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My university is using cracked OS and software throughout. The school is very huge at 70 hectares and there are buildings everywhere. All of the computers in the computer labs and offices are full of cracked Windows and software¹. In our computer labs, we use a cracked OS and software to program and design circuits. Also, the school is credited as a Center of Development which is a world-wide acknowledgement.

The cracked software tends to crash and produces a lot of errors leading to lots of data loss. Especially when it crashes without warning, and data sometimes can get corrupted.

My question is: How did the school get away with this, and is there a way to report this to authorities? I don’t even think my country cares about software pirating anyway (Philippines). Is there a way to report this so that the software in every computer in the university can be replaced and upgraded?


¹ Everytime we turn on the computers, the first message we see is "Activate Windows Now", and when we open the programs we use, the first thing you see is the splash screen displaying "Cracked by PerTician Cracker".

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    If you do this - you do have a passport ready to leave don’t you... – Solar Mike Jul 4 '18 at 6:39
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    Why do you care / what do you hope to gain from this? You don't know the institution's financial or other situation and if the law doesn't care, why should you? On a side note, "a lot of errors leading to lots of data loss" is far more likely to be due to misconfiguration / misuse rather than a consequence of "cracked" software. Sorry, this question reads far more like a frustrated student seeking ways to force his institution to upgrade than someone with moral concerns about piracy. – user3209815 Jul 4 '18 at 7:55
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    @user3209815 Or the OP could simply be an honest person paying tuition money they earned through honest work who's upset they're being sold stolen software. – Nicole Hamilton Jul 4 '18 at 11:43
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    Being in a course where we develop software and use cracked software is a bit ironic isnt it? – JezT Jul 4 '18 at 11:46
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    OTOH, unfortunately, software is blatantly overpriced. In some developing countries, there is no financially viable option other than cracked software :-( Clearly, this is not an excuse, but it is a reason. – xuq01 Jul 4 '18 at 18:20
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If you suspect pirated software is being used, you can report it either directly to the software publishers themselves, e.g., to Microsoft, or you can file a confidential report online with one of the various software industry trade groups, e.g., the BSA Software Alliance or The Software & Information Industry Association. (SIIA offers rewards.)

Realistically, it's the publishers' responsibility¹ to protect their intellectual property, not yours. So once you've made a report, I'd let the matter drop. The publishers' attorneys will take it from there. They know how to fix blatant cases like the one you describe. Typically what they do is offer a carrot and a stick, the carrot being a very attractive "get well" price to replace all the pirated software with legitimate copies, and the stick being the threat of a lawsuit. The objective isn't always so much about getting paid for software previously pirated as it is about turning pirates into paying customers, changing their practices to ensure they always buy legitimate copies in the future.


¹ “It is the responsibility of the rights' holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights.”

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    -1 Because I'm skeptical that the BSA, SIIA, etc., are active in that way in the Philippines (legal action, lawsuits). I'd like to see a citation on that. – Daniel R. Collins Jul 4 '18 at 15:34
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    So: Skeptical that reports to BSA et. al. are likely to trigger publishers' attorney legal actions in the Philippines. – Daniel R. Collins Jul 4 '18 at 15:52
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    Other objections notwithstanding, are you suggesting reporting this on suspicion, without confirmation? I refer to your first sentence, though in this case OP has clarified why suspicions are justified. – user153812 Jul 4 '18 at 16:29
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    They won't care. Microsoft is generally happy if universities use their software, and they are not going to be able to earn much money from public institutions of the poorer countries anyway. – Karl Jul 4 '18 at 20:10
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    @DanielR.Collins : ABS-CBN reports your skepticism is misplaced, as a trivial Google search shows. – Eric Towers Jul 4 '18 at 21:10
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We had pretty much the same situation in Russia in early 90s, after the dissolution of USSR and economic crisis that followed. On one hand, the country had access to global market and it became possible for small businesses and large institutions like Universities to purchase desktops for their staff/students. On the flip side, there was rarely any funds available/budgeted for software.

For university lecturers this meant a clash between the desire to be ethical (do not steal) and the desire to give students best education, using modern software when appropriate. It was quite usual to come across cracked/pirated software in university lab. Heck, it was not unusual for banks and government agencies (including police) to use a pirated copy of MS Win. Fun times indeed.

Twenty years later, software piracy came to a certain demise. Not because it was reported to Russian police, and not because it was reported to SIIA and whatever other agency. It ended mainly for two reasons: (a) generally speaking Russian economy improved and institutions find it possible to budget money for software; (b) underfunded sectors (including education and science) switched predominantly to free/libre software. There is still a visible amount of piracy in game/media sector, but not that much in software one.

