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Ask Slashdot: Copy Protection Advice For ~$10k Software?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the sue-you-sue-anybody dept.

DRM 635

An anonymous reader writes I'm part owner of a relatively small video editing software company. We're not yet profitable, and our stuff turned up on thePirateBay recently. Some of our potential paying customers are using it without paying, and some non-potential customers are using it without paying. Our copy protection isn't that tough to crack, and I'd rather see the developers working on the product than the DRM (I'm convinced any sufficiently desirable digital widget will get copied without authorization). Would it be insane to release a 'not for commercial use' copy that does some spying and reporting on you, along with a spy-free version for ~$10,000? I feel like that would reduce the incentive to crack the paid version, and legit businesses (In the US anyway but we're trying to sell everywhere) would generally pay and maybe we could identify some of the people using it to make money without paying us (and then sue the one with the biggest pockets). What would you do?"

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635 comments

first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110607)

first

Re:first (-1, Offtopic)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110629)

I can second that.

Re:first (1, Offtopic)

Ries (765608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110669)

Girls prefer men comming second :)

"does some spying and reporting on you" (4, Insightful)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110647)

Please do clarify as to:

1) What would the program actually collect about users?
2) What would you do with the data?
3) Would you do that without informing the users of this or not?

You see, whether or not that is even LEGAL in the first place depends on the answers of yours.

Re:"does some spying and reporting on you" (5, Interesting)

hellkyng (1920978) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111157)

To the already great questions above, I would also add:

How will you feel when your product is flagged by Anti-Virus companies as malicious, and what will the impact be to your reputation?

dongle (2)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110655)

Why aren't you using one already?

Re:dongle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110771)

Because this isn't the 80s?

Re:dongle (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110843)

Properly implemented, they still work.

Re:dongle (4, Insightful)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111159)

No better than DRM. As far as I know, it all comes down to one of two types of setups:

  1. "Is this authorized? Then do stuff" However the sophisticated the rest of the setup, all a cracker needs to do is identify this if conditional and patch it. In this type of system, the rest is just obfuscation of where that clause is, and how it works.
  2. "Decrypt necessary code or data, then execute." At some point, the encrypted material will be in the clear, at which point it can be snagged. Binary gets patched to use the snagged, unencrypted form rather than need to use the encrypted form.

Now, I'm not an expert; I just develop software. I haven't tried to crack others' protection.

Re:dongle (3, Insightful)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110781)

I don't think he's interested in stopping the piracy by forcing hardline anti-piracy methods. For one, it is made clear that non-customers are using the product, and if they are, it's like free advertising. I could imagine a full-fledged professional version requiring a dongle, though.

There are a number of business models that avoid piracy, like student edition software, low monthly subscription, or using a stripped down "free" versions.

Re:dongle (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110851)

I don't think he's interested in stopping the piracy by forcing hardline anti-piracy methods.

Dongles are not 'hardline anti-piracy methods'; Avid use dongles and their software is still available on pirate sites. Dongles are a way to keep honest customers honest, because they can't accidentally install the software on ten PCs when they only bought five copies.

They're mildly annoying to legitimate buyers, but far less annoying than crappy 'activation' schemes that deactivate at random and lock you out of the software you've paid for.

Re:dongle (4, Interesting)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110935)

So just write the software so that it operates in "free user" mode until it finds a dongle. That would get him out of the business of maintaining two versions of the software and destroy most of the desire to crack the software. Besides which, if the dongle calls are interspersed across multiple libraries, it'll be too much of a pain in the butt to remove them all every time he updates the software.

For extra points, build in the ability to remote disable the code based upon particular dongle numbers, have the software phone home with its particular dongle id, and when you see a remotely multiplying dongle spread across the world, just disable that dongle number and reissue a replacement to the legitimate owner.

If you're going to run a software business you need to run it like a business. This isn't hardcore antipiracy. He's just making it easy for casual pirates to play with the software without broaching the reason why people will pay $10k for it.

Re:dongle (1)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110855)

Because that's still just a form of DRM. More of a pain to the user, and a little hassle to the pirates, but still possible to circumvent using a virtual version

Re:dongle (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110953)

It's not that easy to circumvent if implemented properly. If it's just a ROM on the parallel port, sure, it's a breeze, but there are implementations today that are far from that.

I'd ask anywhere but here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110659)

I'd ask anywhere but here: a lawyer, a friend with some knowledge of the industry's standards,

Is it April Fools? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110671)

Adding DRM won't stop people from pirating it, didn't you learn anything from being a Slashdot user?

Two words: (4, Insightful)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110677)

Hardware dongle.
If your software is really worth that much, then I think it's justified.

