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Ask Slashdot: What Is a Reasonable Way To Deter Piracy?

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the go-to-their-house-and-verify-them-personally dept.

DRM 687

An anonymous reader writes "I'm an indie developer about to release a small ($5 — $10 range) utility for graphic designers. I'd like to employ at least a basic deterrent to pirates, but with the recent SimCity disaster, I'm wondering: what is a reasonable way to deter piracy without ruining things for legitimate users? A simple serial number? Online activation? Encrypted binaries? Please share your thoughts."

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life-long updates (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228593)

You could choose to provide life-long updates for those that buy the tool. At least that made me pay for several programs.

Re:life-long updates (4, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228675)

Hear hear. You get vastly more with the carrot than an easily-circumvented stick.

Re:life-long updates (3, Insightful)

MagPulse (316) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228807)

Along these lines, make the program available in an App Store [apple.com] . This makes it easier for paying customers. It's tiring when I want to buy a program to have to do some background research on payment processors to see if a developer chose one that is trustworthy. But Apple already has my credit info, buying is easy and safe.

Re:life-long updates (0, Flamebait)

zidium (2550286) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228823)

Paranoid much???

Re:life-long updates (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228795)

But anyone that would pirate it would just pirate the latest version anyway.

Re:life-long updates (4, Insightful)

mrmeval (662166) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228819)

Whose life? ;)

I can't see someone supporting a game for more than a year or so unless they have a revenue stream from downloadable content.

An OS I can see security updates being a requirement for a decade.

Some software packages dealing with finance will most likely need update and I don't expect those to be free.

The simplest mentioned is check the serial on a new install which I won't fuss with bypassing. Let me play it without the serial with either level or time restriction for a game. Let me do enough with other programs to get an idea how they work.

And as always, Don't Suck.

Re:life-long updates (1, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43229011)

Or even better, kickstart it and front load your profits. After that just live with piracy.

Sigh (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228595)

If you need DRM, you are ALREADY DOING IT WRONG!

Re:Sigh (3)

longk (2637033) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228645)

Enlighten us. How should this indie developer release his $5 app the right way?

Don't try to deter piracy (4, Insightful)

Kethinov (636034) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228765)

Trying to deter piracy with DRM is a losing battle. If people don't want to pay you, they won't pay. The trick is to get them to want to pay you.

The first step is to learn the art of asking: http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html [ted.com]

Ask for money, don't demand it. Let them pay you whatever they think is reasonable, but communicate how much you want ($5 in this case) as a default.

And for all those freeloaders who decide not to pay you, and there will be plenty, show them some ads to recoup the cost. Better they see your ads than piratebay's.

Re:Don't try to deter piracy (0)

zidium (2550286) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228925)

This is why android os-wide adblockers are a *Very Bad Thing*.

Re:Don't try to deter piracy (3, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228981)

That might have been true before advertisers put themselves on the same operating level as malware.

Might have been, but I doubt it.

Professional Piracy: 3rd-Party, Paid Obfuscator (5, Interesting)

Neuroelectronic (643221) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228601)

The biggest thing you should worry about is not customers ripping off your product, but shovelware firms rebadging your product and stealing your market with their superior ability to reach the customer.

Sue (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228607)

Sue them off the face of the earth. Take their cars. Take their houses. Nip it right now at the beginning!

Serial and calling home (3, Insightful)

longk (2637033) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228613)

Serial number. "Call home" only on new install to check the serial.

Re:Serial and calling home (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228901)

I don't use software that needs to call home.

If I download trialware or shareware and it fails because it needs to "phone home" then it gets uninstalled the very next click.

I buy the software and where I install/run it is none of your business.

Re:Serial and calling home (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228915)

This, but I don't think it would be unreasonable to institute a check when installing updates as well (keywords: When Installing Updates. Not every time it checks for an update and finds nothing). This ensures your paying customers are the ones getting updates.

Re:Serial and calling home (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228957)

Sure the pirates will get the updates some way or another, but at least they won't be using your bandwidth/servers to do so.

Re:Serial and calling home (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43229037)

And make it completely transparent. Inform the user their serial number will be validated online when installing the first time. Inform them their serial number will be validated when performing the installation of an update. Don't try to hide it, you customers will appreciate the up-frontness of it.

