I was at a translation event recently and met a translator who ran an agency. We had a brief chat about language pairs and rates, and then to my surprise, the translator said he’d just got hold of a new OCR tool and offered to send me a copy. Gathering momentum, he proudly announced that all his software was pirated: Windows, Office, Trados and all. After all, he said, why should he spend money on software if he could get it free?
Well, I think there are several reasons.
Why buy legal software if you can get a pirated copy?
- It’s only fair. I don’t translate for free (except when I choose to) and I don’t expect software companies to work for me for free either.
- Help keep down the price of the software. The less translators use pirated copies of a program, the less expensive it will be for the rest of us.
- Developers spend their time (and therefore our money) troubleshooting issues that turn out to be related to pirated versions. Read my post on SP2 installation issues to learn more.
- Get support for any issues that might crop up. If you own a Studio license, you get free basic support. For an annual fee, you’re given full support and free upgrades.
- Get access to upgrades with new features.
- Pay for your software and decrease your taxable income. Investing in hardware, software and continuing professional development (conferences, webinars) is a win-win situation.
- Don’t risk infecting your work machine with malware.
- Keep a clear conscience.
What does Studio cost?
SDL Trados Studio 2014 freelance currently costs €695, but you can pick it up for less in a ProZ Group Buy (40% discount) or through local resellers in certain countries. Unfortunately, SDL was not forthcoming when I asked which countries were eligible and what discount was applied: “This is not something that we publicly disclose.” Not a helpful answer.*
* See Paul Filkin’s comment below for more details
What does it cost you in terms of work?
If you charge decent rates, you’ll be able to cover the cost of Studio in a question of days with a single medium-sized job.
Which brings me back to my pirate colleague. When I confessed that I paid for all my software, he retorted, “At the rates you charge, anyone could afford it!”
Moral of the story
If you’re charging rock-bottom rates and are looking for pirated software, maybe it’s time to reconsider your business approach.
My encounter with the pirate translator left me wondering how widespread this practice is in the translation industry. Please place your (anonymous) vote below so we can find out.
Image attribution: © idspopd – Fotolia.com
I guess that capilists will never decrease prices only because less people will use pirated SW.
Hello, Emma. My congratulations for this entry in your blog. I totally agree with you, but I would like to make a couple of remarks. For a novel translator not used to CAT tools, the investment is hard. Yes, it is the best investment to do in our professional life, but it is hard to afford when there are few projects, and several clients demand each a different tool. I do remember that, few years ago, Studio did not have its Lite annual program and the trial versions were capped and they did not last 30-45 days. Nowadays, the software providers are aware of this issue and do provide extended length full trial versions. I can understand a translator in his/her beginnings using a pirate soft. For purpose of trial or even in a couple of projects. But we all must encourage him/her to move to a license when affordable as soon as possible. This is a enormous task, but we should do altogether. I did buy all my CAT licenses in the ProZ Group Buy, and it is worthy to do so. Thanks Emma again to remember us this great feature of Proz.
Emma, I absolutely agree with your central premise. For me, reasons 1, 5 and 6 are the big ones. I have never ever been tempted to pirate programs I use professionally. I think I would also say that in our setting (Spain) piracy is just part of the culture we live in. Great post.
Very interesting article Emma… just one comment on your post though in relation to the reseller pricing. I think the quote from SDL was “local pricing is available through our network of local resellers”. So it’s probably not that hard for an independent person to find these out. But I think it might be a little unfair on the Resellers, especially as sometimes there are more than one in each territory, if SDL set them up against each other by publishing all their prices together.
It is very interesting to read peoples views on pirated software, and probably my own too if I’m honest. It seems the bigger the things the more criminal it is. So would it be ok to steal a car if you thought it was too expensive, and would we have empathy with the thief? How about a 250,000-€ office accounting implementation? Or is it just when the price gets lower that software piracy becomes acceptable to some, and no longer theft? You made a very valid point that commercial software developers do this for their livelihood. There are plenty of open source alternatives for pretty much anything these days, so if you really don’t want to pay for your software then spending time looking for these and seeing if they meet your needs is the way to go.
I think you’ve opened a real can of worms with this discussion… but a very interesting one from an ethical perspective.
As a software provider I think all software thieves should be locked up with no opportunity for parole 😉
Indeed, Paul. I cropped the reply I received. The whole reply was:
I’d also like to clarify to anyone else who is reading this, that this reply wasn’t from you.
And I agree, let’s lock up all software thieves!
