views:

44426

answers:

46

So, after 6 months of hard work finally released my application. Today I found the first web site where people download it cracked, and I was wondering if any of you fellow programmers know how to react to such stuff?

Is there anything the software author can do to get the cracked version offline, or I'm just boned and shouldn't create anymore software, but just work on client's projects? What's your advice? Anybody with experience in that?

edit: programming is what I do- so no question about whether or not continuing, just is that clients pay per project in real money, and I still don't know if indie development would pay at least for the time invested, and now with the cracked download I'm trying to evaluate what to do, and if there's way to react

post discussion: As I see how much interest this question generated I'd say even if not purely programming topic the community needed to say what they think. And I'd say this page became a very good read for any programmer interested in the topic.

+2  A: 

Just accept it. most people that are pirating your software probably wouldn't have bought it anyway. But that's not a reason to stop making software, pretty much every major piece of software gets cracked and pirated, but Adobe, major game studios, etc. are all still in business.

GSto
True Adobe is still in business but they have lawyers and connections all over and I'm just a guy working in the night after getting home after his day job. It really hurts seeing it ripped off on the Internet
Ican Zilb
@Ican: That's entirely true. Just means that if you have a day job, you don't need the income :P
DeadMG
@DeadMG I'd really prefer to work on my own software, put my creativity there you see, than stay on the day job :)
Ican Zilb
This is just rationalization. See Dana's great answer.
darron
@Ican: *True Adobe is still in business but they have lawyers and connections all over* and yet they are still wildly pirated. *It really hurts seeing it ripped off on the Internet* if it weren't for the Internet you wouldn't be selling at low cost of distribution in the worldwide market.
voyager
+53  A: 

Contact the site owner. They should remove the incriminated download. If they don't you'll have to sue them.

Anyway you should accept piracy as a natural part of your software lifecircle.

klez
If they have Google AdSense up then contact Google. It's against their terms of service to have AdSense up on sites that promote illegal activities. You'll take away most of the fun for the site owner if you get their account cancelled.
John at CashCommons
they have a youtube channel it seems ... where they present the latest cracked software ... will try to find where I can contact Google about it, thanks !
Ican Zilb
@Ican Zilb, youtube is owned by Google
Malfist
@klez: ... at least if you're not developing web applications :-)
Adrian Grigore
+1 - I have done that a number of times and both piracy boards and file sharing services have been good at removing the cracked versions after I asked them.
KristoferA - Huagati.com
DMCA takedown notice? :)
snemarch
Something that the music industry has yet to learn! Yes, us talented creative software engineers have DAY JOBS! Hobby software has turned open-source! Wake up music industry!
PP
@John at CashCommons, This is a little to extreme, your saying it like there's one site doing this. there's probably hundreds and the time you spend playing games with them sites you can be working on a better fix for the next release.
RobertPitt
+21  A: 

This is obvious a highly personal reaction. I don't expect anyone else to share it: Celebrate! Someone thinks your software's worth stealing!

(a) It's impossible to prevent people from stealing your software, (b) trying to only irritates your honest customers and (c) people stealing your software means that you have solved the single biggest problem: obscurity. If no one knows of your program, no one's buying it. At least if someone's taken the trouble to crack your software, people know about your product. Another answer here offered several interesting ways of getting people to pay for your product.

Frank Shearar
-1 I would prefer to celebrate with more money on my pocket.
systempuntoout
How are you going to afford to buy the chamapagne
Tom Gullen
@systempuntoout: so would i, from the money i make by spending all my time on features and not DRM that will get cracked anyway.
RCIX
@Tom and @System point A makes your implication mute, unless it's a networked or internet product - but then the licensing is usually a huge PITA for your regular consumers.
Josh
+93  A: 

If someone thought your product was good enough to be worth their time to crack it, you must be doing something right. Remember that there are more honest people in the world than dishonest and you won't get the dishonest people to buy your product whatever you do. So concentrate on keeping your honest customers happy.

Mark Byers
+1 pure for the "concentrate on keeping your honest customers happy" half the time DRM makes sofware harder and more annoying to use for people who payed for it then the people who cracked.
Pim Jager
*Remember that there are more honest people in the world than dishonest* -- `[citation needed]`
Michael Myers
In a restaurant, you can have a Maitre D stand by the door to keep an eye on the patrons, the internet has no such door so you need to consider alternative approaches.
Dana the Sane
@Jon B: It's not the same. When someone orders food in a restaurant and leaves without paying, the restaurant incurs a financial loss. In the case of cracks, it's "just" the loss of a sales prospect. It certainly is sad, but as long as you have enough honest customers it will not bring your business down.
Adrian Grigore
Mark is right - there are paying customers, they are happy with the product and I made commitment to them and I'll be glad seeing them stay with it and be satisfied. On the other hand years of studying and working nights should 1 day pay off right? Don't want to be rich, just decent life would be great. @Job Good analogy with the restaurant
Ican Zilb
Ican Zilb
The courts exist for a reason. One of them is *theft*, taking what is not one's right to own, which Ican Zilb is dealing with. It is perfectly reasonable and moral to seek recourse from the court system.
Paul Nathan
Tell that to the developer of Winrar.
Organiccat
It's equivalent of someone taking the restaurant's award winning meal, taking it to someone who's a food expert, and asking them to duplicate it. Except that instead of "Award Winning Cordon Bleu" it will end up being `"AwArd winn!ng C0rd0n Bl3u"` and distributing the recipe. They may not have stolen your food, but they potentially stole customers who are may not have eaten at your restaurant.
Atømix
several studies have shown that users of pirated software/music/etc are highly unlikely to ever buy the legal version, even if the pirated version doesn't exist. they barely impact sales.
rmeador
By the way, research has shown that (at least for games, not sure if it goes for software) about 80-90% of software usage is piracy. Here's the [original](http://games.slashdot.org/story/08/11/15/0239219/Independent-Dev-Reports-Over-80-Piracy-Rate-On-DRM-Free-Game) [articles](http://games.slashdot.org/story/10/08/08/1440249/DRM-Free-Game-Suffers-90-Piracy-Offers-Amnesty).
Arda Xi
@Arda that'd be an interesting read :)
Ican Zilb
@rmeador- so what? I'd be willing to bet that, in absolute numbers, the number of people (keeping with the current analogy) don't stiff their waiters with their bills. Does that make it less wrong for the people who do?
AllenG
@Arda wow! 82 to 92 % pirate users ... I cannot believe that there are so many people who would play World of Goo and don't want to pay for it ...
Ican Zilb
@AllenG, software, like all digital goods, are infinite goods. that means it doesn't cost anything to make more of them, and thus it costs the "owner" nothing when someone "steals" it except for the lost opportunity to make a sale. If the opportunity of making a sale to the thief is near-zero anyways, then it's essentially costless for it to be stolen. Unlike a meal at a restaurant, where the food has inherent value.
rmeador
Kragen
@AllenG, Jon: The fallacy with THAT argument is to assume all people who steal software when it's easily available would not have bought it if it was not easily available. While it's ridiculous to claim that every pirated copy is a lost sale... it's equally ridiculous to claim that easily available pirate copies don't hurt anyone. Even if only 1 in 10 who pirate would have bought it if they couldn't find the cracked version... by the 90%+ stat that's close to doubling the sales of the software! As the general sentiment drifts towards "it doesn't really hurt anyone" this just gets a lot worse.
darron
@AllenG I take you assume every software sale is pure profit, so the copies which are stolen are just no-profit but the devs are still rich... Fact is there's hundreds of hours of development for which nobody paid before the launch + ongoing tech support + investment in hardware and software ... I think in the end the analogy with preparing 1 single meal is too simplistic
Ican Zilb
@darron, Nobody here is claiming that everyone who steals software wouldn't pay for it if they couldn't steal it.
Kragen
Given that the number of people paying for a piece of software is proportional to the number of people using that software, it follows that the more people that use your software the better - Software vendors sometimes forget that their goal is to **maximise the *percentage* of customers who pay**, rather than to minimise the *number* of people who don't pay.
Kragen
@Kragen: AllenG is exactly arguing that. "essentially costless for it to be stolen" The only way it's costless is if nobody who pirated it would have bought it. ... as for your "makes no difference whether 1 person or 1000 people steal your software" you state an assumption (or qualifier) that the number of people buying the software stays the same... however saying "if the number of people buying your software remains the same" is EXACTLY the same argument (in reverse) as saying "if everyone who pirated it would have paid for it". It's an unfair and misleading assumption.
darron
@Kragen: actually, I'd say the actual goal is to maximize sales, period. Who cares about the percentage? It's a metric, but not much use. If you told someone with a small market with say 10 sales where 1 was pirated that they could leak it to a pirate site and end up with 100 sales (through word of mouth) and 1 million pirated copies... that'd be a good deal. (If they had no other options)
darron
Not that I'm advocating pirate sites as advertising. Mostly, I think pirating software is pretty lame, and barely tolerable from teenagers because they're extremely unlikely to have money to buy it anyway. Any adult who's pirating software is a freeloading *cough*, err, nevermind. Although, I have heard of a concept with multi-thousand dollar CAD packages, compilers, etc of using the pirated copy until you make money, then buying it. I almost accept that conceptually as those people were sales that eventually happen with no chance of being sales without the initial pirated copy jump start.
darron
@Jon - I never said stealing software wasn't wrong, but financially comparing stealing software to stealing from a restaurant doesn't make sense as they don't follow the same model (in terms of losses)
Kragen
@Jon: the thing is, and as other people have pointed out, you lose very little in opportunity cost from people stealing your software (as most people who stole it wouldn't have bought it if there wasn't a free version). Moreover, most methods of anti-stealing (aka DRM) simply drive away legitimate customers. Not that it's right to steal.
RCIX
@Jon: Pirating software is copyright infringement, which is not the same as theft or stealing: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/2425
JesperE
@Jon: in many countries (off the top of my head, Germany), it is perfectly legal to leave a restaurant without paying. It makes sense to a lot of customers and lawmakers alike that if you didn't like a restaurant for some reason, you don't have to pay. So I agree with Mark and others: whether you are running a restaurant or a software company, just concentrate on making something that people will like enough to want to pay for it, and they will.
RegDwight
@Arda that statistic is a bit incorrect, since (I read somewhere else) it did not e.g. subtract continued downloads from another IP (assigned after re-dialing or whatever)
Tobias Kienzler
@Jon - The simple difference is, a restaurant has to pay a set amount for the food they serve. It costs more to serve 10 meals than it does to serve one. For software, usually you don't host the download, so it doesn't cost you more.
Arda Xi
@rmeador: Bovine defacate. Inasmuch as all resources (time, computing power, hard-drive space, etc) are limited, even software has "intrinsic value" (which is a nonsense term anyway). Software is by no means "infinate." If it were, it would cost nothing because its distribution would not need to be limited. It has nothing to do with the money made or lost, it has to do with the fact it was stolen. If I cook a meal and someone steals it, I don't care if they "wouldn't have bought it anyway." I only care that they stole that food I cooked.
AllenG
@darron: Huh? I think you may have misunderstood my comments, as we seem to be on the same side here. Piracy = Bad. There is no excuse for stealing what someone else made. Ever.
AllenG
@Kragen- "AllenG is exactly arguing that. "essentially costless for it to be stolen". Huh? When did I say that. I analagized the theft of a meal from a restaurant (who, btw, work on very narrow margins) with the theft of software. Where am I on the side of the theives?
AllenG
@Jon: I don't sell my compiled code, I sell my services to install, maintain and improve my code. I pirated every Valve game that came out. I've bought every Valve game that came out.
voyager
We are just blowing air here, as there are no realistic numbers to base our assumptions which can be resumed as:1) - pirated copies -> + revenue because of less opportunistic pirates2) + pirated copies -> - less revenue because of opportunistic pirates3) - pirated copies -> - less revenue because of higher obscurity4) + pirated copies -> + revenue because of publicityAll of these *do* happen, the question is which one carries the biggest weight. Note that I'm not entering into the matter of morality/legality of pirating software.
voyager
What I'm trying to say is that even with the law in your side, you can take human nature as it is, and try to profit from it.
voyager
@AllenG: Sorry. I've somehow managed to screw up and confuse targets of comments with the actual people making the comments. I meant rmeador. Kind of embarrassing.
darron
I always agreed with this argument, but I changed my mind. I think you can only agree with this argument if you're NOT the one getting stolen from.
Jaco Pretorius
@Jon: my point is not that it's OK to steal. My point is that 1 copy pirated != 1 copy's worth of money lost, and no one seems to understand that. Moreover, DRM can hurt you more than piracy, by scaring off a ton of legitimate customers. @AllenG: the problem is that you're complaining about piracy as lost money, then saying "you don't care if they wouldn't have bought it". If they wouldn't have bought it, then at least from the standpoint of productivity, *you've wasted time and effort on doing something that gets you no money*. You're being a hypocrite by doing that.
RCIX
I'm not arguing from a morality standpoint, because there is no argument there. Stealing is wrong. Period.
RCIX
@Jon B: I find it profoundly **disappointing** that some people can't face facts: 1. piracy is not, legally speaking, theft. Stop calling it that. It's a strawman argument. 2. different suggestions of how to deal with your software getting pirated do not indicate "no regard for ethics", and it does not mean we are pirates (and you can quit the ad hominem too, thank you).
jalf
and 3. some degree of piracy is unavoidable. The best you can do is a. maximize your sales, and b. maximize the positive effects from *when* your product is pirated (brand awareness, increased marketshare come to mind as examples. You've got people's attention. Now that they're using your software (illegally), you know they'll pay much more attention to what you do to sweeten the deal. So discounts, new versions with more features, good support for people with legit licenses, for example, might sway some of them. Even a teary-eyed message to the pirates embedded in the program might work)
jalf
@Jon B: lol, gotta love (unintentional) recursive definitions. :) But I don't see how copyright infringement is stealing, any more than it is rape or genocide. Or perhaps jaywalking or libel. We've got such a wonderful wealth of criminal actions, so why blindly try to fit everything into the "theft" bucket? Actions can be immoral and illegal without being theft. As for being happy someone pirated your software, that might be taking it to extremes. But there's a grain of truth in it: I think it's better that someone pirate your software than that they just plain don't use it.
jalf
If they do pirate it, at least it implies that they find your software useful. They want your product, which is a good thing (if they don't use it, it implies that they're not interested. Good luck selling to someone who doesn't *want* your product). It also gives you a great opportunity to reach out to them. They'll see when you update the program, they'll probably keep up with news on your website, they'll see messages you embed in the software. They're easier to reach than someone who just doesn't use your software. And as Dana's answer showed, some of them can be converted to customers
jalf
@Jon B: stealing is when you take something from someone. if I were to pirate your software, I haven't *taken* anything. It's stealing if I take your car and use it. you no longer possess it because I stole it. It's not stealing if I download a copy of your software. I created a copy of it without your permission, which is illegal. But it's not theft. It has nothing to do with "how bad" it is. Just because it's not stealing doesn't mean it's "less bad". Genocide isn't stealing, but most people would say it's *at least* as bad. So why can't copyright infringement be *at least* as bad too?
jalf
And of course, I never said you should be impressed or happy if someone pay you $0. Just that it's worth remembering that at least they're using your software. That makes it easier for you to get money out of them later on. Btw, the problem with calling it "stealing" is that you're invalidating your own argument. *You* are making piracy sound less bad, because you're presenting a nonsensical argument for it. If you call it stealing, and I say "no it's not", I'm right, and your argument is void. If you want to impress on people that piracy is bad, don't make it so easy to refute your argument
jalf
@Mark The creators of World of Goo will disagree with you as they are reporting 82% of the installations of their game to being cracked, and only 19% of the people being "honest" For the link to their statement look in the comments to Dana's answer.
Ican Zilb
@Ican Zilb: There is a **major** flaw with the answer you have accepted that nobody except me seems to have noticed... if the cracker is *serious* about cracking your software (not some script kiddie) then they will remove all the nag messages, keychecks, blah, blah. Then the cracked product will be more convenient and more usable than the original version. You've spent time adding features that at best do nothing, at worst annoy legitimate customers, and you've wasted dev time you could have used to improve your product. I don't expect I can ever change your mind, so I won't try. Good luck.
Mark Byers
+1  A: 