Re:Two words: (4, Insightful)

vinehair (1937606) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110727)

And if you use it, USE IT PROPERLY, bake in the encryption into your software so it becomes fiendishly difficult to crack (it will never be impossible.)

Guilt-ware doesn't work (WinZip, mIRC, anyone?) and I would ask a lawyer before attempting any kind of data collection.

Re:Two words: (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110925)

And if you use it, USE IT PROPERLY, bake in the encryption into your software so it becomes fiendishly difficult to crack (it will never be impossible.)

You must be new to the internets. The crack will be up on pirate bay (etc etc) by the end of the week. Why waste the time and money on something guaranteed not to work?

Re:Two words: (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110739)

I think this would ultimately be your solution.

Perhaps have the software work in a crippled way without the dongle, but need the dongle to unlock the full application. That should be tougher to crack than any DRM you could come up with.

One thing that's apparent today is that corps with the pockets deep enough can't even stop their DRM from being cracked.(read MS, not even Windows 7 was able to avoid it)

Re:Two words: (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111049)

Good point. Seeing as many PCs have 8 or more USB ports now, I would take a hardware dongle over the current registration key, activation, etc MS uses for Windows now.

Re:Two words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110839)

Uh?

Obviously the checks for the hardware dongle can and will be removed.

Re:Two words: (4, Interesting)

MisterMidi (1119653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111061)

How about moving the code to save your work to the dongle? Encrypted, of course. People will be able to toy around, but to actually do something useful they'd need the dongle. You could even give away the software for free and sell the dongle. It will work as long as the encryption doesn't get cracked.

Huh huh huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110971)

You said "dongle".

Re:Two words: (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111085)

Just note that crackers have been pretty good at emulating dongles and if you want it to actually work you'll have to put custom logic on the dongle and integrate it into the software quite well, it's hardly a low cost option neither in hardware nor in software. Plus you'll annoy customers who'll inevitably lose/break dongles. I doubt it's worth it.

don't sell software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110683)

Software will always be pirated. Period. There is nothing that you can do to stop that. It's technically not possible.
Give your customers other very good reasons to pay for it, and sell support/services/consulting based on the product.

Once a program becomes good enough (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110753)

How would this work for a product that's so reliable and so easy for most end users to figure out that it doesn't need a lot of support/services/consulting?

Re:Once a program becomes good enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110847)

[citation needed]

Re:Once a program becomes good enough (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110983)

I'm not willing to search for hours for a scholarly or mainstream media source describing case stories of products that doesn't need much support after the sale just to participate in a Slashdot discussion. But as I understand it, one example of a software product that doesn't need a lot of official support/services/consulting is a single-player video game.

Re:Once a program becomes good enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39111053)

Such software won't be a commercial success.

What is your software called (0)

Goodl (518602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110687)

So I know to avoid you in future

Re:What is your software called (-1, Troll)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110869)

Don't worry. I doubt you would ever use it. It is made by a basically failing company that thinks it would be ok to charge 10k to make up for their lack of sales. I doubt it is anywhere near as good as the much less expensive (or even free) programs out there.

Re:What is your software called (4, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111105)

You obviously don't have much experience with software at the business level. The $10k usually includes support, upgrades, etc. It's not like they're charging $10,000 for a basic word processor.

Employ Kneecaps-R-Us (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110689)

You could employ Kneecaps-R-Us to persuade the pirates from pirating.

Re:Employ Kneecaps-R-Us (0)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110759)

You could employ Kneecaps-R-Us to dissuade the pirates from pirating.

FTFY.

Simple (5, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110693)

Well provide the paid version like you do now, and provide a stripped down version that has some really neat features that the pirates who would really want your software would use. There's no form of DRM that will stop anyone from taking it, none. Auth servers? Crackable. Dongles, about 8mins with a soldiering iron. Token keys, same deal, just longer. Rings, yep. And every bit of DRM that you use, will more than likely piss off your paying customer when it breaks the software.

Unique serials do work, especially if they're uniquely identified to who you're selling it to. Then you can at least go after them for copy infringement.

To the cloud! (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110819)

Doing some of the processing server-side might work for some applications but not for video editing because of the immense amounts of data that would need to be uploaded.

Re:To the cloud! (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110979)

Doing some of the processing server-side might work for some applications but not for video editing because of the immense amounts of data that would need to be uploaded.

Thats assuming you'd need to upload/download the whole works.

It would be hilarious if the app had no concept of how to create a simple .avi header each time it saved to a new file (made up example). You can't just NOP around that, and its not much bandwidth and its probably too much of a PITA for the crackers to write their own.

The only thing funnier is the support calls when your https avi header webserver is down, or when the paying $10K customer is having a momentary internet outage or firewall issue. ha ha funny.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110945)

Unless someone figures out the algorithm to generate the serial numbers, generates their own, physically steals the box from their place of work when their intership is over, etc.

