Copy Protection Schemes

VST, AU, AAX, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion
Gadget Fiend
434 posts since 5 Feb, 2012

Post Sat Dec 04, 2021 5:00 am

With all the hullabaloo surrounding Steinberg's upcoming shift to a dongle-free copy protection system, I thought I would try to lay out the different copy protection schemes from least onerous to most oppressive:

* Simple serial number: Authorize as many software copies on as many machines as you want by simply entering the serial number
* Serial number with online lookup to see how many times the serial number has been used. If some arbitrary number of uses has been reached, the user is required to purchase a new license (i.e., copy of the software)
* License key: A key file needs to be installed on the licensed machine for the software to operate. Could be paired with an online lookup to determine how many license keys are installed.
* Software authorizations: Install the software on X number of machines with the ability to authorize/deauthorize specific machines
* Challenge/Response: A challenge code is typically generated based on machine hardware identifiers and a corresponding response code must be entered on the software company's website
* Dongle with multiple licenses available per software program (requires multiple dongles per license)
* Dongle with single licenses
* Periodic online check to determine if the software is authorized

Right now Steinberg has the second to worst copy protection scheme, IMO. If Roland Cloud Manager is any indication, Steinberg is moving to an even worse copy protection scheme.

P.S. I'm sure I have missed several prominent copy protection schemes. Feel free to add and debate the pros and cons.
Matrix-1000, MicroWave with Access programmer, MicroWave II, MKS-50 with MidiClub programmer, MKS-70, MKS-80 with Kiwi Patch Editor, Nord 2 Rack, Nord 3 Rack, Prophet REV2 module, Pulse 2, Shruthi, Virus TI

1851 posts since 14 Sep, 2004 from $HOME

Post Sat Dec 04, 2021 5:43 am

Well, I disagree. Worst is challenge/response, especially that type where you only get one authorization and have to de-authorize a system in case of migration to a new one, and are f*****d when your disk dies.
An speaking of migrating to a new computer: having to type or copy/paste a serial number (and sometimes combined with an email) into dozens of plugins is a pita and not very customer friendly. Dongles are a breeze to migrate, but of course a pain when lost or stolen or defect. I have no problem with online checks (if they work reliably), at least not for a DAW.
No perfect solution for every scenario anyway, except of course for no copy protection at all. Which of course isn’t feasible for every developer.
But in the end, everything is totally manageable, no matter what the copy protection, the real problem is that there are so many different ones and everyone has their own system.

258 posts since 12 Mar, 2016

Post Sat Dec 04, 2021 5:53 am

Best CP I saw had license information baked into the binary. No need for anything, just install and done.

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26202 posts since 8 Aug, 2002 from Berlin

Post Sat Dec 04, 2021 10:04 am

MirkoVanHauten wrote:
Sat Dec 04, 2021 5:53 am
Best CP I saw had license information baked into the binary. No need for anything, just install and done.
This has become difficult in the past few years as software and/or installers on Mac and Win need to be signed with certificates, and the process is not necessarily instant.

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