Readers' Letters



Issue 13

Jan/Feb 85

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Dear PAGE 6,

I note with interest your reply to Mr Spencer's request for reviews of copy programs in issue 10. While I understand your position, I feel you should reconsider. While you are undoubtedly correct in assuming that certain individuals will misuse a copy utility, and that some will do so grossly as in the example you quoted, it is also true that there are legitimate and worthwhile uses for such software. By assuming the worst of your subscribers, you tar both the guilty and the innocent with the same brush. In a country where the accused is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty, this seems to me to be rather unfair and not a little insulting.

Having recently up-graded to disk, I find myself with over 30 games, all original and paid for, which are virtually redundant due to excessive loading times and the unreliability of the Atari tape decks. I would dearly like to transfer some or all of these to disk - to have to buy them a second time would really hurt! - and as far as I am aware I would be within my legal rights to do so.

While most software companies refuse to provide back-up copies of their products at a reasonable price, and while floppy disks and tapes continue to be such vulnerable forms of storage, I would suggest that there is a strong case favouring the availability of copy programs to even the average user. I am interested in the Atari version of Visicalc, despite the very high price, but I am reluctant to purchase it with the knowledge that a speck of dust in the wrong place could leave me over 100 out of pocket.

Finally I would like to point out that by reviewing copy utilities you would not be condoning their misuse neither would you be increasing their availability. You would, however, be rendering your subscribers the valuable service of steering them clear of programs which offer bad value for money. I will probably acquire copy programs for the reasons that I have stated, with or without your advice. With your advice I will have more chance to obtain the program that will suit my needs best. I believe that many of your readers will be in the same position and that we could benefit from your advice.

Alan Sharples,

* A very succinctly put argument, Alan, whose main points I entirely agree with. I see no problem in a responsible person purchasing a copy utility for the purpose of transferring already purchased cassettes to disk or backing up expensive software in case of damage. If a copying utility existed that did that and nothing more, I would not hesitate to review and recommend it The problem is of course that copying utilities can't be controlled in that way and the number of purchasers that have NEVER copied something that they don't own is fairly small. The trouble is the temptation of it all. Once somebody has copied something, surely it can't do any harm to make just one more copy?

The scale of copying on the Atari in this country is enormous, probably more than on any other computer. There are software libraries where you can hire programs on disk or cassette that are only legally available on ROM. You can hire expensive programs without manuals (in case they get tatty) on brand name disks (in case the original gets damaged). If you know the right people, you can get a copy of any program available for the Atari, including programs not yet officially released. If you like you can have half a dozen on one disk.

By reviewing copy utilities I give publicity to those producing them. Several of these people also produce cartridge back-up utilities. There is no possible justification for backing up a cartridge, you may just as well go out and get an electronics rip-off merchant to back up your computer! The unfortunate fact is that many people producing back-up utilities do so in the full knowledge and expectation that they will be used for pirating software. Why should they care? They are making their money anyway.

So what is the harm of a few copies floating around? Does it really affect you? Yes, it does. Take a walk to your nearest computer dealer and look round for some of the "1000's" of programs available for the Atari. Chances are you won't find any. There are countless retailers who no longer sell imported Atari software simply because it did not sell. It did not sell because too many people found it too easy to get a pirated copy. There are software producers in this country that started off on the Atari and virtually went broke because copies of their games were so easily available. Those who survived switched over to the Commodore and found that they could sell TEN times as much. They are not people making obscene profits, but needing to make some profit just to live. I could go on but the evidence is there, in retail shops around the country and in the magazine advertisements, or rather the lack of them.

There are probably more aware and honest readers amongst the PAGE 6 subscribers than for any other magazine but there are also
those who either don't care or who could easily succumb to the temptation given the information. If I review copying utilities, the producers will prosper and some readers at least will be tempted down the pirate path directly as the result of the review. The Atari world is pretty fragile at the moment and I don't want to take the responsibility for inflicting any more wounds. I have seen too much damage done to honest retailers many of whom were (still are?) dedicated Atari fans.

I fully respect those of you who want copying utilities for entirely proper purposes and mean no offence by the stand that PAGE 6 takes. I don't know the answer, I can only see the problems.