Don't waste money. (4, Informative)

headkase (533448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110695)

No matter how much DRM you put on it it will always be removed. The best thing to do is concentrate on adding value for paying customers. Do an on-launch check against the serial number over the Internet. If no Internet is available up to X number of times then launch without it. This is similar to what DOOM 3 by id Software does. If the same serial number is showing up too often then ban it. Basically: you're a niche - put a little DRM on it, enough so that a normal user wouldn't notice it at all ideally but at the same time that just enough that it would need to be cracked for every version for illegitimate users.

Re:Don't waste money. (4, Insightful)

samjam (256347) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110813)

NO! I've paid for software that does these stupid online serial number checks; and I wish I'd pirated the software instead.

Big fail there, to make a paying customer WISH he had a pirated version.

Too late (4, Interesting)

Zerth (26112) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110701)

you should have posted the spyware one to thepiratebay yourselves before it got cracked. Then nobody would've bothered to crack your commercial version, assuming it is indistinguishable feature-wise.

Re:Too late (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110993)

Not mentioning the data collection anywhere would be illegal, so even if no one could link them to the TPB one they could still prove it is collecting data. And that would cost them a lot more than lost sales.

If they however did mention that it does data collection someone would sooner or later notice that and replace it with the commercial version, and then the situation would be just as it is already.

Re:Too late (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111083)

Mention the data collection in the EULA. We don't read those, right?

Re:Too late (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111155)

I did say someone would sooner or later notice that, atleast if the application was actually used by more than 10 people -- something that I actually doubt.

Re:Too late (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111035)

Being video editing software the real solution is video edited by an unauthorized unlicensed copy automatically uploads the edited video file to pirate bay.
That would scare the crap out of genuine commercial users, yet the future customers who are just experimenting or people who are experimenting and will never be customers simply won't care.

contractual approach? (2)

kentborg (12732) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111065)

$10,000 is a lot. Maybe make real but effectively no-op customizations to each legit copy so each is unique, including a banner that says whose copy it is. If it later shows up stolen you know whom to sue. Add some phone-home statistics and you know how much to sue them for. Do a little runtime checking on the visible ID banner to make hard to remove.

non-commercial commercial (5, Insightful)

symes (835608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110703)

Not for commercial use option would allow people to upskill using your product. Some of these guys may end up in the industry you sell to and in taking their skills into that industry raise your products profile. I would think that this is the easist way to become the defacto supplier of niche software. However, spying on these people might turn them away from you.

Re:non-commercial commercial (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39111103)

Thank you.

This has been my point for so long. You're not losing any money because I would not buy your software/music/movie/book if I couldn't get it for free...shitty but true.

$10K video editing? (3, Interesting)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110709)

I thought all the $10K video editing programs had gone away except a couple of holdovers from yesteryear. Use a hardware dongle and piss people off like Autodesk did. Or use an online authentication scheme that will piss off other users. Hell, for $10K, fly a lackey there to install it personally.

My point is, if someone wants to crack it, they will. The high price tag makes it more attractive.

Umm.... key only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110711)

If the software is $10K, legitimate businesses will pay for it, rather than risk committing a crime by profiting illegally.

Every protection can be cracked. Getting $10k software for free, to learn it is a huge incentive to some people. Perhaps Bill Gates had the correct view back before Vista/7 in that you achieve mindshare and market penetration from pirating. People making money from the use of your product will always pay if it is at all feasible to do so.

Throw enough DRM at it, and the companies that might pay this ridiculous price will walk, due to it wasting their valuable time on failures and support calls/crashes.

Serial number that calls home (1)

chipperdog (169552) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110721)

Have the system call home with a serial number periodically and return with an encrypted expiration date. (I would go 30-45 days to avoid issues with loss of Internet connectivity)...also log the time, date, and ip address of the registrations so you can find "shared" serial numbers that can be disbaled... Or you can open source your software and be in the services business, supporting the software, helping people install, configure, and use the software.

Re:Serial number that calls home (4, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110937)

And why would I allow a system housing my valuable, corporate pre-production video data, direct access to the internet?

Some thoughts (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110725)

Release the software as free, open-source software. Then, use the community goodwill and appreciation to feed your family and pay rent.

Alternatively, identify the client who released the software into the wild and sue them for breach of contract.

Lastly, make your software so awesome that one of the big players can buy you out before the well runs dry.

