Paranoia or Piracy?

deemarie · December 26, 2005 7:33 am

Do we have to choose between "Paranoia or Piracy?" I don't think that should be necessary, but it seems in the software industry to be the case. For the record, I am absolutely against any form of software Piracy. The companies have a right to make money. What galls me, though, is when a company's fear of piracy makes it such, that I cannot load and or run a program. From what I have experienced, it appears that some companies think that it is more important to install complicated keys, safe guards, etc., so someone cannot duplicate the program or run it on more than the specified number of machines, even if it creates a hardship for the honest user who has invested his or her money in the purchase of the product. It is even worse when the manufacturer, and I will not name names, refuses to admit there is a problem and will not give support. One well-known manufacturer even went so far as to state that the reason this particular program would not work, could not be the program's fault, and that the solution was to reformat the drive and start all over. A few months later, they admitted it was their fault and offered a patch. Anyway, I'm sure we all have horror stories about programs so well protected that we can hardly use them. The question is, "Is there a middle ground?" I really don't know if we can answer that because we don't know the statistics of which programs are pirated the most; which programs are protected from piracy and yet are user friendly; and whether this protection works at all if someone is serious about reproducing the program to market the pirated copy. I would really like feedback on this issue from you, the Renderosity readersfeedback and not just griping, please. You don't have to answer the following questions; they are there as guides.
  • How much do these safeguards play when you choose a program?
  • How flexible do you feel a company should be on the number of simultaneous installs?
  • Any other feedback such as interesting articles, etc. Looking forward to your comments.

  • The Paula Sander's Report is a regular Renderosity Front Page featured column, where Paula investigates and comments on graphic software, techniques, and other relevant material through her reviews, tutorials, and general articles.
December 27, 2005

Article Comments

3DSublimeProductions ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 26 December 2005

One such program (wont name call here lol) gave me the key and then when it failed to work they in turn told me that I was entering it wrong. Come to find out it was one of those situations where the key was never made to work, and in order to get access to this program that cost hundreds of dollars I had to call tech support, give my name and order number and bam... all of the sudden I was issued a correct key that would make my program work. While I understand that these companies are trying to protect their own interests, sometimes it makes it very difficult for those of us that do buy the program. Issuing multiple liscenses for a program isn't something that all software providers do, and they should simply because some of us work from work, and home and it would be easier for all involved to have two keys in case something ever came up about us running the program in two seperate locations. Most of the time if I can I get two liscenses because I have two computers and one goes with me where I go sometimes. In my personal opinion, I think that when you purchase something legally the companies should give you two keys that way, a person such as myself can 'legally' run the purchased program on two computers. And, giving keys that worked the first time you put them in would also be an added bonus. Thanks for bringing the topic up, I think a lot of us feel the same way about piracy and the honest people that are still out here being treated no better than the 'pirates' that offer the software all over the internet.

Khrys ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 26 December 2005

Personally, anti-piracy has become scarier THAN piracy. I cannot even risk putting a music CD in my disk drive, after the problems the BMG Anti-Piracy software that installs itself without permission and opens huge holes in your system for viruses to get in.

punisher1999 ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 26 December 2005

I have found that for the most part, software protection only hurts the legitimate consumer. I have yet to see any mainstream software that has not been pirated. I have a few games from a certain company that I cannot run at all due to my running a 64bit version of Windows. It is NOT the game that is incompatible, but the copy protection which causes the problems since it installs drivers that are not 64bit compatible. As such, I plan on avoiding the company until I hear they have changed their ways (and they are also the same type of company who says "it's not our problem"). I generally like the online CD-key verification method as long as it allows unlimited re-installs, maybe even via a login/password. The reason being is two fold: 1) I regularly format and re-install Windows. 1-2 times per year, sometimes more if I do major upgrades or run into problems. 2) I use a lot of my software at home and at work. Not FOR work, just AT work, when I'm bored. ;) The disadvantage to online keys/logins is for people/locations that do not have Internet access.. The reality is that if someone wants a piece of software bad enough, someone will find a way to pirate it. I will admit that CP used to be slightly more effective before the Internet came around to most people. It would help stop the so called "casual copier". The person who copied software for their friends or something and didn't know how to hack or anything. There are VERY few of these people around now, since you can download most software from the Internet and you don't need to hack it yourself. I think that CP has seen it's day and should be laid to rest. I think that we should not be prevented from making legitimate backups of our software. I would agree to a cdkey/online form of CP for everything, as long as there was also an option for phone registration, similar to Windows for those that do not have Internet access.

