5 Ways to fight Software Piracy

Are you selling desktop software or apps? Is piracy a significant threat for you?

In this article, I'm going to share five tips for fighting software piracy. The advice is based on my own experience of 9 years developing and selling a niche desktop software product for Windows.

1. Display clearly to whom the software is licensed

Casual keysharing, in which people give license keys to their colleagues, can be a significant problem. It is important to hold people accountable and create some incentive for them to not share their keys.

On way to do this is to make it obvious to whom the software is licensed. For example, in the title bar of the application, mention clearly: "<product name> - Licensed to <name>". This will discourage casual key-sharing, especially in a business context.

2. Don't spend too much time on elaborate anti-piracy code

Pirates are very skilled in circumventing anti-piracy measures. In fact, the better your anti-piracy measures, the more interesting it becomes to crack your application. This can be a cat-and-mouse-game where you spend lots of time with little benefit.

It is usually better to implement a very simple license check, and use other measures to deal with cracks (see the points below). And especially when you're starting out and release a new product, where it isn't even clear if there's a market, you should spend as little time as possible on anti-piracy.

3. Make sure cracks stop working on new versions

Some cracks just patch a fixed byte range in the executable. Other cracks are more sophisticated, doing a search+replace on specific code patterns.

When you are aware of working cracks for your application, then make sure these cracks stop working whenever you distribute a new version. That way, pirates won't have access to all the latest features (that is, until they release a new crack).

4. Create a crack honeypot

This idea was described by Andy Brice on his blog.

You simply create a page on your website that is intended to be found by pirates.

For example, mine says:

"If you like <name of the software> enough to search for a crack, why not buy it? It costs only €24.95. You get free support and your license will never expire. 

The software is developed and maintained by a small company. If you like our product, please pay us for our hard work.

Furthermore, downloading cracks is a great risk and can easily infect your computer with viruses." (read the full text here)

Both me and Andy get a number of sales from our honeypot pages.

5. Use the DMCA to take down illegal copies

Some forms of piracy can be easily removed from the internet using the DMCA. With others, it is more difficult.

Even if you just remove some of the piracy out there, you can already increase your sales, because the illegal downloads will become much harder to find.

Use our free guide to learn how to search for piracy and take it down.


Get a free anti-piracy scan:

We have years of experience fighting piracy and we support a number of small, independent software vendors with their anti-piracy needs.

Just tell us the name(s) of your product(s) and we will run a free anti-piracy scan for you. You will receive a complete list of all stolen files that we found. This is a free offer, no-strings-attached.

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