The Joel on Software Discussion Group (CLOSED)

A place to discuss Joel on Software. Now closed.

This community works best when people use their real names. Please register for a free account.

Other Groups:
Joel on Software
Business of Software
Design of Software (CLOSED)
.NET Questions (CLOSED)
TechInterview.org
CityDesk
FogBugz
Fog Creek Copilot


The Old Forum


Your hosts:
Albert D. Kallal
Li-Fan Chen
Stephen Jones

Free Rider Problem Prize

Re: "increase the value of coding challenges"...

I have increased the bounty on my Free Rider Problem Prize to $500 plus $100 for the website that sent the winner to me.  I thought some people here might be interested.

http://www.dougtreadwell.com/frpp.php

Basically I'm looking for a reliable, practical way to fight software and other piracy.  The RIAA should really be offering a million dollar prize, but even those of us who make a smaller amount off our products/services would benefit from a solution.
Doug Treadwell Send private email
Sunday, September 13, 2009
 
 
>>
Basically I'm looking for a reliable, practical way to fight software and other piracy. 
>>

Run the software, or a critical component thereof, on a server you control.

I can tell you, with the absolute certainty that only a SQL query can provide, that every person using the registered version of Bingo Card Creator online corresponds to $30 in my pocket.

This is true for essentially every software-as-a-service site out there.  See also World of Warcraft, which has eclipsed the rest of the PC games industry in LARGE part because they do not have to pay a double digit pirate tax on top of a double digit retailer tax.
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
+1 Patrick

The only way to protect your code is to never give it to anyone.
Arethuza Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
<<
Run the software, or a critical component thereof, on a server you control.
>>

Even then you can't be sure that none of your users are sharing the same key/login/licence/etc. to your server. It just means that I have to be on-line to use your product.
Code Slave Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
@Code Slave: IP Logs. If one license is being used from 14 different IP addresses, revoke the license.  Contact them first if you want to make sure.

If you've got such incredible market saturation that the only additional sales you can make are to family members of existing customers ... well, let's just say you won't be hanging out here talking about it.
Drew Kime Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
If one key allows one login then the only sharing you are going to see is friends and family sort of sharing.  Even then it won't be huge since whoever paid for it isn't going to like uncle joe keeping them from using what they paid for.
stonemetal Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
"If one license is being used from 14 different IP addresses, revoke the license."

What if it is on a laptop and the owner is travelling?
Arethuza Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
I believe Patrick covered this situation. If one license is logging in from 14 addresses in one hour, or two concurrently, you've got a problem. Only shut down the flagrant abusers.
Drew Kime Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
The idea of tracking IP addresses assumes they haven't cracked the program so that it doesn't need to contact a server to run.
Doug Treadwell Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
It runs *on* the server.
Drew Kime Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
DRM, copy protection and fear of piracy is great. A major competitor refuses to provide local installs of their enterprise-level solution because they're scared of piracy. If you want it for your enterprise they will host it (and your data) for you. No other option.

We've sold to a lot of their prospects who wouldn't or couldn't work within those constraints. Our dial-home tracking and support forums indicate zero pirated copies. Even if we are being ripped off somehow, our revenue is higher that it would have been otherwise.

That's what works for us. Our goal is maximizing revenue.

Previous products I've worked on had copy protection. They were all cracked and on download sites. We just told prospects they were welcome to download the cracked version but they might also be downloading viruses and malware. 

If your goal is eliminating all losses then you probably need to invest time, resources and effort in anti-piracy.  Depends on your market, your competitors, your customers, and the goals you or your management set. We invest in product and market development.
 
All that aside, after decades of dongles, 'special' floppy disks, code wheels, and billions of dollars invested in DRM and copy protection schemes by companies with a huge incentive to do it, (and billions of dollars in tech support costs caused by all the above),  I'd thought if a real world solution existed someone would have figured out something by now.
jz Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
>>
The idea of tracking IP addresses assumes they haven't cracked the program so that it doesn't need to contact a server to run.
>>

That works if you have a desktop client which does all the important stuff and then phones home to a server for authorization only.  If your desktop client does not do the important stuff, "cracking the program so that it doesn't need to contact a server to run" means "reimplementing the important stuff, from scratch". 

Example: BCC 3.0 includes a render-as-PDF feature, something which I've been meaning to do for a while.  Since my online version had to be able to do this, rather than recoding it in Java I simply expose an online API -- the client HTTP posts a bunch of parameters to the API and, bam, down comes a PDF. 

This wasn't particularly meant as an anti-piracy measure -- I just didn't want to duplicate coding effort.  However, it turns out that it makes one of my features essentially impossible to pirate -- the server can check authorization and deny anyone using a pirate key (using any arbitrarily complex logic I want to use).  You can skip contacting my server to avoid the authorization check, sure, but that means the feature is useless to you.
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Monday, September 14, 2009
 
 
Drew:

"It runs *on* the server. "

Okay, but again, I'm looking for a more general solution.  That might work for certain kinds of software, but what about music and movies?  If you can hear it or see it it can be copied.
Doug Treadwell Send private email
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
 
 
Doug, you realize your last line just answered the question, right?
Drew Kime Send private email
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
 
 
+1e100 to Drew

I'm surprised no one has pointed out the absurdity of offering a $500 prize to solve a $1B problem
Jason Send private email
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
 
 
You just did. :-)
Drew Kime Send private email
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
 
 
That just means the solution needs to be more creative than preventing copying.  There needs to be a way to receive payment for the copy even if a copy is made, or a way to receive payment regardless of how many copies are made, or disincentivize copying in the first place.
Doug Treadwell Send private email
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
 
 
"... or disincentivize copying in the first place. "

Apple already did that. They made it cheap and easy to buy individual songs, something the RIAA members had been fighting for years.

