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Ask HN: How do you deal with piracy?
84 points by ttoinou 188 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments
Hi, I'm selling a software and cracks are given in forums on the internet. The thing is, theses users don't come to my product page for getting updates for example, so I think it's a loss for me because I can't reach them and talk to them. I feel like I won't ever be able to convert them to paying customers.

I'm wondering what I can do about it. Could I add a "I cracked your software, is it wrong ?" in the FAQ and try to not show it if I detect the software is not cracked ?

What if I distribute the pirated version myself ? Wouldn't that look weird to paying customers ?

Should I add an infinitely renewable 15 days trial instead of a limited features trial ?

Do you know of projects that went open source / free software and how they handled it ?

Thanks !

PS : I didn't say Piracy was bad in itself. I spent my childhood pirating stuff and now my livelihood is selling software.. I have faith that some of my pirate users can become my clients one day or another and I would like to take care of this issue myself rather than letting people going to underground forums and download virus.




A while back a friend of mine told me he installed a 'clean my Mac' application, thought it was decent and went looking for a crack. So the story went - the top link was one to their own website with full instructions on how to crack the app - something like - www.appname.com/how-to-crack-appname/, or whatever.

On the page was complete and detailed instructions on how to crack it yourself using a hex editor or decompiler (or whatever!). Except, he said as you read down, the way the author explained it really highlighted how much effort he put into making it, and at the bottom copy saying something like "we hope this was useful and avoids you using a crack which might damage your machine, we also hope you realise the effort that goes into making software and will consider paying just $xx dollars which goes towards feeding my family and making more software".

Friend was so impressed he just got out his card and bought it.

TL;DR - They embraced the piracy / understood those that won't pay never will, those that may can be persuaded, so made something educational and thoughtful out of it.

Hope you figure it out!


This reminds me of https://www.codeux.com/textual/

The software is on GitHub (https://github.com/Codeux-Software/Textual) and you can compile it yourself and, thus, remove the "you gotta pay" checks and such. If you can do that you are free to do that... or you can just pay for it and don't have to bother. It's not crazy expensive ($5.99), but I decided to go for the former just because it was more fun to me. If I had used his software for much longer and more often, I'd have eventually paid for it, I suppose.


What's preventing someone from setting up an automatic compile-and-upload tool ?


Upload where?


on its own website ?


Thats a great story and thumbs up to the app makers you mention.


Yes I might do that in the future, I have to be the first google result of "MyProduct Crack" ;)

But if the official author of the plugin gives it for free it sends a weird message to paying customers, no ?


From an SEO standpoint I don't think it would be too hard to rank for that :-)

I guess the whole point was not to give it for free, but to make someone realise that they could get it for free with X hours work and learning. But most people are too lazy - those determined to steal will do it anyway, and those that can be converted to pay you've given yourself a platform to get them to understand why they should.


Well one "advantage" of having an official crack web page is to give the software cracked without virus.


Well if it's the top link, it's also one more (or even the first) chance to say "please buy this" before they look for a crack elsewhere.


In most large corporations, using pirated software is a breach of internal policy and possibly a fireable offense. It is unlikely they would violate the license even if it easy to do.

Getting a large corporation to buy software from you is another matter. I tried to push my IT dept to buy licenses for libraries I liked, even with a modest cost, unsuccessfully.


Probably because IT shouldn't have control over Dev related purchases. Unfortunately it seems very few corporations have noticed this fact.


Well you wouldn't link it from your main site nav, it would just be for people searching for the crack directly. If people find it that way then you have to assume they're at least on the fence and are likely to pirate anyway.


Even when I had like three different claims to a free PhpStorm license as a top Drupal contributor to 7 and 8 and also as someone who writes some PHP documentation I was still paying for it because great software deserves to be paid.


I hear ya. Someone once told me (I don't sell software/music/whatever so have no idea if this is true) - for every 5 people, 2 will always pay, 1 will always pirate, and the 2 will buy if given good reason (be that price point, sales pitch, ease, guilt, etc.).


That is rather generous of human nature. My experience is out of every 100 people 99 will pirate and 1 will always pay.


My company deals with piracy in the following technical way, and it works well enough for potential buyers to stay buyers.

