How software pirates again influenced my work

I always was opposed against software piracy. Since I was a teenager:
Although I didn't get much pocket money, I always bought my computer games. I simply thought this would just be fair. I only knew BASIC, and thought it would be an immense amount of work to create commercial computer games, because I wasn't even able to image how they did it :)

I couldn't afford much of those games because I always bought them, so I quickly started to learn Delphi, began to write my own games and sold them as shareware. So I was able to afford a lot more games and it made me a better programmer :)

Recently, a new chapter of my relationship with software pirates began:
Some weeks ago I noticed that the orders of a software I developed nearly dropped
down to zero. Summer holidays - I thought. But strangley, email support requests and downloads for this software started to increase. Curiously, I googled a bit and found that that piece of software was now available 'for free' on several cracker websites.

Yipee. So basically, some stupid teenagers with too much time and no honor are able to ruin your whole work. I don't know yet what my next steps will be, but at least I'm not depending on these software sales. But of course this is really bad. And quite interesting that even companies seem to prefer using cracked versions of software than spending some very few bucks to use their software legally.
[/rant mode off]

26 comments, already:

Why don’t you sue them?
oleg - 08 09 08 - 19:42

I would be completely infuriated if I was in your shoes, Niko. I’m the same way buying all my software legally as it’s the right and moral thing to do.

I’m glad you are supporting yourself and your girlfriend on that money…and those pirates have the gall to say it doesn’t hurt anybody.
Jonathan Snyder (link) - 08 09 08 - 19:44

If it is on another site you could do a cease and desist…

jrm
jrm - 08 09 08 - 20:11

yep, this happened some days ago, and I already let them remove it, but nothing prevents those ‘crackers’ to put it up again.
niko - 08 09 08 - 20:33

I’ll freely admit that I have pirated software in the past. I don’t need to justify it, but the simple fact is I cannot afford to buy an operating system at the time. When I have been able to buy some software, I always pay for it (same with movies, books, etc).

However, I can say that the last time I downloaded some software illegally was 4 or 5 years ago, because that was when I moved over to Linux. I was able to do everything I wanted, and the moral advantage of not using another persons software illegally is much more palatable to my ethics.
John - 08 09 08 - 21:12

In-game advertising.
Arthur - 08 09 08 - 23:52

There’s just something more fundamentally wrong with how software is sold and distributed and how developers get paid.

Software should be Free, as in Freedom. This includes the freedom to share with a friend.

However, Software does not have to be Free, as in beer.

Thus, a model where for example, you define a basic idea for a game, and let people donate to you to make it, so your development costs are covered in advance would be better.

Of course there’s tons of problems with such a model as well, since the donators would not be sure of the end-result nor would they be sure if there ever would be one.

You could charge for initial distribution and support, or once the game is created introduce bounties for additional features, etc…

I’m just saying that you really shouldn’t criminalize users for your losses just because they have a NATURAL tendency to SHARE. Instead, blame society and the way the capitalist system works, that you can’t be rewarded for your creative efforts when you play ‘nice’.

I also develop software, and can hardly make rent every month, yet I’ll be damned if I release something to the general public that is proprietary with no Freedom to distribute. It’s just not right.
Gothi[c] - 09 09 08 - 02:20

That sucks. My only suggestion to you would be not to distribute full versions of software that are ‘unlockable’ with keys or similar, just physically cut down versions, and protect downloads of full versions with logins for people who have bought it. That at least limits the potential. The ultimate would be to embed a unique signature into each binary licensed to someone so if a warez version appears you can trace it to the customer that cracked & distributed it and sue them.

@Gothi©: it’s a nice thought but I’m afraid you’re living in a dream world. Even Red Hat makes pretty much all of its money by selling a product (RHEL) and not via support. It has been proven that a pure support model is not enough to support core product development – redistributors can make money that way (ie distro makers), but core developers just starve. Take a look at any software company that develops open source software (rather than just repackaging or distributing/supporting the efforts of others) and you’ll always find a sales model or dual license model there. It’s the only way they can live. Someone has to develop the software, and the people who say you don’t need to do this are usually those who just use Free Software or repackage it, not the developers themselves.

Unfortunately there’s this idea going around that developers can make their money from donations, support and $5 CDs or something. It’s bullshit, and any developer who actually tries to live that way will go broke really fast, unless they’re lucky enough to be one of the very, very few that get sponsored by Google or similar. Everyone else either has to do it all in their spare time for the love of it, or combine open source with more ‘normal’ software revenue models. Leave philosophy out of it unless you can actually pay Niko’s bills for him.
steve () (link) - 09 09 08 - 11:00

Note: that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contribute to open source of course, just for goodness sakes don’t pin your livelihood on just support / donations. Dual licensing, add-on products and services, closed repackages / bundles etc all work with an open source core. Just don’t tell me that the entire world has to be 100% Free Software, it just doesn’t work for the people that have to make that software I’m afraid, at least for all except the top 1% like Eclipse (IBM funded), Mozilla (Google funded). Most people have to combine open source and proprietary models to live even if they’re open source promoters & contributors (like me).
steve () (link) - 09 09 08 - 11:08

thanks steve, nice to sum this up here. About the ‘demo’ version mode: Thought about it, could be an idea. But probably only works until someone distributes or leaks his bought version. But lets see. :)
niko - 09 09 08 - 17:07

Where is the [/rant mode on]?
The Onslaught - 09 09 08 - 20:06

I use cracked software to see, if it is worth buying it. So you may loose some clients if they’re unable to test your products. =)
Wat de Buer ni kennt dat freet he nie!
Blah - 09 09 08 - 21:47

I understand everyone’s frustration on this topic which is why Uniloc has developed a reporting and analytics tool for your software apps called SoftAnchor Insight. Insight tells you exactly how your licenses are being used or abused so whether you are concerned about piracy or not, you have better knowledge into your software business.

