Space Ramblings

Piracy Protection Should Not Be Crippleware

Ever since the early days of computing the problem of piracy has coexisted with the problem of fighting piracy. Games back in the late 80’s and early 90’s forced you to peer at the manual and type in random words on random pages. In the CD era, gamers were routinely forced to insert CD’s even when the game was fully stored on the hard drive. On the software front, expensive programs came and come packaged with hardware dongles that have to be plugged in for the program to work. MP3’s with DRM prove incompatible with many MP3 players. What all these approached had and have in common is that they penalized legitimate users more often than illegitimate users.

Microsoft’s WGA disaster when server failures caused Windows Vista users to be locked out of Vista is certainly a reminder yet again that content or software with protection around it is often not really yours. It’s also a reminder that IP protection measures should not penalize legitimate users or make it more difficult for legitimate users to buy the product than to just pirate it.

While legitimate users were swapping CD’s, pirated users were playing the same games in compressed file sizes and without having to deal with CD’s. While legitimate users were having trouble getting their MP3’s and CD’s to play, users engaged in piracy could play their DRM free MP3’s anyplace they wanted. While Windows Vista users who had paid for the software were being locked out, users with pirated copies of Windows Vista were enjoying an uninterrupted free ride. And that in a word is the problem.

The battle against piracy will never really be won but winning the hearts and minds of your users is more important, at the very least that should involve not making a solid gold case for piracy by making the software you buy have more value than stolen software. Right now Microsoft has failed miserably in that regard.

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