The BSA says 57% of people use pirated software. A big part of the problem is that software is just too expensive. You can buy a decent computer for $300, and the copy of Windows that comes with it accounts for 1/3 of the cost.

Microsoft Office Home and Business, which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook, retails for another $280. Office Professional, which includes Publisher and Access, retails for $500.

So even if you opt for the cut-down Home and Business version, you’ve already spent more on software than you spent on the hardware it runs on.

Adobe software makes Microsoft software look downright affordable. The academic discount version, commercial use of which is strictly forbidden, retails for $350. The version you can actually use without fear of legal action retails for $1,299.

I don’t know how a graphic artist doing freelance work in between college graduation and a first job can afford that. Some may buy the $350 version and hope they don’t get caught; some may figure if they’re going to risk getting in trouble anyway, they might as well save the $350.

Software has always been expensive. PC software especially so, and depending on how you look at it, at least PC software is cheaper than it was in the 1980s. Lotus 1-2-3 all alone used to sell for what Microsoft Office sells for now. But Microsoft Office hasn’t decreased in price significantly since the introduction of office suite bundles 20 years ago.

In the 1980s, Commodore users used to complain about the cost of software, even though it was rare for any titles for that machine to sell for more than $99. But if you don’t have $99, that doesn’t matter much. So Commodore owners either did without, or they pirated.

Software actually costs less today than it did in the 1980s, especially when you consider inflation, but look at the cost of hardware. In 1985, you could buy an entry-level Commodore 64 and a single floppy disk drive for around $400 if you shopped carefully. Today, an entry-level PC sells for around $300 if you shop carefully, and if you shop really carefully, sometimes less than $300. Both hardware and software require large amounts of engineering, but software requires far less duplication and distribution costs. Yet only hardware seems beholden to Moore’s Law.

Of course some people can use Linux and open-source software. I use that for some things, but some parts of my job force me to run Windows and commercial software that runs under it.

Now here’s the thing. Because my job requires me to sometimes run certain titles at home, for a time I was able to buy that software at a tremendous discount through the Microsoft Home Use program–along the lines of $10 or $20. If they could sell that software to me at that price and not lose money, why can’t they lower prices for everyone?