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Summary:

Software piracy is bad.  No one disputes that fact and I know software developers lose sleep over pirated copies of their program flying around the internet over P2P networks.  From time to time a developer gets fed up and puts malicious code in a publicly distributed […]

Software piracy is bad.  No one disputes that fact and I know software developers lose sleep over pirated copies of their program flying around the internet over P2P networks.  From time to time a developer gets fed up and puts malicious code in a publicly distributed program so that something bad happens to anyone who uses an illegal copy of the software.  This has recently happened again and interesting discussions are flaring up with supporters of both sides of the argument marking their position in the sand and firing away at the other side.

Anton Tomov distributes a number of capable programs for the Windows Mobile platform including Pocket Hackmaster and Pocket Mechanic.  The program that is causing all the shouting matches in this case is Pocket Mechanic.  It appears that Mr. Tomov recently distributed an update to the Pocket Mechanic program that includes some malicious anti-piracy code.  Of course whether or not it is malicious depends on which side of the firing line you fall on.  The program apparently detects if the executed program is a legally licensed one and if not it erases your entire Windows Mobile device by hard resetting it.  It has reportedly wiped out a removable storage card, too.  I have contacted Mr. Tomov about this situation but have not gotten a response as of the time of this article.

Software developers must understand that consumers tolerate certain levels of inconvenience to help combat piracy but there is a limit.  Alienating your loyal customer base because they find your practice intolerable only makes you the developer the loser.  I wish all software pirates would just disappear but reality tells me they won’t do so and I sympathize with the developer who loses out as a result.  Even so I cannot use nor recommend any products that have the potential for causing damage to user’s computers or gadgets and once the developer takes that tactic I lose a great deal of trust in his practices.  May not be fair but that’s the way it is.  What are your thoughts on this practice?

  1. I’ve used Anton’s PocketHackmaster in the past, but I’m not so sure I will again. Regardless of where you stand on illegal software piracy (I am against piracy for the record), you have to be up front with your customers. I’m wondering if Anton indicated in advance what his software would do if it was run on an illegal copy of WM. Perhaps it is in his license agreement, but the reality is: very few people read those word for word.

    KCT

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  2. I consider this an outright stupid move. I also used his products in the past (yes, legit) but this move is going to keep me from using them again.

    What happens if the application is unable to authenticate your key? Wipes your device? Granted, AS creates backups but only of your data, you’d still have to go thru the installation of all the apps again – which is, to put it nicely: a horror :-(

    I’d rather see an app that deletes itself, or at least force the user to actually buy the programm but not to wipe out the data.

    Bad idea, very bad.

    And for me – there is no “on the other hand” – such a move is just unacceptable. No matter who you are or how much you lost thru warezing.

    If someone would be stupid enough to delete my PC’s harddisk I would probably check with a lawyer and see what could be done about it. Especially if the condition that your disk will be wipped wasnt in the EULA…

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