Hi Paul. I agree but this is my situation: I work in Mexico and thus am forced to either earn 50% or less of what people in the US and Europe earn per word, or find a new profession in this land of freedom but marginal employment opportunities (Mexico). Is it still fair for me to pay 2300 euros? Just a thought. I do hope to find a version available in Latin America because I believe this case is true for several or most of my colleagues. Side note(question), would anyone in the US or Europe like to send me higher paying work?
Hi Kate, I think 2300 euros is too much for anyone for a Freelance license. The list price for a Freelance license in Europe is around 700 euros, although there are always deals. For example, at the moment you can purchase SDL Trados Studio 2014 Freelance Plus with on-demand training & certification for 480 euros. The reseller prices are probably cheaper than this, so it’s worth contacting your local reseller.
Where did you get the 2300 euros price from? It sounds like the Professional License.
As Paul says, there are plenty of open source alternatives for almost anything (even computer-aided translation), and I certainly use a lot of them (but no pirated software). And I’d like to stress the implications of this: it never ceases to amaze me that there are so many good people out there who are willing to make large efforts to help people for no other compensation than the knowledge of a job well done and the satisfaction of helping others. (The SDL OpenExchange — where most of the applications are free — is a good case in point.) This in complete contrast to all those people who say that they have to be paid millions in bonuses *in addition* to their already fat salaries in order to even do what they were hired for in the first place.
So, I believe you should pay for the efforts of others when they ask you to, and be very grateful to those who don’t. And investigate and make your choices wisely.
The debate about software piracy (and content piracy) is complicated and covers many aspects, from morale to practical.
Personally, I condemn piracy. Stealing software is never the right path. I’m particularly disgusted by and impatient with people who don’t only steal the thing, but also brag about it! I wonder what that person would have said if he wore the other shoe and discovered that his work is being pirated by someone. These are also the most militant people when they think that they have been done a disservice. Cheat and steal from other? Sure, who cares? Suspect that you got cheated by someone? They will start an intergalactic witch hunt to get what they deserve.
“Why do I have to pay for something if I can get (i.e. steal) it for free?” is a infantile, skewed, and idiotic way to look at the world; not to mention that the software is not really free – the fact that you can steal and largely get away with it doesn’t make it free. This claim was legitimate (to a certain degree, because there are additional factors than just cost) if that person would have said, “I’m using a free tool (such as OmegaT for example), so I don’t see any reason to buy a similar one”. A huge difference between this two scenarios.
Then there is the other side. Piracy – for some companies – drive sales in the long term and lock down users. I don’t know if this is the case for SDL, it is certainly not the case for everybody, but some of the bigger bodies in the software space are playing a double game around this subject.
“If they are going to steal software, steal from us”, is the repeated mantra of MS over the years.
So this is a more complied and multilayered topic than first meets the eye. Yet, the bottom line is that stealing is wrong. Bad Karma.
Interesting post Emma. I think what I found most interesting was that the person from the agency was open about it. Although none of my work software is pirated, I have been known in the past to work on pirated versions of things my partner has passed me (not unusual for him to install stuff without asking me) – he is a dire, dire pirate.. I, on the other hand, feel constantly sure men in black suits with guns are going to leap out on me and lock me up forever. Plus, I have musicians and artists in the family and I come from a software development background, so I just generally believe in paying so the makers can keep making, be it music, books, film, games, professional software or whatever.
However – and there is a big however here. It is the publishers who make the big money, not the artists, musicians or developers themselves; and the publishers continue to keep prices far higher than is necessary (for them still to make a profit), despite their production costs being greatly reduced, since their distribution and manufacturing processes are supported by new media, advanced software and online delivery mechanisms. More, though, does not go to the base producer (artist or engineer). That is especially true on the arts side – developers do tend to get paid a pretty good whack.
I for one do find SDL’s general product marketing strategy to be inflexible and money-grubbing. I believe they could usefully work (hard) on providing more flexible modulable delivery models (so there is a core editor product, and you can pick and choose which additional modules to buy, to have an incremental package suitable for evolving needs). Financially, the jump from 99€ to 695€ is just too massive for new translators; and the next jump is mind-boggling, quite inconceivable for me, yet I find myself needing to create packages. There is a considerable market out there for more in-between solutions.
So perhaps the big boys need to look at their own solution and delivery methods, and see that they could reduce the temptation to pirating, by providing more financially approachable solutions.
Trados’ business model is just so nakedly an old school proprietary lock-in that I’m surprised anyone still goes towards it. Still a huge installed base I guess, exactly analogous to the folly of Microsoft Word as a “standard.”
