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Author Topic: Software protection and registration.  (Read 6255 times)

John2k

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Software protection and registration.
« on: April 09, 2008, 04:36:26 PM »
Hi,

I'm currently in the process of releasing a shareware product and I'm having trouble deciding on which way to go as regards to using activation keys.
From a developer's point of view, software should be protected as much as possible from piracy etc, but at what cost to the customer? Having the application 'phone home' and be limited to one machine would not be acceptable for me as a customer, so I would like to ask what other method I could possibly use.

I have toyed with the idea of eliminating any kind of activation and trusting the customer to the EULA, and maybe offer a good support package to warrant paying for it.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Thanks.

tinjaw

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2008, 06:54:27 PM »
John2k,

I would highly suggest you take a look at some of the discussion going on right now. Brad Wardell, of Stardock, has taken the stand that piracy doesn't hurt sales, bad business practices do. With one bad business practice being making it difficult for a purchaser to use what they bought hassle free. In short, he is for registration, but no other form of copy protection.

If you want to go down this latest rendition of the rabbit hole, you can start here and make sure to follow the link to Brad's article. You can then follow the discussions on many of the popular game review/commentary/discussion blogs and forums.

Brad is providing me the support for what I personally want to do, which is activation, a central company owned server, and no DRM.

mouser

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2008, 07:03:10 PM »
It's definitely a tricky question filled with choices.

I think you are at least thinking about it properly --- if you make it too annoying you are going to alienate your customers.

In some sense I guess I am in the camp of people that think that piracy probably does very little harm, BUT with one very serious caveat.  My experience is that if you don't give people some non-negligible incentive to buy your program they probably won't.  That might be as simple as saying that the program must be purchased and providing a simple registration system, and not worrying about pirates and crackers, etc.

In general though, it seems to me the easiest course to take is often to buy an existing protection system like Asprotect.  I would just reiterate the idea that I would not worry about getting the "strongest" protection -- I think that's wasted time and likely to cause pain for your users.  Better to find an easy system that is unlikely to malfunction and don't worry about people cracking your protection, they probably aren't potential customers.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2008, 07:44:01 PM »
I would add if you decide to go down the activation line you need to consider four things:

1) Allow users to activate the product on more than one machine (2 or 3 activations is sufficient for most purposes as that allows people to use the app on the desktop and laptop) - even MS allow this with their Office products (at least in the EULA for Office 2007 - I haven't checked the others).

2) Make it easy for users to deactivate a computer. The one thing I really hate is when I reinstall Windows having to contact a growing list of companies to beg for a new activation because their software is locked to the old activation which has been overwritten. It means reinstalling can take days or weeks, depending at how efficient people are at responding to emails. Adobe manage this painlessly (as do a number of smaller companies) but too many take the attitude 'you have to contact us if you exceed your activations' and that is EXTREMELY frustration - especially as activation becomes more and more prevelant. This is where I get seriously fed up with Microsoft because I might want to legitimately move non-OEM software to a new computer but I don't like having to call them and explain and then share great long strings of numbers!

3) Consider what will happen to your customers if you drop dead or cease trading. From your perspective you won't necessarily care at that point but if your apps become an integral part of someone's life/workflow it will upset them a lot if your activation service suddenly stops functioning.

4) How easy is it to guarantee your activation server will be up 99.99% of the time?

At this point you may consider that activation is going to cost more in time and money than you save by avoiding pirates - most of whom wouldn't have bought the software in the first place, and will find a crack for any activation system you can dream up. The harder the better (more challenge)!
« Last Edit: April 09, 2008, 07:45:42 PM by Carol Haynes »

mouser

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2008, 07:55:21 PM »
I disalike internet-based activations, and i hate licenses tied to a single pc, as carol is describing.  Unless you are selling software that costs thousands of dollars per pc license, i would seriously recommend you avoid such stuff.

kartal

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2008, 08:54:50 PM »
I personally think that good software will make money. I mean look at photoshop, most likely cracked copies are more than letigimate copies. But yet they manage to turn into software giant. If people like it they will pay it. I am on Mouser`s side,  probably spending money on extra keys will piss people off and will be waste of money for you.

Also anytime I see that a software is machine tied I give up buying it.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2008, 08:56:38 PM by kartal »

f0dder

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2008, 06:25:59 AM »
I hate online activation, it's damn painful to deal with.