If you want to set up an encryption scheme and a networked authentication, you can deter crackers.

I believe Steam is probably the best-known example today.

It depends on how business-like your application is - gaming piracy is tremendous. Technical business apps I don't think get pirated much, certainly it doesn't have the "hotness appeal" of games or photoshop.

There was a notorious example this spring of a couple of "casual game" developers offering a "set your own price" sale on their games. People could pay 1 US cent for a game - but the software was at least 1/4 more stolen than paid for, as the numbers demonstrate. http://blog.wolfire.com/2010/05/Saving-a-penny----pirating-the-Humble-Indie-Bundle

Paul Nathan
This doesn't work, it just annoys your legitimate customers. Photoshop et al have internet activation, and did that stop them getting cracked and uploaded everywhere? Nope.
bobince
There's also the concept of requiring a permanent internet connection to maintain activation. Not sure how well that is in practice, but if I was releasing consumer software, I'd be pretty hot to deter cracking.
Paul Nathan
@Paul: how much would you want to pay to keep your activation server online at all times? You lose all your customers from the moment your server is down.
ZippyV
Because Steam hasn't been cracked? Someone hasn't been paying attention. Steam got cracked days after Half-Life 2 (the first game to *require* it) came out.
jalf
@Jalf: Yep, I don't keep an eye on the game industry. :P
Paul Nathan
Steam and other phone-home licensing schemes haven't been well tested from a legal perspective. I half expect a class action lawsuit for requiring internet access and server availability when the software doesn't otherwise require it, thus rejecting legitimate users.Additionally, that sort of activity may be seen as spying by users, or a deal breaker for corporate private networks.
davenpcj
@davenpcj: At my workplace, for some of the software we use, we keep license servers to serve out licenses. Not sure if there's an upstream link from the IT department to the software provider. If I pull the plug on my ethernet cable, those programs go *down*, hard. These programs are produced by Big Name companies; I assure you, having an always-on setup is not an issue for some corps.
Paul Nathan
http://superuser.com/questions/14224/how-to-explain-drm-cannot-work/14764#14764
RCIX
@RCIX: That DRM is not well done is not an argument against it.
Paul Nathan
@davenpcj: I doubt many corporations actually want their employees using the stuff offered on Steam at work anyway. There's a bit of a difference between some minesweeper here and there and a full-on FPS...
SamB
@Paul: there *is* no good way to do DRM, excluding maybe things like SaaS (which doesn't work for many tasks) and game consoles (which are still hacked anyway). Give me one counterexample where DRM actually worked well.
RCIX
+7  A: 

It's not possible to make your software crack-proof.

However, there are legal things you can do. You can send cease-and-desist letters to the owner of the website to remove the cracked version from their website. You can also sue. You can contact the ISP of the owner of the website to let them know of the illegal activity of that website owner.

But in short--there's not really a whole lot you can do otherwise.

About a decade ago I created some software for sale that was quickly hacked. Then I created a version with a rather complex anti-hacking scheme in it with a scary (but meaningless) warning that only popped up when partial hacking was attempted--the warning threatened to destroy all data on the C: drive. That seemed to work (it's never been hacked--though its now completely obsolete), but only introduced some ugly support nightmares.

Russ
Thanks Russ, cease-and-desist letter? Should check what it is. It's a specialized site for downloading movies,music,software etc. I found it searching for my app's name in Google: If in China or somewhere, probably won't take note of my email? http://katz.cd
Ican Zilb
cease-and-desist is a legal term--in essence "cease from your illegal activity and desist from any further illegal activity". And yeah, if in China, I'll bet it'll get ignored.
Russ
I think Russ is saying his program didn't actually delete the C: drive. But a word of caution, If you make your program malicious, you'll be liable for the damage it causes.
davenpcj
Of course it would NOT actually do anything malicious. It just would display the scary message to keep hackers from messing around with it. And of course, a normal user wouldn't even see the message.
Russ
I understand you say that you really didn't destroy the user's data, but just in case others think this is a good idea, may I point out that if you did trash someone's hard drive, and then it turned out that he had not stolen your software but just mis-typed his key code ten times, or he bought it from what he thought was a legitimate retailer with no knowledge that it was stolen, etc, he would probably have grounds for a lawsuit against you. Hey, even if he admitted he stole it, he might win a lawusit, like the burglar who sues the homeowner for injuries sustained while robbing his house.
Jay
+19  A: 

The good news is that if somebody bothered to crack your software that means it is popular/useful enough that people actually really want to use it... so you must be selling some!