I release software binaries often, say every two weeks, and the software self-updates with permission from the user. The main application software is free, while the plugins (the real meat of the software) are purchased individually. When the application updates, the plugins also update. I use the semantic versioning, so releases look like 67.0, 67.1, 68.0, etc. Since the barrier to upgrade the application is virtual nothing (free, click of a button), almost everyone updates. If you're a paid customer, your plugins will also be updated, but if you aren't, now none of your plugins work. If you want to release your set of plugins to the world, pirates will have to match the versions of those plugins to the versions of their application, and if there are other plugins in the internet, they will also have to match. This requires lots of coordination from pirates, which has not happened yet. If an individual begins regularly releasing updated versions of the software, I can simply ban their user account which was used to purchase the plugins.

I imagine this can't work for your purposes since you have a single, standalone, polished application, but hopefully this could help others.


> If you want to release your set of plugins to the world, pirates will have to match the versions of those plugins to the versions of their application, and if there are other plugins in the internet, they will also have to match.

Are you relying on constantly making breaking changes to the plugin API for this to work? Otherwise, it may just be the case that pirates haven’t figured out that they need to disable the version checking-part of your app. It sounds a bit like security through obscurity, unless I’m missing something.


Yes, it's a large application that is constantly being improved, so there are always at least some changes between versions that break ABI compatibility. Even a simple change of the application that only requires a recompilation of the plugins would break ABI. Pirates would have to modify inconceivable amounts of binary code to match a 67.0 plugin to a 68.0 application or vise versa.


> Pirates would have to modify impractical amounts of binary code

FTFY


Just looked up FTFY. I am pleased it doesn't mean what I thought it did.


Why do your plugins need also to update ? There's a lot of changes in the API ?


The ABI is incompatible between different versions.


I would hate to write plugins for your software


I have used similar versioning strategies in products... Barring something special in the app, these kinds of plugins are not for the user or customer.

These kinds of plugins are for the development shop that makes the product, reuse across their product portfolio, and managing custom adaptations of the software for their specific customers.

Breaking APIs in this context is just like "breaking" any other internal API, as bother the caller and callee are upgraded and deployed together.


How do you know which user released the plugins?


I don't, so saying it is "simple" to ban an account was mostly a lie. However, it would be simple to switch to fingerprinted plugin releases if it becomes a problem, then ban the account, which would stop any further unauthorized distribution.


... until they just create a new account and continue on.

Don't underestimate the lengths some of them will go to.

(Former teenage software cracker; I had way more free time than I did money.)


You'd have to keep purchasing new plugins on the new accounts after the old ones are banned, as opposed to buying once and re-releasing the (free) versions on every update. Since plugins are $100-1000, be my guest! Not to mention the liability you are going through by assigning your credit card info to a proven copyright infringer.


You mean the stolen credit cards they'd quite possibly use?


That seems way too complicated to simply contribute to some private tracker.


First - if they wouldn't have paid anyway, you haven't "lost" anything (you've actually gained something)

Second, your pricing must be turning off those who would [possibly] pay, but opt for the cracked edition due to cost

Third, focus on support: you can download, install, and run OpenNMS, for example, totally 100% for free. But if you want support beyond the mailing list, you pay for it.


A note on your second comment, that is a possible consideration, but remember that some people will simply never buy software, so there will always be someone that cracks it. Many people either have fundamentally different opinions on whether or not software should cost money or they're too poor to be able to afford it when they can get it free.


> ... or they're too poor to be able to afford it when they can get it free.

For that situation, consider adding an FAQ or a page on your website encouraging people to email you and ask for a free or discounted copy if they really can't afford it.

Don't make it too easy - you'll get a few whose entire request is "give me free copy" and threaten you when you don't. Don't help people who threaten you or don't show you respect.

But if you get someone who gives a short story about their current situation and either asks for a discount ("I want to at least pay what I can afford") or suggests they'll pay you back (or Pay It Forward) when they're back on their feet - those are the people you want to help. Bonus points if they include how your software will help make their life better.

Do keep in mind that some of those people will have high support demands, so factor that into your software pricing. You'll need your paying customers to subsidize the support cost.

If you try this, you'll find that some people aren't genuine. They'll say price is the reason they pirate, but if you offer them a free copy, they'll complain you didn't offer the free copy in the exact way that they desire (and "want to know what you're gonna do about it"). Ignore those people, they will never be satisfied. Literally ignore - if you engage them you'll make yourself angry & sad and it will ruin your productivity.

Above all, focus on your actual customers. Focus on the 1% of people who love what you make and are happy to support you.


I can't find it now, but I once read a blog post from a developer of some paid product who would give a free copy to anyone who asked, as long as they used the word "please" somewhere in their email. It was amazing how many timewasters this simple heuristic weeded out.


