June 25, 2005


Some people on the arstechnica forums asked me to weigh in on piracy, and I posted this in response. It's something I meant to include in my main talk.

The basic deal with piracy is simple, and I wish I'd remembered to put this in my talk (I think it's on the O'Reilly roundtable MP3 that's on the net somewhere)...

Don't worry much about piracy. If you spend more than a couple days a year worrying about it, you're fooling yourself.

Here's the simple facts: pirates steal applications. They don't pay for them. It doesn't hurt you to have something "stolen" that (a) is virtual and (b) wasn't going to be purchased. In fact, it helps you in a small way, as pirates usually are also young, loud, early-adopters. Which is to say, if pirates love your stuff, you've got a bunch of advocates on your side.

Look, I used to steal games when I was a kid. Thousands of dollars worth. I didn't have any money then, and I loved software. I felt a little guilty about it, but I told myself when I struck it rich, I'd repay 'em. (Note to Bill Budge, Free Fall Associates, and Nasir: I owe you guys $$$. Please write me if you'd like a check. )

Nowadays, I won't steal software even if someone offers it to me and I am just about to buy it. I'd rather (a) have the manual, (b) reward the author, (c) spread the love, (d) get the karma, (e) get a discount on the next upgrade, (f) know I have the latest version, (g) get tech support, (h) not wonder if it has viruses, (i) be able to re-install from the CD (or net) if needed, (j) not get fined $50,000 per piece of software on my laptop if a disgruntled ex-employee tells the BSA on me.

Here's the deal: 15-year-old boys with no money pirate software. The harder you make it to crack the software, the more elite they'll feel when they do it, so the harder they'll work to publicize their feat.


The ONLY point of licensing schemes is to remind honest people that you'd like to be paid. That's all. Most people will NOT actively take steps to pirate software -- it's a line they won't cross. If they do cross that line, they're not your customer any more; they're pirates, and you no longer care about them one way or another.

So, yes, you should have some minimal license checking. It ideally should have the person's name embedded in the license, so that when you give a license to a legitimate customer she's not tempted to just "loan" it to her friends, because there's that SCARLET LETTER on every copy that gets passed around that points back to her.

But don't spend any time trying to block hackers from cracking your license scheme. There's not a scheme in the world that can't be cracked. I can list half a dozen ways to get around our licensing.

Now, shareware isn't very effective because people find it too easy to just click "later" every time and ignore the message. They tell themselves, "Oh, I should license soon," but they put it off and off and off. I know, I really, really meant to buy LaunchBar but I kept putting it off until Spotlight finally came out. (Note to LaunchBar guy: see above about e-mailing me if you'd like a check. Sorry about that.)

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Blogger Sam Krupa said...

Very funny and interesting!

June 25, 2005 8:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I have to add is that Spotlight and LaunchBar have totally different uses, so don't let one stop you from trying the other. :-)

Don't think of LB as search, think of it as keyboard shortcuts for the Finder (and a few other things), but with huge domain of applicability and no learning curve. The latter is because there's no need to learn the keys for shortcuts, because whatever you do works.

I bought an LB4 license only because I felt that the obdev guys didn't have enough of my money. Though, now that I have it, I use version 4 features heavily.

June 25, 2005 9:16 PM

Anonymous Andrew said...

I've worked at a company that had a pirating problem. We didn't spend much time worrying about it because we knew there wasn't much we could do, but it did have more of an impact on us than you describe here.

You see, it wasn't 15 year old boys who were doing it (they'd have no interst in our product). It was large organizations in the Middle East and Asia (India was the worst). If all the places in India were paying for our software (which they were capable of doing), we would have had quite a bit more revenue.

But there wasn't much we could do. Piracy is so commonplace in those countries that even honest people do it. What the company ended up doing was changing its business model so piracy wouldn't have so much of an impact.

If your software isn't as specialized as ours was, and your market is primarily in "honest" contries, then your advice is right on the mark.