Re:Serial and calling home (4, Interesting)

greenfruitsalad (2008354) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228999)

I find the kind of drm Packtpub do with their ebooks more acceptable. i.e.: make sure the application displays the buyer's name and address somewhere at all times. That way, the users themselves will protect the application from getting into the wrong hands. And if it gets onto the internets, you know who leaked it.

I do understand this means more work for you (recompile a part of your app for every single customer) but it is also a lot less trouble for the user (not having to mess around with registrations, serials, etc).

No point asking here (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228615)

One side wants information to be free, the otherside wants market forcesto prevail. Eitherway you lose as the price will be $0

Human nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228621)

It doesn't matter, because in the end it is human nature to take the product of others' labors without compensating them . . . .

Don't even try (4, Insightful)

leromarinvit (1462031) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228627)

Just don't. The people who want to pirate will, no matter what you do. Any DRM would only inconvenience legitimate customers. Just make it easy to buy your software for people who want to do so, and provide something worthwhile for the money (e.g. answer support questions, respond to bug reports, etc.)

Re:Don't even try (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228789)

I disagree with you, you should at least have a soft protection to prevent the average Joe from emailing the program to his BFF which just has to run the exe after.

Re:Don't even try (1)

longk (2637033) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228945)

Exactly. This is much like putting a lock on your bike. Most locks are cut quite easily, yet not having a lock in a world of mostly locked bikes puts you at considerable higher risk than applying even the most simple lock.

Re:Don't even try (4, Interesting)

pclminion (145572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228955)

Any DRM would only inconvenience legitimate customers.

As a customer who won't buy DRM-protected stuff, I don't consider the simple act of entering a license key to be DRM... What do you think? As long as the validation of the key happens locally, I don't mind doing this. In a way, it makes the purchase feel a bit more personalized.

Yeah, I know the license validation can be hacked around. That's not the point, it's kind of like signing your signature to something. I can forge someone else's signature, but I know I'm being dishonest if I do that.

Advice from a service technician (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228629)

Whatever you do, man, make it easy for people doing reinstalls to preserve the install key. A lot of times we redo a computer for a customer and we can't put back some software because there's no way to get the key. Something like an online system where you enter your e-mail address or something to re-register could be nice in those cases, assuming the worst case that whatever stored the registration was deleted.

Don't require online connectivity to run once registered though, that's just asking for trouble.

No need to go overboard (4, Insightful)

mattventura (1408229) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228631)

You can divide people into 3 categories: those that WILL buy it, even if they could pirate it, those that might pirate it or might buy it, and those that will not use it at all if they can't pirate it. The second group of people is going to be the only ones that you might convert from pirates to customers by imposing DRM and that group might be quite small. Don't screw over the first group with overintrusive DRM.

Re:No need to go overboard (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228879)

You can divide people into 3 categories: those that WILL buy it, even if they could pirate it, those that might pirate it or might buy it, and those that will not use it at all if they can't pirate it. The second group of people is going to be the only ones that you might convert from pirates to customers by imposing DRM and that group might be quite small. Don't screw over the first group with overintrusive DRM.

I hate to risk the troll for pointing out the obvious but the reason there are groups two and three is because they can pirate and these days group two is the largest just based on web posts so by doing nothing you risk part of group two becoming group three. This is from some one whose life is made a living hell by DRM, I buy pro software and the DRM is pretty draconian. I miss the old days when everything was pretty wide open but back then less than 1% pirated. The music industry is the poster child for what can happen. Sadly attitudes have changed so much there's no going back. It's a cold war between content creators and pirates and the rest suffer.

Random internal activation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228633)

Activate on install and random behind the scenes renewal with no penalty if the server couldn't be found. No user notice. Have the software just report install code to you randomly every 6 months and see what percentage has been pirating your version 1. Go from there. You may need more or less.

This way no one is hurt if it doesn't connect again and you get some usage data on serial number duplicates. No other data should be sent.

Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228643)

People who want to pirate it will find a way, just price it right, offer support and don't be a dick. As a bonus you get to advertise it as DRM free.

Not possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228647)

Short of having some of your application run "on the cloud" like SimCity or Diablo III, your application will be cracked and distributed in 48 hours *if* it is worth pirating. Feel free to head on down to the pirate bay for proof of this.

