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Topic: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

  1. #1

    What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    I thought this deserved a topic of its own. Towards the bottom of this thread,

    http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=35794 ,

    Gary suggested brainstorming on what the best copy protection would be. For all of you who hate the various methods currently used by software vendors, here's an opportunity to stand up and be counted. In Gary, we have a manufacturer who's actually asked what you think and has proven to be the kind of person who really listens. You want to make a difference in the way copy protection is managed in the software industry? Here's your chance. If you have a good idea that he implements and users love, it will doubtless catch on in the software world, and you will have made a difference.

    As I see it, the criteria for the perfect scheme is very simple:
    1. It has to do an effective job of protecting the software company from file sharing and other forms of piracy.
    2. It has to be painless and transparent to legitimate paying customers.
    3. It should be as low cost as possible - since expenses inevitably end up in the selling price, that's in the customers' best interest.
    So, don't like the way things are? Wanna change the world? Then step up to the microphone. What's the perfect copy protection scheme that benefits both parties?
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  2. #2

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    The perfect copy protection scheme is for people to realize that intellectual property is no different than physical property. I read a quote in my local paper from a 14 year hold that said "What's the point of buying a CD if you're only buying it for one song? I'd rather get it for free than pay for it. Nobody pays."

    This made my blood boil. Who taught her that? If I were her parents and read that in the paper she would be grounded until she was 65. I can't understand where society is headed if that is our youth. Yikes.

    Any, rant over. I think the best real copy protection I have come across is usually the most annoying. Like CD in the drive or dongles. Plus spreading a few urban legends like "Be careful installing this pirated software because there is spyware that sends all your info to the company so the FBI will be at your doorstep in two hours!"

    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  3. #3

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?


    Any authorisation/copy protection systems should also have a safeguard for legitmate users such that, should the original vendor/creator cease to exist, they can still continue to use their software even if they upgrade/replace their computers.
    Richard N.

    Finale 2003 to 2007 ~ Garritan GPO, JABB & Strad ~ Sonar 6PE ~ Kontakt 2 ~ WinXP Home SP2

    Athlon XP 2200 ~ 1.5 Gb RAM ~ M-Audio Sound Card ~ M-Audio 88ES MIDI keyboard ~ Evolution MK-461C

    Bach Strad LT16MG, LT36G, 42B + B&H Sovereign Studio Tenor Trombones ~ Holton 181 Bass Trombone ~ Getzen Bass Trumpet ~ Yamaha TR4335G Trumpet ~ B&H Euphonium

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Brooklyn, NY

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    I don't mind the authorization schemes such as already exists with NI, but with software companies changing hands frequently and/or going out of business altogether I do worry about one day being left high and dry with thousands of dollars' worth of useless software. I have also heard too many stories of people having extraordinary problems because they mistakenly unauthorized their product and then couldn't re-authorize on the same machine. I expect to want to continue using GPO until senility sets in for good (way in the future, I hope).

    I feel the most secure with hardware keys or CD in the drive schemes but those USB ports do fill up quickly and there is often a hefty fee if you lose or break your dongle! However, as I do all of my work at home the dongle never leaves the desk and it is very easy just to switch them in and out as I need them.

  5. #5

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?


    I don't know how easy it is to crack the method that Gary is using now, but sending a system-id and receiving an online authentication works well for me.

    I just added a new hard drive and re-loaded Windows last weekend...so when I re-installed GPO I had to go and re-authorize at NI. This was a small PIA becuase I purposely keep my DAW away from the Internet, so had to make a trip to work to re-authorize...but all went smoothly.

    This method does, however, require that the developer keep track of, and in communication with his legitimate customers (which Gary does exceedingly well). I've had graphics software in the past where the company refused to re-authorize when I moved to a new machine, even though I was legitimate and could prove it with e-mail and invoices. Consequently, I will never do business with those folks again!


    Jim Jarnagin - no not THAT Jim Jarnagin, the other one.

  6. #6

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    In my experience, dongles have been easy to keep up with, easy to upgrade and have created no problems functionally on my computer. Hence, I prefer dongles, though this may be because I have never run into the number one problem with dongles; breaking one, losing one or having it stolen. My answer includes a solution for this problem. The second issue I can see people not liking is a dongle for each application. I have not run into this because the only dongle I have is for Steinberg products that are all consolidated onto one dongle. My answer addresses this also.

    The dongle should be based on a standard that allows me to include keys from various manufacturers and should keep all of my licenses in a database that is kept up by the dongle manufacturer. The dongle would be activated through a firmware type of modification that is provided by the dongle manufacturer through an Internet connection. I should be able to keep a single backup dongle in case the original dongle gets broken, stolen, etc. The original dongle could then be deactivated and the new dongle activated via either phone or Internet. (This statement will create more questions than answers, but I won't go into the details to keep this brief.) Therefore, only one dongle can be used at a time. For a nominal fee (less than $50) a new dongle should be sent out to me as my new backup dongle.

    P.S. Although Gary is aware of it, I'll state for the record that this is an issue that will never please everyone, no matter how good the solution is.

