Users on Crack

Our support team just received an email from a FeedDemon user which contained a screenshot of an error he was encountering. Clearly visible in the screenshot is a RAR file which contains a crack for FeedDemon.

Yep. Not only did he contact us despite using a pirated version, but he also included a screenshot which proves he’s using a crack!


Update: Scott Adams has a great post on the topic of piracy.

32 thoughts on “Users on Crack

  1. While the user is likely using a crack, I wouldn’t necessarily assume he isn’t licensed. There are times when it is necessary to use a crack to get an application working in a timely manner, even when you are fully licensed. This could occur during late night maintenance, remote maintenence, etc, when the license key may be unavailable. Granted, I can’t think of any reason it would be necessary to use a crack for an app like FeedDemon unless the user lost his license info, then it would be wise to just email and re-request the license info.
    In any case, the user isn’t that bright for sending a screenshot with the crack file visible!

  2. Rudeness and stupidity go hand in hand.
    I help support a program and, after being frustrated by pirates and their weird problems (caused by cracks which break in strange ways when an update is release), I added this to the FAQ database:
    (Program name edited out to avoid this looking like an advert.)
    If you have installed an “unofficial” (program name) release or patch and are experiencing problems then the obvious first thing to try is buying and installing an official copy of the program.
    That should go without saying but, incredibly, it seems some people are foolish enough to install unofficial versions of (program name), to bypass the copy-protection, and then wonder why things don’t work properly or stop working when an update is released. Some even go on to ask for help on these forums which is rude and a waste of everyone’s time.
    If you like the program enough to use it beyond the 60-day free trial period, enough to keep it updated to the latest version, enough to care about it when it doesn’t work and enough to ask for help when you have a problem then surely you like it enough to buy it?
    Even if you only think of yourself and ignore the fact that you’re ripping off a small company, isn’t it worth $85 AUD, $65 USD, €50 EUR or £35 GBP to not have to worry about these issues?
    Someone posted about some issues he was having, one of which made it pretty clear he was using an illegal copy. When this was pointed out he openly admitted it and said that he “paid” for all his software by providing feedback. What a warped view of the world that person has. (Not that valuable feedback doesn’t sometimes warrant someone being sent a free copy/upgrade, but that’s for the developers to decide, not an excuse to pirate things, and many problems experienced by pirates are because they’re using dodgy and/or out-of-date copies which just wastes everyone’s time when people try to investigate/reproduce the problems.)

  3. I received a support request once from a user who was using a cracked version of my product. I told him that I really appreciated him reporting his problem, and if he would license the software, that he was entitled to a solution for his problem.
    Explained to him that I can’t provide support if I can’t pay the bills. It’s a $40 product and worth every penny!
    Never heard from him again. He never bought the product as far as I can tell.
    BTW, the first time I released a product on one of the major download sites, a crack showed up in 11 days. These people don’t waste any time!

  4. As I’ve said to folks who spend a lot of their time trying to protect their software … you should be so lucky to make software that people think is worth pirating. The alternative is more depressing.

  5. Nick, do you remember the one I shamed into buying the program after he openly admitted he cracked the program in the forums (this was during the> transition right before was shut down) and then COMPLAINED about the program and was absolutely determined to provide his feedback and actually thought his feedback was valuable while he was stealing the application? If you recall, after I kept hounding him about it, he finally paid for it and posted his purchase receipt? :)

  6. Nick,
    As with many of the other commenters I’d love to see the screenshot in question. It could be that the user had the crack installed by someone else: I could see someones son saying “Oh yes I will download you a really great News Reader”. The Otherwise clueless user may not know it was cracked.
    It doesn’t make it right but it might explain such apparent stupidity!

  7. Uhm, assuming a potential customer is a pirate/stupid/dishonest is ALWAYS a bad idea. He might be, but don’t assume it immediately. I am a legitimate Adobe customer, but for some of their software, I often use ready-made cracked distributions found on filesharing networks, even though I have the CD’s lying around. It’s more convenient when reinstalling, and I’m not terribly interested in activation and other bullshit. Of course I don’t pester anybody with support requests, however…

  8. I’m afraid I can’t post the screenshot here (for one thing, I can’t tell whether there’s any personal information displayed because all text is in Russian), but I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t a paid customer who was using a crack out of convenience.