Don't (5, Insightful)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228657)

Seriously. Don't. If your program is any good, people will pirate it. Actually even if your program is terrible people will pirate it, just because they can. And they can, no matter what steps you take. However people are vastly more likely to give money to a indie developer. Pirates can be classified people that are either compulsive/hoarder pirates and wouldn't pay for it anyhow, genuinely need your program but cannot afford it, and people that will pay for it after a "trial run" when the realize you are an indie developer and your program is reasonably priced.

Re:Don't (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228907)

Most pirates are casual pirates that wouldn't put much effort into it.

Some are determined, and you can't stop. But to say all are that way is ignorant of the pirate ecosystem.

Re:Don't (2)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228983)

Most pirates are casual pirates that wouldn't put much effort into it.

Some are determined, and you can't stop. But to say all are that way is ignorant of the pirate ecosystem.

True, but thanks to the miracle of software, it only takes one person to crack the DRM. Then everyone just follows suit. Most people couldn't figure out how to break DeCSS on their own, but it's pretty easy to use a DVD ripping program.

Sell services (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228659)

Sell things related to the product, like your expertise in using it.

Give people the opportunity to feel good about giving you money. Software is considered free, culturally. But premium extras make people feel affluent.

You should be so lucky (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228663)

If your software actually gets pirated that means people like it enough to want it and need it to bother to pirate it. You should be so lucky to write a piece of software that is that popular. Quit flattering yourself.

One-time online activation. (4, Interesting)

kimgkimg (957949) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228673)

One-time online activation seems to work pretty well and as an end-user I find this the least objectionable. Issue a unique code to the user and have them enter that into an online form and give them an activation code. Make sure the user can find this unique code/activation again if at some point in time they need to reinstall the product and limit the number of re-installs allowed to some reasonable number.

KISS (4, Insightful)

niado (1650369) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228681)

The simpler the better. My philosophy on this is that anyone with a moderate amount of determination will pirate your software. This is unlikely to heavily impact your bottom line, and (especially from an indie standpoint) you might not be able to afford the time, energy, and money required to implement a draconian DRM method anyway. Just use serial numbers or something equally mundane and then don't worry about anything beyond that, because you literally can't prevent determined piracy.

Re:KISS (3, Interesting)

Chuckstar (799005) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228821)

I agree. Have just enough a hurdle that the honest-but-lazy user doesn't just keep saying to himself "I'll just pay for it later".

Full disclosure: I've been that honest-but-lazy guy who kept meaning to pay for shareware and then never got around to it (even though I really meant to and wasn't really trying to avoid it).

Grapeshot as they board? (4, Interesting)

BenJeremy (181303) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228697)

Shiver their timbers.

Seriously though... you will get a variety of answers here on Slashdot, ranging from "open source it and give it all away" to "put in ads and give it away". Charging for things seems to be a sin to some slashdotters.

I think a CD key, for PC games, strikes a reasonable balance, so long as you have some traceability (online activation is nice). Have you considered Steamworks? You'd have a distribution platform (though it wouldn't limit where you could sell it), and a proven, relatively non-intrusive DRM strategy.

Of course, Steamworks games get cracked, but you can never really stop determined crackers or pirates. All you want to do is encourage legit buyers to remain legit buyers. Steam is a pretty decent ecosystem for developers and gamers.

Develop an awesome product (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228699)

And people will buy and respect you. :)

Think of your paying customers foremost (5, Insightful)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228703)

You have seemingly already decided that you're going to implement DRM, so the next question you should ask yourself is: "How much am I willing to inconvenience my paying customers?" Also in similar vein is the question: "How much time am I willing to spend on a protection scheme that will be circumvented anyways?" The problem with DRM is that it doesn't stop dedicated people at all, it merely stops the "let me borrow the CD and I'll install it, too" - crowd, nothing else, and therefore it's waste of both your and your customers' resources to use much time or effort on it.

A simple install-time-only online activation is probably the best of both worlds as long as you can ensure that your activation servers are always accessible. Anything else is just a losing game.

Charging too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228705)

If it is easier to pirate than to spend the $5 - $10, you are charging too much.

