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Products lose activation with BIOS changes

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As a developer I would prefer a 0% piracy rate but I do live in a real world so preferences have little to do with facts of life.


Best Regards,

Ron Hamilton ASEL

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As a developer, what would you prefer - to sell 2,000 copies with a 1% piracy rate, or to sell 5,000 copies with a 70% piracy rate?

 

It seems like honest, paying customers are merely collateral damage.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

As a developer I have seen 100 copies sold versus thousands of downloads of a cracked version. So... I think your belief of "honest, paying customer" being the norm is flawed.


Ed Wilson

Mindstar Aviation
My Playland - I69

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It seems like honest, paying customers are merely collateral damage.

 

Absolutely correct.

 

I've got quite a few addons that have a hard limit on the number of install/activations I can use. These same addons have absolutely no way of deactivating or returning the activation when I want to uninstall them. After a few re-formats, hardware upgrades, etc I hit my limit. I have to email the developer explaining the situation and hope they reply. Some are very good with this and reply very quickly with no hassles at all (RealAir), some leave you waiting for days or weeks, some don't bother replying at all.

 

As a legitimate and paying customer I suffer the inconvenience and hassle whilst the pirates carry on unhindered.

 

If a developer absolutely insists on hardware based activations then look at DCS as the model - you get 10 activations. You can deactivate when you uninstall (e.g. before a hardware upgrade or reformat), and you activations regenerate at a rate of one per month back up the maximum of ten.


Nick

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But once I do that I should be able to play.

 

And what's to stop this key being used by someone else on another PC?  Best way to associate uniqueness (as in one and only ONE paying customer) is looking at hardware that rarely changes ... BIOS is one such method (but by no means the ONLY such method).

 

Piracy rate is about 60% ... 6 out of 10 people steal software.  In comparison 1 out of 11 people steal retail goods from stores (TV's, food, etc.).  What this tells me is that most of the population will steal if they feel they can do it anonymously.  Unfortunate reality of the human condition I guess.  Sadly, the honest 40% of the populate are paying for the dishonest 60%.  Obviously this isn't a sustainable situation ... so one of two things happen, software is no longer made, or copy protection schemes become ever more intrusive.

 

We use several methods to protect our hard work and efforts, one being always on checking process.  What that means is we lose about 5% sales potential but eliminate 95% theft ... but you have to add in the cost to code anti-theft mechanisms (something I'd rather not do).  Our ROI is still considerably better using always on anti-theft.

 

Can't tell you what the future will hold, but piracy rate isn't in decline ... it's still on the increase.  From a human kind perspective it's VERY discouraging, from a programmers perspective it's just more anti-theft coding, from honest end users perspective it's annoying, from the other 6 out of 10 people they really don't care - they see no connection to their actions. 

 

Cheers, Rob.

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As a developer I have seen 100 copies sold versus thousands of downloads of a cracked version. So... I think your belief of "honest, paying customer" being the norm is flawed.

 

I never said anything about what the norm was. My question still stands - what do those who make their living from software prefer?

 

I do get the feeling whenever the topic of piracy starts getting discussed that many smaller authors would happily lose sales if it meant an elimination of piracy, and I'm not sure at all how that benefits them. The risk they run is the same one the music industry faced - their poor DRM and the restrictions on the consumer experience did nothing except alienate customers while the pirates continued unfettered.

 

Out of curiosity, what was the product in question? How many of those "thousands" of downloads do you expect could have been paying customers?

 

Cheers!

Luke


 

 


Piracy rate is about 60% ... 6 out of 10 people steal software.  In comparison 1 out of 11 people steal retail goods from stores (TV's, food, etc.).  What this tells me is that most of the population will steal if they feel they can do it anonymously.

 

If you're getting your number from the BSA 2011 survey, I'd take that with a major grain of salt. Remember that they are a lobby group dedicated to crying wolf about software piracy and no lobby group will ever suggest that their cause du jour isn't a significant issue.