HeFlash ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 26 December 2005

There's an old saw that runs: "Locks keep out honest people and incompetent thieves." As much as I understand that vendors need to protect themselves, I get annoyed when their protection systems become obstructions to legitimate users. No matter what system is used, someone will crack it and pirate the software. Making a complex, hyper-paranoid protection system will just irritate legitimate users. A straight-forward key system limits casual copying, and that's about all any vendor can expect. If a vendor makes security too intrusive, I suggest making a polite complaint. If that doesn't work, you can try to find an alternative vendor. Unfortuntately, there's not much competition left in the software business, so you may have few options. At the risk of sounding preachy, there's one other point: don't use stolen software. The only way thieves stay solvent is for people to buy from them. Buying "pirated" software may sound romantic, but it's just as wrong as buying a TV from a burglar who smashed your neighbor's window to get it.

markk ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 26 December 2005

Copy protection also forces people to re buy the software when something goes wrong with the cd/dvd. It is a shame that it is difficult to back up bought software, so you can use a backup rather than the original. Everything has it's good and bad points and so does the issue of piracy. There is a fine line between protecting ones work and greed.

Barringhupite ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 27 December 2005

Hi Paula, I do tend to agree with what you are saying and would like to add that those who would access these programmes for pirating and stuff would get around the security measures easily enough anyway because they are usually well versed in machine code. I have found this to be my experience anyhow and have found that such hackers and the like really go for it when it becomes a challenge whereas the ameteur or average user like me needs as much simplicity as we can get. What has really annoyed me are those times when I have captured the machine code and programmes that the hackers used (I have had a problem with one hacker for 3 years)the software companies that have been affected as well as me are not interested in getting hold of the programme that allowed entry so that they may fix the problem. my Op sys company wanted $50 to tell me to reinstall my op sys the other month, I told them I had fixed theproblem but was trying to give them the code that had gotten in through micro antispyware, the said they would get it themselves! It took some time to cinvince micro before that was being used to gain entry to computers and programmes to take complete control or just add keystroke counting code, like you only months later did they admit it. Some software got so secure it would not run or would cause systems to crash or to become infectede such as Worms in the early days and that cost a pretty penny back then and more to fix the problem. I became paranoid about hackers as they were at it all the time, then I tried to share my ISP and unlimited hours with some success (I didnt advertise) though it was still only weeks before they started changing settings and access to programmes and stuff all the same, they were just plain nasty. I do not know the solution, except perhaps make the codes so weasy it is no longer a challenge or even a game to access or copy such software. Cheers, Will (barringhupite)

kathym ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 27 December 2005

No matter what companies do to "safeguard" their products from piracy .... someone will find a way around it. If you take time to read things that are copyrighted (such as Cds) you'll be shocked to learn that even allowing a friend to borrow a cd you purchased to JUST LISTEN TO IT - violated the laws. Now thats going way overboard. However, some companies are selling programs at outrageous prices. Take one well known Operating System ... it was released in 2001 a new installation of it ran you $300 plus tax. Stroll into your local retainer today ... and they STILL want $300 plus tax for a 5 year old version of software. But, that company in general has been known for its greed and if you're using a PC - then you're running thier software. Bottomline - no matter what they do, someone will find a way around it. If it requires a dongle (or hardware key), someone will go in and edit out those lines of code even if it takes them 2 months to do it successfully if it means they won't have to put out several hundred dollars.

rodluc2001 ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 27 December 2005

interesting posts... for me the incredible thing is that a Cracked software can work better than the original, without key or single machine code problems... very bad : you spend money for the original with possible problems and some guys use an illegal copy without problems... too sad !!

