Piracy from your customers

Has it ever happened to u that one of your good ol “loyal” customers pirated your products and resold them or just made multiple copies ?
How did u find out and what did you do to him as revenge ?

Not that I know of. Did this happen to you, or are you just “what-if-ing”?

Never happened to me but I think this happens to freelance programmers

[quote=126269:@Horacio Vilches]Has it ever happened to u that one of your good ol “loyal” customers pirated your products and resold them or just made multiple copies ?
How did u find out and what did you do to him as revenge ?[/quote]

The more successful a product, the more chances it will be pirated. Just go to https://kickass.to and search for any big name software. It is there. In spite of the efforts from big publishers. For one Kim Dotcom, there are tens of thousands of piracy sites all over the Internet.

If big guys are targeted like that and seem to be unable to stop the phenomenon, what kind of revenge do you think is even possible ?

[quote=126282:@Michel Bujardet]The more successful a product, the more chances it will be pirated. Just go to https://kickass.to and search for any big name software. It is there. In spite of the efforts from big publishers. For one Kim Dotcom, there are tens of thousands of piracy sites all over the Internet.

If big guys are targeted like that and seem to be unable to stop the phenomenon, what kind of revenge do you think is even possible ?[/quote]
I remember a program that would detect forged serials and remind the user what it could have done to their system. Of course actually screwing a users system up is a whole different matter. But I have no problem disabling a program when i detect forged serials. I’d require not only a valid serial but also a release code.

Quite right. But fighting piracy by technical means can only go so far. You do not want to be a pain to your loyal customers. It has to remain within tolerable. Not to mention any serial number checking can generate support requests, such as the one we see here regularly from legal customers who experience issues with their licenses.

Any buyers? He ended up in my country & we don’t want him - hell we’ll pay you to take him away. Send the fucker home I say.

My applications check in every now & then to confirm their registration, check for updates & continued support. I’m currently using MBS MachineID, but will probably add the windows license key (also from MBS) to refine this. It probably won’t work for corporates as they usually have hundreds of duplicate machines with their own OLP activation codes, but they’re probably the least of my worries.

Even worse: the guy is german. The name he now has is just embarrasing. Wasn’t the original name Schultz?

Nope. Wikipedia says Schmitz is german-finnish from Kiel (northern germany).

Well, you might not like Kim Dotcom, but what the whole affair brought to light about the NZ government and its ties to the US is something else. NZ has not exactly covered itself with glory by trampling its own laws when the movie industry whistled.

I find it worrying that especially movie piracy seems to be taken more seriously than rape or some other serious crimes.

Nowadays sharing serial numbers is less common than it used to be, especially with activation technology that block multiple-uses (while also induce consumer & tech support nightmares).

The most common method is script kiddies who use a debugger (lower level than the Xojo debugger), to see the code flow of your application. They then pin point your calls to “if registered then doSomethingNice” and can change it to “if not registered then doSomethingNice”. Then they release a ‘patch’ for your application than makes this change available for all.

This is virtually impossible to prevent, it’s like posting nude photos to iCloud, it can be hacked, the more complicated you make it, the more of a challenge it is for the kiddies.

While I don’t have any statistics, I do believe that piracy is slowing down on the Mac. I haven’t received a support request from a cracked application in a very long time. It seems the code signing fiasco does have some use, as many users don’t trust applications that are not signed by the application vendor. Would you run Ohanaware’s HDRtist Pro if it was signed by CORE (and failed GateKeeper)? There is a cracked version of our HDRtist Pro out there in the wild, signed by CORE and it fails GateKeeper, it’s also 20mb bigger than the version from our site, so I have no idea what code the cracker has ‘injected’ into the application!

Obviously you still want a means of protecting your serial numbers, after all you don’t want to make easier for people to rip you off. If you sell on the Mac, you should consider the App Store as there are no serial numbers (to speak of) to share online.

Oh, the easiest way to dissuade a user from sharing their serial number, is to tie it to their e-mail address. Make sure that you state the serial number will only be sent to that address (don’t display on a web page), this way it has to be a valid e-mail address in order for them to receive it.

This also causes headaches, especially when a user changes their e-mail address and forgets their old one!

Lastly, depending on your application, have you considered serial numbers that time out, like Xojo serial numbers. Which would mean that even if they use a shared serial number, it will expire and prevent them from getting updates without getting a new serial number?

How can you know your app is cracked or that a user give his licence key to another one?
You have to search yourself on the web if you find your own application cracked. It’s long and boring.
And a user who use another licence key that his own and ask by email a support is a silly guy.

On other side, pirates users are not always bad guys and may become customer.

Here is my stories with RealBasic:
I downloaded a game for my daughter many years ago. It was bugguy. I wrote to the author to reports the bug. He sent me his source code and answered “I’m fed up with this program, if you want, do it yourself”. I did it, and we worked together on his source code to correct and ameliorate his game. I worked on RealBasic with his licence key.
After, I began to make my own softwares and then I bought a licence. I would never have buy it if I did’t learn RealBasic first with a porate key.

Note that at this time, we couldn’t use the debug mode without a serial key.

Note2: I writevthis here without be afraid, I don’t think Xojo with ask a lawyer to find me. We are, my friend and me, sunday’s developpers.

Note3: the guy became a real friend in the true life.

I wrote that before but I will do it again.

  • Extraordinary anti-piracy techniques penalise only good customers and generate support requests. They can discourage non-technical savvy pirates, but will never stop advanced ones. See Sam’s post above.

  • With the resources at their disposal, including countless piracy sites all over the planet in countries that do not recognize intellectual property, pirates are anonymous and impossible to reach by legal means.