That's my first point: if they wouldn't have bought it anyway, you've lost nothing


  Third, focus on support: you can download, install, and run OpenNMS, for example, totally 100% for free. But if you want support beyond the mailing list, you pay for it. 
I feel like it's what's going on actually. You can get my plugins for free on forums by doing a stupid google search, or you can buy it officially and get support.


How you address this depends greatly on your software and who it's marketed towards. Piracy can be a hint that you haven't come up with the best business strategy for that market.

Often what's best is to meet the market where it is--would you rather have more people using and aware of your software or only small amount of people people that know about your software and pay for it? The answer in many scenarios is to have more people using it regardless of whether they pay you because they can convert others into future sales and grow your market.

Software and its markets vary greatly, so it's hard to give a strategy that works for all software, but I've seen one model be fairly successful over time: basically using a subset of users to subsidize the rest of users. Find out who's deriving the most value from your product and get them to pay you, rather than trying to scrape an equal amount from everyone. This can be done many different ways, but are most commonly done with feature gating or providing external services. The idea is that if your software is more available, more people have the opportunity of deriving value from it and ultimately end up paying you.


Thanks for the answer. I have a lot to think about !


Some people just have no money. I pirated tonnes of software as a kid because I couldn't afford any of it.

One thing I've seen that generated a lot of good will in me was a company that said "if you can't afford a license, email us". Depending on the margins you have and the software you make, that could work for you as a way to communicate with your users.


> ... as a kid because I couldn't afford any of it.

Same here. I started learning how to crack software as a teenager (early 90s) because I was running a BBS and wanted to offer door games but I didn't have the money to pay for them.

I did, however, have plenty of free time, which I used to teach myself some assembly, how to use SoftICE (for DOS), and how to write "patchers" in Turbo Pascal and, later, C.

Now, I use Linux on my (primary) workstation and laptops so it's all free software (with a few exceptions; i.e. VMware Workstation). I also have a MacBook Pro (that I rarely use) with lots of commercial software on it and it has all been bought and paid for myself. (Today, I have more spare money and less free time!)


The Coast Guard is your ally, along with the Navy. Talk to your insurance company; they have lots of experience (or else you picked the wrong one.)

Oh, are you equating copyright violation with major theft, murder and associated felonies so heinous that there is actually a separate body of international law to address it? Please don't do that.

Unless you are already a market leader, copyright violation is largely equivalent to an unpaid, unauthorized marketing issue. Your problem is to convert those non-paying users into paying users.

Policy:

1. Make it so inconvenient to use your software without paying for it that they decide to pay you. This is the "stick" option: you hit them with a stick until they either go away or pay.

2. Make it so easy and useful to pay for your software that they decide to pay you. This is the "carrot" option: you dangle something good in front of them until they willingly walk towards it.

Every method falls into one of those two policy groups. Think about which policy you want to use before you start making changes.

If you decide to make your software open source, you are likely to stop making money at it by selling it. However, you can still make money by consulting -- you are the world's foremost expert on this software, after all.


> Oh, are you equating copyright violation with major theft, murder and associated felonies so heinous that there is actually a separate body of international law to address it? Please don't do that.

And java shouldn't be called java, because it's not an island; and cache shouldn't be called cache, because it's not a hidden collection of supplies; and a mouse shouldn't be called a mouse because it's not a small rodent; and bluetooth shouldn't be called bluetooth, because it's not a discoloured tooth...

The battle over the 'real meaning of the word 'piracy'' was lost a very long time ago.


> Oh, are you equating copyright violation with major theft, murder and associated felonies so heinous that there is actually a separate body of international law to address it? Please don't do that.

The term "software pirate" was invented by software pirates.


That does not matter, still conveys the negative things the grandparent doesn't want to have conveyed.


Although I suspect the votes won't reflect, I enjoyed your first paragraphs with the piracy false equivalency argument


I don't understand the irony. I've already said I don't care about piracy in itself and that I am a huge pirate myself.


It's not irony, it's naming. If you name copyright violation as piracy, you associate murder and theft and rape and kidnapping with unauthorized copying.

Don't be a pirate. If you have to be, be an unauthorized copier.

In the meantime, think about whether you want to use carrot strategies or stick strategies.


> If you name copyright violation as piracy [...]

I think that ship has sailed.


I'm not going to use a term the MPAA/RIAA co-opted and pushed into our language, despite the success of their marketing efforts over the last few decades.