  9. *Uhm, assuming a potential customer is a pirate/stupid/dishonest is ALWAYS a bad idea.*
    I have to disagree – if you’re requesting support and your screenshot is displaying a crack of the application, you deserve whatever you get. Using a crack is wrong and potentially dangerous. Period. There is no grey area, no “wiggle room”.
    “even though I have the CD’s lying around. It’s more convenient when reinstalling, and I’m not terribly interested in activation ” – sorry, that’s just pure laziness on your part – *not* a legitimate reason to use a crack. In fact, I can’t think of *any* legitimate reason to use a crack. If you’ve taken reasonable care to safeguard your licenses/cds/keys/whatever, you should never have to use a crack.
    You can rationalize your usage of them all you want, but the bottom line is that using a crack is illegal and wrong.

  10. A couple of months ago I downloaded a piece of shareware to give it a try. I ran into problems in the first thirty minutes and emailed the developer with a bug report. I wasn’t expecting a response. I did get one, and fast, too.
    It turns out I’d tried a combination of tasks the developer hadn’t anticipated and I’d stumbled into an ugly bug. He reproduced the error, and in gratitude, sent me a free license. Check it out: my feedback warranted my free use of the software. The key factor, of course, was that it warranted a free license *in the developer’s eyes*. I am not the arbiter of when I get free stuff or not. I cannot ever, EVER justify my case as unique or special enough to justify not paying. The developer, on the other hand, has that power. That’s what makes him the developer.
    Oh, in case you were curious, the virtuous developer was Daniel Jalkut at Red Sweater software (no affiliation except he has turned me into a big fan; I’m avoiding putting in any link to avoid being spammy).

  11. Critter: What’s wrong about using a crack if you really do have a license?
    It’s probably daft (more likely to introduce bugs/failures, and they’re commonly infected with viruses/trojans/spyware), but I can’t say it’s morally wrong, if you legitimately own the product.
    Might be illegal under DMCA, I suppose, but wrong? No.
    I’ve never done such a thing, and I’m not that lazy, but honestly, I can sympathise with Mr. Stroeck, simply because I’ve seen what a complete pain in the ass it can be to get Adobe stuff working, when you really do own it.
    (Got an upgrade license? Well, hope you can find your original media from 5 or 6 years ago. Downloading an electronic-delivery purchase? Hah! Their download manager is Satan himself in bit-form.
    I know this from watching a co-worker go through hell for a day and change trying to get legitimate Adobe bits the company had paid for installed and working. At that point a cracked version is very tempting… and I don’t see a moral issue, since Adobe got their money, fair and square.
    Though in all fairness, it’s a VERY safe assumption in general that someone using a crack is not a paying customer.)

  12. Sigivald, I agree that there’s nothing morally wrong with using a crack if you’ve already purchased the software. It could be argued, though, that it *is* wrong if you contact the software’s support team due to a problem that only exists in the cracked version.
    And as you point out, cracks are a common source of malware, so I’d recommend staying away from them no matter what.

  13. Sorry ALL, but I have to laugh about the way some of you feel about individuals using ‘pirated’ copies. Is this a case of the ‘pot calling the kettle black’? How many of you or any of your family members ever received or given a paperback book to someone to read or keep. Did you not deny the author or publisher of that book their deserved income? Same principle, except when it involves money out of your pockets, then it is a different story.

  14. The book argument is wrong. If I give you my copy of the book, I can’t continue to use the book at the same time. If I give you a COPY of the software, we can both use it. I haven’t suffered loss of use by giving you a COPY.
    If you want to give away your software, and stop using it, I don’t think anyone is going to call you a pirate.
    But creating copies for your friends and family isn’t cool.

  15. Your book analogy is a terrible comparison… There is only a single copy of a book, so only one person can use it. If you were to compare copying the book and giving away the copies, it would be a much more accurate argument. But then again I doubt you could accuse anyone here of doing that ;)
    Software developers certainly don’t mind if you buy a copy of the software and give it as a gift to someone.

  16. I don’t condone piracy, but I see where this Brock is coming from. He buys and reads a book. Later that day he finds out you are going to the bookstore to get that same book. Being his best friend for 12 yrs., he says to you why waste your money, I am done reading it, if you want me to give it to you let me know. You say sure why not? It will save me 14.95 and take it from him. The point is everyone down the revenue feed chain looses money.
    Same situation here. Regardless of the fact that it was actually COPIED or not. One individual paid and others have benefitted.

