Once every so often our customers are asking us how come on some websites our software is sold at a fraction of price or is even free. They further ask how come they have to pay for the software if they can download it for free. Those questions are legitimate and deserve a separate article below.
Most of you have already seen popular software brands and packages available on certain websites such as Germany-based Rapidshare and the likes. The software is offered free of charge or for a nominal price with the labels “Nulled” or “Software Name + keygen”, etc. This essentially means that the software anti-piracy mechanisms have been illegally tampered with or re-engineered. This is a common plague that the entire software industry is suffering from to a certain degree, and the more popular the software becomes, the more frequently its defenses are being tested (sometimes successfully).
Many potential customers share one or more of the six common myths about the use of nulled scripts. Let us take a closer look at those myths:
Myth #1.The software manufacturers can’t really find me, John Doe, since the Internet is soo huge, right?
Truth: Wrong. Most script manufacturers use one or more techniques to trace locations where active script copies are installed. Many of such techniques are disabled by reverse engineering, some still remain active or are remotely activated by the manufacturer (which usually kills the software or maybe even something else).
Also, it is not all that difficult to carry out a sophisticated search and find illegal copies scattered all over the world. A Google Labs creation, Google Code Search, is an awesome tool just for that.
Myth #2. They won’t bother to spend time on chasing me around.
Truth: Only some won’t. Others will track you down, and if you happen to be in an appropriate jurisdiction, they will sue you and take away your money, business and reputation. Others may be too small or care less if you are using their product without paying you, but at some point things can change all too quickly.
In many countries, the software manufacturers won’t chase you, but the police will. Messing about with OPIP (Other People’s Intellectual Property) in Europe will most likely get you into serious trouble with the law.
Myth #3. It’s the same software as its paid version, but it’s free, so why not use the cracked one I can download for free?
Truth: The software is not always working the same was as its paid equivalent. It may be a cracked copy of a demo with limited functionality, could be poorly cracked and won’t work as intended, may lack some important code or features disabled or improperly reengineered by crackers. Software found on Rapidshare either for free or for a fraction of its real price will most likely be an old obsolete version discontinued a long time ago, or full of manufacturer bugs, or no longer supported, or may be a trial/demo version with limited capabilities. You are also likely to download yourself a trojan or a virus or two along with the crack. One thing you can count on, and that is, you will NOT get any help, updates, or support from the manufacturer.
Myth #4. The software manufacturer will probably support its software anyway because they sell thousands and thousands copies, so how would they know if that’s a legit copy or not?
Truth: They will most likely know. Don’t count on them using cheap outsourced workforce in the customer relations who doesn’t care about this and just worried about getting through the day. Usually a cursory inspection by the employee will reveal that your copy is a fake, and then all hell will break loose around your website, including a possible visit of police. IP’s are so easy to trace these days after all…
Myth #5. A nulled version is no different from the legit version except that the defense algorithms are disabled.
Truth: Would not count on that. Reverse engineering is a process that recreates the design logic of the software and its functions. As a result, you may receive hotwired software that may have some or several key or minor functions bypassed. Moreover, you’re stuck with this version because developers often change the defense logic and any subsequent upgrades may not be possible, or take too much effort to be made operational (remember, you don’t have support, right?).
Myth #6. I am saving a lot of money AND I am fighting for the digitally equal society since I am not ready to pay those fat pigs who ask so much for their software.
Truth: Yes, you may be saving some upfront money. The money will not go to fat pigs’ deep pockets. Because of that, those notorious software tycoons will have less money to invest in further product development, including paying their staff (which makes up the bulk of the costs as PC’s are cheap as dirt these days).
As a result, less money for software engineers, support and marketing specialists, which means more potential competition on the market for you and your work/projects.
The whole truth is that the fat pigs will most likely continue charging the same amount of money for their products that are usually better than their GNU/GPL equivalents, or will increase prices to recover losses from bad sales.
If you are fighting for the digital equality, simply get yourself a GNU/GPL equivalent of the paid script and you’ll be all good to go.
The above myths show that the only party seriously affected by the illegal use of pirated software will most likely be you. You’ll strip yourself of support, help, and product updates, get unwanted attention from the law and may risk a major lawsuit you don’t have a chance to win in the event your project turns out to be a huge success. In the process, you will waste more money and time on trying to do everything yourself. Is all of that really worth it?