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roosevelt

How to Make Software Piracy Work For You?

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Hi,

 

As a software developer it is not a good feeling to see your software floating around on different websites but then again I don't think it is necessary to put too much effort trying to nail down the people who use the pirated copy of your software. I was wondering if there is anyway we can employ some kind of strategy that will actually turn these pirated users into raving fans or paid users?

 

For example, if you look at Adobe, Microsoft and many other companies, they know that their products are floating around. But since they have a huge market the losses don't seem to bother them as much. However, for some of the little guys, it can mean living in poverty. Then again if you look at developers like Minecraft or SublimeText, they are practically making their products free to use.,,, And at the same time people are willing to pay them for their hard work.

 

Recently I released a product for free. And lots of people are downloading it and one of the users actually took the time to chip in. Coming from the commercial markets or online marketing world... this is unheard of! But I was surprised to see that someone was willing to pay me even though the product was free to use.

 

Basically what I am trying to figure out is... exactly when people really think it's worth paying someone for their work?

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Hi,

 

As a software developer it is not a good feeling to see your software floating around on different websites but then again I don't think it is necessary to put too much effort trying to nail down the people who use the pirated copy of your software. I was wondering if there is anyway we can employ some kind of strategy that will actually turn these pirated users into raving fans or paid users?

 

Basically what I am trying to figure out is... exactly when people really think it's worth paying someone for their work?

Thing I've learned about piracy is, a lot of pirates spend more on buying legitimate versions later, so in one respect, piracy does help legitimate retail, (A very extreme way of looking at it, granted)

The cost of said product is also a contributing factor, I happen to believe the best way to beat a pirate is to price them out of the market (correct or not)

That being said, As you're a developer, you do deserve the right to make money from your labour, so a factor of supply vs demand can also be a contributing factor.

 

Truth be told, I have no idea on how to beat it, but I take comfort in some findings mentioned in this site that a lot of pirates use piracy as an extended 'Try before you buy' and spend more buying legitimate than whatever the average is for non pirates..

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I pay for software when it does what it should reliably and takes advantage of the OS it's made for. There was a lot of great software from smaller developers on the Mac and a few good ones I bought for Windows. I don't pirate stuff anymore (that was about 15-20 years ago) because I can afford software now.

 

As for the big companies, Microsoft I buy because they have the best option for my productivity needs and Adobe I buy because I learned Adobe back when I used to pirate software as a kid.

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Make sure the price is reasonable, the software is compatible and reliable.

 

People will purchase it if it's relevant. Offer choice and convenience to your users - make them want your product!

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I would add, make the software fairly easy to understand -- intuitive.

 

A lot of software out there is frustrating for many users.

 

And depending on the type of software, make it somewhat customizable.

 

Ask what your users what they would like to have in your software.

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Make sure the price is reasonable, the software is compatible and reliable.

 

People will purchase it if it's relevant. Offer choice and convenience to your users - make them want your product!

This without a doubt. So many softwares are not even worth the bandwidth they would be pirated from. Some developers who have this whole pie in the sky thinking that their software is valued so much but its not even close to that. Just make it fair and worth it and you will get the sales.

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I feel generating good will goes a long way. You've already given an example of that: providing free applications and seeing people who are willing to give you money in return. You want customers positive about handing their money to you. When I did OSS development, people would donate for the same reason. If you give people a reason to feel negative about what you are providing for any reason whatsoever, then they probably less likely to try to go a legitimate route.

 

Another thing is providing value that isn't there for pirated version. For example, in the gaming sector, if you provide manuals, music, extra content, etc. along with the game as well as community, those are good incentives for pirates to go the legal route.

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It really comes down to price. A lot of companies over price their software and there is no way the average person can pay it. Good example is Adobe Creative Cloud. $50 a month is over price for the software. Sorry but I Dont need the all the software they provide. Drop the price in half and then I can afford it but until then no money goes to them yet. More so now that I'm jobless.

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Hello,

 

Have you considered taking the shareware route, i.e., allowing people to use full version the software for a certain amount of times, number of runs, etc.?  Another option would be to offer a basic "free" version, that can be licensed and converted into a full "paid-for" version with a license key, file, or network connection. 

 

The key thing is that the differentiator between the two should be enough to allow people to get enough out of the program when trialing it so that they perceive value out of paying for it.

 

The flip side of this is, of course, that once people start giving you money for the software, they are going to want support, bug fixes and updates.  If you are making enough off the software to cover that, than fine.  Otherwise, you're essentially in the position of a hobbyist in that you're not making any profit off that code.  Which may be fine for you, but it is just something to keep in mind.

 

One thing I would suggest not doing is going the adware route by installing a sponsoring application like a toolbar.  Yes, it will make you some money, but your perpetuating a whole malconomy of crapware.

 

Regards,

 

Aryeh Goretsky

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Does one quick job, far too expensive, has a bunch of crap in it I have no use for? I'll pirate it.

I've never used it before and want to see if it's better than X? I'll pirate it.

I've heard mixed reviews? I'll pirate it.

No demo? I'll pirate it.