Oh, and brace for the commenters calling shenanigans. People who pirate software don't like the thought that there may be actual, real-life negative consequences for small development houses.

yoru software is too expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110735)

cut the price to 5k, give discounts to government and education institutions, charge a 10-20% of the license cost annually for "maintenance" after 90 days and release new versions frequently (4+ times/year)

at 10k you are talking executive signoff and possibly a whole vendor research process, at 3-5k its within the budget a project manager can approve or at least get approved without major paperwork

----

as for the copy protection thing it wont work but that doesn't matter, legit businesses don't pirate software. Shady ones will do without if they can't pirate. Focus on making a great product and keeping your customers happy and forget about piratebay, the people who use that version aren't your market

Re:yoru software is too expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110867)

overpriced (0)

Dave Whiteside (2055370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110743)

if you're trying to sell it for 10K a pop your over charging - try selling for $100 dollars and getting a much bigger userbase.
what makes it work 10k?
if you want to sell to a niche market then your going to have to use other methods - i.e. hardware dongle , ability to use stuff that is hosted on your servers only or other stuff that is going to cost time money and effort to achieve. YMMV

Pirated goods (2)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110745)

If I knew the commercial free version did any sort of spying I would not trust the company what-so-ever. There is a reason I am boycotting Sony.

Nickel and Dime (2)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110747)

Is there potential for offering a basic product for a nominal amount, and selling modules which improve functionality to those willing to pay?

I certainly wouldn't pay the many thousands of dollars for Photoshop, but I might pay the hundred or so for the functionality I actually needed. Bolt-ons seem to make sense when appealing to many different markets.

Re:Nickel and Dime (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110817)

And the (DRM-free) bolt-ons will appear on Pirate Bay in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

Do as you like (2, Insightful)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110749)

Your flaw is to assume those "pirating" your software are "potential customers". They are not.

DRM icon (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110755)

looked appropiate for the question. Yes, would be insane to put a spying version of your program. What ensure real users that you don't have it in the expensive version?

If someone is really a potential customer, like in would be willing to pay ~10k for your software, then support, improvements, fixes, and all the help they could get to successfully run it is a good part of the reasons they would, and that won't be in the pirate bay. It gives your software a bit of visibility, and if it lands in an operation big enough to have that kind money available to buy it, they will, and it the operation isnt big enough, then they wouldnt buy it anyway.

Possible OnLive Style Protection ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110767)

Trust Me, completely forget any kind of copy protection, it's pointless and just pisses off "proper" valued customers ..
The only sure-fire way to truly protect a piece of software like yours, is a client/server situation such as OnLive where the software runs remotely and the user simply receives an image on the screen, of His activities. OnLive is for games of course, but *maybe* other, similar solutions exist ? ..

nag or watermark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110769)

You can nag periodically or add a watermark if they have an illegal copy

Copy another successful model (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110775)

One of my favorite pieces of software is an audio editing and recording suite called "Reaper". Reaper is very cheap for personal use, and requests a reasonable sum from professionals. There's no copy protection - just a nag screen in the tradition of old school shareware. I know several people who have purchased it for their own personal use, and at least one "professional" who has as well. I think you touched on the real point here. If it's big and expensive, and people want it, then the pirates will crack it anyway. I mean look at Adobe's Photo Shop. You're absolutely correct in that you're better off writing the software than protecting against piracy.

A lock just keeps an honest man honest.

Business Model and how to offer highly desireable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110785)

If your software is highly desired, identify what people want most of all. Sell a 'dumbed down' version for next to nothing. Get people hooked. Those that want more will pay. It's always good to have a demo version but make sure to give people the option to NOT send you anonymous data. Privacy is a make or break it subject right now.

Stage your software in multiple versions. Package it into modules, or versions that make sense. Most people just want the software to cut and paste video bits together. Give them a taste at what your software can do. Release it at price ranges those who are stealing it can afford. Keep the expert features for the experts who will pay for it.

You'll be amazed at the adoption rate. When your name gets out there and is affordable by smaller studios, then you have more weight. Focus on quality, configuration and features and avoid DRM. DRM does not work. I know. There isn't anything out there that can't be cracked in under a week... so don't challenge them. Otherwise you'll face the Streisand Effect.

better solution (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110787)

if you work for a company which is considering deploying DRM, remove yourself from the gene pool; you don't deserve to live.

Logic Pro 7 key (1)

lerxstz (692089) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110789)

Use something similar to Apple's USB key for Logic Pro 7.

Whatever they used, AFAIK it was never cracked, unlike Syncrosoft.

Or I could be wrong.

Leave the modest DRM in. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110793)

There are two methods I would suggest to do - first, leave the modest DRM in and do not offer a 'free for non-commerical use' option. If your software has real value, people (students and those casually interested) will grab a copy and learn to use it. When/If they take these new skills to an employer, their employer will purchase the software. (Adobe method?)

The second is to offer a trial, but extend the length beyond 30 days. I never thought 30 days was long enough to get accustomed to using a piece of software - you want to have the user get into a routine when using your software and then yank the rug out from under them 90-180 days later. Cruel/mean, perhaps, but you're trying to sell software at $10,000 a license. That generally isn't something someone will purchase on a whim.