  17. “Same situation here. Regardless of the fact that it was actually COPIED or not. One individual paid and others have benefitted.”
    No, not the same thing. It is VERY important whether or not it was actually copied – you *cannot* dismiss that fact. If you give the copy you purchased to someone else, you are not breaking copyright law – it is NOT illegal!
    However, if you take the book down to Kinko’s and make a copy of each page, put them in a binder, then give just the binder to someone else – that is definitely breach of copyright, and you are doing something illegal.

  18. Legal or illegal might be an issue to some, the point is people lose money either way, and that seems to interest some of the posters in this thread.
    People do whatever to save a dollar, some even create laws that will benefit them as in the case of copyright laws. No problem from me on that. I ‘hide’ behind copyright laws myself, when it benefits me.

  19. Well your support team must have been pretty confused as to what they should do.Normally I thought you supported people who brought your software,don’t you have any way to know who is who like a crm database.You can just tell the evaluators and the freeloader that they don’t get any support.Serious user normally buy.Another thing is that there are many beta users too since beta is available for download too.Well I assume that you get a lotta feedback which you can use,not many people or product get that well depending.All depend on the popularity of the product.There are many free news readers and services out there too.But none ironed out in delphi wow

  20. Antonio and Brock… you guy must hate libraries!
    Maybe the guy that borrows the book then buys 10 more from the same author.
    Then again… what about iTunes? You can’t give a track you bought and decided you don’t like to someone else.
    The bottom line is that when you “buy” software the only thing you really own is the CD/Disk. The software itself is “licensed” to you… you paid for the right to use it. This doesn’t equate to a book.
    However, I do agree with someone here that said if they have a license to use the software using a crack isn’t really “wrong”. Then again, I agree that if you have a problem you should install the legit copy to ensure it wasn’t an issue with the crack before calling support.

  21. Regarding the books/software comparison, there is also the matter of expectation and regular usage. People lend and borrow books, and everyone knows and expect people to lend and borrow books. As a legitimate use.
    When I buy a book maybe a part of the consideration of purchasing is that I can lend it and other books to a friend, and borrow it and other books from that friend.
    Not to mention that book authors, for the most part, actually speak in favour of lending books. I’ve seen many cases where writers encourage people to do so.
    In software, the basic model doesn’t include lending it around. Making a copy is very different. And someone who likes a piece of copied software doesn’t become more likely to buy sequels or other software from the same company.
    Also, I’ve yet to see a commercial software developer who publicly announces that they want people to go and give other people their software to use.
    There is also one general case where using a cracked copy of purchased software is a better idea than using the actual software. Games. Too many these days come with obscene forms of copy protection, installing device drives and other junk. With these, you’d get less errors and problems by using the crack and not the purchased executable. I agree that it’s sad, but it’s the actual case.
    @Critter42, it’s also not always pure laziness. If I have to install one program, and all I’d need to do is copy the license key from one place and paste it to another place, then yes, it would be laziness. Or bad practices of not keeping all the licenses/serials handy.
    But some programs like to make entering license information difficult, by requiring to copy special license files (harder to organize than just keeping a textual list, and a hassle for a private home customer), or by splitting the serial number entry box into several different editboxes (ala Microsoft). This makes it more work, beyond the level of pure laziness.
    Especially if we’re not talking about reinstalling one program, but reinstalling a computer. One software after the other, for each one to deal with the licensing quirks, and copying/typing several different license keys in several different ways. When for a cracked version you just run the setup, or just run the setup and copy a file. Sometimes the hassle isn’t worth it, especially if it’s a crack that does work, and a software that you won’t need to update.

