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I've been looking up this thread on how software piracy can be prevented. It's got a number of interesting suggestions ranging from using copy protection to providing free versions, and not surprisingly, none of them will satisfy you 100%.

It will perhaps be apt to experiment with each of the popular anti-piracy measures to gauge success.

Are there reliable surveys that point to the success or failure of such measures? Furthermore, surveys are often biased because of countless factors, and perhaps the software product developer himself should attempt to gauge success or failure of a particular measure.

If I decide to resort to the second option, what would you suggest to obtain hard data about software piracy patterns for my specific product?

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You're unlikely to find an independent study: unsurprisingly every study comes to the conclusion that matches the view of whoever had paid for it. –  biziclop Jan 24 '11 at 19:30
@biziclop: That is why I was considering doing the independent study myself, using the second option. I know I'm not going to win against piracy, I can only dodge it. –  Programming Enthusiast Jan 25 '11 at 1:45

2 Answers 2

If crackers can remove your protection code, they can remove your tracking code too.

IMHO there is not effective way to determine how much your are cracked. I think the only ones that know is very large vendors like Microsoft that can use panel based studies.

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Who are you quoting? :) –  Robert Harvey Jan 24 '11 at 19:29
Note that very large vendors have a strong interest in finding lots of problems with piracy, so such studies are likely to be biased. Like biziclop, I've never seen a published study that disagrees with whoever paid for it. –  David Thornley Jan 24 '11 at 19:37
Robert: nobody, I like the style to put emphasis on a sentence. Did I break a rule? –  user2567 Jan 24 '11 at 20:33
David: I know Microsoft is conducting such studies, and I agree they are not accurate with smaller vendors. But with high volume like Microsoft, they are pretty accurate (maybe +-4%) –  user2567 Jan 24 '11 at 20:36
I recommend bolding for emphasis. –  Matthew Read Jan 25 '11 at 0:24

If you can, provide your product with some sort of benefit for phoning home. Track the number of legitimate sales and/or license activations and the number of people picking up that benefit. (Also, track the "phone home"s you can link to legitimate purchases. Don't assume that every legitimate purchaser will phone home. The numbers won't match.

This won't tell you whether the piracy is helping (making more people aware of your product) or hurting you (a few of the pirates might have paid, how many you don't know), or whether any particular protection measure will be useful, but you'll at least have an idea of how many pirates.

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