MarkHirst ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 28 December 2005

It wasn't so long ago when we were using key disks and other such nonsense, living in perpetual fear that the precious disk would become unreadable. It seems that the only casualties here are the honest, the thieves will always find away around protection if the software is valuable or desirable enough. It seems we are moving backwards in this regard, the future appears to promise increasingly onerous and deeply integrated protection embedded into computer hardware. We can be sure that while we struggle to use our increasingly quirky, protected software, the pirates will operate unhindered. Sadly, my preferred solution is hopelessly naive; to encourage a culture that condemns freeloading off the backs of talented people, that recognises that good work deserves reward, that funding piracy is not a victimless crime.

doc_jones ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 28 December 2005

wowwwwwwwwwwwwww I really am in the backwoods here I had no idea this was all going on but I do know this for myself I now know to be more carefull at examining software products to purchase I am definately not pc savvy and would have been devistated had i spent the money to purchase my poser and didnt get it to work because of these issues your talking about Personally as far as pirating goes it is wrong of course it is it's theft and it doesnt matter what your stealing if your stealing its theft I think alot of people think that oh well its the internet you can get anything for free on the internet but someone spent time and labor and has bills to pay from the fruits of thier work so give them there due but i dont believe that you will stop the pirates as some of you have already stated most of them knw much more then the average consummer about hacking and codes and those things so how will you stop them from there activities without stopping me (who knows nothing except put the disc in and run it) at the same time thanks for the opurtunity to share my voice connie

jesserev ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 28 December 2005

I know I've tired of the phone interchange about keys. I learned a practice in college (thanks to all those stupid programming classes) to whipe my disk frequently and start from scratch. As I keep my files on removable media for projects all I have to install is the program itself. I hate spending time on the phone re-authorizing my keys. And then some companies don't bother authorizing the whole suite and you have to call back. Another frequent thing is while some authorize just your name to a key. I have some that authorize the physical disk to a key. So now I have purchased additional keys for other computers, and only one set of disks. (I have about 8 computers running around my house in total...) So when I go to load the program, I have to give every single key to prove that I actually own the license for every computer. There honestly has to be some easier way. I've noticed that a lot of the games are going to physical disks with a security bit to prohibit copying. This seems the easiest for me if they really want verification. Make sure you (the company) issues a key disk. It acts like a fingerprint id to verify it.

Paula Sanders ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 28 December 2005

I, like jesserey, sort of start from scratch, often. Since I review and don't want errors to compound, I use Norton Ghost and make sure that if I crash, I immediately go back to a time before I crashed. This way I do not have to start from scratch too often and avoid the hassle of reinputting the serial numbers for the same products on the same machine again and again, especially when they involve keys that tech support has to issue. Norton Ghost is not expensive and it has saved me so much time and frustration.

mondu_the_fat ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 28 December 2005

Recently, my hard disk crashed. Nothing worked, and I had to reformat the thing from a floppy. Reinstalling everything was annoying enough... but some software had to re-registered, a process that actually took longer than reformatting and reinstalling (especially since my ISP had their own methods of preventing hacking... and I had to reinstall their software, too). Why bother with anti-piracy technology anyway? The bigger, the more expensive the software, the more juicy it is a target to foil their anti-piracy schemes. And none of it work anyway, it just slows the spread down by a couple of weeks. Maybe they should abandon it, cut the staff working on it, and make the legit owners happy -- this should make up their losses from inept pirates.

blaineak ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 28 December 2005

So far the best method I've dealt with is the use of a dongle. A dongle with a biometric device attached (fingerprint) would be cheap to produce and would not add much to the cost. Its much easier to carry a dongle with me which makes it possible for me to work at any computer I happen to be using. I change graphics cards as much as 3 times a year and reinstall the OS quite often. These keys are wrong minded in my oppinion. They do not take into account reality. Nor do they stop pirates. I'm also offended by the way I'm treated when calling to reactivate. It is a demeaning process.

