17 '10 at 16:05
@Carson: quick ! take a picture, this will last only for the next few hours!!!! (I've reach my daily cap) – user2567 Nov 17 '10 at 16:15
There are some grey area arguments you can make when using unlicensed software as an hobbyist individual or poor college student, but if you're a commercial entity making money from said software, then you have little ground to stand on. – Bryan M. Dec 7 '10 at 21:33

All the time, especially Adobe products.

Which is why I use free software as much as I can.

gimp, inkscape, scribus. – Incognito Oct 1 '10 at 18:35
@User: Actually I just avoid work that makes it necessary for me to to graphic design. ;) – Josh K Oct 1 '10 at 18:43
@user1525: Really though, Photoshop is many many times better than any of those tools. – Billy ONeal Oct 2 '10 at 4:38
@Billy: I would agree, which is why it has that $600 price tag. – Josh K Oct 2 '10 at 16:35
@Josh K: ... and a 95+% piracy rate. – greyfade Oct 7 '10 at 22:44

Consequences of using pirated software for development is underestimation of development costs.

You use pirated software only if the society allows you to, and police has better things to do. But this may change. As soon as they pay attention to piracy in your company, you'll encounter a sudden need to invest a lot of money into licenses. You won't be able to even continue development (if your text editors, compilers, revision control systems are pirated and have to be shut down) without such investment.

You should take this risk into account and plan spending money on it in the future—or just use legal software.

Yah, this is important, even more so for small businesses. If only because otherwise you are lying to yourself about how much it costs to run your business. You can't honestly claim to be profitable until you've paid for the licenses. – Zac Thompson Oct 1 '10 at 23:50
'Microsoft' (a company they hired IIRC) made a pass through my city about a year ago nabbing companies that were pirating software. – Steve Evers Dec 7 '10 at 18:16

I once worked for a company that didn't pay for many of the development tools. They covered the basics (Windows, Visual Studio, etc.) through an MSDN subscription, but there was little chance of getting proper licenses for plugins, source control, and so on.

There were no repercussions at all.

I'm personally not comfortable stealing software and it was one of my reasons to eventually move on. I'd rather not use a program at all or get by with a more restricted free version than pirate it. I would consider making an exception for tools that are outrageously expensive for an individual, like most of Adobe's products, but only with the understanding that if a person makes money using those tools, they should eventually pay for them instead of riding the free piracy train.

Did they also use the MSDN subscription for the sql backend of their customer's websites? (I've seen that) – Benjol Oct 2 '10 at 0:21
@Benjol They didn't make websites. – Adam Lear Oct 2 '10 at 2:19
"if a person makes money using those tools, they should eventually pay for them": and what if they don't make money using those tools? They are using it for (1) fun (2) educational purposes (3) non-commercial purposes. Can or should they pirate? – mojuba Nov 17 '10 at 14:48
@mojuba That's a fair point. That said, there are many different circumstances to consider, which is why I didn't say "I make an exception" but rather "I would consider making one". I wouldn't do it myself (the pirating, I mean), but I can understand how some people would. The level of my discomfort with them doing so would depend on their intentions. – Adam Lear Nov 17 '10 at 15:48
That's an interesting consideration. I think it could be argued either way, but in my mind, you're not robbing them of anything if you weren't able to buy the product in the first place. Your options in that case are a) don't buy, do without, buy later; b) don't buy, pirate, buy later. Either way, the company making the product doesn't have the revenue in the bank. It still comes down to the consumer's integrity and resolve to purchase once the funds are available. If your choice instead is "buy now or pirate", then it's a whole different game. – Adam Lear Dec 7 '10 at 18:45

I understand the sticker shock of some software development tools (The more sophisticated version of Visual Studio and Database management tools chief among them). However, as a professional software developer, I think it would be highly hypocritical to ask others to respect my copyright and pay for my work if I am unwilling to respect the copyright of other developers. In most cases there are good options to help you get started, including:

This, of course, extends beyond tools and into other copyrighted works as well. As much as I want to download that awesome new album, TV show or movie, I think we need to be treated how we would like to be treated (regardless if we think that company x has ridiculous pricing and licensing practices).

Remember, there are lots of free content and tools available without resorting to copyright infringement!

If the hypocrisy is not enough to convince you, how about the possibility of steep fees beyond the cost of the license for using unlicensed Microsoft, Apple and Adobe software?

I've seen a company actively pursuing someone for pirating their software, which was (at least partially) developed with pirated tools.. – Benjol Oct 2 '10 at 0:23
Isn't it against the VS Express license to use it for commercial development? – Macha Oct 2 '10 at 14:15
@Macha: no, it's not. The license mentions something about personal/non-commercial use, but then there's the FAQ from the Express site: "Q: Can I use Express Editions for commercial use? A: Yes, there are no licensing restrictions for applications built using Visual Studio Express Editions." – Adam Lear Oct 3 '10 at 2:42
@Anna Oh, ok. Wonder why I had that impression then. – Macha Oct 3 '10 at 13:12
@Macha, it took a while for Microsoft to figure out exactly how they would license the Express edition. – user1249 Nov 17 '10 at 16:12

I've seen major misuse of MSDN licenses in the past.

People using MSDN products for production use, or sharing server products (or in some cases desktop products) from one MSDN license between multiple developers, either because they genuinely didn't understand the license or, I suspect, wilfully not wanting to understand it.

To be fair to them Microsoft licensing has been, and remains, so damn opaque you can understand why people don't want to engage with it, wrong as it is to copy software.

