What can developers do to stop piracy? When faced with this question, most developers will answer that there is nothing they can do. The software industry has been plagued by piracy for decades and there is no sign of it ending any time soon. But is this the case? What can software companies do to stop piracy?
To try and find an answer to this question, I need to begin with a few definitions. By piracy, I mean the copying and distribution of copyrighted works without permission or payment. This includes both commercial software and shareware.
What Is Software Piracy?
The illegal copying, sale, and/or distribution of copyrighted software. Softlifting, or end-user piracy. For example, using a licensed copy for multiple installations on multiple computers or obtaining an academic license for software intended for commercial use. Internet or digital piracy.
In previous years, the Business Software Alliance estimated that 37% of all software installed on personal computers was unlicensed, which translated to $46.3 billion in lost revenue. BitTorrent, the most popular file-sharing website, accounted for 22% of global upload bandwidth in 2018, according to Sandvine. That shows how much people are interested in pirating content.
What Can Software Companies Do To Stop Piracy?
Global stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 made the issue of software piracy worse, as well.
Software companies have tried many things in the past to try and prevent piracy, all of which have been unsuccessful. Most of these methods have hurt their customers such as:
- Making games harder to play for legitimate users
- Raising the price of their software to cover the cost of piracy
- Delaying the release date of their software or game to make sure it is not leaked prematurely
- These attempts have all been met with failure, and because of this companies are now taking more drastic measures:
Most recently, developers have begun using digital rights management (DRM) software that prevents unauthorized duplication. This has been met by heavy criticism from consumers as it can make games harder to play. Game companies have also been known to include spyware in the games they sell which can be used to track how often they are being used while online. This information can be sold to third parties who will then send advertisements geared towards gamers’ interests based on what types of games they’re playing.
Some game developers also offer free demos before releasing a full version of their title so that gamers can get a taste of what’s coming out next month or later this year! While this strategy may seem like it could reduce piracy rates due to lack of interest (and thus no incentive), there
Copyright infringement can come in the form of counterfeit programs, client-server overuse, internet piracy on torrent indexing sites, and software license or product key circumvention. Once a product is copied, people can use the technique of hard disk loading to add pirated software programs to computers they sell and entice buyers. All of it affects copyright holders. We’ll go over a few ways companies can prevent software piracy here.
What Can Software Companies Do Stop Piracy?
A few main ways to prevent piracy include:
- Copyrights, patents, and end-user agreements
- Software product keys
- Tamper-proof software
- Software watermarking
Copyrights, Patents, And End-User Agreements
The software can be protected by copyrights and patents. These create a legal basis for businesses to protect their intellectual property and electronic inventions. End-user agreements further define what a customer is allowed to do with a piece of software.
As the name indicates, purchasers are considered users and not owners. Agreements spell out what people can and can’t do with the software. Namely, they can’t copy it illegally or share it with more users than their license allows. Of course, people still do these things, which is where the rest of the anti-piracy techniques come in.
Software Product Keys
Software product keys are unique for each purchaser. The software won’t run or install unless the user types in the key. The goal with product keys is to decrease end-user piracy since people who intend to distribute locked software can generate keys with their codes. A hardware-locked software key is one of the strongest types since the key is based on the user’s individual computer.
Obfuscation is the technique of making a product’s source code unintelligible to humans. Complex algorithms can change software code to disguise it as something else or appear random. However, obfuscation isn’t a completely foolproof solution, as an attacker can uncover the source code with enough time. For that reason, obfuscation is often used in conjunction with the next technique on our list, tamper-proofing.
Tamper-proof software is designed to be protected against modification and reverse engineering. If an attacker changes part of the source code, the program will shut down or malfunction. Attackers tamper with a piece of software to get around authentication, disable security monitoring, or bypass the license code to make illegal copies.
Software owners can also include a watermark within the source code. This watermark is hidden within the software and can prove ownership or origin of the program when it’s extracted. This traceability can discourage thieves from making illegal copies.
On a similar note, forensic watermarking is a new technology to prevent movie piracy, thanks to recent advances in blockchain development. It’s done by slightly changing certain pixel colors in a video file, which are imperceptible to the human eye. This also traces the ownership of the product.
How To Fight Back Against Software Piracy
So far, we’ve talked about anti-piracy techniques used at the time of software creation. But whatever techniques you use at that point, there’s always the chance that people can crack your defenses with enough time. That’s where Red Points comes in. Our automated search algorithms scan hot spots of piracy on the net and takedown copyright violations.
Software pirates love to use outlets like linking sites, cyberlockers, P2P platforms, and apps to disseminate pirated content. Red Points’ bot-powered search crawls these locations and more to locate the source of the problem. Then, you can send automated deindex and removal requests based on your rules. Our experts are available to pursue actions further, as well.
You can view your progress in an easy-to-use dashboard that shows the total detections, success rate, and more so you can measure your ROI. Ultimately, stopping piracy is going to have a positive impact on your company’s bottom line and encourage more users to purchase legitimate programs or licenses