 

I also don't understand why you suggest that copying software is the same as stealing food, TVs or physical assets. It's a false equivalency in that software and IP in general are ephemeral rather than physical products. Stealing a TV means the merchant cannot sell it. The same is not the case for ephemeral products. An increased piracy rate doesn't reduce my sales in and of itself; it only does so if it becomes much easier to pirate my product than to buy it legitimately.

 

That's why I don't worry about increased piracy rates. I'd happily take a quadrupling of piracy if it meant my sales doubled. Having a few kids download something off of a torrent and go through hoops to get it working? They weren't going to buy anyways. What the music industry needed to get dragged kicking and screaming to accept is that people will happily buy music all day long at $1/song with no DRM.

 

It seems like a lot of software authors view piracy as a moral rather than an economic issue. It leads to poor decisions and poor customer experiences.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke


Luke Kolin

I make simFDR, the most advanced flight data recorder for FSX, Prepar3D and X-Plane.

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I also don't understand why you suggest that copying software is the same as stealing food, TVs or physical assets. It's a false equivalency in that software and IP in general are ephemeral rather than physical products.

Why is that suggested? Because theft is theft, it doesn't really matter what was stolen.

 

You are one of those who seems to think IP isn't a tangible good. If I take the software and burn it to 100,000 CDs... is it tangible then? If so, why? Because it's on a $0.01 piece of plastic? So you steal 1,000 of those CDs, that's the same as stealing food now?

 

Do you really see how ludicrous your argument is?

 

If to garner physical rights of theft protection requires that I produce my products ONLY ON A PHYSICAL MEDIUM... I'll gladly do so because I can guarantee I can flat out eliminate piracy if I can use a physical medium.


Ed Wilson

Mindstar Aviation
My Playland - I69

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Question for Rob,  Out of interest how does the Industry establish a piracy rate of 60% ?  maybe I'm out the loop but I would be nervous about downloading anything from a suspect source for the obvious risks involved and that's before the ethical consideration.

 

regards

 

Brian Newman


Brian Newman

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If you're getting your number from the BSA 2011 survey, I'd take that with a major grain of salt.

 

Our numbers come from several sources, but the most reliable source is our own.  We monitor illegal usage of our software (it can't be used without an internet connect no matter what hacks are performed on the executable/dlls) and it's not "announced" ... lets just say we give them a few days to "try" it even though we offer no official "trial" product ;)  ... so that's the primary source of the 60% piracy number (and we're business software, entertainment software is probably higher).

 

 

 

I also don't understand why you suggest that copying software is the same as stealing food, TVs or physical assets.

 

I'm not suggesting "copying software" is the same as stealing food or a TV.  Or did you actually mean copying software that you didn't pay for from a source that requires payment (or came from a source that requires payment)?  If the later, then yes, that is theft

 

Software is intellectual property.   A definition of theft is:

 

the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.

 

A product's cost (be it physical or intellectual) is not deemed entirely by it's physical presence although software does indeed have a physical presence in terms of servers and connection cost to keep it working 24/7 (as applicable).

 

An important factor you "missed" is that software (just as a TV) takes considerable effort and resources to produce and they are almost identical.  It's the cost to produce a product not it's physical relationship to how it's deployed/sold to the world.

 

TV

1.  Must be designed (intellectual costs)

2.  Once designed must make a prototype (manufacture/physical)

3.  Once prototype is made, must be tested (intellectual)

4.  Issues must be fixed (back to step one - intellectual)

5.  Once prototype is sorted, setup mass manufacturing process (both intellectual and physical)

6.  Resource used to produce and manufacture TV (physical)

 

Book

1.  Could take 10 years to produce (intellectual cost)  - 90% of the cost

2.  Physical book (manufacturing cost) - 10% of the cost

 

Software

1.  Design (intellectual)

2.  Code (intellectual)

3.  Test (intellectural)

4.  Deploy (intellectual and physical)

5.  Update/Maintain (intellectual and physical)

 

Your logic is flawed, more TV's are ordered/made and the product continues to be sold ... lost revenue from an expected theft rate is in most case built into the cost of the reselling the product ... for retail products like TV's that is around 10% (it a very predictable number).  As you can see most products are produced with both intellectual and physical attributes, but they are irrelevant

 

 

It seems like a lot of software authors view piracy as a moral rather than an economic issue.