Secondly, there is a school of thought that says that usage of the cracked version may actually boost awareness of your product and result in MORE SALES long term... Try to think of it as a free marketing campaign... :-)

Scrappydog
(Many of us here are actually rather jealous of this problem... ;-)
Scrappydog
A corollary to this answer (that I have heard from large companies such as Microsoft) is that it is preferred for a user to use a cracked version of your software than a paid-for version of your competitor's software. You don't get the revenue, but you still get the market share.
bta
This is just rationalization. See Dana's great answer.
darron
Microsoft's preference is a valid business strategy in markets where you have network effects. Sharing MS Office documents is such a network effect. The pirated versions still establish the MS Office file format. Single-player games otoh have no network effects, and there piracy eats directly into your bottom line.
MSalters
@MSalters: Kind of. The network effect might be increased awareness of, and interest in, the sequel. If a few million people pirated the first game (and liked it), I'm sure some of them will buy the second one.
jalf
I absolutely love your answer and i must give a +1. When you said: think of it like free marketing, that made me laugh because that is so true. made my day
Pavan
A: 

well nice job :D your software must be good if its worth cracing ;)

but to your question: you can always contact the webmaters to remove it but this is a tough and neverending job.

you can go the legal way but as this is a civil matter its probably not worth the effort and the money with little to no chance of success.

a good thing is to make your software not easy to crack, but this is only possible to a certain extend. a good thing is if clients are involved, you can let the clients only connect if the software id is correct or something.

another suggestin is to regularely include updates and maby som api or some sort of functionality that can only work in communication with your server and legally optained licences.

then the software can be cracked but legal customers are awlays a step ahead and benefit from a better working version, updates, etc

Joe Hopfgartner
To expand, say each properly-licensed install has a unique serial number or CD Key. When the software updates itself, require that unique identifier to be sent to your server, which uses that identifier to generate an "unlock code" for the update. If the program doesn't get a valid unlock code from the server, it won't be able to decrypt the update. If your server is sent an identifier that you didn't sell to a customer (or if you get the same identifier many times), you can detect a cracked version and can act accordingly.
bta
+1  A: 

Also consider price. I have no idea what your software is but there are multiple markets for every product. For example Photoshop has a normal version that is a little out of the cost range of anyone wanting to touchup their vacation shots. For this reason they make elements, it doesn't do as much but it does serve a market. If your software is expensive and of limited personal use try releasing a home version. A trial version, an ad supported version.

What every you don't attempt to detect hacked versions. This type of DRM only annoys real users

Jeff
+7  A: 

I believe that widespread software piracy usually means you're charging way too much for the basic version of your product, and that you'll ultimately be able to make much more money by drastically lowering the price of this entry edition - the market may even want this edition priced free. The key is then to properly segment the market to figure out who is able to pay what.

As an example of this, look at Visual Studio vs Delphi/C++ Builder. The two used to be very competitive, with old Broderbund/Borland perhaps even ahead of Visual Studio at one time. And then Microsoft figured out they needed to give away a base version of Visual Studio that honestly has enough features for most of us to get by if we really needed to. The result? Delphi/C++ Builder completely lost the low end of the market where the students are that feed into the more-lucrative professional market. Now they're fading fast into irrelevance.

Joel Coehoorn
I won't downvote, because in general terms you're not wrong. But in my humble opinion this approach can work better on web services then on desktop/workstation software. I think we should know what software the OP wrote to be able to suggest a business model like this one. Visual Studio is something that can act the way you said, but what about something like Dreamweaver, for example?
klez
@Joel I must disagree with what you say Joel. I did put a lot of effort into developing my application, and this effort is based on years of expensive study + years of work till I have that expertise needed to develop it. What would justify releasing this software free or underpriced? I release a lot of code for free to the fellow devs, but my product I'd like see covering at least my costs
Ican Zilb
@Ican Zilb I'm sort of a free-software freak, but I have to agree with you...
klez
Broderbund? They made Lode Runner and Choplifter. Borland made Delphi/C++ Builder, and it is still alive, and doing well, as an Embarcadero product.
Warren P
@klez Agreed - free software is great, but I gladly buy all indie software I use, because I believe my 10-20$ really make difference for the devs
Ican Zilb
@Ican - I think you missed my point. This is economics - if you have widespread piracy, you will make more money by lowering your price. If you want to charge more, that's fine - but you "pay" for the privilege in terms of lost revenue, and the market pays in terms of under-served customers, some of whom will instead choose to pirate your product. That's a lose-lose for everyone. Don't make the mistake of confusing the price you charge for the value you deliver.
Joel Coehoorn
@Warren - They were part of broderbund before they were borland, yes, it's still alive, but it's hardly doing well these days.
Joel Coehoorn
I know of a game that's extremely underpriced for it's worth, and yet it's still pirated. This is the case for a lot of software.People generally pirate because they don't want to or can't pay for it (_regardless of the price_), not because it's too expensive.
RCIX
@klez: I guess they could make the entry level version only capable of weaving *bad* dreams?
SamB
@Joel: whether lowering the price will get you more money or not depends on the demand curve. There might be a big jump at some point...And from what I've heard, the more recent versions of C++ Builder are too buggy to use. (At least, that's what it says in the IDA SDK...)
SamB
C++Builder is a textbook case of managerial neglect/incompetence. The reason for market decline is simply that Borland/Inprise/Owner-of-the-week convinced enough of us developers that C++Builder (and Delphi) had no future. The entire point of C++Builder is to have a RAD GUI builder on top of Standard C++ with as little weirdness as possible. But years of neglect meant that it could no longer handle newer stuff like the latest Boost libraries. One of the top requests from customers was better C++ standards compliance, but they never listened. Eventually, customers got fed up and moved on.
MadCoder
"if you have widespread piracy, you will make more money by lowering your price" There seems to be evidence to the contrary. For example, android apps are pirated widely -- even though they're almost exclusively priced at $1-5. How much more can you drop the price on a $1 app to stop piracy? Truth is, there are plenty of people who'd rather pirate than pay even 25 cents.
Frank Farmer
@Frank - Selling an app directly is not the only way to make money. Note that I'm not necessarily advocating ad-supported here, either. There are lots of different business models you can use.
Joel Coehoorn
@Ican Zilb: go back to Economics 101. Don't price your product after "What I think I'd like to be paid". Price it after "what people are willing to pay for it". Users of your software don't care how many years of research your product is based on. They care if it has a price they are willing to pay. And @Joel really said the magic word: segmentation. Find a way to sell it cheaply to those who wouldn't pay much (or would otherwise pirate it), and sell much more expensive licenses to those who can pay.
jalf
Personal vs commercial licenses, or different price per country or per level of support. There are plenty of ways to differentiate. At one fixed price, you'll miss income from those who were willing to pay more, and lose sales from those who wanted to pay less.
jalf
Price has nothing to do with it. People who steal software generally continue to steal software even when their income increases. After all, if there was nothing wrong with using pirated Photoshop when they were a struggling college student, then they think there's nothing wrong with continuing to use it when they're an entry-level professional with lots of new expenses.
Wade Williams
+1  A: 

IANAL but I'm pretty sure the folks here saying "It's just going to happen, don't worry about it" are wrong.

On the one hand: yes, absolutely, there is little you can do about it in general. It's going to happen, as long as your software is selling, be happy.

OTOH, my understanding of Intellectual Property law in the US (presuming thats where your work was created and published- but the internet makes that one a little dogy) any time you are aware of infringment on your intellectual property you must defend your intellectual propery rights. That defense can take any of several forms, but (at its most basic) you either have to give the pirates "permission" to use your work (thus making their work authorized) or you have to persue action against them (CND, lawsuit, whatever).

In all cases: consult a lawyer. The primary issue here, as I see it, is that if you want to continue releasing software (and you're good enough that people want to steal it) you at least want to ensure you maintain your IPR so any updates you make can be sold, instead of one of those theives deciding an update you make infringes on their IPR (say, you make an official modification that does what one of their cracked mods does).

AllenG
The "you **must** defend" doctrine _only_ applies to trademarks, not to copyright, and even there it only applies to someone using your trademark to mislead consumers - it they're using your trademark to accurately talk about your product, that's allowed.
Joel Coehoorn
So in addition to spending your money and time fighting the pirates, you should spend your actual income, on lawyers, who will issue takedown notices to torrent sites, who will just move, and relist the same thing somewhere else, tomorrow? If you have a lot of money, and want to make a lawyer happy go right ahead. But in my country, lawyers are expensive, and I would imagine, that an email address and WHOIS records are all you are going to be able to find to locate any particular site's owners, anyways. Even the big software companies decided to delegate this job to the BSA.
Warren P
@Joel: With trademarks you *must actively* defend it, but with copyright and patents if you don't defend you greatly reduce the amount of damages that you can get if you do sue. Courts don't look kindly on the lazy in general.
Donal Fellows
@Warren P. Ummm... yes? I never said it was _fair_. Life sucks. Film at 11. The issue isn't that you'll stop it (I think I mentioned that in my answer) its that you need to defend your intellectual property if you want to maintain exclusive rights to it. If you want to make money on it- and you don't want someone else to steal it (in a big way- that is, prevent you from making money on it in the future), you, technically, may not be required to defend, but the courts won't be real sympathetic if you don't.
AllenG
I think that publishing new versions with updated key verification is about the best you can do anyway, unless you see your software hosted somewhere where they don't just ignore CNDs (or post them for people to laugh at: http://thepiratebay.org/legal)
SamB
+1  A: 

whats the link? i would love to get a copy =)

if i were you I would build in a special auto-update into you next version so that you can brick the unregistered software (a la iPhone)

JiminyCricket
You can't actually brick software. (It doesn't have sufficient mass :-)
SamB
AHAHAHAHAHAAAA! that is soooooo funny. and omg what a brilliant idea. Although you cant automatically update the iphone. But a very nice concept.
Pavan
+1  A: 

Let's ask Joe from NewsRadio what he thinks you should do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T-CreVC_6Y

But like they all say, it's a good sign that it's worth stealing.