Price it reasonably (5, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228719)

That's probably the easiest way to deter piracy: price it reasonably for it's job. Most people would rather get it legitimately than pirate it. Make it easy to download without going to shady download sites like CNet (I say shady because there's no way of telling where what they're hosting came from or who put it there, and I do not trust software where I can't trace it's provenance). Hosting downloads from your own domain will help, and leads into the next item: mark each copy you sell. Encode a serial number and buyer identity into each copy, making each one unique to the buyer. Make it clear when they buy that the copy's been stamped with their identity, and do the same on the initial splash screen if any and in the About dialog. This won't be seen by most people as anything particularly objectionable in itself, at the same time it'll make them skittish about just handing it out willy-nilly knowing that if someone they give it to uploads it to a torrent site or something it'll be them clearly identified as the source. It won't stop the hard-code pirates, but then very little will. It won't stop people from installing an extra copy for family. But it should be enough to convince the majority of people to tell their friends to just shell out the $15 for their own copy.

Re:Price it reasonably (3, Interesting)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228909)

Of everything I've read, I thnk yours is the most reasonable idea. Just stamp it with the identity of who you sold it to. Brilliant.

"This copy licensed to....".

It's easily defeated, but as people said, someone determined will defeat anything you come up with.

Since I don't have mod points, this is what you get!

--PM

Ignore it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228721)

The best way to combat piracy is to ignore it.

If you can't make any money while ignoring piracy, then you are doing something else wrong.

why bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228725)

You could take the Microsoft approach. Don't worry about piracy, and let the unauthorized user crowd ramp up your user base, and therefore your usefulness.

Ask yourself why Wordperfect, which was the standard, got blown out by the vastly inferior Word?

Re:why bother (1)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228893)

You could take the Microsoft approach. Don't worry about piracy, and let the unauthorized user crowd ramp up your user base, and therefore your usefulness.

That's certainly one approach; but I wouldn't advise it.

Ask yourself why Wordperfect, which was the standard, got blown out by the vastly inferior Word?

there's an anti-trust case against Microsoft on that - related to misbehavior of Microsoft during the release of Windows '95. It had little to nothing to do with piracy, and nearly everything with Microsoft crippling the ability of Novell (or their predecessor) to timely release a compatible version of Word Perfect for Windows '95.

Walled gardens (1)

BLToday (1777712) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228727)

You may not like it but it works for a lot of things. It's just annoying enough to deter most casual pirates. For most people, walled gardens provide a safe and simple installation process for little utilities. And given the fact that you're a small developer it may help your exposure since most of the desktop walled gardens (Windows Store, and Mac OS Store) aren't overflowing with applications. Given your price range it's going to be very hard to justify marketing cost on your own.

! deterrent (3, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228733)

Deterrent is the wrong goal. Give up on the folks who choose to steal it. They aren't worth your time or concern. Worry about making it both easy and encouraging for the folks who are inclined to pay you to do so.

Re:! deterrent (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228859)

The barrier of entry is an important factor with many things, piracy included.

Don't do it.. ask for payment... ask for donations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228737)

If it is a small useful utility make sure people have an extremely easy means of making a financial contribution to you. GUILT them into it. Don't force them. Then if you can tie it into something else shoot for that. GNU/Linux distribution? Tie it into GNU/Linux friendly hardware. What physical goods does your target audience need? Partner with those companies and take a percentage of the profits.

Treat the users as intelligent people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228739)

I know it sounds unbelievably crazy, but how about this:

Give away one version for free, missing some pro feature like exporting to standard format, but otherwise fully functional. Make it very clear that you spent time and effort making this, and it's only $10, and strongly encourage people to support it if they find the product useful.

Try to make yourself look smart and respectable and sell the real version through a simple process, maybe through something like a user/password database, but not necessarily serial numbers.

People will steal it, sure, but they're not going to be your core customers anyway. Its their bad karma, and the people who steal $10 applications from indie developers are just scummy immature douchebags anyway and wouldn't give you money even it you were asking for $0.01.

Furthermore, if you have any kind of forum for support and simple questions, ensure that you have a way of identifying paying customers.

Up your price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228749)

Charge 3-5x more and don't worry about it (these graphic designers are getting paid, right? Not hobbyists?). Alternatively - Make it a webapp so they have to pay you to have access.

