By Anura Guruge
The use of pirated software, in any and all circumstances, sans exception, is a direct violation of the ‘though shall not steal‘ commandment, and is thus a sin. It is also a prosecutable crime. The Catholic Church, moreover, sees this commandment as an extension of ‘love thy neighbor as yourself’ and pertaining to the respect of private property.
Just because software piracy is a faceless, anonymous crime against a corporation does NOT make it any different to intentionally using a stolen credit card to order goods online from WalMart.
Hence, my disquiet. In the context of the pope’s now famous comment about the applicability of using condoms in some sinful scenarios, at least one contributor to this blog stated: ‘a sin is a sin.’ Bingo. Using pirated software, even for the Lord’s work, is a sin — particularly when, in nearly all instances, perfectly acceptable equivalents are available for free. This is definitely the case in this instance, the pirated software in question being anti-virus software from the Czech Republic (26% Catholic) company Avast! — whose new logo is ‘Avast! be free‘ BECAUSE it offers a very competent FREE version of its software. The ONLY difference between the free version and two paid versions are fairly esoteric features not usually required by ‘professional’ users who not particularly promiscuous in the use of the Web.
Just in case you are thinking that I dredge the Web looking for stories such as this about the Vatican, that is actually far from the case. Though I have had a number of e-mails suggesting that I start covering Vatican related matter that has appeared in Wiki-Leaks, I have refrained (and can even state that I have yet to visit Wiki-Leaks). This story about the Vatican’s use of pirated Avast software popped-up, quite literally, in front of my face, near mid-night on Thursday night [Dec. 16, 2010].
Though I have had a few issues with it, I have been a very committed user of Avast for a number of years. Thursday night, before shutting down my PC, I decided to see how Avast was doing on my machine — since I had recently upgraded (for a fee) to the latest version, and I hadn’t really checked Avast since the upgrade … because I trust Avast so much that I rarely bother to check it. So I opened up the Avast Dashboard (i.e., Control Panel). See screen shot >> at right. I thought I was seeing this. But NO, here was a Windows 7 Dashboard that mentioned the word ‘Vatican‘.
I was intrigued and irritated. I read the story … and you should too … by clicking here.
I am well aware that close to 4,000 people, many lay, work at the Vatican at any given time. But, it was somebody connected to the official Vatican ISP — and here again I know that there are multiple ISPs at the Vatican, viz. Holy See, Curia, Radio Vatican etc. But, the Vatican, like corporations, should have stringent policies against the use of illegal pirated software — with the IT department responsible for ferreting out violations. This story has now been on the Web since at least Thursday. The Vatican must know about it. I just did a Google … and yes, as is to be expected, the more inflammatory outlets are trying to rope in the pope. What I do not see is a statement by Cardinal Bertone, S.D.B., denouncing the use of pirated software and assuring that this will not happen again.
I have multiple, unrelated reasons for raising this issue. These being:
- To me, this is yet another instance, in what is now becoming a long list, of ‘insensitivity’ by the Vatican, at a time, because of the never ending clergy sex abuse scandal, one would hope to see the Vatican acting in a more mature, responsible manner. Just today, there was news of another priest, this one in New York, being defrocked. And, just in case you can’t remember any ‘insensitivities’ try the topless acrobats, the Vatican Press Office breaking the embargo on the pope’s book, Kasper’s derogatory comments on the UK etc. Again, the key issue is that everything the Vatican does at present, is being played out against the sad, sordid backdrop of the clergy sex abuse mess.
- A sin is a sin.
- There is nothing accidental about installing and activating pirated software. It require premeditation and explicit, specific execution — particularly when you are entering the ‘stolen’ product code. Those that work for the Vatican should be above such behavior.
- It is a crime.
- If you really think about this, the Vatican’s absence of guilt when comes to this issue provides another data point, re. ‘permissible’ sins per the Vatican, in the debate about the pope’s comments on condoms.
- Yes, I, as the person, in 1978, who came up with the Serial Number-based software validation scheme that eventually morphed into the tedious, Product Code activation scheme that we all hate, am a passionate anti-piracy advocate.
- I have two paid Avast licenses, not really because I need the Pro version … BUT because I firmly believe that those that can should pay for software such as Avast so that they can provide FREE versions for those that can’t afford the Pro version.
This is enough. I am just waiting for the Vatican to issue a statement that it will implement a zero-tolerance policy on software piracy. This would be a good start for other zero-tolerance policies by the Vatican.
Thanks & Cheers.
P.S., In my reckoning Avast is either #2 or #1 when it comes to the best anti-virus for PCs. ALL of the really good anti-virus programs for PCs are now developed EAST of what used to be West Germany. The only program that could be better than Avast is developed in Russia. Though I have visited Russia and one of my most memorable moments in life was getting to meet Yuri Gagarin and shake his hand, I still cannot come to terms with having Russian software on my computers. Hence, Avast … having met my first Czech when I was quite young, when a young film director moved into our neighborhood with a young Czech bride … he having gone there to study film making.