Chris
+22  A: 

I would keep updating the software. Sure there must be some bugs to fix and new features to add that your customers asked? When a user has a pirated version and is happy with it finds out that your current version has more features that might be an incentive for him to buy the latest version.

Adding new features doesn't only make your existing customers happy, they also attract new customers.

ZippyV
If you can figure out how your software was cracked, you can have one of your updates check for the crack and report the user's IP address to you. You can use this to go after infringers, or alter your updates such that updates will not install correctly if the user has one of these "blacklisted" IPs. Given this information, you might also be able to trace back and find the crack's author (if it was caused by something like a CD Key being published).
bta
The answer works the software has no auto-update mechanism, whereas @bta's comment works if the software does.
Matchu
Tracking infringers by IP is a silly idea. I doubt individuals can take legal action on an IP. And how many people have static IPs? Blacklisting most IPs won't work if the user's IP changes (which it frequently will), leaving the next poor guy assigned the IP banned for no reason.
Frank Farmer
I'm sure individuals can take legal action starting with just an IP (e.g. just like the big music companies have), but it might be prohibitively expensive. However, tracking infringers by IP is still a ludicrous idea likely to prove much more harmful than helpful.
Roger Pate
I think it'd be illegal in most countries to make your software submit the user's IP to you without informing the user. As others have said, it is also useless.
jalf
But yeah, updating is a great approach. Every time a pirate wants to upgrade to a newer version, he has to find a new crack. eventually, he might decide to just fork over the money for a legit version. (Of course, the key here is to make him *want* to upgrade. So add features, make the product better, listen to feedback.
jalf
@bta @Frank Farmer @jalf: IP address tracking / phoning home is weak. What you want to do is make every copy of your program have a __uniquely identifiable attribute__, say, a random sequence of bytes in the initialized data section, or something more subtle, like an alteration in the assembled code. Then track each customer against these unique IDs, and you have a binary->customer map.
Longpoke
+1  A: 

I agree with GSto... a lot of people aren't going to use a cracked version, I think really its a small minority of people who are willing to do such a thing since they are often wrought with viruses and it just isn't the type of thing that most people would go through the hassle of bothering with, the only way that it would be in jeapordy is if your app is some sort of hacking / black hat marketing app which is, itself, shady and therefore something sought after by the demographic who is most likely to use cracked software..

Don't waste your time trying to pursue the "websites" that have the cracked version as they are almost surely being traded through torrent websites and anyone should know that these are impossible to stop.. if Hollywood movie companies can't stop their films from being pirated the day after they are released to DVD (or often before), how are you going to fight the people trading your software online?

The only way to protect your software 100% is to use a cloud based method where you host part of the software on your servers, you can still put a lot of the code into the client's side but just have it run through yours for certain things, I have no idea what your app is so its hard to tell if this would work or not.

Rick
A: 

Not that this is necessarily the path for you, but many developers release their software for free or low cost, and gain their revenue from support. It might sound ineffective, but decreasing the cost of your product will massively increase the size of your user base, so even if only 1% need support you'll generate a nice income.

Stephen Cross
For a one person development team, this probably won't scale.
Sam
Well, when you have more work than you can handle, hire someone to help.
Stephen Cross
@Stephen Cross You have to already have made money in order to afford that, and you won't be if you're giving your software away for free. Only large companies with a lot of capital can afford to do this. As you said, if only 1% of users buy support (at say, $100 /year), you've lost out on 99 other customers who, while paying less (say $30 / year or per purchase) would have generated a lot more revenue. Also, the "give away for free" business model is to commoditize the free product to promote some *other* product. If your primary product is already a commodity, you're screwed.
banzaimonkey
You're forgetting a few things:1) Yes, you will have already made some money. After all, why would you hire an employee when you haven't even had success on your own. It's a matter of scaling up when you need it.2) The customer base will be many times larger for free open source software, such that 1% of that base could be close or even >= 100% of the original customer base.3) Business support and deployment costs can be rather large, the values you gave seemed closer to costs for individuals.
Stephen Cross
4) If your product is deployed widely, it gives your company a strong reputation and the influence to effectively launch new projects.5) Just because you *could in theory* sell to all your customer base, the existence of this thread and countless other discussions over the internet seems to argue otherwise. [END LIST] And see here for examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_models_for_open_source_software
Stephen Cross
+2  A: 

open source your software, then you won't have this problem :-)

mmay
this way depends of kind of software, in other case it could be pretty good but in another - unprofit.
Eugene
@mmay I have a web site where I post tutorials and code for free. My product I'd like see covering at least my expenses for development software and the hardware
Ican Zilb
@mmay next time use a comment ;)
klez
Yeah, you won't have that problem, and, unless you're software is very useful, you also won't make any money. Writing FOSS is not really a business strategy. It's for coders with ballz!
sims
Ican Zilb
The very good ones live off donations. It is a good challenge.
Arda Xi
+1 to that! The fact that this is not one of the top answers says sad things about SO.
Ma99uS
@Ican: last I checked there were lots of FLOSS programmers making a living. None of them is a millionaire, but you don't get into FLOSS for the money. Also, depending on your software, you can sell your "services", not the executable. You don't have to provide the exe to people that are not your customers, but if they get a hold of it can use it, they'll just have to pay to get support. Either way, what you have to do is make it more compelling to get the real deal than the pirated copy. How you do that is up to you, but I'll give you a hint: what *can't* the pirates provide?
voyager
@voyager: Just look at sourceforge, and you'll find millions of FLOSS projects that obviously did _not_ make their developers a living. Here's my hint: good software doesn't need support, and bad software doesn't have users.
MSalters
@MSa: bad software won't get you users either way, and good software can always be better. I've never seen any software that didn't need support (you can go without it, but it doesn't mean that support is completely unnecessary). Anyway, you got hung up on the first part of the comment, the important thing is *what is your value added that pirates can't provide?* it can be support, hardware, goodies, manual, customization, tailoring, etc.
voyager
Comeon guys! You know it was funny.In all honesty, as much as I love open source software, If everything was open sourced, we probably wouldn't have all the great software we do today. Lots of good stuff also comes out of the enterprise software industry. I was just sayin...by going open source you completely remove this problem of software piracy from the table (because there is nothing to pirate). @Ican you're right, I have no idea how you would eat without charging for software. I work for a dev shop myself, so with it I would be hungry. ;)
mmay
@Ican ZilbThey may not, but it doesn't matter, because they has ballz!Once again, the z in ballz indicates the tone of this comment ;) Honestly, it does take ballz. If you don't have ballz, don't release FOSS.
sims
I want my software to be open-source to maximize the benefit to society, but I also want to get paid for my work. Too bad our Copyright-only system offers no mechanisms to compensate authors of some of the world's best software--free software! No doubt more free software would be good quality if developers could afford to spend more time working on it.
Qwertie
+13  A: 

Make you software work as SaaS in some cloud, so you'll be able to sell it for some traffic/features value, and will prevent it from cracking as it is.

Eugene
I love this model more and more each day, but it isn't realistic for all markets. You should have more upvotes.
+16  A: 

There's nothing you can do. Once the software is out there, it's out there. Sure, you could send all sorts of legal threats and takedown notices to the sites in question. And then those who acquired the software will post it to other sites.

If the software hadn't already been made available for free, you could cram it full of DRM and copy protection and so on.... which just get cracked. Microsoft must have spent billions trying to prevent people from pirating Windows. I still know a good handful of people who run pirated versions of Windows 7 with no problems.

You can't prevent people from pirating your software. What you can do is make people feel your software is worth paying for. Some developers have noticed some effect simply from posting a polite and personal message on torrent sites. On the torrent for your software, post a comment saying you're the developer of this software, and while you're glad to see that people like it, the money from software sales goes directly to you and your dog and no one else, and you can't afford to keep making software if you don't get paid. So please consider buying a license.

Some companies try to combat piracy simply by treating their customers well. Make it something that people want to use. Sell it at a price that people are willing to pay. Provide extras for paying customers. Provide good support to people with a valid license.

Some people are going to pirate your software. There's nothing you can do to prevent it. And it only takes one copy to appear on one warez site, before it spreads and becomes impossible to take down. On the other hand, those people who pirated it most likely weren't prepared to pay for it anyway. If they hadn't been able to pirate it, they simply wouldn't have used it. So in that sense, you haven't lost anything. Remember who your paying customers are. They are the ones you have to satisfy in order to run a successful business. The ones who don't pay aren't your customers, so they're a lot less important.

You might find this blog post an interesting read too.

And finally, because some people find it hard to accept that the world isn't black and white, and like to think that anyone who doesn't equate software pirates with some kind of evil zombie demon hitler are secretly pirates themselves, let me be absolutely clear:

I do not condone piracy. I am not saying you should love software pirates or treat them like your own children. I am merely saying that it is an unavoidable fact of life, and too many companies spend huge amounts on "piracy prevention" which doesn't prevent pirates from using their software, but does make the software less convenient to use for paying customers.

jalf
Well, there is *something* you can do: update!
SamB
+1 Excellent post. Thanks jalf!
MattBianco
@SamB: update what?
jalf
+341  A: 

Ok, I've been selling software online for almost 10 years. I have had several products marketed to both individuals and businesses.

I am always shocked when I see developers are happy that someone thought their software was worth stealing. I mean, didn't you already know that? Why else would you spend time creating it if you didn't think it was worth anything?

I'd wager you would not say, "Wow, I had some great stuff and feel honored someone went to all the trouble of taking it." if someone broke into your house and stole your property. Stealing is stealing no matter if it is a Porsche 911 turbo, music, software or a pack of gum.

There is also another popular myth that pirated versions do not impact sales. I have done a few different experiments myself and also have friends in the industry that have seen significant revenue impacts due to piracy.