  • People who use pirated software do it most often because they have no intention whatsoever to buy, and will never purchase. It is not excuse but a good reason : a lot of them may not have money to buy. For instance students, or people in underdevelopped countries where they could not even buy if they wanted to, because credit cards don’t exist there, such as most African countries. Not to forget those who simply play with the software and discard it right away.

  • If you create software to make profit, fighting piracy will generally bring in no money, unless you can have VERY solid proof that a millionaire is illegally using your software. Instead of spending hours concocting the next nuclear weapon against pirates, why not spend a bit of time improving your web site to improve your conversion rate, create a new version of your app for the MAS, place a shareware sample all over the Internet. Chances are you will have used your time much more profitably. There are good people willing to buy out there. Better cater to them than to scum.

The company I beta test for has serial with email and online activation an its usually cracked after a few days, for awhile he set a boobie trap were after 10 passes (its a render engine) the image would start to blur… but they eventually got around that one… took them 2 years!
His mind set was the majority are looking for a magic wand that will instantly give hack user Pixar quality renders and most will give up after a few days, then you have the starving hobbyist who just can’t afford it which he was sympathy for and a chance the may buy at some point… the pisser is the people using it commercially
One nasty throw back is the support forum gets a bit twitchy when we see images without watermarks or an unusual problem from un registered users, some people can be less than diplomatic!.
He refuses to spend the time fighting them, all it does is make it harder for the paying user, Vray for example now use USB keys for their software, Autodesk products dial home and license servers.

Well not customers, but my former partner once took my business software (was written in VB6) and tried to sell it to customers. Basically it was a framework or set of objects and routines for general purpose business software for invoicing, accounting and documentation. He replaced all graphics, menus and Labels with his own name and logo and thought he is clever. But time and knowledge are strong allies. He did not understand the infrastructure behind the UI nor could maintain or adjust the database-tier code for customers.

Soon some of the customers asked me directly, if I could help them out. And some of them became loyal paying customers, so in the end it was more successful for me to take care and fixing the mess, than starting a war at court with unknown duration and results.

Software alone is worthless. It’s always the combination of software and service, which leads to success.

[quote=126592:@Michel Bujardet]I wrote that before but I will do it again.

  • Extraordinary anti-piracy techniques penalise only good customers and generate support requests. They can discourage non-technical savvy pirates, but will never stop advanced ones. See Sam’s post above.

  • With the resources at their disposal, including countless piracy sites all over the planet in countries that do not recognize intellectual property, pirates are anonymous and impossible to reach by legal means.

  • People who use pirated software do it most often because they have no intention whatsoever to buy, and will never purchase. It is not excuse but a good reason : a lot of them may not have money to buy. For instance students, or people in underdevelopped countries where they could not even buy if they wanted to, because credit cards don’t exist there, such as most African countries. Not to forget those who simply play with the software and discard it right away.

  • If you create software to make profit, fighting piracy will generally bring in no money, unless you can have VERY solid proof that a millionaire is illegally using your software. Instead of spending hours concocting the next nuclear weapon against pirates, why not spend a bit of time improving your web site to improve your conversion rate, create a new version of your app for the MAS, place a shareware sample all over the Internet. Chances are you will have used your time much more profitably. There are good people willing to buy out there. Better cater to them than to scum.[/quote]

Great post. All I’ll add is even the millionaire is not inclined to pay. He’s probably so busy running some company that your product wasn’t expensive enough to be worth the trouble. He got your software from a “friend”.

My favorite tactic is just annoy the user “hey you didn’t pay so you get to see a SPLASH SCREEN with my favorite 8bit logo.gif”

I hate legal disputes, I’ve been involved in 3 now, I won the first, ran out of money for the second and the third is still ongoing. It’s such a drain on time & energy. The latest dispute isn’t even mine, it’s my in-laws (but due to Chinese family attitudes, it falls on my wife’s and I’s shoulders), and it’s been ongoing for two years. You can tell every time that the opposition opens their mouth, it’s all bullshit and then we have to prove that they’re lying. They’ve had to replace two lawyers already. It just drags the whole thing out longer and longer. Seems to be the tactic, delay, delay, delay and hope that accuser runs out of cash, hope and the will to live.

[quote=126589:@Thomas ROBISSON]How can you know your app is cracked or that a user give his licence key to another one?
You have to search yourself on the web if you find your own application cracked. It’s long and boring.
And a user who use another license key that his own and ask by email a support is a silly guy.[/quote]
You can use Google to find cracked versions of your application, just enter in your application name and more than likely the cracked version will accommodate the first page. If this happens, you’ll spend your life trying to get Google to remove the links and then they still won’t.

Yahoo & Bing will also link to cracked version of your application, however both Yahoo & Bing remove the links in a couple of days.

Pirate Bay is also a good site to search for cracked versions, download a couple and check them out. Most likely it’ll be MacKeeper or some Windows app (don’t run them!).

As for sharing license keys, an activation system will limit the amount of times a key can be used. Making this clear to the customer when they purchase can either make them conscious that if they ‘lend’ their key, they may get into trouble, or it can piss them royally off.

And yes, customers with cracked copies and stolen license keys expect the same privileges as those that have paid! While it’s hard to tell about shared license keys, I only have one thing to say to customers who use the cracked version (I can tell because the code signature is broken), “Your copy is broken, please download a new copy from the following link.”. This also works if they’re a genuine customer as they come back, where as most simply don’t contact me again.

@Sam: Same shit everywhere…

When talking about licenses I am using AES crypted sqllite files today, where basic user settings are also stored within. So even if the customer copies the software and license file to somebody else he won’t have any advantage, because it is not his name on the printed invoices, packing lists or any report. This works pretty well if you deal with business customers. I know it is much more harder if you have endusers.