I don't trust your payment system? I'll pirate it.

Not available in my country? I'll pirate it.

I want to buy it? I'll pirate it first.

 

I've tried it. I like it. It's better than others. It does what I expect. Has decent support. Legitimately (and reasonably) worth the asking price? I'll buy it.

 

Don't like it? Too bad, I'm one of the generous ones.

 

I would download a Car.

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Does one quick job, far too expensive, has a bunch of crap in it I have no use for? I'll pirate it.

I've never used it before and want to see if it's better than X? I'll pirate it.

I've heard mixed reviews? I'll pirate it.

No demo? I'll pirate it.

I don't trust your payment system? I'll pirate it.

Not available in my country? I'll pirate it.

I want to buy it? I'll pirate it first.

 

I've tried it. I like it. It's better than others. It does what I expect. Has decent support. Legitimately (and reasonably) worth the asking price? I'll buy it.

 

Don't like it? Too bad, I'm one of the generous ones.

 

I would download a Car.

 

Has annoying DRM? I'll pirate it.

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Interacting with the pirates and explaining your position on popular torrents of your product seems to work for some indie developers. If this gets covered by TorrentFreak, you will get a bump in popularity and the goodwill generated might even get people, who weren't interested in even trying your product, to buy it. DRM free and fair pricing are other important factors.

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I believe than when a software costs more than the value it adds, people pirate it. And the more annoying you make it by adding anti-piracy features, the more reasons you give for people to pirate it.

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Not available in my country? I'll pirate it.

 

Here's what ruffles me. A game is released and available everywhere. The sequel comes out and the publisher for second game, usually different from the first, decides its a brilliant financial decision to tell a good portion of the global fan base to screw off and restrict the game's release. Case in Point: Prototype and Arkham Asylum. No problem getting them on steam. Their respective sequels come out and its "Sorry, this item is not available in your region". DaFrance? Has the money I spent on the original and its associated DLC magically become irrelevant to you? And the same studios have the gall to talk about piracy affecting them. Its not piracy, its your blatant idiocracy.

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Not sure if it matters, but I'll just throw this in here - I think it may help one's perspective. From Privacy, Security, and Content in Windows Platforms by Microsoft.

What is Piracy?

  • Piracy is the unlicensed use of someone's digital property

Piracy does not automatically result in lost revenue

  • EG, if I were to make a copy of Microsoft Office on a CD-R, and then destroy the CD-R, there would be no lost revenue
  • Some piracy can even foster sales of some kinds of digital property

Eliminating all piracy is prohibitively expensive

  • It also pisses off your loyal customers

There is such a thing as "good" piracy

  • Piracy that actually fosters more purchases of content can be "good"
  • There is no easy way to quantify this
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Interesting topic, for me its the price.  I have just been looking at Office Pro because I need the features it has and I am not willing to pay ?380 for what I need.  What I have said all along is what bring the price down they still earn money, yeah fair do's not as much but more people are likely to pay.

 

The only paid software I have on my PC is Windows and Office, everything else is either free or open source bar the odd application that has been <?50 which I have bought because I need.

 

I have been lucky for years I have been able to use Office via work but things change so I will need to purchase Office in the end as I am a heavy user of Outlook and Access for certain things I do.

 

Keep the price down and you will earn the money.

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Hello,

 

In the past month, I have not purchased any software, but I did give two $15 donations to the authors of two programs that I found some value from after using.

 

Regards,

 

Aryeh Goretsky

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piracy is a convenience thing first, cost thing second, a release/location thing third.

Sometimes its more convenient to download ??? because you want to use it offline and the retail version requires on-line DRM and your cottage don't have Internet. Sometimes its necessary because you literally can't buy/import/afford the software. Even if the product is good and the price is right another deterrent is the info required to make the purchase, or needing a credit card, a google wallet, a bitcoin, no P.O. boxes, etc. You provide no info to pirate something. Sometimes checkout is just plain insecure and you run the risk of hackers exposing your payment info or identity theft. Aside from those, people like to try something before buying especially when theres a no-return policy. Release schedules or geo-restrictions like the UK getting it two weeks before South Africa promotes piracy, which is a distribution thing really.

The problem I see with piracy is the fact other people are able to make money from the creators work via webpage advertisements on their cracked site or malware they mix into the release. If someone pirates software for the reasons I stated above, so be it as it likely wasn't going to be a sale anyway. People who promote piracy and profit from it is the real issue, not the kid who's gonna grow up using dreamweaver because they could pirate and learn it from a young age or the guy who wants to watch the latest downton abby but can't because it don't air in his area for another 3 months.

 

There is no real strategies, just a balance. Sometimes being well-known is just as advantageous as making a hefty profit off every single user of your software.

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Gabe Newell (Valve) said it best in a interview when asked about Piracy:

 

"We think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem," he said. "If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable."

 

It's not about the cost (some pirates will use that as an excuse), but the service. Imagine that for a legitimate user it takes more time to buy the software, install all the patches and updates than to open an FTP / torrent software and download the same fully patched, updated software; which one of the two offers the best service?