You can make intelligent decisions on whether to disable a certain license if there is a piracy concern or continue to allow the use if there is just a little casual-copying. Either way, you know exactly what is happening with your software after it’s downloaded/purchased.

Feel free to learn more at http://www.softanchorinsight.com and to sign-up for our Free 30 day Trial.

We also provide a license protection solution based off of our physical device recognition patent.

I’m accessible via email or through this thread.

Thank you,
Jack Wolfenden, Uniloc
jwolfenden@uniloc.com
Jack Wolfenden, Uniloc () (link) - 09 09 08 - 22:36

IrrKlang is free for non-commercial use right?
So there can be support requests too if nobody buys it (especially during holidays when “kiddies” are trying to code something).

greets,
DrHalan
DrHalan - 10 09 08 - 06:22

that’s right, but this post isn’t about irrklang, there is nothing to crack in this library :)
niko - 10 09 08 - 08:33


trunks14 - 10 09 08 - 18:40

It wouldn’t surprise me if most users were only using your tool to hide their illegally acquired code, you can’t really expect such people to buy a license if another option is available! :s
Gaz - 10 09 08 - 22:55

I dont think someone could stop piracy,and to be frankly I sometimes download software myself, to test if it is worth the money, works like i want it to and so one. But why whole companys pirates software i cant understand. Where I work we have to buy for everything a copy, otherwise we would loose our job if this happens more than once. In exchange we get almost everythin we need, even small livesafers like visual assist and so one if we ask.

One idea to get back some customers, only over email/phone support if they have a legally bought product key, for companys this should be enought to but it, I hope. I think it is extremly difficult to make money with a product without being a jerk to our customers, like drm and so on. But I hope there is a way, maybe release patches for free costumers later or so, I really dont have a good idea how to do this, still thinking.
mirlix () - 10 09 08 - 23:34

Some people are really poor and needy, but piracy is really not fair as the resulting chain finally hurts pirater. If only real needy people pirated it would had not been such a problem. Capable also pirate is really bad. How many people are there who cannot buy a 20$ Crysis warhead if they really want to play it, have a PC to play it. they certainly are not poor . But I expect it is going to be pirated even more.
kinjel () - 11 09 08 - 18:04

I’ve been pirating everything in my early youth, but since long I try to use free and open source and buy what I need. I play mostly mmorpgs, which aren’t really piratable anyway.
But sometimes I feel forced to pirate a game or software… When I wanted to buy cnc3 via the EA Downloader no matter what I did, I could not buy it with a german credit card. I wrote an email and they told me because of the age-restriction they could not offer it via download to germany… I was so pissed I downloaded it anyway, from somewhere else ;)
I must admit I still do not feel very bad about it…
Telepath - 11 09 08 - 22:58

You could implement a little system to only let throught “authorized” support accounts. That way you don’t have to mess with the pirates, only paying customers!
yomero - 12 09 08 - 23:34

embbed an internet check in your app. require your user to have internet connection each time they use your app. then ‘phone home’ to check to see if your app has been pirated or not. if pirated, send a ‘patch’ that disabled the app on the pirated user’s machine. then forward the pirate’s ip address to the authority.
lug - 13 09 08 - 20:33

best way is to cut down features in binary download, then give full features via patch only to registered online customers. That will solve doenload problem very much. Due to this model it has been hard to crack DivX, photoshop and PowerDVD, cuz full version is really not easily available.
Embed a unique signature into each binary licensed to someone – is another critical step with these protected downloads. Ideas given by steve are used by many software companies and are quite succesful.
I also agree with steve on the fact that Open Source developer needs to pay his bills nad Dual license is necessary, like with Irrklang. U cant stop piracy, but make it tough, so it will be very less. I remember a crack for Prince of persia 2 thrones was unavailable for almost one year as StarForce 4 copy protection system could not be cracked then. The only way was to unplug the DVD drive physically, using daemon tool with drive hider. which was so cumbersome that only 5 % piraters could actually play the game. This quite effective.
Another effective method is of Power DVD of cutting features. embedding signatures in download will give u the culprits to sue.
Rest is as always ur choice.
kinjel () - 14 09 08 - 17:51

I’m a bit late with commenting, but nevertheless, I’ll add my 2 bits worth.
I am preparing to launch my first title in December, and I have no choice but to enforce online based serial number authentification (ie. look for conflicts). If you don’t authenticate, you play in restricted (demo) mode. I also plan to add a simple network availability check – ie. if I can’t connect to the authentification server or ping a known remote server (eg. google, opendns), then I unlock the game for that session. If I go out of business, I’ll just release the unlocked version before I turn off the lights. There will always be people who may be able to hack around the authentification, but at the end of the day, that number is really small. I’m also planning to add a network based ranking system, so that may encourage a few more people to register.
Finally, the price will be less than $10. That should really discourage piracy.
Zenja () (link) - 17 09 08 - 12:26

Totally off-topic, but what were the names of the shareware games you released when you were young?
juantar () (link) - 19 09 08 - 02:04

One of the games is this: http://www.irrlicht3d.org/pivot/entry.ph..
erik - 19 09 08 - 09:50


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