I guess this article really shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. As the author says:
The truth is that this church doesn't operate this way because they want to, it is because they have to, at least in their mind. They have a budget for IT of a few hundred dollars a year and with the age of their systems that is barely enough to cover repair costs. There is no way this church with its current mindset and budgetary restrictions could handle becoming legal in terms of software licensing. But even if they could, would that really be the best thing? I mean their accounting software releases a new version every year, Windows; which is the OS in use, is updated every few years and other bits of their software are updated on varying schedules. There is no feasible way they could keep up to date and remain legal in terms of licensing, so instead they steal the software. YES, I am going to say it, even though I hate everything about proprietary software licensing practices they are stealing according to the letter of the law, and yet there are those in the church who will try to justify it. I will not bother discussing their justifications because they are idiotic at best.
As I said, this really shouldn't be a great shock. I see this same software theft all the time in companies. However, I do think it's often a little bit different. I certainly have run across companies that deliberately and knowingly pirate software, but more often the pirating was done at the individual level rather than being corporate policy. When I bring this to the attention of the owners or managers, the usual reaction is along the lines of "Fix that. Now".
The author of this blog suggests that the churches solution is pretty obvious: they ought to be using Open Source rather than proprietary solutions. I would bet that would be an easier sell to a church than it is to most businesses, though I suppose the resistance could be every bit as strong. On the other hand, most businesses are probably less cash-starved than many churches are.
The pain of switching has to be balanced against the costs of proprietary software. For a business, likely having more available cash, any pain may be seen as too much. But is the pain all that much now? Are we nearing a tipping point where businesses will start to switch in great numbers?
Or at least churches and other non-profits?
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2012-06-17 Tony Lawrence
The teaching of BASIC should be rated as a criminal offence: it mutilates the mind beyond recovery. (Edsger W. Dijkstra)