Stay away from the 'spying' method.

Non-Commercial Free Version (4, Insightful)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110797)

My recommendation would be to provide a not-for-commercial-use free version which is almost totally identical to the premium version. Have this version embed a digital watermark so you can identify if videos pop up commercially which haven't paid for a commercial license. Make it non-obtrusive so home users don't mind (I recommend it not being a visible logo or anything of that sort, just the digital watermark).

You're not going to be able to prevent a pirated version from cropping up except that you make the pirated version not attractive compared to the legitimate version. Those inclined to not pay for the software are not going to pay for the software. Provide it for free with the forensic ability to detect license violations. The paid version places no watermark, so you get the best quality and the legal right to use videos commercially after it's paid for.

smaller (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110803)

have tons of updates, features, reasons for they to upgrade constantly. Change the DRM constantly. Make smaller products, not large ones.

Make it require network connection (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110809)

1) keep a list of your 30 valid customers and their IP range.
2) make the program require a network connection
3) You could load portions of the program from the net, you could validate against a server, you could load key data and then remove it afterwards, you could request a validation key from the server. Best way would be for part of the calculations be on your server. So a few key routines are never present on the customers computers.
4) When the same software starts asking from a new IP range, don't support it.

All bug patches and versions of the program for new O/S and new video drives has to be the patch version.

You'd lose some customers over this policy but it would be uncrackable. You would need someone who could run servers and your programmers would have to think about the design every time.

Part of the computation on the server side... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110821)

It's as simple as that.

You MUST require always-on Internet connection for your software to be usable. It's not only ubiquitous and accepted by the paying clients nowadays but it's also a feature paying clients do *WANT* (because you can tell them, for example, when they launch their software that a new update is out).

So the first step is this : always-on Internet connection. There's is no issue here: we're living in a connected world and virtually all your users are already always connected.

Then make part of the computation your software does happen on the server side. We've got servers that we call "licensing servers" up since four years. They do more than just "verify the licence": they do actually do things that the software doesn't. So should a pirate want to crack our software, he'd have to re-implement what is done on the server (or pirate our servers directly but good luck with that ; )

Needless to say: make sufficient computation happen on the server-side and your software becomes unintersting to pirates.

Now you have to decide how much information you want to send and how much CPU you're willing to use on your servers.

It takes some work... But we haven't seen any "crack" nor any "keygen" (impossible seen that we're signing all the keys we're emitting and that our server is verifying that the key are actually signed with our key) appearing on any rogue sites.

Now of course if our users don't like the fact that there's no crack / no keygen and that they need to have an always-on Internet connection to use our $$$ software, they can GTFO and use inferior product from our (lame) competitors.

; )

Watermark the files... (5, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110861)

... and include in the license agreement that the user agrees to pay royalties of X% on gross revenues for work involving the files, but with the stipulation that you won't go after users earning less than $Y. Then offer an ability to purchase a royalty-free license for your $10k price. Big commercial users would want the royalty free license, small commercial users would want the percentage license, and non-commercial or educational users could use the program freely. Then, just watch for the watermark in videos of commercial entities that haven't paid.

Can also add in a quick reporting function, and check if the source IP is from a major studio.

Disclaimer: I am not your lawyer, this is not legal advice, but is simply for my own amusement and should not be relied upon.

when you find a business pirating your software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110865)

Especially one that is reselling, sue them.

If your customers stop renewing their support contracts/licenses, make them pay up to current before you support them again.

Other than that, you are just shooting yourself in the foot.

BTW: Years ago I work for a company that sold software starting at about $20K/license in early 90s money. We followed the two rules above and had a very nice payday when we found that one of our resellers had licensed 10 copies and delivered an unknown number. We made a convincing enough argument, based on information from discovery, that the number was about 1000 and walked away with several years revenue even after the lawyers took their cut. This was all business-to-business stuff, not going after end users.

Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110871)

Well, to be frank, you chose your own business model. If your entire company is based on thepiratebay not existing, and you are only now thinking about it. Im not sure you can be saved!

Watermarking instead? (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110875)

Would it be insane to release a 'not for commercial use' copy that does some spying and reporting on you, along with a spy-free version for ~$10,000?

Watermarked as non-commercial use only? Hilarious if you run your water mark detector on a TV show or movie and it shows up and you start blogging about the pirates.

Another good laugh would be bait and switch the free version has 75% of the features removed at compile time. You can left align or right align all you want but if you want to center its $10K. Or you could use any font you want for $10K but for free its only possible to use... comic sans.