Personally I use OmegaT as a CAT tool, which is fine (and GPL-licensed), and LibreOffice, Although it is difficult to entirely avoid Microsoft Word (and I do have a legit copy), it really is best to avoid proprietary lock-in and insist on exchanging files in open standard formats.
I think you are somewhat out of touch. Trados was around before there were real standards for anything, and these days (probably the last 5-yrs) SDL base their formats on standard formats. OmegaT uses TMX for everything, SDL use XLIFF, as do most other tools these days.
[Due to technical issues, I’m posting this comment on behalf of juliusbeezer]
It’s true that I’m in the happy position of not being obliged to follow every vagary of the proprietary software houses, not being one of their victims. I do try to tune into the ever helpful OmegaT email list, and I’m very glad to have such a responsive community available, should I run into a problem, but I really don’t give it much time.
As for .tmx and .xliff files: I’ve never run into the need myself, but there’s convincing evidence that one is readily interchangeable with other using okapi rainbow: http://libretraduko.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/xliff-to-tmx/, should the need arise. This is hardly surprising as, they are, after all, merely flavours of xml.
I think people do not plan ahead. What I did was buy MS Office while I was a student, i.e. I got a big discount. I purchased my PDF software only when it was sold at a discounted price. I bought Dragon second hand. I use Wordfast’s demo version and I love it. My glossary management software for interpreting jobs was also purchased while I was studying. To (mis)quote the famous song: ”I’m thrifty and I love it,” i.e. I’m wisely economical 🙂
I will also never complain about SDL’s or MemoQ’s price tags. I do not need this software (expensive software is not necessarily better software) and I do not work for agencies who demand I use these programmes. They are not my market 🙂
Not only I don’t use pirated software: I also pay for shareware software (if I find it useful – otherwise I uninstall it), contribute to the tip jar of freeware programs (again, if I find them useful), and have *asked* to pay for certain very useful freeware programs: before Xbench became a commercial program I offered for years to pay for it as soon as ApSIC decided to charge for it. And as soon as they did, I paid for a multi-year subscription.
I find you have forgotten one important answer to your question:
Why buy legal software if you can get a pirated copy?
8. Buying pirated software is illegal (and could land you in deep trouble)
I’d like to add that I find it amazing that professional translators would think that a USD 700 license is “too expensive”. Before saying so, I think that translators should compare the cost of setting up shop in our profession to the cost of doing so for other professionals (see http://www.dentalclinicmanual.com/chapt2/1_1.html for how much it costs to set up as a dentist, for example).
I’d like to add that I find it amazing that professional translators would think that a USD 700 license is “too expensive”.
You might not want to use that as your line or argument. Remember that for US/UK/Europe-based people, 700 USD/GBP/EUR may not be a lot of money, and the equivalent of one medium-sized job is enough to cover it. But for people who live outside of the USD/GBP/EUR currency zones, it becomes a whole lot more. I live in Poland, where the exchange is 3:1 (PLN to USD), 4:1 (PLN to EUR) and 5:1 (PLN to GBP). So yeah, for some people, it’s one job. For me, it’s easily 2-3 months’ worth of rent money, and definitely more than one job.
I couldn’t agree more. The currency exchange rates are one of the main reasons why we earn only 25-30% of what we could get in Western Europe. On the other hand, having a strong local currency is definitely not a good idea for developing countries, so we can only accept this fact. The main problem is that the exchange rate is not stable, i.e. it’s not always 3:1 or 4:1. Just two years ago the PLN/EUR exchange rate changed from 3,9:1 to 4,5:1 in less than a year – that’s over 40%. So, yes, 700 USD is a big deal for many translators and they a good reason to spend this kind of money. As a reseller here in Poland I see this all the time – translators really struggling to pay for the software. Even agencies have this problem. Luckily SDL responds to this fact by offering local discounts where necessary. However, I do agree it may still require more than one translation job to cover the cost of the software, but would you buy ANY software if you were only planning to process just one job with it? Anyway, we try to support Polish freelances and agencies with a simple offer of payment in installments. This has become a very popular way of purchasing SDL Trados here as it does not require any additional cost. But enough with the adverts – if you’re Polish and you need a flexible payment option to buy a Trados license, you know where to find us 🙂
I don’t know who said that USD 700 is “one job” – What I said is that it is certainly not too expensive for a professional translator.
I realize that if a translator works exclusively for customers in his or her own home country, then exchange rates may have an effect on the price paid. But that is the equivalent of the standard complaint “translation companies’ rates are too low” or “translation companies’ rates are too low in country X”. In certain countries many translation companies (or even direct clients) don’t want to pay decent rates. The solution to that is to find clients who accept our rates. And if that means not to work at all for clients in certain countries so be it. That’s one of the reasons, for example, why have long ago stopped completely from working for Italian translation companies.