If you want to equate murder, rape and plundering from and often enslaving strangers with the concept of unauthorized copying, then that's your prerogative. I won't judge, but I'll still call it either unauthorized copying or just sharing.


> If you want to equate murder, rape and plundering from and often enslaving strangers with the concept of unauthorized copying, then that's your prerogative.

I certainly don't equate those things. But words have different meanings in different contexts.

One of my favourite games from way back when was Sid Meier's Pirates!, so I might be coloured by that. And yes, it was pirated.


   If you name copyright violation as piracy
We pirates embrace that term, don't we ? Sorry if that word originally conveys the violence associated with theses marginals groups


"Piracy" has meant "doing something without license or authorization" since at least the days of "pirate radio" going back to the early 20th century.

And why not a carrot AND stick? Think Steam DRM. Unobtrusive to legitimate users but slows down casual pirates. And is linked to an easy way to pay for the software.


Game Dev Tycoon had a nice anti piracy measure. They themselves uploaded a cracked version of the game. In the end you went bankrupt as game developer, because people pirated your games. So the game was broken for those that did not buy it. Also it kindly asked you to just buy the game.


Don't worry about users who crack or pirate software. This is not the target demographic you will have much luck with turning into paying customers. Fixate on your actually software. If kids in third world countries are your primary users its time to build something new. That's a signal you don't want to ignore.


My paying customers are professional in the industry I work on. Most of my pirates might very well be "amateurs" in the sense that they don't make money with theirs activity and I'm fine with it.

I just think it's too bad for me theses people go somewhere else to download my product and talk about it. There must be something I could do


Some professional software has student or hobby licenses. Finding the right set of limitations and price is an interesting balance though.


Best article I read on this subject is "Piracy and the four currencies" [0]. It's an objective way of looking at why people are pirating your software in the first place, and by understanding why you can make adjustments to persuade future users to download via the proper channels instead.

[0] http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/LarsDoucet/20120222/91144/Pir...


Before you do anything, have a look at the numbers.

I sell a Mac app, which performs periodic update checks, so I can estimate how many users I have. The update checks also contain info about whether the product is licensed, and whether the code signature is valid. I assume that copies of the app that say they are licensed but don't have a valid code signature are cracked.

Here are my numbers from July:

13301 trial users

4934 paid users

367 pirates

If I look at these numbers, I don't see why I should bother doing anything about pirates. Any effort spent on convincing pirates to pay is better spent on convincing trial users!

(PS: the update check can be disabled, and I don't know how many people disable it, so the above numbers are rough estimates at best. Also, invalid code signatures might be caused by things other than piracy eg. software bugs)


Old methods (90s): - turn to the law (DCMA) - prevent people from modifying code

New methods: - change to a SaaS model - change the backend to an API, users order API key - ping home from your software code or every keystroke like in Windows. - free product, offer training + ads


This is why there were no new software startups of any significance launched between 1995 (when web browsers made piracy trivial) and 2006 (when Salesforce.com launched the first modern SaaS business).


To the downvoter(s): I'm genuinely curious, can you name any significant software companies that launched during that era? I've not done an exhaustive search, but I've looked for them and have had a much harder time finding software companies with launch dates of 1996-2005 than <1995 or >2006 (the successful launch count in that window obviously wasn't zero but I'm pretty sure it's down significantly from the before and after eras).


> To the downvoter(s): I'm genuinely curious, can you name any significant software companies that launched during that era? I've not done an exhaustive search, but I've looked for them and have had a much harder time finding software companies with launch dates of 1996-2005

Have you heard of Google or Facebook's origins? They were both in that window and pretty significant. Valve, LinkedIn and Netflix have also done okay...


Thanks these are great names to fold into the mix Google, Netflix, and LinkedIn are great tech companies but their presence on the list actually supports the idea that traditional software companies had a hard time launching during that window as two of them are server-based subscription products and the third is a server-based advertising product. Valve's a bit more complicated, largely because GabeN is a genius, but I think it's fair to say that their pivot from game company business model to server-based distribution company further backs up the argument that 1995 marks the end of the old school boxed-software/downloadable-software business model.


Valve, Rockstar Games, PopCap?


Valve launched as a boxed-software company but quickly pivoted to being a server-based digital distribution company. Rockstar made most of their money in the console market where piracy rates remained far lower than the general PC market, precisely because the console manufacturers invested billions in custom hardware to try to keep the boxed-software business model viable there in ways it wasn't in the PC arena. And yeah, PopCap did incredibly well as a boxed-software/downloadable-software business but given the insane number of game studios that launched and died in that era (I spent ~10 years working in the game industry), I don't find a handful of game companies that did make it a convincing argument that the boxed-software business model survived unscathed after 1995. Pretty much everybody else was either going out of business or scrambling to turn themselves into server-based business models.


Google.


   change the backend to an API
What do you mean ?


Don't ship all the code to the client PC, run at least a small portion of the code on a server that you control. Doing this makes "cracking" your app useless because it still can't do the job without an account on the server for the server-side processing. This is basically what every MMO in existence did. MMO's are games that can only be played if you have a server-side account, because they took a chunk of code that historically would have been part of the normal game loop and moved it to the server where it can't be pirated. Yes, MMO's also enabled multi-player, but that could have been done a million ways that kept the core code on the end user's PC. The real advance was noticing that a server-subscription based MMO can print money while a non-server-based client-authoritative game architecture dies a rapid financial death due to piracy.


>The real advance was noticing that a server-subscription based MMO can print money while a non-server-based client-authoritative game architecture dies a rapid financial death due to piracy.

MMOs have more consistent cash flows than regular games which means the developers can work on content updates in the future. Regular games will have the majority of their sales within the first month then quickly taper off. This is unrelated to copyright infringement. In a peer to peer architecture cheating is a far bigger concern than copyright infringement.

By the way the reason why ingame transactions in freemium games work is because there is no spending limit which means a small rich minority of players ends up spending multiple thousand dollars on the game to compete with other players.


I understand that you only have in mind the best of the people who use the infested cracks, but my suggestion is to let it be.

If you give the crack yourself, as suggested by another reader, the buyers of your software might feel cheated.

Now if you insist on trying to help the users who cannot afford your software, then do what MS did in the 90’s. Allow 123-4567890 to be entered as a product key and leak that to the crack websites :)

PS: my teen self says thank you MS


> My paying customers are professional in the industry I work on. Most of my pirates might very well be "amateurs" in the sense that they don't make money with theirs activity and I'm fine with it.

> theses users don't come to my product page for getting updates for example, so I think it's a loss for me because I can't reach them and talk to them. I feel like I won't ever be able to convert them to paying customers.

It sounds like you'd like to have these customers as actual customers and if it's your thesis that those who pirate the software aren't professional consider licensing.

1. Have a low-cost, or "pay what you want" license model, for non-comercial use.

2. Have a free-for-students license. Only for education use.

3. Offer upgrade pricing spiffs to convert from the free/low tier to the pro-tier.

4. Consider a subscription approach. I would never pay the full price for Photoshop/Lightroom, but the Adobe Creative Cloud for Photographers is $9.99 a month, which is the right price for my needs.


I like the free for non commercial use solution, like SmartGit.


If your software is useful, and if you're a small company / one man show, I will pay for it, even if I barely have any money, or if I have lots of money. But the key for me is not having a really useless and stupid and intrusive anti-piracy mechanism, as that usually makes me go away from that software. Example of that are games like Kerbal Space Program that are useful, fun, and have no anti-piracy mechanism. I paid for it. And the other example is pretty much any huge game like GTA V, that I bought my brother as a gift but it often stops working and has to be reinstalled because it detects some tampering or something like that, it's from Steam BTW.

I'd also recommend that you DON'T offload processing to a server, as that will prevent people with spotty Internet (like me) or those in special circumstances / behind firewalls from using it properly, and also has data security issues.


Would a warning about piracy in the FAQ be too much for you as a paying customer ?


It's not that that would be too much, but if I wasn't planning on pirating, I wouldn't read it, and if I was planning on pirating, I wouldn't read it. The pirates know the risks.

Personally I really like the idea above of a slightly feature restricted, free for non commercial use version. This had the benefit of people getting used to it at home, then potentially bringing it to the workplace (where they can pay for it)


>The thing is, theses users don't come to my product page for getting updates for example, so I think it's a loss for me because I can't reach them and talk to them.

You assume that they would buy in in the first place. I would not spend a penny on 95% stuff I pirated. Most of the stuff was a one time thing, like game was too boring (I would request a refund), game had too high requrements, so I couldn't even start an episode, music was not interesting after literally one song from whole discography etc.

> in the FAQ and try to not show it if I detect the software is not cracked ?

Things have FAQ? I've never seen them.

>What if I distribute the pirated version myself

I remember this coll guy https://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/comments/2mjxde/develo...

