I recently contacted a software manufacturer to ask him why his new product had been delayed, and he told me he had found out a hacker had cracked the code of the copy-protection system he used. He was afraid that if he released the software (which was otherwise ready to go), it was likely to be stolen and made available for download on one of the many sites that offer free software on the Web. If this happened, it could ruin the company, which, though successful, is hardly a corporate behemoth.
It got me thinking about the whole issue of cracked software, and how it''s way more than just an annoyance to software developers. The reason that software companies have to employ the copy-protection schemes that we all moan and groan about (some of which are truly byzantine) is that there are software pirates out there, ready to rip off their creations and sell them illegally or make them available for free.
Now I know some people out there think that there''s nothing wrong with downloading a cracked plug-in, DAW, or soft synth. “It''s not hurting anybody, and it''s helping me,” is how it''s rationalized. The fact is, that is simply not the case. There are significant downsides to downloading illegal software. First, you''re hurting the developers and making it harder and more expensive for them to innovate, and to write and release new products. And in some cases, piracy could drive a developer out of business. Many music software companies are small operations, but even for the bigger ones, a lot of sweat, hard work, and company assets go into writing good, bug-free code. And using cracked software only makes it more expensive for the majority who pay for their software legitimately because developers have to spend money to license copy-protection systems.
What''s more, having cracked software on your hard drive can make it difficult to install legitimately purchased software on that same drive. Even worse, those cracked-software download sites are surely not making the programs available out of the goodness of their hearts or to spread the ability to make music to the masses. They''re run by shady operators in faraway and hard-to-get-at (from a legal standpoint) countries, and they frequently embed spyware, viruses, and other dangerous code into the cracked software. When you install a crack on your computer, you could be opening yourself up to a destruction of your data and identity theft.
The world of music technology is fueled by innovation, but the more that companies have to focus their resources on security, the less time, energy, and money is available for R&D and other product development. We want our music software to continue to get better and less expensive, so let''s all do the right thing when it comes to cracked software: not use it.