In fact, I had one product that I could always tell when it was keygen'd because sales would immediately dive as much as 70%. I was using partial key verification, and when I updated the verification to make the bogus codes stop working sales immediately went back to normal. I assume you would call thousands of dollars a month a significant impact on sales?

In one experiment I used the partial key verification to redirect customers who entered a pirated key to a special web page that explained they were stealing.

Guess what? Over 50% of people who went to that page bought the software. That almost brought sales back to pre-keygen levels.

Those people would have stolen the software if the code would have worked for them. This is a product with a fully functional 30 day trial, so they had already fully tested the software. Also, the product was under $20 USD, so it wasn't an expensive one.

Other people I know have tried the redirect bogus codes to a web page technique with similar (and sometimes significantly better) results.

I do agree that some people will never buy your software, and you have to balance protecting unauthorized use and inconveniencing honest customers.

But don't be fooled into thinking piracy isn't a big problem and not worth investing a reasonable amount of effort to prevent. People aren't as honest as most of us would like to think.

Update

First I want to say, as I stated in my comment below, I am not going to get into an argument or debate about this--especially one based on semantics. I have debated this for years in person, at conferences, and in private forums. I've heard all the arguments before.

Now I will try to answer some of the constructive questions.

I tried my own experiment on two different products.

One was an Outlook add-in to manage various hidden security settings. It was purchased by both individuals and companies. The numbers above are for that product.

I also did another experiment on a business targeted product that translated database schemas to various formats. This product had slightly less (around 10% less, so 40%) conversion from the page I redirected the bogus keys to.

I also am aware of several business owners that did the same experiment and discussed the results with me in private. These were a wide range of products. Some had a vertical market and some were very horizontal. Their conversion rate on the bogus key page was between 20% and 70%. Even at the low end that's a significant amount of extra revenue.

Dana Holt
Jomdom
I suspect the impact/effect of piracy varies from market to market. And in certain software markets, piracy can certainly hurt sales. But music is one area where piracy generally helps more than it hurts. I say generally because in music there are artists too for whom piracy has a negative impact. These are generally mainstream pop artists who rely heavily on the sales of hit singles to the 13-18yo crowd. With software, it will depend on your target demographic as well. And it's silly to compare breaking-and-entering and theft of property to illegal duplication/usage of your IP.
Lèse majesté
Yeah, excellent info. Good arguments against the "copying bits doesn't cost anything" crowd (Not that they're likely to listen).
darron
BTW, what kind of software did you get these sales variations from?
Lèse majesté
Oh, yeah... Lese points out the one bit I thought was pretty dubious (breaking and entering comparison). It ended up a real gem, though.
darron
The thing is, beyond a simple keygen, you're just as likely to hurt your sales just as much by sticking in onerus DRM as you are to have lost sales from piracy. Think Spore or any Ubisoft DRM game. See http://superuser.com/questions/14224/how-to-explain-drm-cannot-work/14764#14764 (which i helped put together) for an explanation of why locking down your software like fort knox won't help.
RCIX
When someone breaks into your house, they don't know if they can find good stuff there to buy. You can usually tell if software is good from looking at the site it's on, and good software is comparatively rare, so people stealing it *is* a good indication that you made something worth taking.
RCIX
There are obviously two camps here, and I am not going to get into an argument about it. I said what I think, and there is no doubt I have made a lot more money using a reasonable DRM to counter piracy than ignoring it. I have hard data to prove it, not speculation. As far as the what is and what is not stealing, well that's an ethical decision each individual has to make for themselves. I'm not here to right anyone's moral compass.
Dana Holt
I'm sorry but the numbers you present are not very realistic. Do you have any references (ie links to the site/product) ?
Tomas
+1 to you, Dana. As an aside, as I have moved from "teenage open-source person" to "software professional", my opinion on rightness of software IP has considerably mainstreamed. When my generated IP has a direct impact on my ability to pay the bills, I lose *all* wooly-headed thoughts about "open source everything" or "piracy is fine for people who aren't rich". I need to pay the bills, and so do a ton of other software developers that make money off their software.
Paul Nathan
There's nothing wrong with putting some small, **harmless**, countermeasures to mitigate piracy. The problem is when the developer wont let you install the product without taking control of your entire system (ala kernel rootkit). High obfuscation is also very dangerous because it can create security vulnerabilities in your product. The entire global state of computer security is currently [email protected]#$'d because of both DRM and just plain dumb developers asking for more privileges than they need.
Longpoke
It's not. Bloody. Stealing. It's not an ethical decision, it's not a moral question, it's in the bloody dictionary. All my empathy for your cause instantly goes away when you twist words like that.That aside, I'd like some more info on your app and on the market you were selling it in.
FeepingCreature
One problem with this method is that the crackers can remove the code that checks the key from the binary before redistributing the application.
Mark Byers
In general I agree, but "Stealing is stealing no matter if it is a Porsche 911 turbo, music, software or a pack of gum". No it's not. It's copyright infringement. You may thing it's the moral equivalent of stealing, but what it **is** is not stealing.
Thomas
Copying is not stealing no matter if it is copying a Porsche 911 turbo, music, software or a pack of gum.It might be copyright infringement though, which is also illegal.Conflating copying with stealing is intellectual dishonesty.
Christoffer Hammarström
see my answer @ http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3550556/ive-found-my-software-as-cracked-download-on-internet-what-to-do/3564287#3564287
steven spielberg
The question I think would be interesting to answer would be: which target audience pirated the most software out of business users and individuals? I'm guessing individuals, but by how much?
Codesleuth
It's sad to see how much people are bitching about the _comparison_ Dana used. She **never** stated that software piracy is stealing. She merely used a comparison to refute the "software being cracked is good, it shows people are interested in your software" claim. It may have been a biased comparison, but so are all other comparisons I am afraid.
Jasper
How's about some actual numbers? Anecdotal percentages aren't really that compelling when you understand statistics. I find your assertions incredibly implausible.
WinterMute
@WinterMute, the OP states `I had one product that I could always tell when it was keygen'd because sales would immediately dive as much as 70%.`, I think that makes it fairly clear and compelling. This question/answer isn't about the statistical analysis of the affect it had on Dana's sales. Why do you find the assertion implausible?
Rob
"Stealing is stealing no matter if it is a Porsche 911 turbo, music, software or a pack of gum." Actually, no. Stealing is stealing, and copyright infringement is copyright infringement. You can argue that copyright infringement is wrong, but not if you start with a false equality that infringement and stealing are the same thing.
smoofra
I hate to say I agree with the stealing != copyright infringement statement, but I do. I almost wrote that myself earlier. However, it's still unethical, illegal... and it sure FEELS like theft when it happens to you. The problem is that while it's an important distinction (for other arguments, not this one)... people treat it as an excuse, and it isn't.
darron
The problem with the stealing/copyright infringement term usage is that this use of "stealing" was created deliberately in a massive media campaign in order to make copyright infringement look "worse" to the populace. That's what I take offense with.
FeepingCreature
@Dana: interesting. One thing I note is that you're going after the low-hanging fruit. That is, a fairly simple key verification, and a message to would-be pirates. Easy to do, doesn't affect legit users, and especially targets "convenience" pirates. I'm sure determined pirates will use your software for free in any case, but a lot of people might just pirate it *when it is convenient*. Going after those can have an effect on sales. But yours is a different (and more profitable) stance than the hardliner "*any* piracy is unacceptable, and I'll do anything to eliminate it" one that some have.
jalf
I wonder how pissed off Delia Smith and Martha Stewart are when people rip-off their 'software'/'sets of instructions'/'recipes'...?
adolf garlic
You'll never be able to stop the *dedicated* pirates, and attempting to do so generally hurts legitimate customers. Going after "the low-hanging fruits" is a good strategy, imho. How much protection/inconvenience you can (and should) use depends on your market...
snemarch
The amateur language lawyers are out in force on this one. "Stealing lyrics" is the term everyone has used for decades when bands do it. If someone swipes a copy of your (non-OS) code, I don't think anyone has another term for it other than "stealing code". Get over yourselves.
jkerian
"if someone broke into your house and stole your property. Stealing is stealing no matter if it is a Porsche 911 turbo, music, software or a pack of gum." - Except it's more like them making an exact copy of your Porsche 911, ...etc, and putting yours back without you ever knowing. Your context of "stealing" is questionable here. Copyright Infringement is more appropriate instead of sensationalizing the piracy in which your aren't "losing" any tangible product.
Josh
@Josh: No. That's just ridiculous. It may be more like making a copy of the car you spent hours and hours building with your bare hands - intending to copy it and sell it. You are reaching the point where your comparison no longer relates to reality, but that's what happens when try to make a comparison correct in every single aspect. The only point of the comparison was saying that something bad happening to you (getting robbed or losing potential sales) isn't good solely because it means you are living the good life.
Jasper
@Jasper - Ridiculous is purely subjective my friend. Your analogy is not quite right either in generalization as I would venture it reasonable to say most of persons pirating software don't sell it which is what your whole comment relied on - the whole concept of pirating is that you don't pay for it. It's less sensational when I copy your car and give out new copies free. I don't see how my comparison "no longer relates to reality." The "stealing" is semantics. What is important is differentiating losing something tangible of your own to someone else and someone copying something you have.
Josh
@Josh: You picked the wrong one of the two possible interpretations of my statements. I meant that you built a car with the intent of copying it and selling the copies, which was then copied by someone else (and freely distributed). I called your comparison ridiculous and no longer relating to reality, because you present a scenario where there is irrefutably no loss to the person in question. In software - like it or not - there is a loss in a potential sale, which may not directly relate to a loss in sales, but will in a good amount of the cases.
Jasper
@Josh continued: In the actual software case, there will often be a loss (in profit). Likewise, there will be a loss in the original example of stealing. All the example is meant to illustrate is that a loss isn't made any less by the fact that it means your product is wanted. Other than that, there may be discrepancies between the example and the reality, but that doesn't matter because they don't matter for the point that is being illustrated. In your example, you throw away facts required to illustrate that point in order to solve some of those other discrepancies. That's ridiculous.
Jasper
+182  A: 