Another good laugh would be speed. Intentional slow down loops in the free version. While evaluating your software for possible purchase do I care if everything happens 20% slower? Heck no. But if I'm a bean counter at corporate, I'd be insane to reduce my employees productivity by 20% just to save $10K Unless said employee using the software for 2 years earned less than $25K/yr, which is probably the case outside the US...

The problem you're going to have is "free or $10K" is an absolutely insane market. It better be unimaginably amazing to be worth $10K in a world of 99 cent apps and $100 video editors. Rather than the revenue from 100 sales at 10K each, wouldn't you prefer a million app store sales at $20 each?

Would I download your software for free at home if its legal? Maybe. Why not a license of pure profit where any CC released work is a $10 software license with no support. The cost to you is minimal and you get "free" revenue. Or a license where its gotta be CC licensed work with a link to your company in the comments or credits screen or something, basically they pay you, to market for you. Or "please support us by purchasing an anonymous coward XXL tee shirt along with a software license for CC released works for only $50" Or the software is free for CC editing work, but the fine manual in printed and pdf form is only available for $50 along with a formal written license for CC-released work.

Do a different copy protection in every version (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110877)

Any copy protection will be broken. It always has, always will. The only thing you can do is to make it a pain for the people that try to crack your software. Completely changing your copy protection every release you build seems to be the only way around that. I used to work for a company that had a similar problem as yours (they were legally required by the copyright holder of their material to do DRM and the contract specified some pretty strict guidelines and penalties). It was all Java code, so they created a library of functions - some doing checksums, others doing online serial number queries, and so forth. Each copy protection class had a frequency and weight to it - how often should it be called and how resource intense is that check. Then there was a piece of code that would use that information and insert calls to the copy protection code fairly randomly in the code. Would change class names and packages and such too to make the copy protection code harder to spot. Then run it all through the profiler, measure the overhead when going through the junit tests and then verify that not too much overhead was introduced...

Yeah, overall a mess and a lot of effort, but it did work. Each version required so much effort from the cracker that only one version of the sw was ever cracked. Also, the developer that was hired purely for that purpose was simply cheaper than the penalties for violating the copyright owner's content restrictions...

Where to focus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110881)

Your worry isn't the small guys, which can't afford your product anyways but the businesses that have need for your product. Pirating then only becomes an issue in the fact that it allows businesses (specifically smaller ones which don't care about "out of sight" software, or larger ones which don't keep tract of employee installations) to pirate your software.

Your goal basically becomes, how do you
A) Make it more costly/harder for businesses to use your software without a license
B) Find those who take the risks anyways

As you said, a free noncommercial version is definitely the way to go in this case. Put in safe guards not to block usage but to identify usage so you have an easier time finding and proving companies who don't follow this non-commercial license. Also, be sure to put in bold letters on something like a startup splashscreen in the non-commercial product that it's non-commercial with easy links to buy the commercial. Sometimes, a boss really doesn't know what's going on in terms of software and it's license as he leaves it to the IT guy which may or may not be scrupulous especially within smaller business.

Simple Copy Protection (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110885)

Making sure you get paid is important, but spying on your customers is not legal, regardless of your intentions. Remember Sony's rootkit and the fiasco that caused? You just don't want to go there. I'm a CISSP and am well versed in this area.

That said, you still need to make sure you get paid for what you do. PC software history has shown that the harder you make it for customers to copy your software, the harder people will work to break it, because you are taking away "reasonable use" rights, an action that many find morally objectionable. That doesn't mean you shouldn't implement a licensing scheme, but understand that how you do it and how you enforce it is very important. You want to make it controllable without taking away rights or making updating/moving your software difficult. Simple measures are effective. Anyone who has the expertise and time to attach a debugger is going to break your protection, period. So don't bother with those people. The two simplest and most effective measures are:
1. License key
2. Unique identifier or dongle

For expensive apps with a small number of customers, most companies choose a dongle because it doesn't annoy customers, no install/update or machine move issues, etc. Your only hole there is that customers can have it installed on multiple machines, but not running simultaneously. Normally, this is perfectly acceptable and falls within what customers want anyone. If you need to control that, you combine a dongle with a machine-specific key identifier or just use that. But if you do this, you have to support people moving licenses from broken machines to new machines. You can use the Windows Activation mechanism to do this - they have an SDK for it and it is used in many programs. A simple license key is sufficient for a $10,000 app, though.

solved years ago... (4, Funny)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110893)

after 10 min just pop up a random passage from the user manual and make the user find the correct page. the longer the manual, the more effective this is. alternatively, devise a strange set of symbols and provide the user with a high tech spinning paper wheel so they can "decode". this isn't rocket science here ; )

For profit, not for profit version (1)

minio (1640735) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110903)

I think you should simply release free version for non profit use (no strings attached, no support) and paid one for for profit use (with support). Take bug reports and suggestions from both, but prioritize those from paying customers. Sue those who use free version for making profit.

