Stack OverflowMy boss asks me to pirate software. What should I do?
[+60] [17] BastiBechtold
[2010-10-11 14:23:48]
[ career-development ethics ]

So our company got bought by a foreign company. I just started there as programmer. This is my first job. I needed to do some design work; we decide we need Photoshop.

The new foreign boss answers via email that he does not want to pay for it and sends some links to some cracks and pirated versions of Photoshop.

Honestly, I can't do that. This job, this company, is about writing software. We exist because people pay for our software. I can not pirate software and betray that very principle that pays my meals.

My immediate non-foreign boss and all my colleagues agree.

Well, this is my first job and I really don't know what to do. What would you do in a situation like this? I feel like this can't be a place I would want to work in, but I kind of like it here and it's just the foreigners that are the problem.

If you have any ideas or advice... I feel lost.

(19) You might want to reply with this: - 0xA3
(21) In addition to the other answers, I'd just like to point out that cracked software like that often contains hidden trojans/backdoor/virii and could be a huge risk to your internal network. - asawyer
(11) Report them dude. Adobe - They will look fondly on you - In fact, those who alert Adobe of a problem are sometimes rewarded. I saw it happen once... - Glycerine
(9) Well, I certainly did not and will not pirate Photoshop. I still use the demo. I guess I will have to use GIMP afterwards. My main concern is with the piracy, not the software. - BastiBechtold
(21) This is a great question for the "Not Programming Related" StackExchange site: - Steve Wranovsky
(3) The Chinaman is not the issue, Dude... - Simon Whitaker
(4) I think I'd start to work on my resume... - Pascal Thivent
(7) Your immediate boss should handle the situation. If the result requires you to take part in illegal activity, then report them. Keep a clear paper trail of information via email (print them out). If they terminate you, you'll be well within your right to sue them for wrongful termination. I'm very against frivolous law suits, but this would seem to be exactly why the laws were put into place. And, in agreement with others, start looking for a new job. This is no way to start a career. - Brian
(1) Move the question to already. Where do I vote? :) - abel
(1) @Glycerine: that sounds eerily like 1984 / soviet communism-style thinking. - Claudiu
(3) @Basti: Regardless of the final outcome of this, congratulations on standing up for what you believe in and not just blindly following orders. I think I speak for most of us when I say that I sincerely respect that. - Mark Rushakoff
@Josh if it's that bad, don't use it. - quillbreaker
(2) @Claudiu: it sounds nothing like 1984. His boss is asking him to do something illegal, why shouldn't he report them? - Alex Baranosky
@Alex: exactly my point... just remember that illegality is relative. I'm not saying whether this law should be followed, just that blind following of laws can lead to bad things, especially if you do it to curry favor with the authorities. - Claudiu
@Claudiu: Although I agree that illegal doesn't always overlap with immoral, in this case it feels justified: as the company feels "it's ok to break the law to gain a competitive advantage" and manifests that by pirating software, will they ask him to break into the competitors' computers next? (that, too, happens; ironically, the pirates cry out loudest when their own product is pirated) - Piskvor
[+48] [2010-10-11 14:30:52] himself

Honestly, if a programmer needs to do some design work, spending a fortune on a Photoshop just for that sounds like wasting money. Buying photoshop for a full-time designer hired to work with it is another thing.

I'm not saying you should pirate, instead, use GIMP. Or Microsoft Paint, lol. Or better yet, if you're a programmer, leave design work to designers.

