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New Innovations for Deterring Software Piracy

>We’ve all faced the temptation to burn a copy of someone’s Beatles album or Microsoft Office program. Heck, when programs like Napster first emerged and provided free mp3 downloads, everyone was taking advantages and burning CDs for pennies on the dollar.

But, in recent years, industries like the Business Software Alliance have attempted to crack down on piracy. The anti-piracy ad that accompanies all rental DVDs and movie theater trailers has now become common place. And, in fact, piracy is one of the top issues involved in the Hollywood writers strike. Unfortunately, the attempts thus far have had little effect on piracy rates, which, according to BSA, have stopped falling.

While not everyone may like the idea, those in the software industry, Microsoft in particular, are attempting to develop anti-copying programs as a function of the software they provide. Basically, the software attached to the programs allows for Microsoft to remotely access user computers and check the computer’s manufacturer, hard drive serial number and Windows product identification. If those don’t match the original purchaser’s registration for the Microsoft program (i.e. for reinstalls, etc.) and it is suspected to be pirated, then Microsoft can remotely block access to certain software functions.

There is some concern, however, regarding Microsoft’s ability to access consumers’ computers. At this time, there is no indication as to how that access may or may not be limited. I have an additional concern about the anti-copying program as well. Let’s say a consumer purchases a new computer but decides to stick with the old version of Microsoft Office that she already had (actually, I just did that exact thing). When Office is installed on the new computer, and the key code entered, Microsoft would see that the program is being installed on a different computer from it’s original registration and may suspect that it was illegally copied, when, in fact, it was not.

Though I don’t understand the technology behind it, I am aware of the ability to make discs incapable of being copied. For example, a friend attempted to make a copy of her wedding DVD for me, but couldn’t because the videographer placed a block on the DVD to where it could not be copied. Why is that option not good enough to sway piracy? I would imagine that, just like nearly everything else, there are means of getting around such patches.

BSA staff have checked with manufacturers to find out why they are not coming up with substantial means for blocking piracy. It appears that manufacturers are concerned that adding additional anti-copying controls to their software would frustrate legitimate users and market shares would find their way to rival companies that didn’t establishing copy blocking programs.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you feel that manufacturers should attempt to make technological advances to help deter piracy? Or, do you feel that legal enforcement is enough? Is there a middle ground we should be shooting for? Please share your thoughts.

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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, August 4th, 2018 @ 12:17 AM CDT

Technology |