FlexLM... (2)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110909)

Use FlexLM (license server tied to a hardware address - defeatable, but annoying) like the the majority of other vendors. Also, try to remember that you're company is in it's infancy. The more publicity and use your product gets the better. Better to lock it down after more people use it than before.

Re:FlexLM... (1)

Elbows (208758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111095)

Or even better, use RLM. Same basic idea as FlexLM (and written by the same guys, I believe), except with some of the most egregious annoyances fixed. And their pricing is a lot more reasonable.

Some thoughts (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110913)

Don't worry about the "non-potential customers" that are using it, since I assume you mean they are not producing commercial video form it.

If their are legitimate educational institutions using it, offer to work out a licensing deal. They get levi copes and you get a broader user base. if it's a non-profit that truly can't afford it but is using it, consider the benefits of a donation in terms of good-will and publicity. Turn these into win-wins.

For those that you can prove are using your product to produce commercial video, go after them. They have no more right to pirate your software than someone has to pirate what they produce from it. Their customers may think twice about using them if they get embroiled in a lawsuit. Some of course, will be essentially unusable - follow your lawyers advice and pick battles that, if you win, will pay off.

Finally, consider a light version that has some features but really isn't strong enough to be used for professional work. For your pro product, consider a dongle but asses it's impact on your paying customers - will it make your software a PITA to use and chase them away?

Hardware Key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110921)

My company sells $5000 medical software and we use hardware keys from http://www.safenet-inc.com/ . I'm not sure how much development is required to get it working in your software, and the cat might already be out of the bag if its on TPB, but you can consider it for the next version.

Yes (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110947)

Spyware sucks, look if "they" want to crack it it isn't going to make much difference what scheme you use including spyware.

don't bother (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110959)

Seriously. You'll only annoy the people that pay.

The hardware dongle might help for a while, but I'm willing to bet even that doesn't work for very long. make your extra money on support. Make sure the software is so customized to a single business (hey, $10k) that it wouldn't do anyone else any good, or would be so obvious they wouldn't try. If the software isn't custom and would potentially be useful to people who can't (or wont') pay, then your copy protection won't work. Doesn't really matter what you pick. Paying customers will pay either way, don't punish them.

I think it depends on the s/w (1)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110961)

If you're releasing a fairly specialized toolset, which I imagine you are for $10k, you might want to look at how people like AutoDesk handle things like that. They USED to provide semi-feature-limited versions for the self starter.. otherwise they worked great. (GMax and Maya's Personal Learning Edition).

Alternatively, you could go the UDK (and Crysis, and whomever else now) route of just saying 'have it.. merry xmas.. free for personal use.. but if we catch you using it commercially (or for a certain value of commercial), we'll find you.. you need to license it'..

The advantage of both is you're creating a brand-name awareness and educated user base, which is good for the long-term outlook of your product.. but it might be hard to justify or pay the bills in the short-term to your business people.. As others have said, you might be able to shift into a Support-for-dollars-only model as well.

Add watermark (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110963)

Rather than add spyware or tougher DRM software, just put some sort of watermark in the files generated by the product. Then when video turns up in the market that has that watermark, and the enclosed serial number isn't registered to the proper license holder, you can SUE SUE SUE. Registered owners, of course, don't care about the watermark, it's just some random looking string that marks their production as LEGAL.

You've come to the right place (5, Insightful)

ZahrGnosis (66741) | more than 2 years ago | (#39110989)

Well, you certainly won't find a shortage of opinions on Slashdot. :-)

If you think the software is good enough, then a non-commercial version with limited registration information (e-mail, name), and some very privacy-thoughtful reporting (maybe to ensure that the registered serial numbers are only being used by one machine at a time), should only be a good thing. Getting your software into the hands of the people that might buy it will get them used to it, relying on it, and eventually make them customers. But (as others here have posted), don't abuse the "spying"... if you start to make money by pilfering the free registrations for ancillary information you're just going to annoy your users and they'll be more apt to pirate the software or use fake registration information. Giving them something in return, like forum access for very limited support, is helpful.

Other possible models include giving the software for free and asking payment for support -- nearly all profitable Open Source companies do this, and even if you leave the source closed the business model isn't terribly different. You could publish a "crippleware" version, which I find rather annoying, unless the limits are such that the home and non-commercial users needs are really satisfied, and the only people that need to pay $10k for the software are those to whom it's worth it. I give a nice shout out to Andrea Mosaic [andreaplanet.com] for doing this correctly (at a lower price point).