Fair pricing is the best deterrent (1)

radiotalent (546684) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228753)

You're already on track to the best solution. Charging $5-10 for an a useful application (which seems pretty fair to me depending on what it does) is a great deterrent. As others have said, there are those that would pirate it if it were 25 cents, those that would buy it at 100x it's list price (or not use it) and those in the middle who will pirate when the price to value ratio is out of skew or the price point is simply too high for their budgets.

Don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228759)

Don't waste your time. Just do some simple check (e.g. a registry key) and remind the user on the splash or main screen that your game is not freeware and make it very easy to buy/register it or donate.

Give value for money (1)

Calibax (151875) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228761)

Assuming you have a good product, the best way to deter pirates is to set a reasonable price so that people feel they are getting value for their money. The lower the price, the less people will want or need to evade the cost. There are studies showing the price points where you tend to meet increasing resistence, although I don't think they have much data on the sub-$10 field.

Having a free trial period with limited time or limited features would probably help to ensure people can feel good about spending their money.
Offering support would help also.
Free updates would also be a plus.

Any sort of serious DRM will turn people off for low cost products, but some sort of protection (serial number tied to user name?) will be necessary if you offer a free trial.

Make people want to pay for your product, (2)

aussersterne (212916) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228769)

then ask them to do it.

Many will, if it's valuable to them. Those that won't likely wouldn't have done so anyway.

There was a recent TED talk, "The Art of Asking," that made an argument along similar lines, though it was more concerned with digital music.

I pay for stuff I like if I feel that the price is fair. Most others are the same way.

Re:Make people want to pay for your product, (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228845)

But most poeple are a horrible gauge of what is fair.

Don't be hostile to people (1)

michael_rendier (2601249) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228771)

as long as the bottom line matters more to the company than the people, you're not going to get an argument focused on keeping customers, rather litigating additional revenue. treat your potential customers better, you'll generate repeat business and customer base to comfortably provide for everyone, everything AND the bottom line. You loose your customer base to a certain point, and then you have to resort to the new 'fee schedules', 'litigation revenue' etc. which will only serve to push more people away.

F/OSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228777)

Give the software for free and charge for support. It's a proven model that allows plenty of folks to make a living.

Price accordingly (1)

Kimomaru (2579489) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228785)

A lot of games released on consoles today are priced 60 dollars on day one, deritive titles with stale formulas - the kinds that force publishers to shut down. Often these games find a second life during a Steam sale. Figure out what your pruduct should cost after seeing people's reaction to it. If people think it's a fair price, they'll be much less likely to bother prirating and just just click the paypal button instead.

Provide something people will pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228797)

If your having problems with people paying then you screwed up trying to charge for something people don't want to pay for. If you make something worthwhile that people will use then you should expect to see people pay you because you did a good job.

5$-10$ for how many bytes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228799)

Do whatever you want, there is no threshold for what is 'reasonable' once you're already committed to using a per-copy business model. The labor you would put into development is what has value, copying information is virtually free but that is what you're associating with a cost. There might still be plenty of people willing to give you 5 or 10 bucks to copy information but no matter what you do the people who feel bitter about it will pirate or ignore your implementation.

Online Kill Switch (1)

Tom Rothamel (16) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228805)

An idea I had was to try to figure out a way to make pirating difficult enough that people would prefer to purchase the real version. I'd also like a way to do this that doesn't overly inconvenience legit users - and allows them to continue using the program even if the entity that created it in the first place went out of business. Note that I haven't actually tried this method in practice - it's at the idea stage right now.

The idea is that each download comes with some sort of keyfile that lets it run. When started, it contacts the server and asks for permission to run. If the server denys permission, the program deletes the keyfile, and refuses to run in the future. If it can't contact the server due to network problems, it waits several minutes and then runs. Otherwise, it runs normally.

The developer would then monitor places that may host pirated versions of the software. When he or she sees a pirated key, he adds it to a server-based block list. This causes the top of the google rankings to fill with broken versions of the software - making it increasingly more difficult to find an illegitimate copy - and hopefully pushing people to buy the legit version.

On the other hand, if the creator of the software stops monitoring for pirated copies, then those copies continue to work. This is, I think, a good property - it allows the software to become abandonware once the creator is no longer interested in making money from it. What's more, this method gives legitimate users the ability to run the software they paid for indefinitely.

Re:Online Kill Switch (0)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228875)

If the server denys permission, the program deletes the keyfile, and refuses to run in the future.

