So, it only took 2 days to hack the Apple iPad. Trusting DRM to work was unrealistic on Apple’s part. Even so, we in the B2B software business have our own blind spot when it comes to software protection.
Each of the software products I’ve worked on has included a protection system. Sometimes a hardware dongle, but more commonly software-based schemes linking the software licence to the customer’s hardware configuration.
We were scared customers wouldn’t pay if they didn’t have to. With licence fees starting at $10K for each developer seat, hundreds of thousands were at stake.
As the music industry has shown time and again, pirates can and will break protection schemes. As soon as someone cares enough about the protection will be broken.
In our case it wasn’t pirates with cracked versions. No, it turned out some of our leading customers were using developer versions that had leaked from our labs.
Was the protection money well spent? I don’t think so. Instead of putting obstacles in customer’s way, we should’ve invested the money to make our customers even happier.
What does it say about your attitude if you have to force them to pay? What do you think it says about their attitude to you? Instead, do your best to create a culture and environment where your customers want to pay you, not one where they have to.
If your product uses software protection then ask yourself if you need it? Wouldn’t it be better making your software and the stories to go with it better? Does your DRM scheme make it easier or harder for your satisfied customers to spread your story?
Tim O’Reilly said: “For a typical author, obscurity is a far greater threat than piracy.” I think it’s also true for B2B software companies. DRM annoys customers and can’t stop determined pirates. Your best bet is a remarkable product and a story that spreads.