  22. The thought that trading or selling a book is the same as pirating software is ridiculous. Whoever legitimately owns a licensed copyrighted work may trade, sell or give it away to anyone else so long as the original work itself is transferred, ie. a transfer of ownership actually takes place. I once had the work, now you do and I no longer have the work. An actual thing has moved from my possession to yours. With a book or tangible work product, this is easily understandable. I can’t physically sell the book and retain control of it. The author, publisher and distributor do not make money on this transaction but there is nothing they can do about it under current copyright law.
    The difference some are seeming to miss is with digital goods. In some cases with digital goods a user purchases the physical copy like some open source applications that allow free downloads or charge a nominal fee for a CD copy. The softare is under an open source license and in most cases is redistributable by anyone. The purchase did not cover the license only the duplication to CD.
    In the case of commercially licensed software (and music CDs and DVDs for that matter), the purchase price covers the licensed use of the digital good and the cost to distribute it. In most cases distribution and duplication are costs of doing business. An iTunes download or a CD at Best Buy, the concept is the same. I am paying for the right to use the good under the licensing terms. iTunes allows multiple computers you own to be licensed while the inherent nature of a CD or DVD means only one use at a time.
    I can transfer ownership of the software, CD or DVD to someone else for a fee or gratis. I cannot legally provide the digital good to someone else AND retain my rights to use it as then no actual transfer of goods has occurred. Rights cannot be transferred and retained at the same time. Without a transfer of ownership all I did was duplicate illegally.
    What if I develop a good piece of software but provide no copy protection or coded use restrictions built in but clearly license it as single use? Everyone may be able to use it without paying the license fee. Am I stupid for building in no protection? Proabaly. Is the unlicensed usage really legal though?
    Like my momma always told me, just because you _can_ do something doesn’t mean its right.

  23. damonp –
    Great post… You say:
    “What if I develop a good piece of software but provide no copy protection or coded use restrictions built in but clearly license it as single use? Everyone may be able to use it without paying the license fee. Am I stupid for building in no protection? Proabaly. Is the unlicensed usage really legal though?”
    The answer is NO!
    As a software developer I have been trying to convince the powers that be, the business guys, that the licensing stuff is just intrusive. It causes more tech support calls and only hurts us and the paying customers. As the avialablity of cracks and hacks show, if someone really wants your software they will get it. Also, the assumption the every hacked/cracked/illegal version would turn into a sale to determine “lost” revenue is not correct. 99% of those (ab)users would just not use it, or use something else (probably illegally also).
    This is actually the big argument against DRM for digital music and video. It only limits use by the legitimate customers… people will steal the stuff whether it is protected or not. As Steve Jobs said, previously 100% of music was distributed on CD’s in the clear. They could be ripped without a problem.
    Anyway, I am not saying the Nick should remove the protection the FD has. Actually, it is pretty simple, I just provide my Newsgator subscription login and done. But, places like Adobe and others the copy protection is SO tight that legit customers are limited… as one person said, installing to a new PC, or perhaps upgrading a hard drive leads him to install a cracked version cause it is easier. The existence of the crack should prove that the copy protection doesn’t work, so why have it since it just cost Adobe money to implement and support and customers pain to manage their legit software licenses.
    There are actually people that while they do have legal versions of software only buy/use stuff that has no copy protection. I can understand why.

  24. “In fact, I can’t think of *any* legitimate reason to use a crack. If you’ve taken reasonable care to safeguard your licenses/cds/keys/whatever, you should never have to use a crack.”
    Any program that requires online activation, when you have no internet access. Simple enough?

  25. “Any program that requires online activation, when you have no internet access. Simple enough?”
    No. I have never seen any application that has online activiation that doesn’t have a backup method, usually via phone.

  26. Delphi 7 has a limited number of installs before the online activation gives you the message to “contact support services via phone” for further installations.
    Not having a local Borland dealer in the country I live, I opted to make an “in house crack”, and simply bypass the online activation to avoid being limited on the installations I make (All legal BTW since I reinstall Windows every 3 months or so)
    I don’t know if it is illegal, but as a fully licensed Delphi user I don’t care either, I just don’t expect to be penalized because of piracy that I did not commit.

  27. The most interesting question has got to be – what did you reply him? :)
    I agree that people can rationalize pirating all they want, only the developer has the right to issue a free license, the rest is bull**it.
    It is with every software, as you most probably already know, that people all requesting support with pirated license numbers etc. I don’t hold a moral high ground and probably would send a couple of them, especially to those outside of US a nice virus that wipes the boot sector, for instance. Just to remind how big of an a**hole a person should be to bother small developers with this c**p. One analogy would be that you get a call from a guy that stole your car and ask how to fix something… this is exactly how it feels for a one person software company…!

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