My main line of argument stands: compare the cost of setting up as a translator with that of setting up as any other type of professional (doctors, dentists, lawyers, for example), and you’ll realize how truly cheap our professional equipment is. Even when we have to pay USD 700 for a single software program.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and give you an honest answer.
I don’t have a problem with people using pirated software to test programs they are considering using and purchasing. Many trials and demos don’t allow you to properly test a program so as to decide whether it is going to be useful in the long run. Once you know that you are going to use it, you should definitely buy it, for various reasons.
1. The developer deserves to be paid for his or her work (especially small developers; I believe in doing business ‘locally’)
2. If you pay for the program you can use its support department and partake in its forums
3. If you pay for it you can tell everyone you own a licence for it, which sounds very professional.
However, there is another aspect to this, which relates to the way that the translation industry is structured today. More and more these days, idiot LSPs insist on forcing their translators to use a specific CAT tool (they have very good reasons for doing so, none of which are my concern). However, they didn’t all choose the same CAT tool. Some chose Wordfast Classic, some Wordfast Pro, some SDL Studio 2011, some SDL Studio 2014, some still use the old Trados, some chose memoQ (maybe version 4, version 5, version 6, memoQ 2013, and now memoQ 2014), a few chose DVX2/3, etc. Oh yeah, and none chose CafeTran or OmegaT.
Hmm. Anyway, so what does this mean? This means that I have agencies constantly telling me they have a job for me, but only if I use their CAT tool. Now, there are a few CAT tools out there that can handle a large number of CAT tool file formats (sometimes in the form of so-called ‘packages’), and many of them in fact pride themselves on their ‘interoperability’. However, it is often not good enough to only use their CAT tool to process these file formats from other CAT tools. Sometimes you really need to run it through the native program once before delivering your project to your client. So what are we translators to do? Some people solve this by just buying everything (like my friend Hans):
SDL Studio and/or the old Trados, memoQ (4,5,6, etc.), Wordfast (Pro and/or Classic), etc.
That’s great. They can sleep well at night in the knowledge that they have done the right thing. But is it really the right thing? Is it our fault that every agency insists on using yet another CAT tool, when they could very well just ask their translators for:
(1) A final word .docx
(2) A project TM as .tmx
(3) A bilingual review file as .docx (which can be reimported into the CAT tool, allowing the TM to be updated)
(4) A bilingual review file as .html
(5) A project glossary as a tab-delimited UTF-8 text file
Yes, you guessed it: the above 5 (or less) files is what my clients get from me.
I buy all of my software for the reasons you mention, and it always amazes me when people complain about the price of CAT tools or software in general. When I became a self-employed translator, I wasn’t eligible for any subsidies because I had so few setup needs. What other business can you set up with a laptop and the Office suite? Over the years I subsequently bought several software packages that improved my workflow/the quality of my work, including Trados Studio, and have always felt lucky that my profession requires so little financial investment compared to most others. If I think about it, Trados cost about the same as the laptop it’s installed on, which for me puts stealing software into perspective. How many people would feel comfortable about receiving a stolen computer?
Thanks for everyone’s comments so far. It’s an interesting topic – also being discussed here:
The point about new translators’ needs is a valid one. In that case, I’d recommend OmegaT, which is free: http://www.omegat.org/en/omegat.html
You can’t “steal” digital products. All comparisons to real-world theft are fallacious. Theft happens when you deprive the original owner of a thing. All things digital can be copied at no harm or loss to anyone. On the other hand, a case can be made by supposing the seller has “lost” a sale. This is not always true. Who’s to say the pirate would have bought it? Just some food for thought. The best way to provide some measure of protection against piracy is through features and services that a pirate could not have access to. Customer support, cloud synchronization, and online interfaces are examples. In any event, piracy is a reality that’s here to stay. However, there are many ways to minimize it. If you are a pirate, please consider supporting the digital creators whose products you love and use daily.
While I understand that it is a tough call for someone who is basically honest, I think that certain companies such as Microsoft or TRADOS (or whoever makes it) deserve to be ripped off, for several reasons. I have a few pirate programs, which tend to be the ones that I think are too expensive. The person who installs them for me happens to be a member of the Spanish civil guard IT crime unit and encourages me to use his pirated copies.
Interesting. Yet, here in Egypt, I wouldn’t pay my whole salary + more on just one program. There are hard circumstances at some areas that don’t allow people to legally spend so much money on just a program.