A better approach would be to delete random files from the user's computer.

Make it incredibly easy to receive payment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228813)

Honestly, in the $5-$10 range, it is probably more hassle to implement any anti-piracy scheme than what it's worth. If you have a product that is worth $10, people are probably more than willing to pay such a small amount just to avoid potential viruses.

But several companies shoot themselves in the foot by making it incredibly difficult to take the damn money.

Any pirates weren't going to pay anyway.

There's not (0)

blarkon (1712194) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228817)

Piracy is socially normalized. It didn't matter when a small number of people did it back in the 90's, but since then we've had a generation who have grown up without there being any consequences for "not paying". Google "Piracy Rate 1 dollar Android Apps" to see that even when people have a simple easy way to pay a small amount, they'll go out of their way to acquire the software for free.

Don't under estimate shaming (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228833)

I worked on a tool to be used by consultants. These people have very sticky fingers. Are issue was how to we prevent consultants taking the software to another firm?

We compiled a build for each customer with there logo inserted into various places. So when you run a report, no matter what there user entered, the embedded logo would appear on the reports.
Going to another accounting firm, and then generating reports for your boss with your previous companies logo on it tend to get you frowned upon.

Market Study (2)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228837)

Honestly, the best thing to do is look at your business plan and determine the best price - the one that yields the maximum sales for you in the market you are trying to target and the minimum piracy that you are comfortable with. Just realize that piracy will be non-zero as people who want to pirate will no matter what you do - no matter how much or how little you charge. So find the price point that maximizes your potential in the market you are aiming to sell into and don't worry about the rest.

Unfortunately, you need to do a market study to determine that price - so as always you have to spend money to make (more) money. You may be surprised that what you thought was only a $5-$10 app may be a $50 app; OTOH, it could turn out to be a $1 app too.

Things to remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228839)

There are a lot of different options available but I think it is important to keep these things in mind.

1) You can't stop people from pirating it. It can't be done for the same reason DRM can never be fool proof. You can't give them access to use the program but still prevent them from being able to use it.

2) What ever scheme you pick make sure it as easy and painless as possible for your customers. These are the people actually paying you money and you want to keep them happy so they will hopefully keep paying money in the future.

3) Don't try to be sneaky and punish pirates in some subtle way, like corrupting their images. You aren't perfect and you will somehow end up doing this to your paying customer which is BAD.

For a small inexpensive utility even a one time online activation seems like overkill. Remember this requires you to run and maintain online infrastructure for you legitimate users for as long as the utility is useful. Even a simple process means a long commitment and this too can be hacked. I'd suggest a basic serial number with the program automatically checking it possibly with some access to updates assuming there is some reason for them to want updates.

Old school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228843)

Force users at random to look up various facts found only in your manual. Like how many hitpoints the color purple has.

Hardware key (0)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228847)

The best solution is a hardware key (or dongle) that plugs into the user's computer. The dongle should maintain an always-on communication check with your server. In the event that the program detects a missing dongle it should delete some random files from the pirate's hard disk.

Don't worry about it (1)

proca (2678743) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228851)

A $5-10 dollar utility will probably not get widely pirated to be worth the headache for paying customers. That being said, a one-time online activation seems reasonable to me. That's what I've used at my company, but our software costs a lot more than $10

Make it easier to buy (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228861)

The answer is to make it easier to buy your product then it is to pirate it.

Price it right, make sure ANYONE can download it (in other words, make sure you have a way of getting money from someone in the US and UK just as easily as you've got a way from a guy in China or India to download your game) and make it easy to find where you can buy it.

If someone really wants to pirate your software, they will. But make sure that the pirated version isn't a superior version to what you offer.

But above all else, you want users, its a whole lot better to be known for a game that everyone's heard of and played and 75% of the people didn't buy then it is to be the creator of a game that no one's heard of and played but the few users who did play the game bought it.

When people go to pay ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228871)

Make sure you have a working link to the payment page. I actually went to buy WinRar because I thought "hey this is so much better than winzip and i want this dev to get money to keep doing this work" ... payment page 404'd everyday for like a week. I just didn't even try anymore...

