That’s a thought I had when answering a post on Tom’s Hardware. Someone said that people who pirate often don’t intend to buy the product anyway, so it’s not a loss to the company producing it. That may be true, but it does hurt that company’s competitors. People who pirate, even if they never intend to buy anything, are still hurting the software business, and they’re hurting those whose products they don’t pirate more than they hurt the companies they pirate from.
When someone pirates Windows, this means they don’t use Linux (or another free alternative). If they used Linux there would be more Linux users and more users of Linux software. When someone pirates a game, they are likewise not supporting free games which they could be playing. If they did, those free games would have more users. More users often translates to better support (people helping each other), more feedback to developers, and even more money spent on these or related products.
Now suppose the pirate is willing (as they often claim) to pay something, just not the price of Windows, Office or an AAA game. There are not only free alternatives but paid ones. By choosing to pirate that person isn’t looking into alternatives and of course not paying for them. It’s possible to buy a lot of games for $1 to $5; there are decent paid alternatives to Microsoft software, such as SoftMaker Office.
The thing is, when the top products can be had for free (via piracy) the value of everything else becomes zero, too. Why buy indie games when you’re playing AAA ones for free? Why support smaller companies when you can use Microsoft software? The end result is that pirating software can strengthen the companies from which software is stolen at the expense of competitors.
I think that it’s worth researching whether this really happens.