June 26, 2005 8:23 AM

Anonymous Denis said...

I want my check Mr. Shipley [LOL]

June 26, 2005 12:24 PM

Blogger McGroarty said...

I only have anecdotal evidence to go on, but I respectfully disagree. Having worked for two companies where piracy was the norm, sophisticated protection made all the difference in what apps were copied and which were purchased. I'm not sure there was a Windows or Office license for 5% of the machines. Meanwhile, all of the dongle-protected CAD seats and server-counted ccMail seats were paid for.

Adobe Photoshop was one of the more interesting cases. The Windows version let an unlimited number of people use the same license, while the Mac version checked the net for any other copies of Photoshop on the same license. All of the Mac Photoshop seats were paid for, while zero of the PC ones were.

I see the same happening with friends. Apps that are easy to copy are copied ubiquitously. Contrawise, two friends who spent an afternoon trying to steal Apple Soundtrack Pro ended up going 50/50 on a copy when they couldn't get their downloaded copy to authenticate. Ditto with people who used to regularly share music taking their collections private once they start an iTunes Store habit.

June 26, 2005 2:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess one of the ways to prevent mass piracy of software is to not include the source code to the serial number generator, along with instructions to use it, with your product.

June 26, 2005 4:54 PM

Blogger dustin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 26, 2005 8:24 PM

Blogger dustin said...

I think you're right that spending too much time trying to stop pirates is a waste. However, I think you're wrong when you say that only 15 year old boys pirate software. I'm sure they do, but lots of adults pirate software also. They can pay, but if they can just look up the serial number in that database they downloaded a while back they will do that.

It's worth the effort to try and combat piracy because of these people. I sell software and I set up a page on my website as both a lure for pirates searching for my stuff (it's online at sillysoft.net/warez/). Every once in a while I will search for pirate versions of my stuff and if I find requests for it (I find them quite a bit) I will post a link to my warez page.

I have a sales tracking system in place and I have tracked multiple orders as coming from the warez page. In short: there are would-be pirates who can be converted into paying customers.

June 26, 2005 8:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Apps that are easy to copy are copied ubiquitously."

mcgroarty is correct.

There is a happy medium between obsessively trying to stamp out every single pirater, and not worrying about piracy at all.

Some of the best Mac coders like Will Shipley and Dan Wood take a very relaxed attitude toward anti-piracy, and I think they leave a substantial amount of money on the table as a result.

June 26, 2005 8:31 PM

Blogger Nick Douglas said...

Good post, and Dustin, that's a damn clever way to turn would-be enemies into friends.

June 26, 2005 10:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

1st of all.. Dustin rocks! Like Lincoln! ;-)

kill kill kill mumbles another Lux addict somewhere in the Betty Ford clinic Lux addiction wing...

I find myself in the middle of the piracy thing...

When I provided tech support for my school, my job desc. said something to the effect of "Responsible for the maintenance and security of the software and data.... yada yada we'll fire you with this silly excuse if we decide you work too hard and make us look lazy clause"... One of the offices I was responsible for had over 30 pirated copies of an app... So when they bought new iMacs, surprise, none of them showed up in the office with that app installed.. after the screaming subsided, I explained that they could easily buy licenses for $40 ea... After all I was "Responsible". They changed my title to webmaster the next year..

On the other hand, people I know that download music and videos, often have the largest collections of legally purchased movies, CDs, games, I've ever seen... If they like it, they buy it.. I'm talking entire walls of Metro shelving stuffed with CDs and DVDs.... Shrug..

When push comes to shove, the honest people sooner or later will pay. A**Holes will always steel one way or the other..