Avoiding the Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228883)

Since you're an actual developer willing to talk about piracy, I'd like to ask you a couple questions. I feel like I'm living in an echo chamber. Consumers want no DRM and so bloggers and posters rehash this bias over and over again. What is your objection to piracy? Is it emotional? Do you not like the idea of someone using your work for free? Or rather do you think of it more rationally, in terms of sales potential? Is it worth it to you for a user to lose a serial key and have to contact you to use their legitimate software? Do you personally believe that in some cases piracy can increase sales? And why wouldn't it increase sales with your product?

I'm honestly curious. Personally I think any DRM implementation is an unnecessary bother for both ends, but I'd like to know if you have a fresh perspective on it.

and if you die (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228885)

with activation your software dies with you, not really fair on your customers

just use a serial number and a really easy way to pay

Exclusive Additional Benefit Offer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228891)

Something of value that you do not have to 'give' to pirates..but this requires registration and some kind of serialized key... support to registered owners..new features with a serialized number check....free as crippleware...pay for full utility.

Personalized binaries (1)

bugnuts (94678) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228897)

Basically, people don't like to let others copy their software when the splash screen says "Thank you for your purchase, <customer>!".

Checksum the name so that someone editing the binary will be met with a crippled or nagware version, telling them how to get a fully functional one.

In any case, don't sweat it much. If someone is intent on stealing it, nothing you can do will prevent that. But accountability will prevent casual piracy because the mostly-honest person will not think it's harmless when someone asks for a copy.

So exactly how rich do you need to be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228905)

Practically every bit of commercial software ever sold has been cracked / pirated. If your software is any good and you charge $10 a copy then I honestly hope you have millions of copies pirated while only managing to sell 100,000 copies :-)

In App Purchasing (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228917)

Apple proved the business model and android is supporting it as well now

release an app with base features for free and charge for add on features

Serial Number Alone (1)

JenovaSynthesis (528503) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228923)

I say this because your price point alone makes it very attractive to simply purchase the thing. I would just leave it at a serial number that maybe phones home for validation on install. Copy protection inevitably only hinders legitimate users.

I am curious though as to what your program is and what it does as I am a graphic designer myself as well as faculty attached to the graphic design program at the local college and I am always looking for new/cool stuff both for myself and to share with students.

Piracy can strengthen the brand (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228933)

I started and worked on a very successful iOS game with over 9,000,000 users (and now over 1m on Android).. In the earlier days, we saw that it's piracy was 3 to 1 (so there were at the time about 3m users per 1m paid).

We don't care. Every user who doesn't pay but enjoys the game spreads word about the game, which will work well for the sequel or for branded toys. Those who don't pay for it probably weren't going to, at least they've now heard of your brand and your game. Free marketing.

Price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228935)

Good low prices.

Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228937)

Run it on your own servers.

Quality, price, experience, demo. (2)

skine (1524819) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228941)

1) Make a game that's worth buying.
2) Sell it at a price that people are willing to pay.
3) Don't make piracy a better experience than buying the real thing.
4) Give your customers a legitimate way to try the game for free.

Sure, there are and always will be people who pirate games just because they can. There really isn't a way to stop this.

The vast majority who do pirate usually fall into one of these categories, though.

For me, the only reason I've pirated since graduating HS is #3, and even then I have only used pirated versions of games I own, or for games that I legitimately can't find (especially Dreamcast games).

It's all in the name (1)

Ynot_82 (1023749) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228943)

Seriously. Call the program
"screener-720p"

Really tough -- (1)

sillivalley (411349) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228949)

Your first challenge is fitting "reasonable" and "piracy" into the same mental model...

Maritime nations through history have sought to deter piracy by displaying the miscreant's remains at harbor entrances.

Think of that as a way to show increased risk.

But software piracy? What's the risk? If you look at eliminating the gain from piracy, then you need to ask, what's the "gain?" To some, the gain is saving a few bucks. Pricing your software low works to eliminate that gain. Or providing support and/or upgrades to legitimate users. But to some, the "gain" in piracy is playing the game, and that gets back to a rational relationship between your goals and a pirate's: there may not be one. Someone engaging in piracy as a way to get their rocks off isn't likely to be motivated by pricing, support, upgrades, or much of anything else, even the lack of a technological challenge.

Is piracy something you can more or less ignore in your target market?

But "fighting" piracy? Old adage: never wrestle with a pig; you'll get filthy and the pig will love it.