I've just gone through the pain of installing Kaspersky antivirus 7.0 on ~10 PCs (with 5 more to come). While it's activation scheme is relatively painless, it still becomes quite an annoyance when you need to go through it for a lot of machines, and keep track of which machines use which registration numbers... their online shop didn't offer ordering an arbitrary amount of licenses, so I ordered 3x5 copies, which means 3 license numbers. ugh. Yes, I should probably have went for the centrally-administered option, but that was more expensive.

I'm with mouser, if you want protection don't go for the latest & greatest & potentially unstable, go for what means the least hassle for your customers.
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John2k

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2008, 06:45:33 AM »
Thanks everyone for your replies.  :Thmbsup:

I'm glad that you all agree what a pain it is using activated software.
I think that I will proceed with a good registration system and totally avoid activation altogether. From reading the link tinjaw provided, I was surprised to find that the best selling software avoids activation also, without hurting sales in the process. That's definitely encouraging!
Hopefully other software houses will follow suit, and take a look at what they are putting their customers through.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2008, 08:33:38 AM »
Most of the big companies that use activation don't really care what they put their customers through. They only think about money and customer care can go hang. It isn't surprising that the same big companies are often in bed with the recording and video industries too!

Renegade

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2008, 09:02:32 AM »
This is my standard license grant:

Quote
1.   LICENSE GRANT
The Company grants you a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide right and license to use the executable version of the Software, where “use” in this Agreement means storing, loading, installing or executing the Software.  You may not modify the Software or disable any licensing or control features of the Software. You agree that you may not copy the written materials accompanying the Software.  You may copy the software for archival purposes so long as the copy is unmodified from the original distribution and the copy retains all of the original Software’s proprietary notices. You may not rent or lease your rights to the Software or documentation. If you are an individual and this Agreement is for a single license, you may install the Software on multiple computers provided that not more than one of those computers is in use simultaneously and that those computers are solely for your own use. If the Software license you have is for a single user license then the Software may be installed on a computer that is for multiple users but it may not be installed on more than one computer regardless of whether those computers are operated simultaneously or not. If this Agreement is for a multi-user (site) license, the number of computers on which the Software is installed may not exceed the number of licenses purchased, regardless of whether the computer is used by multiple users or not. You may use this software in a networked environment on computers other than the computer on which the software is installed provided that you have purchased licenses for each computer that will use the software, regardless of whether those computers will use the software at the same time or not. 


I believe that is fair.

A licensing system needs to reflect the license agreement though. I do not use activation. It's hellish and I hate it.

However, for Asia, I would most certainly use activation in a heartbeat. I would not use the same licensing system as I use for the English language market (North America and Europe primarily). I would also not use the same license in Asia. I would rewrite portions of it and make it more restrictive.

We do need to have a reality check from time to time... ;)
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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

eschen

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2008, 03:04:45 AM »
If your target group is companies you may skip all protection systems. Fair usage conditions, like mentioned above, are a must have. But, it's a good idea to add something that is annoying to circumvent every time if you wanna use it illegally. If your product creates files, add copyright hints to it, that are gone with the license key, but need hands-on work for illegal users every time they use your software.

If you think about protection systems, use the strongest, with the best update frequency, and the most individual configuration (personalization of code sections) you can get. Crackers need  only days to produce a hack (or key generator) of the simple protection systems. With the last review I did in this arena I preferred Software Passport (maybe two years ago):

http://www.siliconrealms.com/

They are part of Digital River (e.g. RegNow, ShareIt). So, you can use this technology to let create a key on the fly when customers by at RegNow, ShareIt, etc. Pretty straight forward.

Service as add-on to register is a nice idea. But, not interesting in Shareware. Why you buy Shareware? Mostly, because of the limited price you've to pay for it. Service is something for the big software sellers, with complicated software products.

Regards Rainer

Carol Haynes

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2008, 03:12:44 AM »
This is my standard license grant:

It is all very well having a license agreement - realistically how do you enforce it?

Renegade

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Re: Software protection and registration.
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2008, 12:27:59 PM »
This is my standard license grant:

It is all very well having a license agreement - realistically how do you enforce it?

Just keep the honest people honest. As for the rest, so what?

You *CAN* do authentication, but that's painful for users and presents its own problems. As I mentioned above, I would do that for Asia and other places with high piracy rates. That just makes sense.
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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker