the Jolly Roger Over Your Hard Drive
Attacking Software Piracy at the source
By Jim Bray
makers seem to have chosen some pretty strange ways to combat piracy.
that software piracy costs them billions, so I can understand why theyd
be upset. Yet as I was installing some software the other day, something
I do all the time in my line of work, it hit home just how silly and counterproductive
some of these anti-piracy methods are.
The application I
was unleashing onto my hard drive was one for which you have to type in
an interminable and confusing ID code. Youve probably seen them
yourself long combinations of numbers and letters you have to enter
into a little onscreen box during the setup program, and if you dont
key it in exactly as written (in tiny little print that makes your eyes
hurt) you have to start all over again from scratch.
What a waste of time,
and what a needless bother for the law-abiding people who actually spend
their after-tax dollars on the software!
Im willing to
bet it doesnt do much to fight piracy, either.
After all, these codes
are usually printed right on the CD-ROMs case, so when you lend
the disc to aunt Mabel, the code goes with it.
Even if the code isnt
printed on the case, its probably on a card or inside the manual,
so its simple enough to write it down and pass it along with the
I certainly cant
blame software companies for trying to fight these modern day Blackbeards.
Its their intellectual property and their livelihoods that are being
ripped off, and I know exactly how they feel. I get upset when people
copy my scribbled rantings, too, and for exactly the same reasons.
I often wonder, however,
if these companies have ever thought to ask themselves why people
Im sure some
of its the work of organized groups out to make a few quick megabucks
off the backs of honest developers, though Ive never run across
it personally, but Im willing to bet that most software whether
it be computer or audio/video are copied because consumers cant
justify paying the retail price.
Look at Microsoft
Office as an example. Office and its competition are really
must have productivity applications and are worth their weight
in, well, silicon. If you cant afford a suite like Office you can
get by with stripped down applications like Microsoft Works, but you lose
a lot of features and your files may not be compatible with what your
friends, neighbors, and co-workers are using.
Yet even the basic
version of Office costs hundreds of dollars and probably has many,
many features the ordinary consumer or office user will never use in a
million years. So youre stuck between a stripped down suite that
may not be enough or is incompatible and an application
thats so powerful its like going after a mosquito with an
dont even give you much in the way of owners manuals any more,
the printing of which was always one of the major production costs. The
tutorials or other help files they deign to include are often
on the CDs now, and CDs cost virtually nothing to stamp out
compared with the cost of a book.
I realize that Research
& Development is a huge investment and that companies need to make
this back. I dont begrudge their profits, either, because thats
why anyone goes into business in the first place. Nor am I advocating
piracy: I dont want these companies to stop sending me all the nifty
stuff with which I get to play!
I wonder, however,
how many more copies of an application like Microsoft Office would be
sold if they went for, say, fifty bucks a pop. Especially if theyre
going to hit you up to buy a brand new version a year or so down the road
Or how many more millions
of copies of the latest hit CD would be sold if you could pick it up for
would probably pirate anyway, but I have a feeling many more people would
buy the straight goods if it didnt cost them a pound of flesh.
So listen up, manufacturers.
Maybe if you give your consumers a break, youll reap the benefits.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.