Jimdoria ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 29 December 2005

The piracy debate is one that has been going on for a long time, and we are a long way from seeing the end of it. Big companies must satisfy their stockholders that they are doing everything possible to get in every last dollar, and little companies are just trying to survive, so there is a big incentive for them to "do something" about this problem, even if what they are doing is only somewhat effective. Often ignored however is that casual piracy is in fact a form of marketing for them. If I get a pirated copy of a program I like and frequently use, I'm eventually going to want the upgrade, and the manuals, and the other perks of buying a legitimate copy. If I use a pirated copy of Photoshop to start a graphic design business, I'll eventually buy not only one legitimate license, but licenses for everyone I employ. You see lots of figures on how many millions of $$$ are lost to piracy, but precious little on how many millions are earned through this kind of "unauthorized shareware" approach to piracy. Also, while piracy will always exist, I doubt it would be quite so rampant if the software companies were not constantly grubbing for more revenue by using stupid legal tricks like restrictive licensing clauses and forced upgrades. Microsoft is the standard-bearer, but hardly the worst offenders in this. And in their defense - yes, they are guilty of keeping the price of their software high despite its age, but on the other hand, you can use their online update service for free to upgrade even your older OS to the latest version, so in effect they are giving you free maintenance for the life of the product, which not all vendors do. The cost of such a service should be taken into account. If anyone is interested in this issue, I'd urge you to check out Ed Foster's The Gripe Log website at He covers these topics regularly and in great depth, and the discussion is always lively.

Gog ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 29 December 2005

I have to agree with Blaineak. I would love the dongle scenario, I have multiple machines and frequently upgrade hardware/software, messing about with keys means installing some new hardware can stretch out into a job taking hours. Also why I should be treated with suspicion because make the choice to change hardware or re-build a machines software from scratch. The thing I find most ludicrous is that I know many of these systems I could crack relatively easily, but I don't condone piracy. I also support the comments about CD/DVD protection, I travel for work, why should I not be able to buy a DVD or console game in the US or Japan and have it work when I get home to the UK - I'm not pirating just trying to take advantage of cheaper prices elsewhere!

dlk30341 ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 29 December 2005

It's pure paranioa. I've with recently purchased software and have discovered all my prior version of items I've created are locked from export, in addition to freebies & purchased items I converted to said programs native format. Of course the software manu. recommeded this type of conversion, so the program will run better >:(...So I had to spend weeks re-installing etc in orignal I could use elsewhere. So bascially the company has claimed all said items as there own once converted with no alteration to the items made whatsoever. In addition, with the new "encryption" they've decided to implement with new items, this has reaked havoc within the program itself & has caused nothing but problems from that point forward....patches upon patches & with each patch things get worse >:(. Bottom line, I've dumped the software & moved on. I have neither the time or patience to deal with such nonsense. In addition, it doesn't matter what the companies do....hackers/crackers will always find away around it. So why ruin our experience & the software due to paranoia? This company will never EVER see another cent from me....very sad, as it was once my fav.

iloco ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 29 December 2005

I agreee that we the honest customers are suffering big time because of all the parnoid that a company has about encryption or copyprotected its software. I know the company who I think is reason for bringing this up and I am gald to see I was not the only one who was so strong against what is happening. Rodluc and others are right that any software can be found that has the encryption and copy protection removed and runs better than the ones we the consumer has bought. The pirates have no problem at all, its us the people who are willing to spend the money who is hurting. Reverse engineering will never be stopped and the more of a challenage the more the hackers enjoy it. I hope those who have choosen to treat its honest customers do read this and see its not only 1-2 that are complaining but lots of people are against what is happening. I have decided if nothing is done I will use another software that will do the same thing I want without having all this protection in it that locks all my import and export files that should not be locked. :) I will let my money do the talking and spend it other places that are not so paranoid. :)

squeeka ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 29 December 2005

Bottom line is this, pirates are going to get what they want and legitimate users are going to suffer for it. What annoys me the most about the whole thing is that many people have more than one computer, on a home network or would like to use programs at work and at home and the software compannies have made this a huge hassle. You would think they would be more worried about customer service to their consumers and making things easier but it's all about the almighty dollar and protecting their software. In my humble and probably uninformed opinion, they'd have better luck keeping the consumers who buy their products happy by making things easier on them and worrying less about the pirates out there, most of whom only crack the programs for the thrill of it and think they're spitting in the eye of big corporations.

