I found an excellent article summing up software copy protection. It’s written by Brian Hook, who’s site has a number of well written articles that I may cover later. But onto copy protection.
Like most of us, I love digital technology. The possibilities that it presents for the future are amazing, and the ability to preserve the past and make it available is also one of my favoite features of the digital medium. With the growth of the download speeds in the US with broadband connections, the ability to get intellectual property (music, movies, games, software in general) for free over the net has increased. This is all well known and well documented, and also better covered by thousands of sources out there. Moving on.
Brian Hook’s article covers software protection. He mentions at the beginning of his article that most any computer user has “pirated” at least $50 worth of software sometime in their user experience. Probably a copy of MS Office, or getting a copy of Warcraft II from your dorm buddy. Thinking back, I was way over that $50 before I was even a teenager. My friends and I readily traded back and forth games and their schemes for copy protection (usually some sort of manual look up (oh do I remember the days of “Page 32, Paragraph 3, Line 4, Word 13”)). It was natural almost. It’s not that we didn’t buy games, but it was generally understood that if we bought games, somehow our friends had copies too.
Fast forward to the 90’s where games got bigger (whoa, multi-media) and making copies was unfeasable, and my dialup was certianly not going to get me the latest Tie Fighter expansion. I bought during this period, after playing demos of games that I was interested in. Quake, Diablo and more. I played, knew it worked well on my system, and wanted more, so I bought it. I had the disposable income to do so in a few ways.
Nowadays though, sigh, I wish I could say I bought all of the software on my system. It’s not the case, and while I know I’m only one of hundreds of thousands with something I didn’t buy on my system, I know there is room for improvement. Taking a look around these days, if I need a new application to help get something done, I’ve started to look on Sourceforge first to see if there is an open source option for the program I’m interested in. Be it an FTP program, browser or random editing tool. I love this option. Also as my system ages, I like the option of demos for games. Independant software developers have always been good at this and I love the trend.
Back to the article, Brian does a good job of covering excuses, complaints and reasons of software piracy, but as well covers how improvements might be made to prevent losses, and as well as prevent alienating their paying user base with intrusive copy protection schemes and authorizing features. Excellent read, and worth the time.