>I have faith that some of my pirate users can become my clients one day

I've pirated more than 1k of PC games, my steam account has 97 tites right now, and there is also GOG.

Try to make your stuff easy to reach, steam, gog, https://itch.io/app, try to build hype around your game, it's easy now no reddit in /r/gaming show some cool/funny scene from the game, make announcement on /r/linux_gaming that game is available from first day, etc.


  You assume that they would buy in in the first place
No I didn't say that and I don't believe it. What I believe is that I would prefer thoses pirates to come to the official website to know about the product features and update, being able to comment it and ask for advices and get the feeling that someone is working behind it etc.. Everything is lost when people go to private forums and ask the new update to the software cracking team

I'm not selling a game but a very useful productivity tool. But yeah I'll try to build 'hype' anyway thanks :)


Thanks for all your answers !

I'm definitely going to do soon the "How to Crack MyProduct Without Virus !" page and I'll think about changing the trial and the features it gives.

A good long term solution would be to develop a SaaS business around the product and if I find a way to mix that business model with open source that would be even better (my product could be faster being GPL).


A piece of software I sell is so complicated to set up/configure and missing any documentation so you have no chance to successfully use it without my guidance and support.

The configuration is a one-time thing, the daily use is simple, so this is no problem for usability. And the software is a niche application with very few potential and real customers.


The simplest solution I'm aware of is Software as a Service.

I run a few SaaS products and make a fairly good living. People can use my software as much as they like, provided they pay, and provided it's running on one of my machines.

So long as they never get their hands on a copy of the thing, there's nothing for them to copy.


The term "piracy" would describe a lot better "the act of developing/releasing malware/ransomware" - at least, it would involve the notion of "attacking".

Maybe the time has come to slowly shift the meaning...


I think that most of the "pirates" would never buy your software. It's in my opinion a misconception to think that the users would buy the product if they couldn't work with the non licensed copy. The reason for that can be multifaceted. Some a lazy to search for free alternatives, others have no money or the software isn't worthy enough for them. I wouldn't try to convince them or putting many efforts into preventing copying. I would of course do some hints into the software to show them where to buy the full package. See it as the not beloved but some way effective marketing ;)


Pricing and packaging consideration perhaps. Todays E-stuffs were just so E (no physical thingy). How bout making people agreed that buying your software are not only benefit you but maybe also benefit a cause, support a movement etc. Also gives them anything interesting rather than just the product. Maybe gives em plush dolls or gadget too as bonus rather than just e-mail containing serial numbers.

Example: Piracy gives me access to all features. Paying it gives me a cute bunny doll mascot from the vendor :D


Could you 'watermark' the program for each user (although that wouldn't be trivial), and mention noticeably that the software is watermarked.

Not sure if that would really dissuade anyone leaking/cracking it though, but it may possibly help determine potentially where the leak/crack came from.

There are probably many reasons why watermarking isn't worthwhile though, as you'd then need to have an 'online' system for generating new versions, rather than simply hosting a single file.


Good idea for an unlimited trial but it's for videos, so watermarking would be a performance sink.


I don't think GP meant watermarking the video, only software binary itself.


I avoid dangerous Somalian shipping lanes.

If you mean the co-opted meaning of the word that the RIAA/MPAA managed to acclimate Americans to a few generations ago, I'd use either a SAAS model or a subscription/membership model where customers get more and more value over time instead of just a one-off product.


I just don't care about the cracked versions. Some people don't have spare money to buy our apps, some don't want to spend their money on apps at all. It's up to them. Maybe one day they'll be able to support the development.


Can you track the country in which the users are pirating your software from? If say 90% of the people pirating your software are in countries that don't have access to credit cards, then it'll be impossible to convert them to paid users


Yes and also in cheaper country my product might be too expensive. I'm going to look where people are from in the underground forums and think about it, thanks.


In the games industry it's common to have different prices for different regions, with lower prices for countries with less wealth and/or rampant piracy.

For example Steam is selling Hellblade for 30 USD in the US, but only 17 USD in Brazil or 12 USD in Russia. Perhaps you could emulate that model?


I'm selling on a marketplace that don't allow that.

Btw I have a friend buying really cheap games from cheaper european countries :D


We use a service called link busters. They send DMCA to all sites having links to (fake ?) cracked versions of our software...


Many people I know have always pirated software and TV and said once there was a reasonable way to get it legally they would pay for it. I haven't seen this be the case. I don't think you can convert pirates.

It is possible however to convert legal users to pirates by having systems that annoy people who have legally purchased. I don't know how you strike the balance.

