Software Piracy – Who really suffers?

I use a Windows Mobile (Pocket PC) PDA. For years I used a Palm but switched to PPC about 2 years ago because I felt that Palm was stagnating in both hardware and software features. I carry my PPC with me everywhere and keep all manner of personal and reference information on it.

I know, what does this have to do with software piracy? Bear with me a while please.

Over the past two years I’ve bought a lot of software for my PPC. I know that software piracy happens but, the fact is, I don’t partake. I’m not wealthy but I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford most of the things I want. The point is, I pay for what I want and I spend a lot on software. I’m not able to provide further details as this is a public forum and I’d prefer to remain happily married.

Anyway, I recently retired my Dell Axim X30 and purchased an Axim X51v. I’ve been hugely impressed with the vast increase in storage space and the beautiful screen resolution. I immediately started the process of installing all my software on the X51v when I stumbled onto a problem. Several of the programs I’d purchased had registration codes that were tied to the serial number of the CPU in my Axim X30. They flat would not register on the X51v even though I was using the same owner name for the device.

What followed was about two weeks of emailing software vendors, explaining the situation, and basically begging for a new registration code. All in all I had mixed success. Some vendors were very accommodating emailing a new registration code to the email address I’d used when purchasing their product. Fortunately I still used this email address or I don’t think I’d have been successful in getting any of this software to work on the X51v.

Several vendors requested that I forward the original confirmation email from when I’d made the purchase. Maybe you save these emails for multiple years but I don’t. In a couple of cases I just gave up and stopped using the software in question.

This got me to thinking about why vendors feel compelled to tie a software program to a specific device serial number. The only reason I can see is that they believe it will reduce piracy of their products. To some extent this might be true although I honestly believe claims of loss due to software piracy are wildly overstated. The fact of the matter is that the majority of people who pirate software would not purchase the product if they couldn’t steal a copy. On the other hand pirates have proven particularly adept at breaking software protection schemes. So, who really pays the price for heavily protected programs? I think it is the honest user who plunks down hard earned dollars to buy a copy.

Don’t misunderstand; I don’t live in some rose tinted utopia. I know that software vendors need some type of protection. If you could simply download and install a fully functional version of a program that never expired there would be little incentive to actually pay up and buy a copy. The key, in my opinion, is that the vendor needs to walk the line between protecting their product and inconveniencing honest customers. Requiring a customer to contact you and prove they have a right to transfer your software to a new device is very inconvenient. I found it so inconvenient that I have decided to never again purchase a program that is bound to a particular device.

Here’s a case in point. I was looking for a good text editor for my PPC. I don’t have a great need for a text editor but I thought it would be nice to have one in case I wanted to edit XML or program source while on the road.

After looking around and trying some demos I decided on MADE by Flinkware. It was very functional and only cost $10. I generally try to buy software directly from the vendor rather than via sites like PocketGear and Handango. This gives the vendor the maximum profit by eliminating the 30% cut these sites take.

I headed to the Flinkware site to purchase MADE and ran into this screen:


This sounded very much like the software was going to be tied to my device serial number so, before purchasing, I wrote the author and asked him. He was kind enough to respond and confirm my suspicion.

Frankly, I found this appalling. I mean, come on, we’re talking about a ten dollar product! If this guy was giving his product away, and I liked it, I’d probably send him a ten dollar donation to encourage him to enhance it.

Add to that my suspicion that Flinkware is probably owned and operated by a single software author marketing his wares. There is nothing wrong with this but if Mr. Flinkware decides to close up shop and move into the lucrative basket weaving market who do I contact when it’s time to move my copy of MADE to a new device?

In the end I decided to purchase CEdit by Logical Sky at nearly twice the price of MADE. I’ve been happy with this decision.

So, are you concerned about how software vendors feel it is OK to trample the rights of their honest customers in order to give themselves some questionable measure of security? If so please join me in voting with your dollars and refuse to purchase software that is tied to a specific device serial number.  Even better, shoot off an email and tell these vendors why they lost your business.

Oh yeah – to those handful of software vendors who were willing to assist me in getting a new device specific code for my X51v, thanks. Know that I am currently looking for replacements for your products so I won’t have this problem with my next PDA.


3 Responses to Software Piracy – Who really suffers?

  1. icedmocha says:

    I’ve had a similar problem with PDA software. Original confirmation email, indeed. I have been accused of being a pack rat on occasion, but even I don’t keep emails around long enough to satisfy the overzealous protectionism for a $15 application.

  2. bwithers says:

    I’m with you icedmocha – we have to stop the insanity.

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