I just bought myself, and my family members copies of Graphic Converter.... Now, true that my copy's nag screen said it had been used over 1000 days unpaid... But when $$$ allowed, not only did I pay for my copy, but 2 others... Like I said.. Honest people pay.. they will pay.. (sometimes it just takes awhile)

June 26, 2005 10:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with W-il. The problem with piracy is the same as with war. As Napoleon said "A chain is no stronger than its weakest link" (or maybe it was someone else). The same thing goes for software (even Windows software). When the keygenerator/serial/patch has been made, is welcome to copy-city. And if your software is any good, when you change your registration mechanism(to the great inconvenience of your customers), piates will get the new version on that 0-dayz ftp site tomorrow again.

With that said, obviously it's a good idea to to ban serials you find around the net and when they're entered in your program, a notice that this is a pirated serial along with a link to where to buy a legal one is also a good idea to enter, and other mechanisms liek Dustin's warez page.

But I think that the point W-il is trying to make is that piracy will occur if your program is any good and has positive effects, so you shouldn't worry that it's all over when you find a serial on www.1337-serialz.com.

June 27, 2005 1:40 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

It's not that I don't think apps should think about piracy at all -- most of the counter-examples I've read here are cases where the minimal check for piracy was TOO minimal, which is what I was talking about with LaunchBar. You need to do something to remind honest people to stay honest, which means making it so they have to TAKE ACTIVE STEPS to circumvent your license.

If I can just launch a copy of Photoshop and it works and doesn't ask me for a license, then, yes, I'm going to assume it's really mine and/or forget that I need to license it.


Publishing the code to your key generator is a good way to make it not-very-cool to crack. If you publish a key generating app for a program that has already had its algorithm leaked, how not cool are you?

Again, there's a dozen ways to circumvent any given security scheme. Generating new, fake license keys is just one of them, and it's actually the most benign from a publisher's standpoint. The advantage to having bogus license keys floating around is that, since you have no record of these customers in your accounting database, pirate customers can't try to get support, and won't be able to upgrade to the next version without paying. So, if they end up really loving your app, or realize that the next version is DA BOMB, then they're going to gently become paying customers.

If you have a really tough scheme to crack and force pirates to share licenses (instead of generating their own), you've got more problems getting them to convert, obviously.

June 27, 2005 3:42 PM

Anonymous Maxine said...

Good article Wil, and some interesting responses as well.

At my company we've occupied just about every postion on the continuum of possible responses to piracy. I used to agree with the general principle that pirates are "non-customers", so there's little point in tightening things up, and perhaps irritating the hell out of some of your honest customers, in a vain attempt to force recalcitrants to purchase.

However: once you start paying for the bandwidth of the recalcitrants, things get interesting. Not this release, but the previous (when our software was a lot easier to crack) we had a huge number of sites, some with a huge amount of traffic, pointing to our demo download (which we host) as well as the cracks. We were actually over the moon about the traffic until (about 5 nanoseconds later) we worked out what was going on, and saw what our hosting bill was going to be that month.

So, since then we've put a bit more energy into making the software harder to crack, and more, keeping an eye on warez sites and blocking them. Funny enough it didn't seem to happen when we've released this most recent version.

Oh, we develop for Windows as well as Mac, where this is a *much bigger* issue.

June 27, 2005 4:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Quoted for truth.

You sir write good words, I am going to keep reading.

Collin Greene

June 28, 2005 11:44 AM

Anonymous Crypt-0078h said...