 

How could it be anything else other than a moral issue?  Theft is theft - one doesn't pay for intellectual property (the right to use it) and yet one uses it.  Actions have consequences ... ignoring consequences (re-actions) doesn't make them go away or be any less real.

 

The reason for theft (be it economical, moral, or for the thrill, or to buy friends, or whatever the reason) is really not something an author has the ability to change or get involved in.  It's entirely a moral issue ... and 60% of the population don't have a problem with it and yet 70% of the population holds religious moral standards ... hmmm ... how does one reconcile that? ;)

 

The world is connected ... none lives on an Island (not any more).

 

Cheers, Rob.

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Why is that suggested? Because theft is theft, it doesn't really matter what was stolen.

 

You are one of those who seems to think IP isn't a tangible good. If I take the software and burn it to 100,000 CDs... is it tangible then? If so, why? Because it's on a $0.01 piece of plastic? So you steal 1,000 of those CDs, that's the same as stealing food now?

 

Do you really see how ludicrous your argument is?

 

If to garner physical rights of theft protection requires that I produce my products ONLY ON A PHYSICAL MEDIUM... I'll gladly do so because I can guarantee I can flat out eliminate piracy if I can use a physical medium.

 

Again, in your rush to become outrage you miss the subtleties in my post. Actually, they're not really that subtle.

 

Ephemeral products are difficult from physical products in that unauthorized use or copies do NOT preclude a sale. If you have a TV in your store and I steal it, you cannot sell it to a paying customer. If you have an application on your servers and I make a copy of it, I've not prevented you from making copies and selling them to your paying customers. Now while we can call both circumstances theft (and for what it's worth, they both are theft - I don't disagree with you there) they are NOT the same. Most lay people intuitively understand that. To claim otherwise is hyperbole.

 

As a software author, if 100% of people who can afford and want my software pay for it, I'm happy. If I have 100 pirates for every paying customer, so long as none of the pirates would have bought it legally I don't see how piracy affects me one whit. Now some non-zero percentage of otherwise paying customers will likely pirate the software, but my DRM if done poorly (and most is done poorly) will also drive off some customers. But it's an economic decision. Of course, if one wishes to sacrifice one's finances to enforce one's moral views, one is free to do so.

 

My question stands: what would you prefer - to sell 2,000 copies with a 1% piracy rate, or to sell 5,000 copies with a 70% piracy rate?

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

 

 

How could it be anything else other than a moral issue?

 

I rest my case. :)

 

It's an economic issue. At some point software will reach the same level as Big Music - security will cause revenue loss and be relaxed as just another cost of doing business, and the industry will be saved from itself.

 

I don't think any of us are going to change our minds any time soon. I think we should agree to disagree.

 

. lets just say we give them a few days to "try" it even though we offer no official "trial" product ;)  ... so that's the primary source of the 60% piracy number (and we're business software, entertainment software is probably higher).

 

I missed this. Have you considered instituting a trial as a formal feature?

 

Cheers!

 

Luke


Luke Kolin

I make simFDR, the most advanced flight data recorder for FSX, Prepar3D and X-Plane.