I hate the entitlement of people who pirate stuff, if it's not legally available in your area that's a shame but it doesn't give you a right to it.


Speaking as a prolific pirate, I currently pay for Spotify because it's just so convenient. I currently pay for HBO Now because I don't want to wait an extra hour to watch Game of Thrones.

I pay for games on Steam, but I still pirate most major creative software like Adobe, Windows Office, or DAWs and their plugins...I just have absolutely zero incentive to do otherwise.

And before anyone guilt trips me on morality, please stop to carefully think through why you believe sharing digital files is stealing but borrowing a book from a library or buying a used video game or movie is not. None of those things give ANY proceeds to the authors or creators, either, and the authors have no choice in that matter either. Yet society deems that arbitrarily acceptable.


   but I still pirate most major creative software 
But do you make money out of this activity ?

   Yet society deems that arbitrarily acceptable
Well it feels like society is OK with pirated content, no ? I only know 1 person in my environment that attacks me about it.


I do not make any money off of it, no. And now that I think about it I actually did buy a used license for Word, which doesn't give any money to Microsoft, but which is again arbitrarily considered moral.

As for society being ok, yes and no. Nobody attacks me about it but I know plennnnnty of people who will refuse to budge on the idea that it's immoral and wrong.


That makes 0 sense to me. Presumably an author can pick a publisher that does or doesn't distribute to libraries. Even then a library is still buying at least one book if not multiple.

If a creator stopped making software you pirated because it wasn't sustainable would you feel guilt?


> Even then a library is still buying at least one book if not multiple.

And someone originally bought the pirated software, too, which they then went on to share with others....just like a library. So what, again, is the difference?

No, of course I wouldn't feel guilt. Do you feel guilt when you buy things secondhand or borrow books from libraries? You're not benefiting the creator and you're shortchanging the creator of the cost of purchase because you don't want to pay full price for a new copy. What's the difference?

> Presumably an author can pick a publisher that does or doesn't distribute to libraries.

As if a library is legally required to only carry books with the publisher's permission?


I would imagine a lot of pirated software is taken from versions stolen from creators so there was no original purchase.

Also buying second hand is completely different as one second hand DVD can't be shared amongst millions of people. It's a completely different scale...

Was also interested to read about the PLR

https://www.plr.uk.com/allAboutPlr/whatIsPlr.htm


> I would imagine a lot of pirated software is taken from versions stolen from creators

I can confirm this. One of the 'cracks' for one of my programs was a license code obtained by someone using a stolen credit card. No attempt to actually crack & keygen the software. And there's genuine theft there, as payment processors keep the transaction fee after the refund, and there's a $25 penalty fine for a chargeback. Plus the owner of the credit card temporarily gets their card locked until it's replaced, etc.

So if you've ever used warez from Team OXiDE, keep in mind that some of that software was obtained via actual fraud.

> Was also interested to read about the PLR

To save people a click: "Public Lending Right (PLR) is the right for authors to receive payment for the loans of their books by public libraries."

Australia has a similar Public Lending Right as well. In return for allowing their books to be available in libraries, authors receive a subscription payment from those libraries:

https://www.arts.gov.au/funding-and-support/lending-rights


> Many people I know have always pirated software and TV and said once there was a reasonable way to get it legally they would pay for it. I haven't seen this be the case. I don't think you can convert pirates.

I grew up on a 100% pirated diet. I now develop software for a living.

I'd be an absolute hypocrite to pirate commercial software when I myself demand to be paid for my commercial efforts.

You won't see me running any pirated software at all.

Of course, given the choice and options we have today, in practice it means I'm running much less commercial software, and depend almost entirely on open source software.

For that software I try to "pay" by contributing back when I can and it feels natural.


I used to be like that in high school, college. Everybody did it.

Now? I've been paying for Google play music and Netflix since they've been available in my country.

I pay for my IDE

I have a steam library so large that I'll never be able to play everything


> I haven't seen this be the case. I don't think you can convert pirates.

Well I used to pirate 100% when I was a student but now I have money to spend, I purchase things legally. I cant even remember the last time I opened a torrent client.


I pirated a lot of software in high school, but used it to Tech myself skills and now EPA’s for much of what I used, or have enough good will and skills that I would pay for it if I needed it.

I also pirated a lot of films. I now subscribe to 2 streaming services, and search them and BBC iPlayer before pirating anything now as it’s more convenient.