Ill say it right now and here that i'm a pirate. ive pirated final cut pro along with gigs of music, and other applications. now im 17( yeah put me in with the 15 yr old pirates) and i dont feel guilty about it at all. sure i owe thousands of dollars for what ive pirated but then again i dont. ill use delicious library as an example. i could download it easily, probably crack it with some software or get a serial number or what ever is needed and there i have it, a 40 dollar application on my computer. will i feel bad, nah. see to me all applications should be free (but this could be due to my adolescent mind). 40 dollars for a program is expensive. sure its great and took time and effort to make but had it been donatware sure i would donate 10 or 15 bucks why not. thats what i usually do. see i look at delicious library like this along with most other applications. delicious library compared to adium. adium is totally free where delicious library isnt. adium has tons of development on it in every aspect as an aplication. delicious library has two developers with software that can have another great application like it developed for free. thats how i look at it. thats why i pirate. delicious library could be a superior application to its alternatives but yet again im still going to pirate it b/c its the better app. so why is adium free and a smaller application like delicious library 40 dollars? my personal guess would be b/c they feel the hard work they put in should be compnesated by charging a high amount. but wait isnt adium a bigger application with alot of hardwork also. so see no application should be 40 dollars. it goes the same for other applications and music. a cd should be at most 10 bucks with a dvd. with out it should be 5. see i dont understand why artist who sign with the riaa are such babies. how much money could they possibly lose? a perfect example being metallica. they have tons of money yet still they cry and want more. sure i could say i pirate b/c they dont make money from record sales. my reason is simply music is art. metallica is not art, pop punk bands are not art, the cure is art, the stone roses are art, the mars volta are art, oasis are art. my latest album i pirated is fall out boy. that album is very good but not art. art should not have synth, and elctronic voices unless you are crystal method or m83 or royksopp.

June 29, 2005 8:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How nice it must be to be so young and to know everything.

Adium is free, and it pretty much sucks. I prefer software that isn't bug-riddled and constantly broken.

You get what you pay for, I guess.

I used to pirate too, until I got older and started putting my life's energy into creating, then realizing I was never going to be able to do that for a living if people were just going to steal it.

You pay for what you get, I guess.

June 29, 2005 10:42 PM

Anonymous sitharus said...

I guess it really depends on who you are. When I was younger I didn't care so much, but now that I have the money to buy software and have released something myself - a trivial screensaver that has made me $25 over three years, but still something - I have a much greater respect for what goes in to the products.

Of course, some people will always pirate. The trick I think is to create a system where people have to put in more effort to pirate than it takes to get their credit card and pay.

June 30, 2005 1:50 AM

Anonymous sambeau said...

Crypt-0078h does make a decent point - 15 year old boys just don't have any money to spend on software.

When I was 15 I had no money at all and what I did have I spent on cider, LPs and comics. Same case when I was a student except that it was lager, CDs and MacUser and most companies offered me cheap software because I was a student. I still was still too expensive in the main part though.

Now I'm an old git I spend my money on Wine and CDs but luckily I still have some left over for software. But some of this is due to the fact that good software is now cheaper. Someone like me wouldn't blink at $25, blink at $50, sweat somewhere around $100. Probably never get round to $200, will never buy $500 (unless it includes cool hardware). I'm not any more moral I just have more cash.

Perhaps we should offer teenagers software they can afford - or grant them licenses to try stuff cheaply until they have an income? After all they get cheaper bus fares, cinema tickets, etc. etc. (or at least they do here in the UK).

And while I'm at it..

I still have the occasional peice of cracked software lying about (shame!) but it's all stuff I never use and wanted to try out. The good stuff that I lik and went on to use all the time I pay for. The rest gets tried and ignored basically.

But the really good stuff that would be an occasional plaything (in my case Sebelius & SketchUp) are long hankered-for but could never be justified to my other half - so are never going to be purchased. Who's going to pay $500 for a peice of software that gets used once every three months? I would feel guilty using a cracked copy of a peice of software from a software company that I really liked so instead I have to look elsewhere which is a shame.

These type of software vendors should look at renting out their uber-expensive software on a daily basis - I know that every time I felt a need to compose or design I'd spend a few bucks on an evening with Sebelius or SketchUp.. assuming it was roughly the same price as a cinema ticket ;-)

June 30, 2005 6:56 AM

Anonymous Chad said...

When I was a kid, we could easily swap games by just copying the disks. Software protection was fairly limited, but they started bumping the ante by requiring use of the manual or code wheels (think the original Pools of Radiance game). So, I did end up with a few illegitimate games, but years later I would end up buying those same games in packaged collections, so I generally got the game and more.