(12) Paint?! You show me one decent piece of work in Paint comparable to what I can do in photoshop and I'll hand you a legit free Adobe license! - :) - Glycerine
+1 for this. Can't imagine why this was downvoted. - duffymo
The point is designer versus programmer, IMO. - duffymo
-- my fault for the downvote - wrong button :S - Glycerine
(1) +1 I have to agree with this! Most developers I know aren't very artistic. I try to be, but phail at it. ;) - townsean
(29) @Glycerine: - mikerobi
(1) +1 For GIMP, you really don't need Photoshop, in 99.9% of cases GIMP works as good as Photoshop. - Artyom
@mikerobi Ownage :) - demonkoryu
(10) If you're using Windows (not sure about others), Paint.Net might be enough for your needs. It's free. - Klaim
(27) Congratulations with the free Photoshop license mikerobi! - ZippyV
(13) @mikerobi I GOT BITCH SLAPPED!!! - I stand by my word. I'll give a copy CS4 Master suite license Mac/PC. Would you like to dedicate it to this cause or have the copy for yourself.. PM me. - Glycerine
(7) @Glycerine, Stackoverflow doesn't do PMs - mikerobi
Ooh - K then - my twitter is @jagpal41 - - Glycerine
@Glycerine, I'm now following you, but you need to follow me for me to direct message you. - mikerobi
(1) @Artyom: I think that only holds for programmers; i used gimp for a while before picking up photoshop and nothing beats it in terms of sheer featureset and usefulness. - RCIX
[+40] [2010-10-11 14:31:07] Blank Xavier

If he asks you this now, then you can be sure you will have other problems with him in the future.

(5) Excellent point. Also, once you start with illegal stuff, you can now be blackmailed into more illegal stuff. - Piskvor
Agreed. This is the start of a slippery slope downhill. And what if you get caught. You would ultimately be responsible. - townsean
(17) I give an answer on lock-free data structures, which requires about five years worth of experience and learning in that one specific field and which provides an innovate solution to a tricky problem, and I get, -maybe-, one up vote. I give a bit of bubble-gum wisdom on someone's problems with their boss, I get twelve up votes. - Blank Xavier
(4) You get few upvotes on lock-free datastructures because few people understand the answer. - Joshua
(3) This is indeed so. It is a complex, highly skilled subject. Now, given that, what does it appear to tell us regarding the Stack Overflow scoring system? - Blank Xavier
@Blank Xavier: Yup, the rep system has problems. As far as I can tell, it mostly works, but it really does underrate very specialized expertise. - David Thornley
@Blank: it's always been pretty clear that more popular topics are more rewarded. i ask obscure GTK questions that I really need answers to, and i hardly get any replies. I ask a random question about stack frames in C or code golf, and get like 40 upvotes - Claudiu
@David: I think the non-optimal rating problem is not merely present at the extreme end of specialization; I would say it is across all questions and is in proportion to the degree of specialization. An up or down vote is given, I think, simply in response to ones feelings about an answer; it is far less given in response or consideration to how hard or easy the answer is (especially so, of course, when we are not qualified to judge the answer). So the voting system is a measure of how well you can provide answers to the most broadly understood questions. It is anti-skill. - Blank Xavier
(1) It tells us that answers to questions that many people find useful score more highly than answers that few people do? That it works pretty much as designed? :P - shambulator
@shambulator: how do you know that was the original design? moreover, if it was, I would say the design is wrong. Surely if it takes, say, ten years of skill to give a very difficult answer to one person, the one up vote for that is worth more than the one up vote giving an offhand bubble-gum wisdom answer that anyone could have given. - Blank Xavier
(2) The upvotes on answers to this question reflect how relevant, useful or interesting readers so far have found them, which (as far as I'm aware) is the point: having the best answers bubble to the top. I think there's enough hero worship on SO when a name known in the community makes even a minor comment on a question, without turning the rep system (even more) into some kind of Adulation Point mechanism. - shambulator
@Blank Xavier -- Don't you think whole "election system" works the same way. Everybody has right for one vote. But Does every body have same knowledge, influence or intelligence ? - iamgopal
Ask for a Raise. A very large Raise! - Mitch Wheat
[+31] [2010-10-11 14:24:58] townsean

Use GIMP instead? It's an open source image editor. [1]

EDIT: But personally, I would suggest finding a new job. That's very unethical of your company. I would even consider reporting. But since you're new, it must be kind of intimidating. :(


