BSA tactics not the solution to software problems
As a hardware engineer, I have travelled to many countries all over the world, including Europe and South America. In each and every one, no matter how rich or how poor the country/people, software piracy is an issue and often runs rampant and unchecked ["BSA turns up the heat in war on software piracy" by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 7 No. 13, April 2 - April 8]. BSA or no BSA, I am not in favour of piracy myself, but with my experience, I have come to the following realisation:
The solution to software piracy is not the terrorist tactics of the BSA, which are, I must add, the same all over the world. And let me confess while I'm at it, that even legal businesses with legal software are not in favour of such coercive tactics. No one likes to be "pushed", and even less so in a violent way.
Rather, the solution is to make original software just as inexpensive, and above all, as readily available, as a bootlegged copy. That's it. Once anyone can see that it really doesn't pay to buy a pirated copy when you can obtain the original for a similar or slightly increased price, people will stop buying them, or buy them less frequently. Software companies would sell more, and piracy would not be such a big issue.
But how do you tell a small company experiencing growing pains, or even a private individual, that to run their/his computer(s) with an operating system, for example, he needs to shell out an obscene amount of money that he might not have? And perhaps for software not even available at the moment? When one can purchase the same pirated software for a fraction of the original price? And I mean "a fraction", sometimes not even 1/10th of the original price.
The problem is readily appreciated, and the solution is obvious. Telling the end user not to use a computer at all until he obtains 'legal' software is ridiculous.
On another note, I don't see Microsoft or others going bankrupt due to lack of sales. Everybody sells. And to prove my point further, using other original products as an example: "imitation" articles are sold all over the world - Levis jeans, Rolex watches, perfumes, etc. People buy them because they are available and don't burn a hole in your pocket, but you don't see the original manufacturers going bankrupt either, or using a BSA form to crack down on 'copied' products.
When software giants (the real force behind the BSA) come to this realisation, then the BSA will change its tactics. I remember when IBM computers were the established product, and such things as clones or copies were vigorously fought by them, and others. In the end, they had to give up when the Asians started to inundate the market with clones under the term "IBM-compatible".
Sales started to dwindle, until they lowered the prices of the original product enough to compete with the copied version. Today, sales from original brand name computers are just as competitive as their Asian copies.
BSA is just another way to extract "tax money" for the government. The fines are not solely for the BSA, nor will they do anything with used computers sitting in their offices.
A major percentage of these proceeds end up going into government pockets, just another way to get money for their own use, under the guise of "legally" defending intellectual property. Big fish will always prey on smaller ones. This is as old as history itself.
Can we get 'family' land back?
You ran a very interesting article about housing in Slovakia ["Foreign Affairs: Finding a flat: Being Accomodating" by Tom Nicholson, Vol. 7 No. 14, April 9 - 15]. As for your comment about foreigners (individuals) not able to own land in Slovakia, is that still the case for Slovak-Americans trying to buy back old "family" land? How have the restitution laws been over the past few years?
And what do you know of requirements for Slovak citizenship? Do second and third generation Slovaks abroad have special rights on obtaining citizenship in Slovakia as opposed to foreign nationals who are not of Slovak descent? Just curious.