Drastic software piracy

The author of the Mac program "Display Eater" got tired of piracy, and said that he coded the program such that if it detects a pirated version of itself, it'll destroy files from your home directory. It was all a hoax to scare people into buying the real version.

This turned out to be a major mistake and a PR catastrophy. As the developer explains in this statement on his home page:

People started buying multiple keys, which I never intended, and when the protection was in place, people who did not even know they had committed piracy or what piracy was were left in the dark. Legitimate and prospective users started fearing the program, which I never imagined.

A reporter called me today, and suggested that I make it free, and or open source. I plan to do both. Once the code is cleaned up, a GPL'ed version will be released.

It is never a good idea to treat your customers as criminals (unless, of course, you are involved in arms smuggling or some other illegal activity - then your customers actually are criminals). This is no different than the whole Sony rootkit debacle a few months back - a huge PR disaster.

Piracy isn't just going to go away by fighting fire with fire. I'm not even sure whether fighting piracy is worth it - I'm almost certain that the only way to end piracy is to put more money in it than is possibly lost by piracy in the first place, and therefore it makes no economical sense. There's surely a sweet spot somewhere, and this sweet spot is different in different industries, but I think that after this sweet spot you gotta think of piracy like a progressive tax. It's just a price you have to pay for being popular.


Unfortunately it's not always a progressive tax, or it can even be a reversed progressive tax. Small labels in the electornic music industry are being taxed heavily, because part of the electronic scene is for DJs (the main customer base) to be the first to have the latest. It's a lot quicker to torrent the music than wait for the vinyl or a legal download.

Traditionally releasing a track to a DJ-led scene works by building anticipation before release by sending few copies to selected DJs and magazines, hoping for good reviews, advertising the release date, and then hoping *everyone* will be buying the track on that date, or at least that week, to secure a chart position. A good chart position will further advertise the track and bring in more buyers from the mainstream, less hardcore music geek audience.

Nowadays when you get to the "building anticipation" phase, everybody can already torrent the track. It's not that bad for Madonna because a tiny fraction of her fans are music geeks who have to get it first. She will be taxed lightly. But for electronic musicians, the geeks can often make up the entire audience. And they are not up for waiting for the proper release. Hence, the tax percentage can be wayy bigger and more significant for small labels.

--Niko, 28-Feb-2007

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"Main_blogentry_250207_1" last changed on 25-Feb-2007 13:55:53 EET by JanneJalkanen.
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