Saying that no software should be worth more than $40 sounds pretty ludicrous to me. Should Windows be worth only $35 now? It certainly would be easier to choke down than $100-$200. But considering how many copies of Windows gets sold, we are probably already getting a 'discount' in a way. Look at Photoshop. This is a $600 program. Is Photoshop so great that I'm willing to pay $600 for it? No. Even upgrading costs $149, and I feel that the last several upgrades have been pretty sparse, just another attempt to squeeze out more money from corporations. But considering that there is no way that there are more copies of Photoshop than Windows out there, the price of PS is going to go up.

I see several classes of software and prices.
There is the shareware range, which goes from $0 to $50. Generally pretty affordable, as long as you are getting what you paid for. Even though many younger people will complain that $50 is too much for a game, it is probably a great deal in many ways, especially considering how the cost of creating games has gone up dramatically in the past decades. The first computer game I purchased was Thexder for the Tandy 1000 on Nov 17, 1987 for $35. My brother and I pooled together our money to buy Quest For Glory 2 for $45 in 1990. How much do games cost now? Generally right around the $50 mark, so games have fortunately stayed pretty consistent in their pricing.

Then there is the next level where you generally see some pretty professional software, such as operating systems, 2nd-tier art programs, and academically priced versions of other popular (and expensive) apps.

Then in the ~$500 range comes full packages like Office, or individual Adobe products. Generally I feel such apps are just way too expensive and out of the comfortable reach of average home users. Unless you use EVERY application in MS Office, is it worth the full price? About the only thing I've really ever used was Word.

Then from there, you get insanely expensive specialty applications, like Quark, Mathematica ($1888/license for Mac, Linux, Windows, and $3000 for UNIX), etc.

What's my point here? What is a reasonable price, and what is your audience? Do I think that Delicious Library is unfairly priced at $40? No. But what about $50? That would probably be stretching it, especially if I consider the amount of effort that goes into creating a video game (but once again, due to volume sales, a game is hopefully going to sell into 10s or 100s of thousands of copies, if not into the millions). I think that the program Amazing Slow Downer is a neat and very useful application, but I'm not going to pay $45 for it. $15-$20, perhaps, but not $45.

So, is $50 a reasonable for a game. I would say yes, but to a kid who generally has no money, $50 can represent a year's worth of allowance. But how many people will shell out $1000 for an Adobe package? A corporation can pay for it, and perhaps a designer who NEEDS it will, but a casual hobbyist probably won't, or would only upgrade after several versions. At my work, I occasionally need to do some photo manipulation, but I doubt my company would gladly pay for another license of Photoshop so I can use it once every several weeks. For what I do, Gimp has worked out OK for me.

All else fails, become a student and buy academic-priced software (I purchased Mathematica 4.2 for $139...a great bargain compared to the regular $1888 price). I have literally saved thousands of dollars by getting software when I was in college/university (Mathematica, Windows 2000 Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, MS Office 2001 and X), and all of it legal.

In the end, a lot of this can come down to personal ethics. Since I write software, I would like to be paid for my work, and hence, I pay for my software, especially if I find some particularly useful piece of shareware.

Sure, it would be great if all software was free, and it IS possible to use your computer by using nothing but freely written software. And you get what you pay for. Sometimes it is a GREAT piece of software, and other times you get a piece of junk. Whether we like it or not, money is a strong decision maker on what products get updated and which of those don't. If you made your living off of writing software, would you spend more time writing and improving the software that paid the bills, or would you spend your time and resources writing small, free apps? You are most likely going to spend your time on working on the money-making applications (not that a few freebies is a bad idea, though!). The company I work for pretty much throws all of its resources and time at the clients, but do very little "self-love" to spend the money, time, and resources to work on its own internal processes.

