Organizations such as the MPAA, RIAA and IFPI spend millions of dollars enforcing copyrights by getting people fined and even jailed for file-sharing. So when a small developer sees his work pirated on the internet, what can he do about it with his tiny resources? Easy. He emails the warez group, turns on the charm and asks them nicely to leave him alone in the future – and they agree!
Trey Harrison is a 29 year old, living in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and a couple of cats. He enjoys writing music and creating music videos and has just invested the last 7 years to bring out a PC application called ‘Salvation‘.
“I imagined it as a tool for creating custom video and lighting controls at music venues” says Trey. “My first customer Denne continues to please crowds with his mixes at club Rai in Moscow, and recently the Inside Us All VJ collective began using it to power some awesome multi-projector HD displays in the UK. It’s a rather powerful realtime graphics tool now, and one of my next goals is to make that power accessible within After Effects and Final Cut.”
Then came the inevitable news – ‘Salvation’ had been cracked and made available on the internet by a release group known as BlueBeta3D who actually displayed their email address in the .NFO. So Trey dropped them a line, to see if they could come to some sort of arrangement…..
Subject: Is there any negotiating with pirates?
From: Trey Harrison
Date: Wed, 16 May 2007 20:56:27 -0700
Hi, you guys have recently released a pirated version of my software called
“Salvation”. I’m not very surprised – actually I’m flattered – but I was
wondering if we could arrange a meeting to discuss the possibility of you
not doing this any more?
Trey explains, “I was pretty sure I’d never hear from them, so I sent off an email to the company I purchased my anti-piracy protection tool from, as well as an email to the hosting company that is hosting the warezed copy. Who responded first? The pirates.”
Subject: Re: Is there any negotiating with pirates?
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 17:11:27 +0100
To: “Trey Harrison”
We appreciate your comments and understand the role of developers ,
we only released it so many people who may not have access or
privileges could try this and learn. Hopefully its given more
global coverage. Apologies for any grievance it may have caused. We
also noted your comments and will not release this again. Good Luck
and best wishes for future developement.
As Trey just achieved what the RIAA and MPAA can’t achieve with millions of dollars, we decided to ask him a few questions about this unique moment.
1. Considering the huge amount time and effort you put into this project, it’s no surprise there were some strong emotions when you realized your work had been pirated. You mentioned your emotions cycled through being pissed, to vengeful to honored. Could you tell us a little about the background to those emotions?
I felt proud and victimized at the same time. Most of my time is spent implementing features and fixing bugs at the request of paying customers, so when a cracking group puts the program out there free for anyone to download, it has a real impact on the investment that my customers have made, that potential customers might make, and the time that I’ve put into it. But at the same time, getting that recognition by the warez groups as being crack-worthy is a milestone that I’m proud to have reached.
2. You mentioned that Salvation was protected by a 3rd party anti-piracy tool. Which tool was it, what were your considerations when choosing it and do you feel that you’ve received good value for money?
I wanted to distribute Salvation online as shareware with a 30 day expiration. I purchased “Armadillo Software Passport” hoping it would catch and stop the average person who tries to set their system clock back in time, but I knew it would probably be cracked by a warez group at some point. There are more expensive anti-piracy tools out there but I think they are all equally useless against a determined cracker. The Armadillo guys provided great tech support along the way, so up until the day it was pirated I was very satisfied with their product and service.
3. You emailed the warez release group, anti-piracy company and hosting company to complain about your product being pirated. When the warez group responded first and in a very polite and positive manner, what were your feelings?
I was pleasantly surprised! I always thought warez groups were elusive and impossible to get in touch with. The fact that they responded was amazing, but the idea of them putting a halt on the release and promising not to do it anymore… it really blew my mind. I think I may have stumbled across a revolutionary business strategy.
4. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on copy-protection and DRM mechanisms. Have your anti-piracy company responded yet and if so, what did they say about Salvation now being available on the internet DRM-free, despite your investment?
I sent the Armadillo guys an email that included the pirated .zip package. I was hoping they would thank me, offer an apology, and study it to improve their protection scheme, but they didn’t even respond. I’m not sure what to expect from them at this point. Maybe they’ll have something to say after this interview is published. =)
5. Without a big marketing budget, it can be very hard indeed to get your product noticed on the internet. Even big artists such as Kylie Minogue appear to be using internet leaks to gain publicity. Have you considered that the extra publicity your software will get due to it’s availability on the internet (and articles like this), might actually improve your exposure and sales figures?
It’s an unusual story so it will probably attract attention. I just hope the attention is from paying customers rather than pirates. TorrentFreaks pay for all of their software, right? =)
6. One school of thought suggests that far from being all bad, pirate software users can be useful, providing a valuable source of knowledge about software products on internet discussion forums, even going as far to offer a kind of free-of-charge product support for paying customers. What are your general feelings about piracy and have your recent experiences changed the way you feel about it?
I’ll admit I’ve copied an mp3 here and there without giving it much thought. All the work that goes into creating a good song is easily taken for granted when your computer brings it to you in a matter of seconds. When Salvation was pirated it really opened my eyes to the fact that piracy has a real impact on real people. I used to think anti-piracy organizations like the RIAA and MPAA were pure evil but I’ve realized now that we share the same basic interest in preventing piracy. I just wish they would wake up and realize that suing grandmas and little girls isn’t going to increase sales. Maybe they should bring me on as a consultant – I’m cheaper than a team of lawyers and I have proven success in the field. =)
We contacted BlueBeta3D and they said “Our release are aimed for purely for people who wish to learn and do not have the benefits/or just help to extend an evaluation.” They also made it quite clear that they are against any commercialization of piracy and maybe, just maybe, they’re also men of their word in respect of leaving Trey alone in the future.
Who said you can’t negotiate with pirates?