 

Also some people will ALWAYS pirate products, no matter what (they have all the sorts of excuses and are, in really, never going to buy the software in first place even if they had the money for it).


Keep the price down and you will earn the money.

 

there are people who pirate indie games and mobile ones that cost cents, so no, it's not a price problem.

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Why not do two things: Make a limited in feature version or a free version with the option to donate. Make the full version only for this who purchase the software and make sure that the serial key is trackable, which mean if more than one or two users are using the serial code, means it has been leaked for free. You can make that serial code invalid, so you don't lose money. If the original customer who purchased the serial code didn't leak the serial number you can generate another serial code for him. If again new serial number has been leaked, you can invalidate it and report it to the proper authorities who is trying to leak your software which was the customer who purchased.

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Why not do two things: Make a limited in feature version or a free version with the option to donate. Make the full version only for this who purchase the software and make sure that the serial key is trackable, which mean if more than one or two users are using the serial code, means it has been leaked for free. You can make that serial code invalid, so you don't lose money. If the original customer who purchased the serial code didn't leak the serial number you can generate another serial code for him. If again new serial number has been leaked, you can invalidate it and report it to the proper authorities who is trying to leak your software which was the customer who purchased.

 

Or use Steam as a software launcher or make the software cloud ready, so you can control tightly who can access it. :)

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Gabe Newell (Valve) said it best in a interview when asked about Piracy:

 

It's not about the cost (some pirates will use that as an excuse), but the service. Imagine that for a legitimate user it takes more time to buy the software, install all the patches and updates than to open an FTP / torrent software and download the same fully patched, updated software; which one of the two offers the best service?

 

Also some people will ALWAYS pirate products, no matter what (they have all the sorts of excuses and are, in really, never going to buy the software in first place even if they had the money for it).

 

there are people who pirate indie games and mobile ones that cost cents, so no, it's not a price problem.

 

yes. to follow up on that:

 

there are some people who will always pirate simply because you can't beat free. a portion of those would have spent money to buy, a portion of those would never have been customers. whatever. you're never going to convert this group of people without majorly alienating your actual paying customers (if at all), so don't focus on them. instead, focus on treating people who are actually giving you money well. Don't ###### them off with DRM, don't ###### them off with ###### treatment, don't ###### them off with shady business practices. these are people who are giving you money, who cares what the ones not giving you money are doing? as long as you provide a service that makes it better to pay you than to pirate (again, excepting the ones you can never convince anyway), avoidable piracy is minimized as much as you can control as a developer.

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F2P, thats a good way to use 'piracy'.

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Using steam or cloud things are the kinds of things that will breed bad will with potential customers. People are less likely to use locked down software when it comes from a small developer (or it is not in an entrenched market) and requires them to jump through more hoops to use it.

 

Regarding keys:

  1. If it is just a serial key + must be online for the activation, that's a normal thing to do and is fine as long as it doesn't end up with false positives and/or hassle for the purchasers. Being pedantic about number of computers for example, it just going to land you bad will from customers unless you are being reasonable (many activations from different IPs in a short period of time is a good key blocking offense).
  2. You have to be careful with key generation. You need to use asymmetric cryptography to generate the keys or someone can just load your application up in an analyzer, find the code that does the validity check, and make a key generator for it in probably an hour (or if it is .net code probably 10 minutes  :laugh:). The worst part in this scenario is that it will work for all versions of your software. Of course if you are pairing with online activation this is more fool-proof.
  3. The one good thing about asymmetrically generated keys (and being online for activation) is that hackers will have do binary modifications to bypass these things and that largely restricts hacks to specific revisions (unless the hacker actually knows what they are doing, but that's unlikely since most of these people aren't at all that skilled).
Personally, I think you are not likely to see the re-distribution of keys you hand out unless you are a large software developer. People who purchase your software are more likely to be legitimate users than anything else since you'll have a small user base. Or to say that differently, you'll be less of a target in general for hacking.
 
Also, keep in mind that things like steam, cloud sign-ins, and periodic online checks while running the software don't protect you anymore than serials+online activation if cloud features aren't integral to your software's usage. For example, Adobe Cloud was widely reported to be a partial attempt to help against activation bypasses; however, it was widely reported that the applications were hacked less than a week after the release of the cloud versions. In fact, most likely the same day. Why? Because the software just has licensing checks which can be bypassed by hackers either way. It doesn't really matter that it has some basic cloud integration since nothing in the usage of the software depends on the cloud. Break the checks and the hackers are home free at that point. That reminds me, an example of trying to make cloud features integral is the newest Simcity. 
 
tldr; I feel the best practice for protecting your own software is asymmetric key generation + online activation and that the cloud doesn't make you safer unless your application has integral features that require its usage.

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Using steam or cloud things are the kinds of things that will breed bad will with potential customers.

 

Depends who you're targeting really, Steam can be a great tool to reduce piracy if the user is already on the platform and/or the platform holds value for the user beyond their interaction with your product. If the opposite is true however I will agree it may become a hurdle rather than a step-up.

 

I think it's also worth considering alternative business models too, flexible pricing, ad supported, donation driven, etc.

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