(15) or Paint.NET. Photoshop is expensive because it has super-flashy stuff in it (e.g. context-aware fill) that you probably don't need. GIMP, Paint.NET are both free and do 99% of things you're likely to need to do. Just hope you don't need that 1% ;) - Iain Galloway
never tried using Paint.NET; I should, huh, so I could make better suggestions in the future. :P - townsean
(1) GIMP has content-aware fill also. While I am much better with Photoshop - GIMP is way to underrated. It can do some amazing things. - Xeoncross
(4) I've tried GIMP a couple of times now, and I just can't get used to the UI. Coming from Photoshop, it feels very clunky and awkward. I'd highly recommend trying Paint.NET instead. Whether it's actually "better", I don't know, but it doesn't have such a steep learning curve. - nickf
(2) @nickf Try GimPhoto or GIMPshop to replicate the look&feel of PhotoShop with the open-sourceness of the GIMP - Corey
@Corey thanks for the links - could be very handy. The GIMPshop website is terrible though. For a site promoting a UI enhancement to existing software, you'd think they'd at least include a screen shot. - nickf
[+26] [2010-10-11 14:51:32] CashCow

Your immediate boss is the one you report to. You do not deal directly with this person. Let your immediate boss handle it.

This is sound advice. @BastiBechtold: Be careful with the responses that told you to directly refuse, refusing manager's orders is not a wise thing, even if manager's orders are illegal. - Quandary
[+15] [2010-10-11 14:27:29] Paul

Do you have a legal or HR department? I'd get some statement from them that you aren't allowed to pirate software.

Do you really need Photoshop, or would some other free software do the job?

And get that CV out there. You don't want to be there long term.

[+11] [2010-10-11 14:46:28] 0x69 [ACCEPTED]

Use open-source GIMP + INKSCAPE (for the vector graphics part if needed).

Explain to the boss that you can't support pirated Adobe products for the same reason you can't support boss company pirated products. If he is human - he'll understood that and will buy Photoshop or will let you to use open-source programs, otherwise - get out of there.

[+11] [2010-10-11 14:51:17] CadentOrange

You could also suggest using Photoshop Elements. It does roughly 90% of what Photoshop CS5 does, has the Adobe brand (important for some purchasing departments!) and is significantly cheaper than Photoshop CS5.

[+6] [2010-10-11 14:30:50] Júlio Santos

Try to humbly present those same arguments to him. Meanwhile, try to get by using the 30-day trial, that's legal to do.

That 30 day trial is nearly over. - BastiBechtold
(6) Sorry to hear that. Now, I don't know about the laws where you're from, but if an unannounced random inspection was to happen in any given company's premises, the fines would be way heavier than the price of Photoshop. Try to scare him with real data :) - Júlio Santos
(4) The thing is, continuously using the trial version (on virtual machines or something) is just as illegal as pirating as far as the license is concerned. - BastiBechtold
[+5] [2010-10-11 14:31:43] Glycerine

I think you should voice your concern with the person in question. Try and give him the scenario for your companies perspective. He will undoubtedly reply that Adobe are massive and can afford the loss. With that state Adobe used to be in the same situation, how - if someone did that to you, the company would loose pocket.

Also define how these large companies crack down hard on piracy. Especially companies of which do it.

If its a 15 year old kid in his room, everyone tend to look the other way - corporate is another story.

Alternatively. Tell him - you are unsure of how to illegally crack software - and he or someone else should do it. Therefore the legalities are on someone elses shoulders. Using alternative software could be the answer - perhaps even using the trial version for 30 days. When it dies - the work is half done and you tell your boss, it cannot be completed.

Good on you for sticking to your guns dude -

(2) I certainly won't use pirated software. I'd rather quit the job than doing that. - BastiBechtold
Easy then. Just say no that is illegal and how would you like it if Adobe pirates our software. If he doesn't like this response and fires you he has saved you the trouble of quitting. - danio
You will also have a case if they were to sack you due to you not wanting to use illegal software. MAKE WAR! I think everyone on SO is on your side. - Glycerine
[+4] [2010-10-11 15:43:07] Twisted

If you do use pirate software then, depending which country you live in, you may be held personally accountable if your company is ever investigated.