Asking the wrong crowd (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228959)

This is Slashdot. Here are some answers you're likely to get:

1. Proprietary software is evil. Your program should be free.
2. Information wants to be free. Anti-copying measures are immoral.
3. Trying to stop bits from being copied is like trying to stop water from being wet. Anything you do will be futile and just annoy legitimate users.
4. You should be flattered that people like your program enough to pirate it.
5. Stop relying on an outdated business model. You should try Kickstarter / donations / merchandise sales / advertising / support contracts.
6. Anyway, piracy actually helps sales. I know this because [insert questionable anecdote here].

Simple but pragmatic (1)

Wolfling1 (1808594) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228961)

First thing to acknowledge is that piracy will happen, and it is not in your interests to spend a million dollars to save a few (eliminating the last 1% of the pirates). Accept that a certain amount of piracy is 'unstoppable', and you can implement a far more pragmatic scheme.

Ours is simple. We distribute our software as v1.0 (regardless of the build). Inside code, we apply a countdown timer that will crash the application after 50 starts. We make it a kind of 'nagware', but a fairly mild one. We don't use those annoying 5 second delays before you can click OK or any of that crap.

The countdown timer can be cancelled when someone patches to any version that doesn't have a '.0' on the end. However, to upgrade, they have to register (which is a semi-automated process). It costs us about 5 seconds to approve someone's registration.

Once again, remember that this is easily hackable. Anyone with an ounce of IT skills could reset the timer, have the version identifier in the exe, etc, etc - but the point is that 98% of people wont, and 1% of people will try unsuccessfully. Every once in a while we discover someone who has pirated the software, and we send them a dirty letter, and most of them true-up at that point too.

Stay pragmatic, and don't let it annoy you. Good luck!

Walled garden (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228963)

Hate to say it, put it up on either Apple's or Microsoft's walled garden, per appropriate OS. If it's *unix... open source it.

As always (1)

eliuker (731887) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228971)

Like every other business, set a fair price for your product. If you don't know what that value should be, take a look at what similar software sells for. You may think that 5 to 10 dollars is fair (it may be completely fair) but if similar software can be had for a dollar or even free, you're going down a dead end.

Then, don't worry about the pirates. Piracy is a function of the popularity of a product, where the popular software and media gets pirated more often. Take pride if your product gets copied 100 million times because you have made a great piece of software.

Remember, freeloaders will always seek to pirate software but honest people will remain honest if you give them a reasonable way to purchase and use your product. You don't need DRM or license servers to keep honest people honest. Make it easy to buy your software and give good support to your paying customers. Listen to their complaints by fixing bugs and providing frequently requested features in new versions.

Don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228985)

Invest the time that you're thinking of spending on trying to defer piracy in marketing or improving your product.

People who were going to pirate were going to pirate regardless of the deterrent.

Encrypted binaries are your best bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228989)

The downside is that no one will be able to run it at all, so you may wind up with a lot of people asking for refunds. However, a few people will be too ashamed to ask for a refund, and you can keep their money.

Embrace Piracy (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43228993)

Embrace the Pirates, for they may be your salvation.

Release two versions, paid and pirate. Call them that, and have fun with it (pirate skin). Give them a reason to "buy" it, something emotional, tied to being a pirate (enhanced pirate skin, which they will pirate too). Tell the pirates you don't want their money, you want a Starbucks Gift Card (or whatever). Tell the Pirates you want them to tell their friends that you embrace their actions, as a means of publicity.

IF you product, service or whatever is good, then publicity is your friend. Then ask them to pay for it when they use it, just don't nag. Perhaps a reminder every month (30 days) of "hey, you like this app, please consider buying the Pirate version with the all new pirate skin".

If you fight the pirates, they will route around any attempt to block them. It is a fool's game of whack-a-mole.

And for those people that pirate apps, do you really think you're all that clever for going to Google and typing "Pirate Bag Android Apps". I really hope you all find hacked versions that steal your identity and money. Pay the damn $1.99 already.

shit is shit, good is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43228997)

upload it, no drm, no-set price, allow people to choose whatever they wish to pay..
if it's shit it's shit, if it's good it's good... (don't blame piracy.)

firstly ask yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43229017)

Do you think that people who would pirate instead of paying are your customers? If the answer is no than there's no need for protection.

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