July 03, 2005 5:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to hear you say these things.

One of the smartest things software companies do is provide phenomenal educational pricing. when I was an undergrad, I had access to really, really cheap software. It was a way to "play with software" without having to cross the line. I have the same reasons for wanting to pay for software. It's when these companies start thinking of "poor college students" as "an emerging market," they basically price themselves into the realm of piracy. Quark, Avid, etc. have all suffered somewhat because of this - kids will buy Final Cut Pro for next to nothing, but will steal anything more expensive.

In any case, can you get around to shipping OmniGraffle 4 Pro, so I can stop "stealing" the Beta? =)

July 05, 2005 7:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to hear you say these things.

One of the smartest things software companies do is provide phenomenal educational pricing. when I was an undergrad, I had access to really, really cheap software. It was a way to "play with software" without having to cross the line. I have the same reasons for wanting to pay for software. It's when these companies start thinking of "poor college students" as "an emerging market," they basically price themselves into the realm of piracy. Quark, Avid, etc. have all suffered somewhat because of this - kids will buy Final Cut Pro for next to nothing, but will steal anything more expensive.

In any case, can you get around to shipping OmniGraffle 4 Pro, so I can stop "stealing" the Beta? =)

July 05, 2005 7:10 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

I'm sorry to say that I'll NEVER ship OmniGraffle 4. I'm not involved with Omni in any way any more.

I did give Kevin some advice when he asked for it, but it's up to him and Omni to ship that baby. I think it's a great app and I'm looking forward to it myself.

July 06, 2005 2:28 AM

Blogger RogerRmjet said...

Just wanted to agree with the earlier poster who commented about piracy in Asia. I used to work for a company where most of our developers were in Pakistan. All of our software in the US was legal, but just about everything in Pakistan was pirated. When I asked if they had a certain piece of software, they could always get it "without any problem" (which included having to pay for it).

August 03, 2005 11:38 AM

Blogger Andrew Escobar said...

> I know, I really, really meant to buy
> LaunchBar but I kept putting it off
> until Spotlight finally came out.

Using LaunchBar I can understand, but how on earth did you replace it with Spotlight? I find Spotlight to be way to slow to launch an application with. And as a launcher, Spotlight would be very limited.

Have you tried out QuickSilver yet?


August 18, 2005 12:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read!

September 09, 2005 4:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dustin said

"In short: there are would-be pirates who can be converted into paying customers."

lol, this is called dillusional idealism or in laymans terms, bollocks. ; )

September 10, 2005 7:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until you get screwed like me when I bouhgt a original game and it does not play even though you have all the system specs ,drivers and updates met.Then you get pissed off and think you will rather go pirate and if it plays then i'll buy the original copy ,will you buy a toaster and get home to find out it does not work and the shop don't want to swop it for one that works thats wat happend to me so i am really pissed off I think you can imagen ,well for sure that shop and software company will never get one penny out of me agian ,oh I forgot to mention that the software company's support is not working so I can not contact them funny aint it in a cruel manner.

May 13, 2006 11:39 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who remember back to economics 101, unauthorized duplication of software is simply the lowest price on the elasticity curve. That someone will copy a piece of software free does not mean they will buy it if they are technologically prevented from copying it freely. It is a complete fallacy to assert that all that stands between you and a load of money is effective anti-piracy technology.

In fact, you can take it to the point of software activation or dongles where you may even reduce the demand across your entire price-elasticity curve. In the 80's there was a shakeout when companies realized that copy protection was causing more difficulty for legitimate customers than unauthorized copying. The companies who removed copy protection often took over their markets, even with less capable products. In the end, all but basic key-code copy protection is a burden on only one type of user: the legitimate ones.

