Software piracy is a growing problem for most software vendors. Thanks to things like the global economic crisis of the last decade, people are reluctant to pay for the software they use.

You might think that software piracy is something that individuals do. But a shocking amount of businesses and non-profit organizations also use pirate software! Are you a software vendor? Are you worried about people using your flagship products for free?

In this blog post, I discuss the various ways that you can protect your software from illegal software downloaders. I also discuss how to make it hard for hackers to reverse-engineer your software. Here is what you need to know:


Use the long arm of the law

Once you are ready to start selling your software, you need to protect your intellectual rights. The first step is to put copyright notices in your code. Physical packaging and user-viewable elements of the software itself should also have copyright notices.

Next, you should apply for a registered trademark. Unregistered trademarks are free. But if you want to ensure success in any court cases over name infringements, you should register it.

Just make sure that you don’t give your software the name of an existing software solution. For example, “Microsoft Windows.” You can register trademarks in one or more countries. Trademarks are not automatic across the world. You might have to apply for registered trademarks in many individual countries.

Make sure you include a license agreement

When you sell people software, you aren’t selling them the software to do with as they please. You are selling them a license to use the software for specific purposes.

Your licence agreement needs to spell out what users can and cannot do. Can they use the software on more than one system? Can they make backup copies? Can they sell their licence to someone else?

Take down illegal software

It’s never a nice feeling, knowing that people are using your software without paying for it. As part of your internal processes, do periodic checks on illegal software download and sharing sites.

When you’ve got a list of illegal software sites, you can issue the site owners with a notice to remove the content immediately. Make sure you use a good DMCA takedown notice template, and log the details of yours and their actions.

Make life harder for hackers

Most software solutions use license keys. They are alpha-numeric codes that users must type in during installation. Otherwise, the software cannot get used.

Hackers always attempt to reverse-engineer software code. They do that, so they can create “modified” versions of software that bypass any license key requirements. As a software developer, it is your job to make their lives hard so they cannot illegally share your work.

Here are some of the most-common ways of making their lives hard:

  • Obfuscate your code. The process involves coding your objects and symbols with meaningless names. For instance, instead of using a function called “license_checker,” you could call it “greyhound”;
  • Change license-checking with each release. Instead of using the same method for licence-checking in your code, use different ways to achieve the same results.

Good luck!