+1 Half the battle with some MS products is figuring out the licensing model for it. – Steve Evers Dec 7 '10 at 18:22

I like to use free software for personal use, and I release all my code under free licenses, so I use rarely proprietary software.

But on a company, usgin piratated/cracked software is absolutely wrong in my opinion.

If you (the company) don't have the money, maybe you have to redesign your objectives and goals. And if you made software using cracked software, who tells you someone else will do the same with your brand new piece of software?

Anyway, I worked for some companies who said: well, we need THIS sw to develop THAT sw, but when we will sell THAT sw, we will certainly buy THIS sw. Unfortunately, this seldom happens. Most of the time people continue to use the software until someone force them to change it to a licensed product.

I agree - for personal use, I have no objection to pirate software (unless you're selling it). For work stuff, its just wrong. – rmx Nov 17 '10 at 14:28
I find your first two sentences confusing. Using software that is legally available for free is perfectly fine for people and companies. Where I work, we have both software freely available (under a variety of licenses) and paid-for software. – David Thornley Nov 17 '10 at 18:53
+1 for you, now I made it clear (i think). – LucaB Nov 17 '10 at 18:59

I know a small software company that have all unlicensed software in virtual machines using VMWare so it can be deleted and restored if necessary. I do not condemn it (nor approve it) when an individual does it but when a company do it, it's a sad thing.


Pretty much the entire Office suite, and several programs for the one guy's mac, that I know of, simply due to not wanting to pay. Thus far, have seen no repercussions.

I was a bit taken aback when I saw this, and switched to using Thunderbird rather than Outlook after awhile because the "This copy of office is not genuine" prompts got old, fast.


One of the major benefits of doing Java development is that you can get very high quality tools for free. You can then get very high quality POWER tools for money if you need them.

Plus you can deploy your products to Linux servers running Tomcat or Glassfish with MySQL or PostgreSQL, saving your customers money as well. Windows Server 2008R2 with SQL Server is a pricey alternative. – TMN Nov 17 '10 at 16:16
@TMN: Except that you are by no means forced to use Windows Server 2008R2 or SQL Server... My company uses Server 2K3 + MySQL because we had the Windows license (+exchange), but it runs just fine on an xp/vista/7/linux box. – Steve Evers Dec 7 '10 at 18:26

It only takes one pissed of developer or IT staffer to bring a world of pain on your company if you do this. Nevertheless, I've worked in shops that pirated Microsoft Office because they didn't want to pay the added MSDN costs.


I worked at a company where there were several copies of a popular CAD program licensed using a keygen floating around, and the word processor, spreadsheet, and mail client programs for nearly the entire company were licensed under a single serial number. The issue of the unlicensed software was escalated to the VP of the division, and I am unaware of who else was informed.

The problem was promptly tabled due to disbelief that any repercussions would be faced, and the sentiment "we don't have the financial capability to purchase the software at this point in time." About a year after I left the company there I read an article in the local newspaper how my previous employer had settled out of court with the BSA for a six-figure amount.

I think it all depends on the scale and intent of the piracy, morale of employees, and if the victim feels that litigation would recover enough money to make it worth their time.


At a previous employer:

No repercussions. I moaned about it until we upgraded our XPs to legit Windows 7 licenses.


In my years as a developer I have worked for a company that didn't have any licenses for any of their Windows stuff (servers, dev machines, etc). All the Macs (all the designer folks) had all the licenses they needed. After a few years of constant bugging they decided to buy licenses to everything there was in the company...huge hit in that budget :)


Web-based startups and companies have great choice of free and mature tools. In my experience, those companies that are brainwashed to like Windows, also do not mind paying for it.

That said, I find .Net and Silverlight and a few other things quite nice.


I've seen 'sample edition' tools used in production, where the download agreement explicitly says you're not supposed to use it in an actual product.

I've also seen a case in a very small shop of a 'stolen' windows XP copy. I'll sortof give them a pass though, as they had N computers, and N licenses, but for some screwed up reason one of the licenses wouldn't work on one of the computers.


Not by the company, but I use an illegal copy of windows inside a virtual machine. I run linux normally, and have a very small need for ever using windows, probably about once a week. I guess I think of it that since it's in a virtual machine, it's not illegal =P

"I guess I think of it that since it's in a virtual machine, it's not illegal" - yeah right :) – DMin Oct 2 '10 at 5:58
Why not use the trial install of Windows? If you only need it for a quick bit of testing in a VM, this is perfect.… – JBRWilkinson Dec 8 '10 at 0:29
Yes, sign up as a developer and get the trial copy. They offer 90 days for final release and up to 6 months on beta release most of the time. – Penang Jan 23 '11 at 7:27

The problems that I have is getting funding for the unsexy programs like Resharper and Red Gate's SQL Prompt. I've had developers magically appear with Resharper on their machines and honestly I don't ask too much. I have said in the past that if you obtain a license that at some point the company will reimburse so buy it and pray (of get your own copy and keep it when/if you leave).

I guess it's blind ignorance.

I hope at least some of those devs did have their own licenses. – Adam Lear Nov 17 '10 at 14:38
In the end they opted to buy their own licenses on their own which I was more than OK with. – BryanGrimes Nov 17 '10 at 16:30

Email the developers and explain your situation. If you express your intent to pay them as soon as you can they might work out an agreement. As a developer, I would rather you pay what you can versus not get anything at all. Tell the truth, it works most of the time.

Like most things in life there is always another option. Lucky for you, programmers tend to be great problem solvers!


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