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I think Ed brings up an interesting point about using physical mediums.  I remember in the early days of FS9, back when download speeds were too slow for the size of the programs we were buying.  Almost everything I had for FS9 is on a disk I purchased from a developer or reseller.  And with those, I've never had any problems when it came to reinstalling the software when I needed to, regardless of any DRM in use or changes to my system specs.   So my question is, if using a physical medium would, in effect, essentially stamp out piracy, why don't more developers do it?  I realize that in todays world of instant gratification that it might put some people off, but the current methods of trying to prevent piracy are already doing that.  And given that piracy doesn't seem to be on the decline as a result of the current protection schemes, wouldn't it be worth saying to your customers, "Look, I know it's a PITA to wait for a disc to arrive in the mail, but in the end it's to your benefit as it's the only way we can protect our intellectual property without negatively impacting the experience of our legitimate customers use of the product they paid for, and it allows us to reduce our costs by not having to code elaborate protection schemes into the product."  A developer could even have a version of the software available for download after purchase that is time limited to, say, a week so they can use the product until the disk arrives.  That, coupled with a disk activation code, could possibly make the whole process a palatable alternative to the current state for legitimate customers while simultaneously deterring piracy.   Now admittedly, I am a naive, non-developer type.  But I can say for myself that I would have no problem ordering and waiting for a disc in the mail if it meant eliminating piracy, reduced costs, and that I can keep it safe and use as I need to through hardware changes and re-installs and the like, without worrying that the developer may one day disappear and I can no longer use the product because of the inherent DRM. 

 

Cheers,

Jeff


"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."

-Leonardo da Vinci  (some experts question the attribution, but I'll go with it for now.) 

 

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As a developer I have seen 100 copies sold versus thousands of downloads of a cracked version. So... I think your belief of "honest, paying customer" being the norm is flawed.

 

I don't think any of us would deny that piracy does exist, but if this relationship exists with a product, any product, then there is some other inherent issue with the product...  low perceived value to begin with, lack of support?  Gotta be something else going on to create that kind of imbalance.


Frank Patton
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"I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me." - John Deere

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I rest my case. :)
 
It's an economic issue.

 

That sounds like you are trying to make a justification - economics?  I have no control over one's work ethic, work background, location, environment, all the things that remove economics as justification for theft.

 

I'm not really sure what there is to agree or disagree about?  I don't define morals, all I define is a method to ensure my company gets paid for the work/investment they have done ... doesn't make any difference if my company produced food, TVs, or software ... it's all the same.  You are trying to distinguish them as being different, but why -- the moral end or economic justification is no different?

 

 

 


I missed this. Have you considered instituting a trial as a formal feature?

 

Yes, we contact them in about 15 days ;)  -- no one is entirely anonymous, all data packets can be traced ... communication is never really 100% anonymous, if it were then communication wouldn't happen.  We also offer software rental, another way to try before you make a larger investment.

 

But like I said, remove the anonymity and you'll see a huge drop in theft (plenty of real world statics demonstrating this).  For me, that's all I care about ... one's reason, justification, economics, moral or not moral interpretations of theft is of no significance to me.

 

Unfortunately, there is lack of enforcement of software theft so as a result, developers (like myself) have to take matters into our own hands ... we really don't want to, it's a big hassle, just more work that continually changes as the methods of theft changes.  Fortunately, thieves aren't the sharpest tools in the shed (if they were they probably wouldn't being stealing ... the ones that do it for intellectual challenge or "a message" are far and few between and more often than not they want to get caught) so the detection and prevention isn't a big challenge ... however, it's the inconvenience to the honest users ... but we do our best to mitigate the inconvenience as much as possible (and we don't use BIOS information alone).

 

Cheers, Rob.


So my question is, if using a physical medium would, in effect, essentially stamp out piracy, why don't more developers do it?  

 

Cheers,

Jeff

 

It's actually harder and more costly to implement on a physical medium (like a DVD/CD) -- also, it's "fixed" ... anything "fixed" will eventually be hacked (and was).  It also introduced many technical issues and compatibility issues with the physical devices.

 

But the best theft prevention is a dynamic one that is constantly changing.

 

Cheers, Rob.

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I'll start this off by saying I'm against piracy.  I even register the shareware programs I use.

 

If you've ever encountered a community that has a lot of pirates in it, you'll have discovered that there are a lot of people who take great pride in never having paid for any software.  They'll jump through any hoops to keep their record unbroken.  These people would not be customers no matter what you did.  Also, pirates tend to download everything, even if they never really look at it.  It may be used for barter later, or not, it doesn't matter to them.