jwhitham ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 29 December 2005

Crackers may start cracking software for the kudos it gets them with their fellow, sad and maladjusted, geeks. Eventually though they start doing it for money, which they get from upright citizens who think "well they're a big corporation, I could never afford to buy it, so I'm not doing any harm to them by buying warez", but they're wrong. The answer is simple, if you don't want the hassles of keys, dongles etc. Don't use pirated software, and help to stamp it out by reporting spam e-mails that try to sell it to you. We all want the producers of the software we love to stop making things difficult for us, but the answer's not whining to them, they have to respond to the levels of theft they're experiencing, the answer is to get proactive in stamping it out. It's that simple; if people didn't buy it, the crackers wouldn't crack it.

TerraDreamer ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 29 December 2005

Speak with your wallets, people. And why censor the name of the offending vendors in this thread? it's openly discussed in the forums, so why not here? It is Renderosity and its members who have the vendors by the short hairs, not the other way around. John Dvorak regularly bashes Microsoft in his PC Magazine editorials, and I've yet to see a reduction in advertising space purchased by Microsoft. I'd like to see the vendors move to the system that Valve software (a game publisher) is using. It's called Steam. When you load the game, say Half Life 2, it installs Steam. You create the Steam account by entering in the CD key only once. Once that's done, your account is permanent. I can reformat my hard drive, and to reload the game software, all I have to do is install the Steam application off the Internet, log on with my e-mail address and password, and immediately see the products I've purchased. I click, they download and install, job done. I can literally throw away my original CDs. All game patches and updates are installed via the Steam application as well as informative news releases, and future purchases of additional games are also purchased via Steam by users. Steam has become the most widely accepted and finally approved-of form of content delivery by most gamers who purchase Valve games. In its early days, Steam was buggy, but it's so refined now that I can't imagine living without it. Even Electronic Arts is now trying to do the same thing. The publishers of Poser, Vue and other popular graphics programs should take a serious look at the enormous success of Valve Software and its Steam content delivery system. Three other game houses are now using Steam to distribute software. IMHO, this is the best route to go. You should only need a CD key...ONCE!

Boreth ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

After a number of wonderful experiences with registration issues, including waiting a few months for a new licence for Deep Paint II, I've started to use the following method. As soon as I buy or upgrade software that requires an online registration, I look online for the hack or crack of that program, that way I know that when I need to reinstall my legally paid for and licenced piece of software, I can do that without going through the hassle of getting a new registration. A crashed PC is a pain in the proverbial as it is, there's no need to enhance that by a software maker being difficult about re-issuing a registration. The fact that you need an Internet connection to register and often need to be online to run a non Internet related app is already ridiculous enough. As far as piracy is concerned, software makers who ,for enomic reasons, release products well before the programs have been properly tested and so can and will know that the program is still as buggy as hell,are imho as guilty of piracy as Johnny the hacker, but no one ever points a finger at that group.

bijkanguru ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

Poser and shade might use content paradise accounts. I believe it would be dangerous to be really dependend on an online connection (I pose usually offline) but for downloads and extra shade content you already need to be registered with cp. Don't complain too much about 'that os vendor that is known for its greed', personally I believe it is not bad value but I also use the alternative of 2000$ / year for updates (not pc). Not paying means about a year behind. I do sometimes use nocd cracks for games for convenience (altough no more games on laptop :( ), lucky none of the serious stuff expect the media to be around at all times.