If I where in this position I would do the best job I could with tools which are freely available such as the built in paint or much better

Good Luck!

I will not pirate software to do my job. I don't want other people to pirate the software I write, hence I can't pirate their software without betraying my own right to earn money. - BastiBechtold
[+3] [2010-10-11 15:46:04] kyndigs

If you are only doing a small amount of work and its not long term, just use the 30 day trial!

[+3] [2010-10-11 16:05:54] abel

OK, so you need Photoshop. And you want it for free and you don't like GIMP.

Solution: Go over to:

And download Gimp Photo + Gimp Pad

Plus: Get [1] for all the work you thought MS Paint could not do.

There will be a learning curve, but it is worth the trouble for you as well as for your boss.


+1 for Paint.NET :D - Andrei Rinea
[+3] [2010-10-11 16:28:07] palto

First I would try communication. Say that pirating is illegal and you cannot do it. Maybe he will understand reason. Won't hurt to try. If it does hurt, like you getting fired, then did you really want to work in a company where they require you to do illegal things? I've seen programmers read too far into things and not to try clearing things up first. Including myself.

(1) We tried to talk. The Chinese don't seem to understand this kind of reasoning. And that is really troubling. - BastiBechtold
[+2] [2010-10-11 15:02:04] Wim ten Brink

Your boss is The Boss so basically you could do what he asks, and also send an (anonymous) report to the BSA, the police and some other copyright-guard dogs, explain your situation and let them handle it.
When your local boss and your colleagues agree with you, you should have plenty of support to not follow this command from your Big, Chinese Boss. Tell your local boss to contact your Chinese Boss and let him handle this matter, explaining why you can't use any illegal software. Just make sure your local boss understands why you refuse to use some illegal software. If your local boss supports the Chinese Boss, you can reach the BSA [1] at this URL [2].

On another note, if your Boss is unwilling to pay for commercial software, then just use free software, as many have already suggested here. Even if that takes you a lot more time to do the design, that would not be your problem! It's a problem your Boss could have prevented by buying better software. I've had to deal with inadequate software in the past many times already. I always made it clear I won't use any illegal software and just warn my Boss that it would take me a lot more time if I don't have the proper tools to do my work. Then it's his decision to decide what to do. And yes, this occasionally meant that I had to do things the slow way...
I am a bit worried about your SO profile, though. It's enough to identify you, but fortunately a quick scan didn't tell me who your employer is. Yet... You will need to be careful about that, online. I know you have nothing to hide but you've just said you've been ordered to do something illegal. People will be curious and will want to find out the company that you've hinted that is acting in an illegal way. Why? Because reporting such offenders can sometimes provide a small bonus for those who report them!
I don't expect you'd be in trouble, though. Just want to warn you that you're tipping off other people online. :-)


Honestly, if someone would sue the Chinese company because someone caught them using pirated software, that would be OK with me. I did not pirate software and neither do I have any evidence that they do. (And neither can western authorities do anything about anything at all in China) - BastiBechtold
(1) Win default judgement and taint-ban (basically treat everything arriving here they touched as stolen property) would go a long way to breaking that company. - Joshua
[+2] [2010-10-11 14:31:03] Alex Howansky

Compromise. Offer to use something that will do 95% of what you need but will cost a fraction of PhotoShop (e.g., Paint Shop Pro.) You haven't given details about what you'll be designing, but in my experience, buying PhotoShop to do entry-level web work is like buying Excel to make a grocery list.

[+1] [2010-10-11 16:43:02] SHiNKiROU

Ask someone with Photoshop and use his computer.

[0] [2011-02-28 14:22:22] Noufal Ibrahim

You should get him to give you a written document on the company letter head signed by him and cleared by the accounts department authorising you to download the cracked version and use it.

Either he'll do it in which case, the company is shady and you have good reason to burn the letter and leave.

Or he'll see the problem and consider alternatives.