A good case study to look at is probably Game of Thrones - widely reported to be the most pirated TV show. At last report HBO Now (digital on demand only) was at 2mil subscribers.

I'm one of them and converted to paying when I didn't need a full cable package just to watch it.


It's comments like this that make me want to stop paying for things. Some pirates can be converted. Some can't. No need to be overly broad.


Seems like your looking for an excuse to stop paying. I said "I don't think"....


My app has an info infinitely renewable trial but many still use the cracked version.


That's weird


Piracy is a huge issue, one way around it, although too late for you now, is to only sell an online hosted version of your software, they can't crack what they don't have access too.

Have you got a forum to engage your customers with directly? Most times (and this is a huge generalisation) but these consumers aren't 'evil', they just either have no money or don't know any better.

If you can engage with them and get them to like you it'll make them more disinclined to pirate you, you could also give away a 'lite' version, there's no need to pirate your software if they get it for free, then concentrate on adding more features to the regular priced one for them to upgrade too eventually.

There's no real technical solution to piracy, it's always going to be a human issue so needs to be looked at from that perspective.


Thanks for the answer ! I like the lite idea,

   although too late for you now, is to only sell an online hosted version of your software,
   they can't crack what they don't have access too
I've thought about it and it's an excellent solution because I could link the software to a website with a subscription based business model. And my software could be better with internet / community feature inside it ! But it's for mid term not for now (I have to recode everything and develop a new product..)

   Have you got a forum to engage your
   customers with directly? 
I'm going to sign up in the private forums and engage with them. I hope I won't be banned from the forum !


Isn't there a key feature of your software that you could change to make it online only ?

Not checking the serial or user, this can be (and mostly is) suppressed by a crack.

But an important proprietary function that can't be to easily emulate by a crack and your software can't fully work without. Nowadays there is no more internet access limitations for stuff like that (that's why SaaS is booming for years).

And this could be the first step to your full online version.


I could make the UI online and ship the app with a Chromium browser :D


Well, why not :-) ?

I've already done software like that. Still don't know what's yours, but in our case, it was for kiosks and access points. All the UI was online (so if the client ask for UI change, it's automatically updated on every kiosks or access points), and the hardware related code was on the C# software installed (using a scanner, a barcode reader, printing stuff, etc...)

Of course it's pretty specific, but as we have to create a key for every licence, you can't have two running at the same time, so no crack.

We had bad experience, as a guy to which we sold a licence of the first version of our soft (some nearly 20 years ago), where we just checked if the serial was ok, installed it on multiple places and we found out totally randomly, 2 or 3 years later !


An approach I took in your situation was to actually sign up to the forums, I became moderator there and then didn't allow anyone to share my stuff! The flip side though is you still have to allow people to share other peoples stuff so morally it's a grey area. Whatever you choose though, good luck!


Lol nice. I'm just going to try to answers theirs question that's all.


But piracy is good right? Death to DRM!

If someone doesn't want to pay they should be able to get the content for free, then they can decide if you deserve to be paid.

---

That content above seems to be very popular sentiment on HN and other techy places. I don't understand that since all you hurt are people like the author of this post.

The tech community needs to get its act together and decide to support intellectual property rights because as tech people that's all we have.

And don't think this only applies to proprietary software. MIT, GPL, Apache, etc are all licenses and are all capable of just as much abuse as your traditional EULA.


> But piracy is good right? Death to DRM! > That content above seems to be very popular sentiment on HN and other techy places. I don't understand that since all you hurt are people like the author of this post.

You can't begin to understand it, if you don't understand the 'sentiment' you describe in the first place.

Nobody is saying that it is OK to steal someone's work and not pay them for it. The argument against DRM is usually that:

1. I shouldn't, as a paying customer, be required to purchase multiple times just to consume on a different platform, this increases piracy.

2. You shouldn't charge prices that your customers can't afford to pay, increases piracy.

3. DRM punishes paying customers while pirates get a better (unrestricted) version anyway, so where's the incentive to not pirate?

...and many more.

Notice how none of these endorse piracy as a good thing, merely point out that these factors lead to it.


Why do you equate anti-DRM with pro-piracy? That is a bit of an insult as one can hold one opinion without the other.

However, there are those who make a special effort to pirate the works of people who promote DRM. The idea is that these people have no right to interfere with how one manipulates the bits on their machine. "They think they can control me, so fuck them"

Give up your control. Information wants to be free. Stop fighting it.

As a previous comment alludes, much of your pirates are people who won't ever convert anyway.




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