This is certainly the case for me with Microsoft Office. I purchased MS Office a while back, and I've upgraded my computer quite a few times since then, but I've never been in need of a new version of Office. At this point, I have to call Microsoft to activate it. The last time I upgraded my PC (which is about every 6 to 8 months) I looked at the Office CD and when I thought about calling and explaining myself YET AGAIN, I decided to give OpenOffice 2.0 a try. You know what? It's good enough. Not only is it good enough, it's enough that Microsoft has lost any future sale of Office from me as a customer.

Interestingly, I could have downloaded a cracked version. Corporation and pirates don't have to put up with this crap, but I do because I gave them money. At this point, I wouldn't even take MS Office for free.

Just think about the day when you upgrade your computer and you spend a week or more calling companies to re-activate the 30 or 40 activation-protected products on your computer. Some of those companies may not even allow you to re-activate. Eventually legitimate users will tire of being the only ones subject to such treatment, and they'll simply leave.

July 09, 2006 1:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very late to the discussion. Good reading.

I can't help but agree with the above post. Even relatively benign and pointless measures such as needing the DVD/CD in the drive to launch a game gets extremely irritating.

I buy dozens of computer games every year, and the first thing I do is go to gamecopyworld.com and get a No-CD crack for it. I don't see why I should have to.

September 19, 2006 3:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will, you are right in saying that a target audience of 15 year old boys is a pretty sad target. Not because they're 15 year boys, but because they don't actually pay for their _computer_ software (as opposed to an Xbox360 title). Not a happy place to be.

This is not conjecture. I developed and sold software to this target group for well over a decade. FWIW, I no longer target this group in any way...

BUT... I think your approach to piracy is wrong.

Yes, some clever boffin with too much time on his hands WILL crack/hack/bypass all crafty schemes. But this is not the same as saying that scheme will be useful or effective for all your possible customers.

Also, the idea that pirates don't purchase software is misplaced. Many "pirates" (especially those who simply rely on a bittorrent'ed serial list) will pirate your software if it's EASIER for them to pirate than fork out dollars. Part of the development and maintenance process is making it less easy, without burdening your business and your customers.

If an application is only protected by a once-off serial number which is only validated once, and can be distributed on any web page, or through Serial Box or Surfer's Serials, then the developer has a VERY serious problem. It will affect the developer's bottom line in a serious way. It seems to me that the developer should thus treat this aspect of the business accordingly.

Finally, I practice what I preach. I've sold software that featured:

- next to no protection,

- marginal protection, and

- decent protection

And I'm here to tell you that without annoying your customers, the last level of protection has reaped the most rewards, with the development/maintenance costs of the protection factored in.

October 06, 2006 6:09 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

I agree that "decent" protection is good, but there's certainly a lot of room to argue what decent is. (Hell, it's all our government does any more.)

I certainly agreed with the examples you gave, though.

October 06, 2006 9:15 PM

Anonymous mw said...

indeed if software can i will be pirated by thouse of us which are broke, i found this blog as a result of serching for a sketchup crack for a college project due too soon. yes the photoshop thing i my self have gone in to sheared software my whole year of mac users put in for CS2 we had no choice it was well protected and our coders are weak so hm...

November 08, 2006 6:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest mistake I ever made as a game software developer was coming up with a really good copy protection scheme. Why? Because the publisher didn't follow the instructions we provided to duplicate the software... instead, they used one of the copy-protection-bypassing applications we'd targeted because it was apparently faster than copying a floppy with the system tools (though not faster than using our mastering code).

As a result we missed the Christmas release while they tracked down and re-shipped all the copies that came up in "demo mode".

January 02, 2007 5:27 PM

Blogger Andrew said...

There are lots of ways to lose customers. I'm no longer a Parallels customer, because of their pricey "major" release so soon after the last one. It might not be quite the same as screwing your customers with over-zealous piracy protection, but screwing them for cash has the same net effect.

I'm not one of these hippie all-software-should-be-free-dude types (although I have released freeware myself), but I honestly believe in charging reasonable amounts of money for a reasonable product.

June 22, 2007 12:38 AM


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