Why I Pay For Software I Value

It seems like since the dawn of technology, we humans have found innovative ways to avoid paying for anything. Music was pirated, movies were bootlegged, and anything else that could be distributed electronically was most definitely and illegally passed around for free.

While some of us may not be able to pay for financial reasons, others object to paying for digital goods on principle.

My friend was signing up for a WordPress site, and she was conflicted about whether or not to upgrade from the free version to the paid version. “I hate paying for shit” were her exact words. I understand wanting to save money, but when you find out the true cost of those “free” services, you might decide you want to pay up after all.

If you opt for the free version of anything, that company is making money somehow. Whether they’re placing ads on your site like with WordPress, showing you more ads, or selling your data, they’ve got to make their money. If you won’t pony up, they’ll find someone who will—maybe at your expense.

Here’s an easy example. You can sign up for a free account on Hulu and watch multiple commercial breaks, or you can sign up for a paid account and get limited or no commercial breaks. You’re paying for the free version with your time and your consumption of that advertising. If you use a free app or game, it’s the same story.

These apps are advertised as free, but users do pay for them—with their information. Corporations will pay big bucks to get their hands on some of the data that users are giving away using a free app. Within the last year or so, a certain fertility app came under fire for selling private fertility data entered by users to insurance companies, employers, or even Facebook. This is of particular concern because of the sensitive nature of the data that’s entered in an app like this, including bodily functions like menstruation, emotional symptoms, sexual activity, and fertility goals.

Certainly not all free apps behave this way, but I’d rather support companies that don’t sell my data. I’d rather spend a little more money to have a better game or entertainment experience without being interrupted by ads. I’d rather pay for software that makes my life easier or my job more efficient. 

I’ve always believed in supporting an artist for their work. When most of my friends were pirating music and movies, I was driving to Tower Records (remember them?) to buy CDs (remember those?) and movies. This philosophy extends to software and apps. A free version is nice if I don’t need advanced features or if I just want to try it for a bit before committing to purchase, but ultimately, as a writer and someone who’s worked for software and mobile apps, I appreciate the work that goes into developing and maintaining these products. I show that appreciation by paying for the services and software that bring value to my life.

You want to get paid for doing your job, right? Paying for an app or other software program is no different. Let’s pay people for their efforts so they can continue to do good work.

Photo by Clément Hélardot on Unsplash

Teena Merlan