yrrik ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

The thing is, whetever they do, people can go on any file sharing system, type in [program name][version number] hack or [program name][version number] crack, or find a serial number or key generator (keygen). This isn't buying off a pirate, (person who said it might sound romantic, grow up. Now) its free. And automated. if they cant find the program pre-hacked, and its one that allows you to download a trial, there will always be a nice, asy to follow tutorial on hacking basics. often, it is easier to get illegally than it is to make the legal copy run. they could cut down on the number of hacks circulating if they made the official versions easier to run.

wabe ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

I personally think often people mix things up a lot. As we can read here too. #1 there are people that have several computers and want to run their bought software on them. This should be easily possible. Some companies do have sort of multiple licenses bundles, this is a way to handle that in my eyes. #2 there are people who crack software and deal with it. This is an absolute no no in my eyes and all who talk about paranoia in this context are questionable as well in my eyes. Full stop. #3 what people in this thread as well mix up. There is work from honest people. Products in several stores for example. They spent a lot of time and efforts in their products and have every right to be protected in a way. Of course not in a way that it affects the use of the software. What some people here refer to is that a new software version offers new features that were not there when people created items for it. The law has changed so to say. And of course those people can't be asked anymore wether they want to protect their items or not. So the only way for a software company to avoid legal confrontations with those creators is to keep the status for their items as it was when they created them. Which brings me to the last point here. How do you - and i mean you personally - protect items you have created to make your living? Do you let everybody take it for free or do you try to make it more difficult for those thieves? Music industry is a good example. Or photographers. They deal with this issue for a long time already and have a pov that can be easily adapted to the software industry in my eyes.

kelvinhughes ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

Why hide the truth name and shame is the best policy with these companies you pay your money for the products and then are expected to pay more.Content Paradise you can no longer use the forums unless your a passport holder which you have to pay for these companies need to take a long good look at themselves and decide who actually purchases the products. Cornucopia if you very lucky answer complaints about products i bought a ship from them and you can only use it going left if you use to go right bits dont match up when i complained i was told what you get is what you see, how do they expect people to support the products

woz2002 ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

There are many other possibilities for improving security as to avoid Piracy. Net loading with an active account is one way, but then that means that account stealing becomes a crime...hey isnt that already an issue?! So then the problem just goes on & on. Its an unfiortunate circumstance that as soon as 1 thing can be engineered it can therfore be reverse engineered....therefore there will always be piracy.

Irish ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

I do not understand why, when using Poser, I can purchase items for it that were created by merchants, and I don't need a registration number to unlock it; I can export it into other programs and so it becomes much more versatile - if I buy direct from Content Paradise or E-frontier, I need only to give them my Poser Serial Number to get the item - and then I can use it as above. Why then, cannot E-on and Cornucopia do the same - all they should require for us to purchase additional items is our Vue Registration.

ggrace ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

The copy protection systems now affect my purchases to the point of not purchasing if the software requires activation. I finally came to this decision when I got chewed out when I reinstalled my operating system after a disk crash and I had to reactivate it. It is a legal copy and I own 2 for two PCs. Now I have a disk image of that system. And I only use thatPC for Poser,Vue and Painter. I will not upgrade that operating system as long as it has activation code. Everything else is running on Linux.

Afrodite-Ohki ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 30 December 2005

Living in Brazil, I see a lot of piracy. I'm yet to find a major program that has not been hacked. For what I've seen, if people want it, they'll hack it, no matter what locks are put in it. Actually, it seems to me that the harder the protection is to break, the more they'll want to break it: "I'm the one that hacked !" "ooooooh! you da man!"... I used to work with a freeware program that simulates japanese paper dolls (kisekae), and I used to draw dolls for it. A member in a community about it made a program that reads the finished doll and converts it to a Photoshop file, each piece of clothing in a layer. She was worried that the program could help people to copy the dolls and change them, ditributing a modified version without credit to the original artist. We all agreed that this was a possibility, but it shouldn't keep the "fair-playing" artists from getting a good tool that would make their work easier. That's pretty much what I think: there will always be hackers, there will always be people who want to step on the others to take advantage of them; but trying to avoid this shouldn't keep you from helping fair, honest people.

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