You may want to add something like this: alt text

Uri
Wow, that's great. Do you have any evidence of whether people really read all that text or just press the button?
sharptooth
Maybe if they removed the word "hacker" I would have bought their software. But now they lost my vote...
klez
And how did you get that box to come up? ;D
Ed Daniel
True ... my field tests show users absolutely don't read message boxes especially if there's only 1 button - because whatever the text says there's only 1 choice ... Actually most of them don't read text even if there's 2 buttons - they just click one of them
Ican Zilb
Oh that is just plain awesome
Mike Mooney
rofl "Shame On Me" button
Longpoke
should be a text box that you need to type "Shame on me" to continue
Nathan Koop
Or an Ok rigged to cancel and "Shame On Me"
Noctrine
@klez: You don't wanna be a hacker? Where I come from, it's a bit of an honor to be called a hacker :-).
SamB
@SamB http://catb.org/esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html this is not what the screenshot above is calling a hacker
klez
@Klez: it reads: `To Hackers`
KMan
Maybe add another botton that opens the product page in their browser, where they can legally buy the software.
moritz
@Samb and @KMan: he doesn't want the program because he feels "true" hackers (perhaps including him) are insulted by this program.
Jasper
`s/hacker/cracker/g`
Svish
@Svish yeah! @Jasper I don't consider myself an hacker, I aspire to be considered one and I just have respect. Anyway, that's exactly my point.
klez
very nice ? but what you thing when you show this on your customer who purchased your software and mistakely you show this dialog to him
steven spielberg
Free software don't need cracks ;-)
Agusti-N
when i see this after i cracked the software i will shrug (or laugh) and click the dialog away. when i see this after i forked over hard cash i will get infuriated, probably never buy any software from that company again. what is happening here is bascially the software developer accusing all his costumers of theft, unless they can prove otherwise. presumption of innocence, ever heard of that? even microsoft got bitten by this at least once: http://www.osnews.com/story/18509/Windows_Genuine_Advantage_Suffers_Worldwide_Outage
lesmana
@Agusti-N, free software doesn't pay my mortgage or buy me new computers.
Nathan Koop
@lesmana, I believe that this page comes up only after a code is known to be compromised, however, that is speculation deduced after a careful reading the screenshot.
Nathan Koop
@NathanKoop, i am aware that the dialog i meant to be displayed only when the code is "known" to be compromised. but however advanced this recognition algorithm may be, it might fail sometime, as happened to microsoft, and then the software is accusing all honest costumers as thieves. it is like having security guard robots pointing a gun at everyone in the shop, but only shoot shoplifters. eventually one or all robots will malfunction and will wrongly identify everyone as shoplifter. that is what i meant with presumption of innocence.
lesmana
+27  A: 

I have to admit that I haven't read all the answers and the slew of comments, but here my view on the topic:

  1. Concentrate on making it as easy as possible to pay for the software. Think of Steam and iTunes. Dishonest people will always go to great lengths to avoid paying, but I think most people would gladly pay you if you make it easy enough.
  2. Keep the price low. If the price is low enough (say $5), it falls below the threshold of "practically free", and people will start thinking "$5 is nothing, I might as well pay".

These two combined will prevent your honest customers from trying to get a hacked copy of your software.

JesperE
See success of the iPhone App Store too; impulse buys can bring significant revenue. You might even considering renting your software for $0.99/day to grab some impulse buyers, and convert them into full customers by offering them the $0.99/day back as a discount when they buy the full version.
MSalters
The down side of this approach is that if the price is $5, a lot of people simply *can't be bothered pulling their credit card out of their pocket*. iTunes works because you click the app and it installs. As soon as the user has to go to another website and enter credit card information or a password, it's an uphill battle to keep them motivated.
Jason Williams
@Jason: For a $5 piece of software, it had better be an easy-to-find crack!
SamB
-1, You're assuming this isn't a complex piece of software aimed to customers who would pay more for it. Should software like Photoshop be $5? Would people who illegally download photoshop pay $5 for it? Probably not. If people don't want to pay, they aren't going to pay.
Jage
@Jage: I think a large percentage would. If it were only $5 in the case of photoshop, I think 75% of the current downloaders would. It's not necessarily relevant in a much smaller case like the one in the question, but the price simply being out of budget range for home users plays a big role in the pirating of photoshop...
Jasper
I thinkt most users of pirated photoshop wouldn't use photoshop at all if they had to pay retail price for it. Most hobbyists dont _need_ the features of photoshop. If they did, they could probably get by with the Gimp.
MattBianco
Most hobbyists have no clue what the Gimp is, I would suspect.
JesperE
@Jage: if Photoshop could make more money at a $5 pricepoint, then yes, it absolutely should be $5.
jalf
@MattBianco: Leaving actual numbers aside, my point is that photoshop is a prime example of software that is pirated by many people because they can't afford it. There is a lot of software for which that cannot be said. This is not me disagreeing with the point Jage was making, though. I think his point does hold to a degree. However, his choice of an example was just terrible.
Jasper
Ease of payment is a big problem with e-commerce IMO. When someone enters their credit card info on the site of some small business is not only inconvenient (15 digits plus expiry date plus name and billing address) but a security risk, since you have to trust the site to keep your info secure. What equivalent of iTunes and Steam is there for your average software?
Qwertie
Keeping the price low emphasizes these transaction costs--the two or three minutes it takes to enter complete credit card info, and the $1 or whatever that the CC company charges for the transaction. Plus, personally I don't use my CC that much, so paying for something with a CC may also incur the time it takes me to pay the CC bill and the interest I must pay if I forget.
Qwertie
@JasperE - good points but I don't agree with you. All games for iPhone which are priced at .99$ (so, price is not an issue right?) and are 1-tap-buyable from the Apple App Store (so, easy, right?) are accessible cracked via torrents, so that kind of invalidates your argument for me
Ican Zilb
I like PayPal. Since I already have an account there, it is usally just a matter of logging in, and confirming the amount. (at least if the e-commerce site was coded properly)
Svish
+22  A: 

Change your business model. Selling something that can be duplicated at zero cost and no limitations, isn't a smart idea.

Copyright and patents are only fake restrictions that can hardly work in the digital age.

ama
How is the conception of copyright/patent a fake restriction?
Paul Nathan
At a fundamental level, the concept of property has been unchanged since the dawn of society; compared to that, the concept of owning an idea is an artificial restriction that was imposed explicitly to make a certain business model profitable.
FeepingCreature
@FeepingCreature: When you create an idea, I have a hard time not calling that *property*.
Paul Nathan
"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea..." http://www.lessig.org/blog/2009/05/jeffersons_remix_of_augustines.html
Matt R
I don't understand what you are saying here, unless you are trying to say we shouldn't make software...
Jasper
@Paul Nathan how would you feel if you would have to pay in order to use the Pythagorean theorem if it was invented just recently. You're using his idea.
Sjuul Janssen
@Sjuul Jansen: how would you feel if you were Pythagoras living today, and people wouldn't have to pay for using your theorem if you invented it just recently? Everybody uses your theorem, however, you are in huge debts because you invented your theorem instead of working a normal job...
Jasper
And yet, society is better off this way.If Pythagoras couldn't simultaneously survive and invent, then he shouldn't have invented. It's society's job to make sure this doesn't happen when we're interested in the results of the invention more so than the losses we're incurring from supporting the artists. This is a nontrivial inequality that must be continuously reevaluated, and the current situation is highly, highly imbalanced - society deprives itself of massive amounts of possible distribution and content for the benefit of a small group of businesspeople.
FeepingCreature
@Jasper if the idea is valuable enough then he should be able to make a decent living implementing the idea. But others should be able to do the same thing. Plus it's impossible to monitor the spreading of ideas. Perhaps something different would convince you. Lets say that the concept Religion is the implementation of an idea someone had. Or you think of a special handshake and this goes in to the dictionary just like to google is something you can find in a dictionary. So now you're the only one who's allowed to do your handshake?
Sjuul Janssen
Please also suggest alternate business model for installable, key-entered product.
iamgopal
@Paul: An idea is fundamentally different from "property". If I give you my car, then I no longer have one, but if I give you my idea, then I still have it. This is what makes "theft" legally distinct from "copyright infringement". The victim of "theft" loses his property. The victim of "copyright infringement" loses only a *potential* lost sale.
dan04
installable is the problem here, webapps rule the world.
01
@Jasper - The money is in the support contract for your theorem. Trying to tie cost to simply the information itself is a ever more difficult thing since there are ever growing mediums and methods of encoding and sending information, and even using the information we are encoding a form of it into our brain as we use it, making the "moral purity" of copyright infringement an interesting debate. Unless we use massive censorship and privacy invasion there is no feasible way copyrights on information can continue and survive over the next century as anything, but unenforceable and artificial.
Josh
@FeepingCreature: Your statement may make sense, but it doesn't match very well with the capitalistic nature western society is built upon. It could work, but it would require some major changes.
Jasper
@Sjuul Janssen: That first statement about being able to get enough money from an idea, makes absolutely no sense to me. If people are free to copy your idea, the only ways to make any money off it are to sell the first implementation (which will probably cover the effort of that _implementation_ at max), selling the idea (but then again, who would buy an idea that they can't reasonably make money off?) or keeping it a secret and use the idea to manufacture your own product (which is _not_ an implementation). All in all, a better idea will only mean more poeple will copy it...
Jasper
@Sjuul Janssen: Your other examples (religion and the handshake) don't hold because they don't fall under intellectual property anyway, so yeah, I agree that they shouldn't fall under IP.
Jasper
@Josh: That's pretty ignorant. If I make something, then I put time into that, which is what - in the end - I want to be paid for. What you are suggesting, is that after that, I put yet more time into support, which I ask an unreasonable price for, so eventually I will get to the point where I can cover for the time put into making the product as well... That may scale right in some cases, but it does in far from all.
Jasper
@dan04: You are seriously getting confused between the different forms of intellectual property. Basically you say you are talking about copyright, while you are talking about patenting. Then again, your conclusion matches copyright better than patenting. The victim of patent infringement loses his ability to make (quite as much) money of his idea, which he did put time and effort in.
Jasper
And for clarity to all, I do not consider the current IP laws to be "correct" or "the right solution" or even "a right solution". However, I do think it's a ridiculous statement that it should be thrown overboard all together - as that's basically what some were indirectly suggesting.
Jasper
I want to be paid for my work. But to maximize the benefit of my work to society, I want it to be open source. What to do?
Qwertie
@Qwertie: Dual licensed with no-commercial-use clause in the open-source license sounds best. Edit: if it's an application, non-commercial opensource it but forbid redistribution of binaries or automated installers. That way, interested people can build and use it, and end users who don't want the hassle of rebuilding can buy it instead.
FeepingCreature
A: 

What about an online verification system?? I mean.. if you (automatically)create the serials on demand and require an online verification to activate your software maybe you can slow down that bad activities.. I don't know your software, this is just an idea.