The RIAA wanted people to pay for whole albums. People didn't want to pay $18 for two good songs. Since they couldn't buy singles, they used Napster. As soon as someone made singles available, people started buying them.

I don't go to many first-run movies. Too expensive. But the local theater that shows them a few months later for $1.50, or $1 for a matinée? I'm there all the time. So I don't get to talk about it with people around the water cooler. I survive. Other people will camp out to see the first showing. Would they pay more to pre-order that ticket if they didn't have to wait in line? Probably.

Point is, "find another business model" and "disincentivize copying" end up meaning the same thing. Anyone who wants to make money has to figure out what is rare about what they do and charge for that. First is rare. Convenience is rare. Taste is rare. Complex physical objects are rare. Copying data, that's easy.

The iTunes store combines convenience and, through recommendations, taste. That's what people are paying for.
Drew Kime Send private email
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
 
 
"There needs to be a way to receive payment for the copy even if a copy is made, or a way to receive payment regardless of how many copies are made"

Basically, you'd have to introduce some kind of a sponsorship (socialism?) in which creators are paid salaries, not royalties, and then a tax is levied on the general public to finance these salaries. It is called BBC in the UK :)
quant dev Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
 
 
Wow, now sponsorship = socialism? Tell that to the Medicis.

Some people use "socialism" as a synonym for "bad" whenever they can't make a rational argument against something. You like getting paid thousands of times for one piece of work. That's good. Technology changes, and now people aren't willing to keep paying over and over for the same thing. That's bad. A new business model that makes money anyway, but not the way you like ... well, it's not ... I mean ... but you don't like it, so ... Socialism! That's it, it must be socialism!
Drew Kime Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
 
 
"Some people use "socialism" as a synonym for "bad""

I don't. I didn't say this policy would be bad. I don't know.
quant dev Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
 
 
"Wow, now sponsorship = socialism? Tell that to the Medicis."

Medicis practiced *voluntary* sponsorship. I was talking about obligatory sponsorship, in which the creators are paid from the money collected in form of a tax.
quant dev Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
 
 
You're suggesting how society can create a new business model to replace the current system enabled by copyright. As though creators are poor helpless things that need to be coddled and protected lest their ephemeral talents go to waste.

I'm saying, if you want to make money creating something that can be easily copied, then *you* need to come up with a business model where you can get paid for it.

I'm really good at sitting on the couch watching TV. I'd like to get paid for it. Some people have cracked that nut. They're critics, and they get paid to watch TV. No one set out to decide, "Gosh, how can we get the government to pay these people to watch TV?"

Copyright worked for a long time, when large-scale copying was as rare and expensive as what was being copied. That's no longer true. We don't need to pay for copying any more.

This is the exact problem being faced by newspapers. Their business model was based on printing. Take away the printing, and suddenly they don't know how to charge for anything. They need a new business model.

Blaming people for not wanting to pay for something is stupid. First, because people want what they want. Second, because it's not true. They *do* want to pay for things. They'll pay $1 for a 15-second snippet of a song as a ringtone. Because someone saw an opportunity for a new business model and jumped on it, instead of trying to coerce people into paying for what *they* wanted to sell.
Drew Kime Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
 
 
Drew Kime:
"This is the exact problem being faced by newspapers. Their business model was based on printing. Take away the printing, and suddenly they don't know how to charge for anything. They need a new business model."

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but don't newspapers pretty much represent the "sponsored/salaried creator" model that quant dev was talking about?  As far as I know, staff reporters are generally salaried employees, but I haven't worked in the industry.

There was a Daily Show episode where the guest was a newspaper man (don't recall his name right now) who'd written a book on ways to boost the newspaper industry.  Interestingly, his proposal was basically for newspapers to move more towards a royalty-based system in electronic publishing.

Essentially, articles would be distributed with republishing royalties going to the writer (and source paper if it exists), so every journalist would have a "freelance writer" aspect to their job.  He was also advocating micropayments on the part of readers, so you could pay a few cents per section or article or whatever, and not pay for the stuff you might not care about (classifieds, sports, etc).

Whatever the future of the industry, I still like getting the newspaper.  It's nice to have a physical object, and it's also a good way to have articles collated and get news you might not have actively looked for.
Justice Walker Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
 
 
"Correct me if I'm wrong here, but don't newspapers pretty much represent the "sponsored/salaried creator" model that quant dev was talking about?"

He was talking about taxpayer support. When you're talking business model, there are three parts: who pays, who gets paid, and for what. All three matter. quant was talking about "the taxpayer" for the "who pays" part. As soon as you select that answer, it has implications for the "for what" part of the equation.

"As far as I know, staff reporters are generally salaried employees, but I haven't worked in the industry."

It varies, but as newsrooms have shrunk, the proportion of externally-sourced content has gone up. This includes syndicated content, press releases, and freelancers.

"Essentially, articles would be distributed with republishing royalties ...  He was also advocating micropayments ..."

People have been trying to make micropayments work for several years. No one has come up with a model that works. I'm not saying it *can't* work, just that it hasn't worked yet.

"Whatever the future of the industry, I still like getting the newspaper.  It's nice to have a physical object, and it's also a good way to have articles collated and get news you might not have actively looked for."

That's why (I suspect) there will always be a market for printed news. But do you need that daily? Would a weekly magazine format be better? I know I get all the daily news I want online. I don't need sports scores and weather forecasts printed out daily for me.
Drew Kime Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
 
 

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
 
Powered by FogBugz