Lastly an option you may have missed may be to ignore it because it isn't a problem. A pirated version by a customer that wouldn't have paid anyway probably doesn't hurt you. A pirated version by a customer that would have paid may actually turn into a sale if they need assistance. When you upgrade, if the pirates liked it, they'll want the next version, so they may buy. It may be pirated by employees or students who years later may remember it and decide to buy it. You never can tell.

In those cases, you're getting your software out there and used; you could take an "all exposure is good exposure" attitude. The fact that you didn't list the name of your software in the original post here means that you may not think that way, or you may outright disagree.

Still, piracy is going to happen. At least you're asking the right questions. Don't let yourself get dragged into a fight with the anonymous masses on the internet, though -- you'll probably lose.

not everybody is connected to internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39110995)

Because of all the hacking many people now have network not connected to internet and an internet connected one. So before to have a solution that phone home look at your customer. We avoid some software because of that. For some software we have to develop bogus autoupdate or login feature on the internet connected network while the inside network has the real installation

Don't waste your time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39111013)

Since you're small you have the benefit of very little interest in cracking your licensing system if it's sufficiently complex. However think about how much Adobe and Microsoft spend on preventing pirating of their software and think about how well it works. None of the people pirating your software are potential customers, you need to get that idea out of your head. They're pirating because they can't afford your asking price.

The most effective method I've seen is to simply scare the users into thinking that they're about to be caught. If the same key is being used in more than one installation, notify the user that they're being tracked.

$10,000 for video editing software? (3, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111019)

WTF does it do?

Apple has Final Cut for the prosumer and wannabe pro
Avid is the pro software market
people like me use imovie or adobe something which is like $100 and includes the adobe version of iphoto whatever the name is

video editing software is a mature market. unless you are making some cool plug in or your software does something really cool that the big boys don't do you are screwed

Don't Punish Legitimate Users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39111031)

I worked for a software company that faced a similar problem.

We eventually issued a new product release with a "soft" license key that displayed the customer name prominently on the application background but didn't block unlicensed users.

We figured it was better to do this - and maybe shame a few potential customers into eventually buying - than to inconvenience users with dongles or other disruptive protection schemes.

A couple of years later a disgruntled employee at a Fortune 50 company ratted out his employer for using the warez version of our product, and our little company won millions in the resulting lawsuit.

It's a bit too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39111097)

Unless you're going to add several important new features, it's a bit too late. For a $10k software you should have a very strong copy protection. Dongles come to mind, but you need to add lots of custom stuff. If you use any commercial protection product as-is it will get cracked anyway.
So, IMHO what you should do now is:
1) Hire someone who knows about copy protection because you're obviously clueless and are going to have your software cracked every time and wonder why the very expensive XYZ software package didn't protect you adequately (or, if you're not very popular, maybe you can get away with that for some time). Read this article for some insight on real copy protection: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3030/keeping_the_pirates_at_bay.php
2) Implement some exciting new features, make the software look different. It's all about making people believe it's a MAJOR update, it doesn't have to be, objectively, that much of an improvement. Release this only after you have adequate copy protection, you're now on the crackers' radar and you can count on them trying to crack every new version.

Balance things out (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111107)

Simply suing everyone who casually pirates your software is only going to turn the public against you and worst of all it could succeed by getting people to stop using your software and to use a competitors instead. I can't think of a single successful case of companies suing the public for pirating their IP and coming out ahead in the long run.

Instead make your software free for non-commercial use. Students and the curious / casual user can safely use the software without worry. After a few years of using the software they will insist on having it when they make the transition to professionals. It's like Microsoft Office, people use it because it is what they are used to.

Meanwhile if there is someone using the software commercially without paying, that is when you get the lawyers involved.

make a non-commercial use - option with no support (1)

unami (1042872) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111111)

btw., what video editing software are we talking about? and why does it cost 10.000$ when you can get final cut pro for €249 (inkl davinci resolve lite for free)

Don't Fret (2)

savanik (1090193) | more than 2 years ago | (#39111145)

The only DRM you need is: Make sure that your users have a valid serial number before you start providing support for the product.

You're trying to compete with 'free'. The solution is to make the version you're selling for $10,000 worth that much. Add more features, innovate, and provide support to the users who have paid you.

Also, most of the people yanking your software off of the Pirate Bay are not your customers now - they either can't afford it, or they're not even sure if your software will meet your needs. In the future, they might have that same need AND the money to pay you, and at that point they'll know your name.

10K? For that price a computer could go for free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39111161)

Not joking, in a 10 000$ software a computer worth 100$ (arm) to 350$(atom) could be shipped to the customer (because is a small fraction of the software cost), that computer could go preloaded with a network licence server and manage the software installs/updates, I have worked with solidworks and autodesk network licences and that thing work (both flexlm based, don't know if is easy to crack).

Instead of install media ship a computer to the client.

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