 

I've heard of many cases where normal people have become pirates after losing an investment in something protected by DRM.  They find that if you pirate a song, for example, you have it forever, but if you pay for it you can lose it through no fault of your own.

 

Then there's the $495 professional program that you might only use once a year.  It's priced for professional use, with customer support being part of the purchase price.  People will occasionally seek out a pirate version and not worry about support.  Sometimes these have academic licenses for much less, but a pirated copy doesn't carry restrictions on use.

 

In some areas of the world the purchase price may be more than the average annual income.  Don't expect many sales in these areas unless you have a special version made specifically for that market.  Seems like books do this a lot.

 

The best anti-piracy measures I've seen involve giving a paying customer something the pirates can't get access to.  The worst involve things like one of the early word processors using a convoluted unintuitive command set so the product can't be used without documentation, in the days before the Internet where you couldn't just download a PDF file.  Honorable mention goes to Ubisoft who put Starforce on my computer.

 

I don't condone any of the above actions.  I'm just posting here to let people know what's going through the pirate's mind.

 

Hook


Larry Hookins

 

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

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It's actually harder and more costly to implement on a physical medium (like a DVD/CD) -- also, it's "fixed" ... anything "fixed" will eventually be hacked (and was). It also introduced many technical issues and compatibility issues with the physical devices.

 

 

Fair enough, Rob.  Though I think it's also fair to say that such technical and compatibility issues aren't completely mitigated by downloadable products. Thanks for the response.  Much appreciated.

 

 

I don't think any of us would deny that piracy does exist, but if this relationship exists with a product, any product, then there is some other inherent issue with the product... low perceived value to begin with, lack of support? Gotta be something else going on to create that kind of imbalance.

 

 

Frank brings up a good point here, too.  This is something I've read in countless threads about piracy.  Many discussions end up revolving around the fact that some developers release incomplete products, too many bugs, lack of support, etc.  One of the most frequent statements I see is "why should I pay to be what amounts to a beta tester for a product that clearly isn't finished yet, or for something that I can't be sure will work right on my system?"  Just to be clear, I personally don't think there is any reason that justifies piracy, but the sentiments they express are valid in some cases.  So is it that people have unrealistic expectations of developers or that the quality of the products available aren't living up to previously set industry standards?

This is an interesting discussion.


"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."

-Leonardo da Vinci  (some experts question the attribution, but I'll go with it for now.) 

 

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One of the most frequent statements I see is "why should I pay to be what amounts to a beta tester for a product that clearly isn't finished yet, or for something that I can't be sure will work right on my system?" Just to be clear, I personally don't think there is any reason that justifies piracy, but the sentiments they express are valid in some cases. So is it that people have unrealistic expectations of developers or that the quality of the products available aren't living up to previously set industry standards?

 

So what/who defines whether or not a product is finished or has 'too many' perceived bugs?  What fool buys clearly labeled beta software and complains about bugs?  When is a product finished? Who is responsible for determining whether or not a product will work on 'my' system ('my' system is usually a kludge and full of bugs itself)?  What industry standards are you talking about?  I can tell you there aren't any and never have been any. The concept that piracy exists because of the product is absurd.  Piracy exists because many folks, given any chance at all, will steal - just that simple.  The average guy (whoever that is) will steal, professionals will steal (they're good at it - do an audit of any Fortune 500 company), cops will steal (my budget is too small and I need it), the good Rev. Wossisname (bless you, it's for a good purpose) will steal.  Yes, I've seen all those cases - it was my job for a while.  As a consequence, developers spend a lot of time and money to make it as difficult and traceable as possible.  Sometimes that makes it a pain for honest users.  Perhaps the users should take a deep breath and consider what the cost would be if devs recouped their losses with DRM free software.  Ordinarily, software is priced so that dev costs are paid with the first 25% of sales because even with DRM  returns diminish after that.  If 'I' (generic - I'm retired) dropped DRM I'd have to recover cost with far fewer copies and that means a higher over the counter cost.

 

DJ

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