    We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams …
    24" 2.4 Ghz iMac, OSX 10.4.10, MOTU 828 MKII, 2 Glyph 250 Gig external drives, Logic 9, Finale 2008 GPO, JABB, Strad, Gro, Reason 4, EWQL Storm Drum, Adrenaline, Symphonic Choirs, SO Gold,All Arturia Synths, Many NI Synths, Spectrasonics Synths, KH Strings, VEPro on a Windows 7 4x 2.8 Ghz 12 gig of RAM

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Lincoln City, Oregon

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    I simply don't know what to think. If things are really as bad as everyone seems to want me to think, then how in the hell is Cakewalk not only still alive and doing well, but continuing to advance and even has a 64 bit version of Sonar working and ready to go as soon as the hardware and XP 64 PLUS the required audio card drivers are ready? It seems to me that if things were really all that bad they would have gone under a LONG time ago instead of doing well and continuing to grow since all they do is include a serial number for each copy of Sonar and THAT'S IT; no dongles, no C/R, no ANYTHING else.

    I very much appreciate their attitude and will continue to buy Sonar upgrades and support them with my dollars. I'm NOT in the market for Cubase dongled anything.


  8. #8

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    I like the idea of dongles-USB dongles only. I can connect up to 127 or even more with USB 2.1 (I think), with little or no performance hit. Their controllers are mostly independent of the CPU, so bring 'em on. They'll let me keep my DAWs Internet-free, no keep-alive polling packets, no need for Firewalls, no real need for anti-virus (but why take that kind of chance?), but most of all, they'll all plug neatly side-by-side into a little USB hub beside my keyboard, hassle-free.

    I used to call 'em Useless Serial Bus devices, but I just know'd I wuz wrong!


  9. #9

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    Quote Originally Posted by TomcatII
    I simply don't know what to think. If things are really as bad as everyone seems to want me to think, then how in the hell is Cakewalk not only still alive and doing well, but continuing to advance
    A worthy question, and brings up another angle of the copy protection scenario.

    Software (or music) piracy didn't begin with the public acceptance of the Internet via the Web. Back in the pre web days, copying floppies, etc. was a common practice among friends. What's changed, and made it such an issue, is the increase in scale. Now, instead of individuals limited physically to how many copies they could practically share with friends, a Pirate-ster site can distribute hundreds of thousands, even millions, of copies. Suddenly, it became a Very Big Deal.

    Back on the old days, even though some companies pursued copy protection (remember printer port dongles and custom built apps with your registration in them?), there was another strategy. Many companies just assumed that a certain percentage of people would pirate their product while the majority would pay, and factored that into their business model. However, instead of factoring it in just as a loss, the same as retail store theft, they considered it a method of back door advertising & promotion.

    Many people would get a copy of software from a friend, use it for a while, and if they liked it, would then buy a legit copy. If the software sucked, they uninstalled it and threw the floppy in the trash. This model is similar to allowing the download of fully functional demos that are limited in some way to encourage purchase of the "real" product, but with the added risk that people could use the full version for free and never pay for it.

    Cakewalk seems to have followed this model, and yes, they appear to have survived. In thier case (I've been a registered Cakewalk / Sonar user for years), you have to be registered to get tech support. That, and honor, is how they motivate people to pay for the product. I suspect many people who now own Sonar started out with a copy from a friend, liked it, and bought the real thing. This isn't an endorsement of piracy large or small, merely an observation of what's happening on the streets.

    Is this model an unrealisitic holdover from a time when piracy wasn't the huge volume issue it is now, one which software vendors can no longer afford? Is Cakewalk only able to do this because they've grown large enough that their revenues pay the bills even with large scale piracy? Or does the model work out in the long run? I don't know what the true answer is here, but it's certainly a valid batch of questions.

    I'm currently in the process of developing audio course CDs to teach people various ways to improve their careers and lives. Because it's audio, it's obviously easy for someone to rip the CD and put the mp3s up on a Pirate-ster site. However, physical or software copy protection devices are simply unworkable for products of this sort, so I'm essentially forced into the Cakewalk model for these products.

    Consequently, I'll have to employ various devices to protect my revenue, all of which revolve around building customer loyalty through good service (for an example of a company doing this well, see Garritan Orchestral Libraries). Additionally, the products will contain inline references to my company so that if they are pirated, at least people will know where to look for the real thing (promotion). Passionate beliefs and feelings aside, the Internet has made this an extremely difficult problem to solve.

    So, how many of you, if you were a one or two person software company with no other income, would be comfortable with the Cakewalk model protecting your ability to pay the bills each month?
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  10. #10

    Re: What's the perfect copy protection scheme?

    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Duncan
    Gary suggested brainstorming on what the best copy protection would be.
    I like user-managed systems like the Native Instruments' set-up or similarly the one with Sibelius. Easy to use and you can install on two different computers. If you need to upgrade or change systems, you can deauthorize the "old" computer(s) by yourself, on your own time. No waiting for tech support.

    Dongles are a pain, mainly because you have to baby-sit them carefully. If you want to change systems (ie: desktop to mobile laptop), you have to remember to bring it with you and be extra careful not to lose or forget it. Read the iLok or Steinberg policy regarding replacement of lost or stolen dongles - a pure nightmare involving emails, phone calls, and I'm sure lots of begging and pleading!

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