Luis
A: 

You can't stop piracy...people who desire your software (yet having no intention of buying it) will never buy it and will always try to find a way to get it for free...

Instead, focus on producing a quality product that people want to buy. Don't focus on producing a product that (attempts) to thwart piracy...doing so will distract you from producing a quality product and will only irritate your paying customers (DRM anyone?)

Think about it...spending x hours working on a cool new feature or the same number of hours delaying a would-be pirate from hacking your software. I'm sure the people who bought your software would really appreciate the cool new features over making the software "less" hackable any time of the day...

T Reddy
+2  A: 

I find it disappointing how much people accept defeat nowadays and ignore ethical trespasses and things like fairness.

hyprsleepy
I find it disappointing how some people post answers that don't answer the question. No offense :-)
tomp
Well my answer is implied by my statement - in that I would suggest doing the opposite of what disappoints me about humanity. I mean after all, we are developers and not QA testers. ;) We can think instead of need everything explicitly stated to us.
hyprsleepy
We're not ignoring it, we're saying 2 things: A: our best efforts have failed (and believe me, they have), and B: we might as well look on the bright side and see that no one would steal our software if it wasn't worth anything.
RCIX
Your example A is the very definition of accepting defeat and B is your positive response to A.
hyprsleepy
+9  A: 

This reminds me of the autodesk/kinetix response, tho they claimed that the response was a complete accident, a byproduct of the crack itself.

A cracked version of 3DSMax had a nasty side behavior - each time it opened a model file it corrupted the vertex coordinates just a little bit more- not enough to be noticable on any given run, but over time, a lot of damage could take place. The cost of the program might be thousands, but the cost in time and dollars to repair the damage dwarfed that.

The mfgr claimed this was a complete accident/side effect of the crack, and to their credit here, I believe repaired something in their software - that said, they certainly delivered a powerful message to their user base......

Don't get the wrong idea - I'm not recommending this, especially since IANAL - on the other hand, I've always found it's an interesting anecdote

Mark Mullin
+1 . I wish they were not designing Aeroplane.
iamgopal
Interesting anecdote indeed, and definitely not something you should ever think of incorporating as a "feature" in your apps; software has bugs... what if you have a bug in your mess-with-pirate code which ends up triggering for legitimate customers? Oops.
snemarch
+5  A: 

My friend wrote this article describing how he handles this situation.

gWaldo
A: 

i think that developing your programs considering a sponsor will protect your rights (espacially financial ones ) remarkably.

George
+3  A: 

It's simple. In the old days, if you couldn't afford or didn't want the cops to protect your well, or if -- in fact -- the cops didn't care, know what you'd do?

You'd POISON THE WELL.

If I were you, I'd increase prices by 5%. Then I'd release a fully-functional demo that says "Registered to [crack]" that accidentally cracks up and malfunctions.

Publish this new version everywhere. Bitorrent, edonkey, usenet, all the pirate sites you find. Drown out the competition!

Then direct cracked users to customer support and offer them a 5% discount if they register now and give the site where they downloaded the crack.

Use the crack as a promo code to drive sells.

hopeseekr
I doubt it'll work. The top torrent sites will just end up with comments that say "this version is poisoned - use such-and-such old version (link here) instead". Also, genuine early-adopter customers may see it and think its a not-quite-released-yet upgrade. And there are plenty of countries where any data loss as a result - even to pirates - would be classed as criminal damage.
Steve314
You don't have to make cause data loss. Just be a general pain.
sims
I didn't say anything about data loss. Just that this version is bugged, download the new version, then when they click on the link, tell them on the web page that you know they used a pirated copy but that this one time, they get a 10% discount.
hopeseekr
What Steve314 said, -1.
snemarch
Then you'll have people posting 'don't buy this, it's lame and always crashes'.
Tomáš Kafka
+6  A: 

You never told us if the cracked version is from a demo version or not - but you should identify this directly from your builds.

Is my practice to identify customers in the build's with a ID constant in several places. That way I can find the source of the leak just downloading the cracked one.

Demo versions are prone to be cracked (but you should identify them too - one ID for tucows, other for major, etc). I don't have a easy way for that, except if you can consider online usage all the time.

Regards Rafael

A: 

Make your software contact a central server while it is being used. Roll patches/etc through the server connection. Also, make 1 or 2 main features that occasionally contact the server to do the processing. Require a valid account that auto-logs in in order for the main features to work. Make the valid accounts pay a small fee like 1-2 dollars a month. Ask them to put a credit card on file and roll the charges into 6-month billing increments or something so you don't just waste a bunch on CC fees.

Also, keep an easy to find, low cost version of the software out there. Something people can use 5 times per month for 1 dollar. Bump the fee with increased usage. Make it cheaper and easier for people to find and install your free version than it is to find and install a cracked/hacked version.

Zak
That would be one piece of software I would be pressed not to buy. Just because of the DRM. I would say you trying too hard and losing customers when following your advice.
Jasper
A: 

My view - it's unsurprising if your reaction is an emotional one, but that probably isn't the best reaction to have.

Just because the pirate version is out there doesn't mean you'll lose all your income. If you give up straight off, you're probably just cutting off your nose to spite your face - certainly the pirates won't feel sorry because of it. You may lose some income, but anger/frustration/depression are most likely to do even more damage to your business.

People will generally bare disproportionate costs to keep/protect something they percieve as theirs. This is used in lots of sales tricks and cons, and it may be affecting you here. It's easy to see each pirate copy as a lost sale (and some of them no doubt are), but trying to protect your software from the pirates may not be the pragmatic thing to do.

The pragmatic thing to do is whatever builds your business, your income and your wellbeing. In general, I'll bet positive/constructive measures will leave you better off overall than defensive ones - though of course defense has its role to play. Too much anger/frustration/worry/etc will certainly count against the wellbeing bit (though I'm not advocating suppressing your feelings).

One idea is to be in touch with your customers as much as possible (without spamming them). The better that people know you, the less likely they are to rip you off. Even the pirates (other than the hoarding non-users) are likely to read your online support archive - it might be a good place to "make eye contact" (I think O'Reilly use that term for a style of writing).

Just don't complain too much - that'll only convince people you deserve to be ripped off.

Steve314
While I see where you are coming from with most of your post, I think "Just because the pirate version is out there doesn't mean you'll lose all your income." is just a stupid thing to say. Just because your salary is cut in half* doesn't mean that you will lose all your income, so don't feel bad about it...(*: not to say anything about the amount of money lost to piracy, just picked something to show how ridiculous your statement is)
Jasper
@Jasper - that isn't the tone I intended. I'm not saying he should smile and be happy. He doesn't know yet how much he will lose because of piracy, so jacking it in would be premature. There's no point worrying about something you can't change. Believe me - I have Aspergers and I can't change that either. Reasonable adaptations yes, and I don't believe in suppressing negative feelings and playing happy either, but there's a big middle ground between the self-destructive extremes. Find the lifeboat yes - but don't jump ship until you know it's going to sink.
Steve314
Jasper - BTW, I lost *ALL* of my income after being diagnosed with Aspergers, and that wasn't fair either. I'm not just throwing out an "I don't care, get over it". Sometimes practical advice can sound like callousness - "sound like" being the key words.
Steve314
I see, it's just that that was how it came across to me. Anyway, what backwards society is it in which you lose all your income after being diagnosed with Aspergers?
Jasper
England. But... On a second read, I realised I was talking Aspie again - "after" doesn't mean "because", at least WRT the diagnosis. I got the diagnosis because I was having serious problems, after all, and my then employer bent over backwards to help but lacked a magic wand. A couple of people may have thought my continuing to be ill was unappreciative, but if most had a bad attitude, they were damn good at hiding it. Unfair as it was that I lost my job, home etc, avoiding the inevitable was doing far more damage. I have no plans for revenge - no-one to target but myself.
Steve314
I don't think you can say that there's such a thing as "talking Aspie". Anyway, that must be real tough! I hope you can get your life back on track.
Jasper
I gotta disagree with you there, but this is far from the place for a discussion on the matter. Good luck and see you around!
Jasper
A: 

making your software more hack proof the next time, will only make the hackers curse you more... and essentially make the chances of them buying the software even lower. take the music industry, instead of chasing after people as the record companies did in the past, they decided just to make it easier for people to obtain the music in the first place, like on itunes. getting music on itunes nowadays is quicker then limewire! limewire, you might not find what song you are looking for, and you might get a virus, or a bad version, while downloading from itunes is probably quicker as well! also, instead of chasing every joe blogs that illegally posts their song on youtube, they post their own songs on youtube, and link it to a purchase... good marketing i think, but a bit off the point i suppose. If someone has a choice of going to another room, finding their credit card, typing in ALL the details, or just getting it quicker for free via torrent... they will chose option B. So my advice is:

1)Have a pop up like someone suggested, with "shame on you bla bla bla". If someone doesn't then go and pay for the software after that message.. they weren't going to pay for the software in the first place. PS. also say: "this is a pirate version you are using, cannot guarantee the integrity of this software, which may be harmful to your computer. To purchase a certified version click here", scare them a little, without threatening them.

2)Make payment very easy, maybe try and sell it through a software company has already stored peoples card details so they can get it with one click. The only reason I now use itunes, is because it's quicker then limewire, and i get a preview :)

3)make the price right :) i honestly think if adobe lowered their products to a fourth of the price, they would have quadrupled their sales. Unless it is going to take a hacker longer then 70 hours (10$ an hour) to hack adobe software (aprox $700), only then might they buy it. if a program is 5 dollars, it might be better for them just to pay... however i release sometimes products need to be priced higher for the amount of work put in.

