Blog Entry

Mar 11
2013 

Software Piracy: Why Duct Tape is Not the Solution

In a recent study by the Business Software Alliance, the UK is the latest to throw a spotlight on the problem of software piracy. According to the study, 52% of small businesses in the UK have either bought or downloaded illegal software. In fact, the BSA now estimates that over half of all software in use by small and medium businesses in the UK is illegal.

That’s a shocking statistic – one driven according to the BSA by a combination of the current economic climate and a degree of ignorance towards how counterfeit goods propagate in the market. And we know from other studies, most notably the BSA’s 2011 Piracy report, that the situation in many other countries is significantly worse.

As pirates continue to attack, we are forced to spend cycle times of effort patching and plugging our code to defend against those that might steal it. With every cycle that passes, software pirates become more sophisticated, their vectors of attack harder to spot and defend against, with the skills required to do so ever more specialized and scarce.  Are you prepared, or are you fixing your software piracy problems with duct tape?

We’re Under Attack

As software vendors, we’re being attacked on all fronts. On one side, our customers demand ever increasing levels of capability from the products we deliver. As budgets strain they rightly demand more and more compelling reasons to upgrade or switch from platforms they are already using.

At the same time, the advent of software as a service and the drive to deliver software in a “pay as you consume” format demands that we re-evaluate our delivery mechanism and business model. For many vendors, this means expanding the time it takes to re-engineer your code in order to enable the provision of product. This has to happen not only in a reliable and scalable manner in the cloud, but also in a manner which fully enables us to monetize the capabilities that the software product offers. This is no small task.

In spite of all of this effort being expended, it will not make our offer any more compelling to the customers new and old that wish to utilize our software. The majority of this effort has just become part of the cost to continue to be in the game.

Piracy in the Cloud

What will counterfeiters do as packaged and downloadable software makes way for cloud-based software delivery? In an underground industry estimated to be worth around $63B in the value of commercial software, it seems unlikely that the pirates will simply close up shop and move on.

Protecting our intellectual property, the very competitive advantage on which our businesses are based,  will require an evolving set of expertise and controls.  These skills will, at least in the early years, be scarce in the market, and for many software businesses are likely to be simply never available in-house.

How Prepared Against Software Piracy Are You?

Maybe you are letting your software developers fix cracks in your software protection with duct tape.  You’re not alone.  Many companies think the way to save money in the software development lifecycle is by taking the software protection process internally and handing it off to your development team.  In fact, we see this all the time at SafeNet.  But, if software protection isn’t the developer’s core expertise, these companies often come to us after their software has already been pirated due to a software protection solution created in house that was intended to save money.  As a result, instead of cutting development costs with their DIY anti-piracy solution, they’ve now lost not only potential software monetization revenue, but also their intellectual property and the competitive advantage gained by delivering a compelling and innovative product.

Moving to the cloud is a major point of inflection in the market. It’s a time when market share will be won and lost. It’s a time where new players will challenge dominant incumbents, and the accessibility of the cloud dictates that time to market is faster than ever.  How will you handle software piracy in the cloud?  Companies that hesitate to patch cracks with duct tape may just miss out on their competitive advantage.

It is time to ensure that the foundations of your strategy are sound, that your software assets are fully protected now and in the future, and that your product roadmap does not falter by resources being diverted to resolving “infrastructure” issues.

Now more than ever, it’s the right time to call in the professionals where software protection and monetization are concerned. Keeping your engineers focused on your market and your customer’s requirements, while maximizing both your IP protection and monetization capabilities, has to be one of the best strategic product management decisions you could possibly make in the current climate. No duct tape required.