Following the queries in comments, let me clarify the suggestion:

  • You can talk to your professors about the possibility to use free/libre (open source) software for your projects. For example, use Linux as operating system, libre office and LaTeX for publishing / essays, Open Circuit Design for circuit design, etc.
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    Good story, but how does it answer the question? – user9646 Jul 4 '18 at 14:19
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    @NajibIdrissi Is not it clear? If piracy is an accepted norm in your country, it won't change until the global situation changes. A report probably won't change it - MS knows their software is pirated in some countries and they can't help it. – Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 4 '18 at 14:23
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    @NicoleHamilton Yes, and this is not likely to happen, if this is an accepted norm. – Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 4 '18 at 14:25
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    But OP is not a publisher. And the publisher (MS) knows their software is pirated - but they probably don't see any point pursuing it if the guilty party can't pay them anyway. – Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 4 '18 at 14:36
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    Your answer assumes publishers have standing but lack knowledge.This is incorrect. They know their software is pirated, but they won't get anything by coming after a foreign university with no international assets. – Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 4 '18 at 14:41
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Your approach to this problem is very objectionable; you appear inclined to create trouble rather than generate a solution. I am not saying this because the university is doing the 'right' thing – they aren't, but that's a separate question. You don't indicate any efforts to finding out the reasons for piracy within the university, or to raise the issue with your faculty/network administrators/general administration. Instead, you propose to directly report this to outside authorities. This is stirring trouble.


Nevertheless, since there is a real problem, an answer is in order:

(1) How the university got away with it is not a concern, because anything in that direction will be speculative, and impossible for you to verify.

(2) If the frequent crashing and data loss, or any other inaccuracy in calculation is strongly correlated to cracked software, that is a real concern. But be aware that poor upkeep, unauthorised use of USB drives, inadequate malware protection - especially if these are public computers - could cause similar issues. Presumably there is a network administrator, or some group of people responsible for maintenance and network security. Bring the issue to their notice, first informally and then formally. Don't imply that cracked OS is the concern, just highlight your problems. If you can document these problems, your case will be much stronger.

Let them take action, allow a reasonable time. See if you notice an improvement. If you do, the problem may not have been with cracked software. On the other hand, if there is no improvement, consider informally escalating the issue, preferably through your adviser/student relations in charge/equivalent and simultaneously keeping the student body informed.

Frankly, the choice of software is university policy, you are not in a position to criticise it unless it demonstrably detracts from your work. A number of good answers to a similar question suggest that there may indeed be such demonstrable problems. You must recognise that this is a large issue if it is widespread across the university. The larger the issue, the slower is the solution. Don't expect it to be instantly sorted out. If there is a genuine problem due to pirated software, it will affect many students, and you can feel glad about having initiated something that will positively impact many.

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    I deleted the comment discussion because it was slowly getting not nice, not leading anywhere, or addressed in an edit. If you disagree with the answer, downvote and possibly provide arguments for your disagreement in a comment. If you think that the advice offered by an answer is unethical, it is valid to criticise this, irrespective of whether the question is asking about ethics or not. Please do not discuss other answers here. Either way, be nice. – Wrzlprmft Jul 4 '18 at 16:37
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    +1 At my university in the "first" world, all software is legal, and still computers are badly misconfigured, crash after clueless students and staff install unsuitable software and bring in viruses, etc. – Karl Jul 4 '18 at 20:15
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Well, transfering the comment to an answer:

You could report this to the companies developing the software tools. If you fear any repression (which is likely), use some anonymous mail or web contact forms which you access e.g. via tor browser.

I strongly encourage you to do this, because usually academic institutions can often get standard software for very reasonable prices (this might vary from country to country).

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    I disagree with "academic institutions can often get standard software for very reasonable prices". What constitutes as "reasonable price" in Germany and in Philippines is probably different in several orders of magnitude – Ander Biguri Jul 4 '18 at 8:55
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    @AnderBiguri this is why I said "this might vary from country to country". – OBu Jul 4 '18 at 10:42
  • Yes indeed! But as OP is in Philippines, it does vary for this case specifically. Just commenting on it. – Ander Biguri Jul 4 '18 at 10:51
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    @AnderBiguri Microsoft have literally nothing to gain from charging people in the Philippines more than they can afford. I would be very much surprised if prices of campus licences were uniform around the world. – sgf Jul 4 '18 at 11:48
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    Bear in mind that HEIs are government-funded institutions in many countries (including Philippines). It is possible that this funding can only be spent on "hard" purchases (e.g. computers) but not on digital goods (no budget classification, etc.) – Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 4 '18 at 14:33

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