4)Essentially, all these tips link back to.. try to get the hacker on your side, through guilt, persuasion and saving them time!

mick waffle
I think you are focusing too much on the hacker here. Perhaps hackers will curse you more and be less likely to buy your software next tine, but they were _very_ unlikely to buy your software in the first place. The hacker just isn't part of your target audience. Also, while I agree with your conclusion as to Adobe's strategy, the calculation of a hacker's time is quite bogus. It assumes the hacker knows how much time hacking your application will cost. It assumes that the hacker only hacks the game for personal use. I don't think that's the way to approach this problem.
Jasper
+15  A: 

The most elegant solution I've seen was putting text along the lines on "cracks, warez, keygens, torrent files, free downloads etc. harm the publisher of this software" in small text at the bottom of all your web pages. It games the PageRank and (hopefully) causes users searching to cheat you to be sent to your site.

Halfasleep
That is such an awesome counter measure!
Jasper
Good ideas. Thanks, Halfasleep!
MattBianco
A: 

You'll never make your application crack-proof, but some copy protection is better than others. For instance, whatever the copy protection on Cubase is, it's hell to get through. It was cracked eventually obviously, but after much much more effort. Might be worth a shot.

Evan
+1  A: 

There's not much you can do. You can use an activation scheme which calls home. Every purchase will have a unique serial # which is in your database. If the keygen creates a # which is not your database, it's not genuine. If too many users (different ip addresses) are using the same serial #, the serial # has been leaked and the activation will disable the installation.

However if it's a cracked version where the call home routine has been disabled, you're out of luck.

Keep adding new good features so that the people who have an old copy/cracked version will be encouraged to buy it. Make sure a 'look for updates' is implemented so they get the prompt as a reminder.

Tony_Henrich
There's the rub: `However if it's a cracked version where the call home routine has been disabled, you're out of luck. ` and the main reason why DRM doesn't work. :P
RCIX
+5  A: 

Just take what money you have, and move into another business. I gave up coding after the last bubble burst, and now own a couple of gas stations.

My staff have shotguns to protect our product, it seems to work better than vague legal threats and keygens/drm do in the software world.

Johnson
+1 not sure it applies but cracked me up
Anthony
+1 Needed a laugh this morning and this provided it!
Cyberherbalist
A: 

Without knowing your software market it's a bit hard to know who your audience is, but providing they have some disposable income, and you're not aiming at the teen market:

Make your software affordable enough and nobody will need the crack, including adding upgrade options for more features, support. Some money is better than none at all. Alternatively make it nagware, like Winrar - although that could obviously be cracked.

Chris S
@Chris That's just no true Chris :) iPhone apps for example are usually 1$-2$ - and don't take me wrong, a good iPhone app takes a load of time to do and fellow devs still are sharing some 30-40% cracked versions usage ... I mean 1$ - how lower can you charge?
Ican Zilb
@Ican Yeh the Apple model basically promotes lots of quick (cr)apps, apps to enforce your brand or decent ones like the logmein one. I think with the proliferation of appstores (e.g. the Chrome appstore, future Windows appstore) the crack problem will be reduced quite a bit.
Chris S
+49  A: 

I saw this interesting response today:

Response to finding cracked software on a torrent site

David Dorward
Haha, that's priceless :)
snemarch
And Chestnykh is translated from Russian as "Honest". :)
Roman Boiko
+1  A: 

Make sure you properly version every update and version of teh product. Then store the hash of your executable file on a server and on first launch check to see if the exe file is altered. then you can take action if it is, like closing the program or deleting some of the file You installed so that the program won't start

Midhat
-1 I bet it would be easy to set up a fake server, plus it would annoy every honest user trying to use an *offline* application when beeing, you know, *offline*. In fact, I wouldn't buy that software if another product without this crappy DRM was available at a similar price
Tobias Kienzler
@Tobias A lot of "offline" products require online activation. Until the activation is performed it runs at a reduced functionality or just keeps bugging the users
Midhat
@Midhat: Your modification into a one time activation makes it a bit more acceptable indeed, but it's still what I consider a nuisance. Especially when you decided to isolate your working machine from the internet.
Tobias Kienzler
I'll second the cautions. One time activation may be tolerable, but can cause big problems, and does make me think very hard about buying. A permanant online requirement is an absolute no sale. The machine I use most is *never* connected to the internet or any network (and therefore doesn't need antivirus, firewall etc, meaning it runs faster and much more reliably than a theoretically several times faster PC with four times the RAM). Remember - you're probably competing with open source software (effectively free as in beer) that is perfectly usable and doesn't have all this extra baggage.
Steve314
A: 

Trying to get cracked versions removed is a cat-and-mouse game of underwater boxing, dead-horse beating, swimming in quicksand. You might want to try using a tool like Crack Tracker, but it's still a pretty useless struggle, imho.

The only thing you can hope for is "keeping honest people honest", and persuading some of the almost-honest people to try a bit of honesty. No matter what crazy protection scheme you think up, eventually your protection will be removed... especially if it's interesting. Crackers have done crazy stuff like RE'd program features implemented in hardware dongles and re-added them to software...

As Dana mentions, partial key verification is a really interesting idea. Combined with a "OK, I give up" kind of message (including a link to your order page, and possibly a discount) might work wonders... but everything depends on how specialized your app is and what your market is like.

Don't think you can make the "I'll never pay anything" pirates pay, and don't inconvenience your legitimate customers too much.

snemarch
+2  A: 

I don't know for sure what I would do in your position, but at least one developer who found his cracked software available as a torrent emailed the host to complain -- not about the crack, but about the quality of the crack. It seems that the cracker didn't do a very good job and made the software less desirable. The developer was apparently horrified that his product, with his name, was going out to people and would ruin his product's good reputation, and demanded that if someone was going to crack it, that they needed to do a better job!

This story showed up on Slashdot:

Developer Demands Pirate Bay Not Remove Torrent

Cyberherbalist
+3  A: 

I'd like to add, not paying for your software is like not paying your taxes. You may be getting ahead, but you are doing so by screwing everyone around you.

Zak
+3  A: 

I was so infuriated with some of comments and answers that justify software piracy that I had to write long rant: Is Software Piracy Stealing? .

zendar
-1: "Only conclusion is that developers are heavily pirating software."
ZippyV
+1: @zendar - Good and valid rant.
bill weaver
@ZippyV - i think that "conclusion" was to that particular paragraph, not the entire article, which starts off with a paragraph that includes " **Some** of answers and comments infuriated me". Granted, he could have said something more about those he agreed with, but i think it's clear that he's responding exclusively to the number of apparently professional software developers who seem to endorse theft of software.
bill weaver
@ZippyV Not true, there are valid points + explanation why are valid, great [email protected] Great effort to take venting out of SO, congrats for the article, enjoyed it
Ican Zilb
I am a software development professional and I don't pirate software. I also think that some people get way too emotional in their response to what a jerk who posts your software on the internet does. As a software development professional I recognize that jerks who don't buy my software could sometimes be convinced to pay, and that by calling them jerks, I decrease the chance that they will. So I keep my fits of hysteria to myself, and try to act in a calm manner, even if I am upset.
Warren P
The part you're passing over is that *software is hard to make, and good software is rare*. You wouldn't say the fact someone stealing your stuff is a measure of it being good because there's so much quality stuff that there's (usually) little point in stealing your stuff over someone elses. You also wouldn't say that about money, because money is of uniform quality and the same point applies here. What makes software different is that good software is comparatively rare, which does probably mean no one would steal it if it was worth nothing.
RCIX
[continued] You say that "people who steal your software won't buy it anyway" is a fallacy, but you don't say what kind of fallacy is nor provide evidence to back it up. The issue with "it does not cost anything to make copies" is a valid point and largely what distinguishes software from a real physical item. Whether you should sell it or not is another discussion.
RCIX
Finally, about condoning piracy: Many developers **explicitly stated** that we're against piracy, just that there are silver linings to every cloud. That doesn't mean we pirate software or want people to pirate ours.
RCIX
@RCIX: thanks for comments. I wrote that blog post while I was pretty upset with some answers and comments here, so there are some unfinished thoughts. About condoning piracy: many developers here explicitly stated they are against piracy, and then added "but" and explained why sometimes piracy is not a very bad thing. And that is what I find hypocritical and not acceptable. And even more, I was surprised with percent of answers and comments that agree with those arguments. Only explanation is that they pirated something sometimes and now they are looking for excuse.
zendar
@Zendar: i've never pirated software, but i still hold that position. Lie a said before, we're merely pointing out there's an upside :)
RCIX
Regarding your paragraph about "price is too high people won't buy it": Let's say you created a piece of software that was 10 gajillion times better than the best on the market currently (for, say, 3d modelling), you couldn't get away with charging 50 thousand dollars a copy, simply because most people don't have that kind of money. Read Camels and Rubber Duckies by Joel Spolsky (http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CamelsandRubberDuckies.html) to get the point i'm making.
RCIX
@RCIX: I don't get this about pricing. Do you say: "This piece of software is to expensive, so it's OK to steal it."? Pricing is problem of software vendor, it could be done wrong. But, when vendor sets price for the product, then it is something potential buyer/user have to deal with. You don't like the price? Fine, go buy something else. I don't see how high price or price buyer won't accept for any reason, can justify software piracy. Please explain.
zendar
A: 

Technical protections will fail sooner or later, try something else.

Apple has made a brilliant technique avoid pirating iPhone apps: they sell apps $1/copy. The cost of getting the pirate copy is higher than using AppStore (searching, downloading, installing).

ern0
that's not the reason they're so cheapthey're cheap because I wouldn't pay more than a dollar for them anyways
Jean-Bernard Pellerin
When one decides to seek and download a pirate copy, the _only_motivation_ is the high price. Using copy protection techniques does not solve this problem. (Illustration: BeJeweled2. PalmOS: $10, WinMO: $10, AppStore: $3; half year ago the numbers were: $24, $24, $3.)
ern0