While I tend to agree with some aspect of you article I was amazed when you said – “If you charge decent rates, you’ll be able to cover the cost of Studio in a question of days with a single medium-sized job.” I don’t know who you work for or what your rates are, but I do not know a single translator or earns nearly 700 Euros (after tax deduction, mind you) in “a question of days”.
“If you’re charging rock-bottom rates and are looking for pirated software, maybe it’s time to reconsider your business approach.” The problem is exactly the opposite: due to the economic crisis it is customer who have reconsidered their business approach and are willing to pay less and less for a translation. They are only willing to pay bottom rates nowadays and it is “take it or leave it”. Since people do have to eat and pay bills (which is becoming harder every year), they end up accepting them because they know someone else will and you will lose the client. No offense meant, but it seems that you just not in touch withe today’s real world and translation market.
Finally, I do find 700 Euros extremely expensive for a software that has countless bugs, incompatibilities and poor support. I’ve been working with Trados for a decade now, have used several versions of the software and I have yet to see a version of Trados that isn’t filled with bugs. If I pay 700 Euros for something, I expect a quality product that works properly and SDL products are of very low quality in that regard.
I don’t expect SDL to offer Trados or sell it for 5 Euros but the fact is this software is overpriced, no matter how you look at it.
Thank you for your comment.
As you know, the translation market is huge. I can assure you that there are a lot of translators who earn enough to pay for Studio in a few days. I was actually referring to the discount price (why buy it for nearly €700 if you can get it in a Group Buy for under €400?) but I’m also willing to stick my neck out and say that this also applies to the full price.
I’m aware that the bottom end of the market is indeed bottomless. While there are translators who succumb to the “take it or leave it” strategy, low rates will continue to fall.
Yes, you’re right: Studio does have bugs. SDL works hard to iron them out, but doesn’t always succeed. I find it very frustrating, for example, that in the current Studio build, terms from my termbase that appear near the end of a long segment aren’t recognised.
However, I don’t think Studio is overpriced. It’s a program I use every single day, more than any other software. If I work out what it costs me per day, I certainly get value for money.
I dont want to sound too bitter, but it’s easy for you to say “don’t succumb to the “take it or leave it” strategy”, or “reconsider your business approach”. When you have few clients and barely enough money to survive, you can’t really afford to refuse a client. Reconsidering doesn’t help, there’s simply no easy way to find good clients. They happen by chance, through contacts, etc (being a skilled translator is far from being enough).
How would you do if you earned 700euros/month, working for clients who want you to use a software that costs 700 euros? Would you really say “It’s wrong, so, I won’t do it, I’ll just have to quit translating and find another job?”
I can assure you that very few good clients come by chance. Business and marketing skills need to be learnt and then honed.
In the meantime, I recommend using OmegaT, the free translation memory tool (link in earlier comment).
To me, the argument that beginners have difficulties being able to afford software and other essentials of the profession is a bit strange. In any other field of business, you have to make initial investments, and many take loans to kickstart a company. Few people can save enough to be able to establish a cafeteria, for instance, using only their own money. Freelance translators don’t apparently believe in their business if they are not willing to invest any money in it. If you do not have any savings to cover the initial costs before you establish your freelance business, it’s a huge risk in itself. I would not have established a company name if I hadn’t had enough money to pay my bills for a year. Before that, I just did jobs that did not require Studio or some other particular type of software. I had to turn down many jobs but now that I have bought Studio, it’s a huge asset and paid itself back in a month.
Although I agree with all the statements above let me give you an example of why pirated software is so popular, especially overseas.
A new translator working for an agency in Argentina, (where I am now) makes about 600usd. per month. Which is a fraction of what a translator in the US would make in a week.
There are many factors for this but the point is that it is very hard to invest over a month’s salary (especially when living off this salary on a day to day basis) for one piece of software, especially if there are ways to get this software free.
I was not aware of how expensive until I moved here and witnessed it personally. Trados and other software translation software companies all work on and make money on translator’s on a global scale and sell licenses to large translation companies that can afford it, but small freelance translators all around the globe just cannot afford this… 900usd for MOST of the world’s residents is just prohibitive. And many companies demand one particular software or another…
As far as the owner of a translation company not buying the software… he is just a cheap pirate, but I can understand when a translator in Argentina or Pakistan or anywhere else where remuneration is not based on dollars decides to get a pirated copy… Despite all the headaches that this comes with… I think the answer lies in the middle. Trados wants the world to use its software, well it should give prices that reflect the world…