As far as Activation goes, I think it blows. The only s/w I have that has Activiation is my new Fujitsu laptop, which came with XP Pro. I don't call what Protel has "Activation", it's a license manager. I like Protel's license manager.
When a regular license is installed, it is permanent. But it seems that this may not be true with all licenses, such as demo or beta licenses. If a demo license must be activated and not only does the demo expire, i.e., stop functioning, but reinstalling it requires a new activation process, this might inhibit continued use more seriously. Let me be clear, it is Altium's perfect right to do this. But it might inhibit sales in the long run. An impoverished startup could still reinstall with a new user, real or phony, so it is not as strong a measure as, say, W-XP activation. In this case, the irritation level of continuing would be higher and it *might* stimulate sales a little for some users.
The trick, as I would see it, is to keep use-contrary-to-license from cutting into actual sales while at the same time encouraging as many people as possible to learn and use the program (which stimulates sales in the long run, if the program is at all good). Very strong copy protection/Activation, in my opinion, will generally harm sales. No protection may or may not harm sales, probably it harms sales in the short term and *may* help in the long term. Modest protection -- a nuisance to keep using the program but still doable -- might be the best option.
A demo program might incorporate some advertising that is refreshed if an internet connection is active. Some programs are licensed completely by the user permitting advertising. I'm writing this mail on sponsored Eudora. I paid for a license, but that was on another computer and besides, I'm using the latest version, I'd need to pay them again. The Eudora ads are unobtrusive, but if I have Eudora open and cover up the ad (it is not large and I can move it about), I do get a window that pops up and warns me. I always uncover it immediately... but, wondering, I just moved the ad down off-screen. I'm waiting for something to happen. So far, nothing. Eventually, I'm sure, I'll get the warning, and possibly Eudora will eventually refuse to function if the ad is not made visible. Okay, after a few minutes, the "probably it is unintended, but..." warning popped up. I ignored it. Eudora is still functioning. My guess is that the warning will get more and more insistent. Since there is a small possibility that Eudora would lock up, and I don't want to lose this mail, I moved it back. Anyway, I've certainly clicked through on some of those ads and I've made purchases. Eudora is making money from my usage of the program, even if I never again pay to get rid of the ad (and to get a couple of advanced features that only function in the paid version -- it's all the same version, just different functions are activated. There is a basic version, Eudora Light, that is free and has no ads. It is really all the same program. On my wife's computer, the ad doesn't work for some reason. When I copied her mail system to my notebook while we were travelling, Eudora automatically reverted to the Light version. Restarting it and selecting the Paid version brought it back even though the ad display is still broken.
My point is that there are ways to make money and to promote sales even from users who are not paying. At the very least, they can be pestered to buy the program. If you make a demo impossible to continue, you lose the opportunity to make offers to them, to pester them, to sell advertising targeted at them, etc. Thinking of unlicensed users as criminals gives up all these opportunities. Sure, what they are doing is often illegal, *but* that is a creature of statutory law. Under common law, what they are doing is not a crime. Some forms of copyright violation are not, shall we say, sins. They do not steal anything from the copyright owner. I'm not against copyright, just against attempts to make a huge moral and criminal issue out of what is basically a civil offense, created and defined by statute, not by natural moral law.
It's like speeding. Various jurisdictions have set speed limits that are low enough that the majority of drivers are speeding. The large majority. In the U.S., this is actually illegal, there are some sound legal grounds, in my opinion, for considering speed limit signs set contrary to national standards (which generally do not allow a speed limit to be set below the unimpeded 85th percentile speed) to be unenforceable. But some people think, "speed kills, these speeders are morally repugnant, they should be obeying the law." Now, studies have shown again and again that speed limits signs have very little effect on actual driving speeds. If a government really wants to save lives by lowering speeds, it needs to do it by more sophisticated and effective means than setting artificially low speed limits. Instead, low speed limits are a huge cash cow, particularly for small towns placed on major highways, a means of taxing non-residents. Residents, I've found, somehow just don't get ticketed. I have an attorney friend who was a police officer and he's confirmed it. If you are a neighbor of the officer, you might get a warning, you don't get a ticket. I've been following this issue for a while now, and I have never seen someone who understood the law, and held fast, end up actually *staying* convicted of a speeding offense based solely on a speed limit sign. Yet I've talked about it with, for example, a resident of one of these small towns who was absolutely horrified at the idea that anyone would even consider violating a speed limit sign. "Speed kills," she dutifully repeated. Actually, speed doesn't kill. Moving outside the normal flow of traffic kills. And if the majority of drivers are moving faster than the speed limit, driving slower is *less* safe.
hmmm. wandered a tad there, didn't I?
On those rare occasions that me and my assistant have started Protel up at the same time, a polite warning dialog box pops up on the screen, and one of us shuts down our Protel session until the other is finished. So that way we don't infringe.
I have refused to upgrade Quickbooks Pro because Intuit products (Quicken, Quickbooks, Turbotax) now have Activation.
They abandoned it. See http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,110745,00.asp
Why? Sales did not increase more than the prior rate of increase. In other words, whatever benefit they gained from unlicensed users saying "All right, I give up, here's my cash" was counterbalanced by loss of sales. Now, from my theory, the long term loss of sales would be more serious. I expect short term activation to be less harmful to sales, it might increase them, it might decrease them. I *know* that some sales are lost because of activation. One of Quickbook's major competitors, MYOB, has implemented Activation. I know they have lost quite a few users who would have otherwise have upgraded. I'm one of them. I was actually ready to upgrade when I learned about Activation by accident. I might still do it (the details of how they do it are ... not as bad as it could be), but I'd want to think about it. No Activation, no need to think about it! Other users on the public MYOB mailing list are generally less than happy.
I have refused to upgrade Windows boxes to XP because of Activation. So if the software industry continues to experience a slump, maybe it's their own fault.
Perhaps, perhaps partly. The music industry is fighting an uphill battle. I think I understand the situation in the music industry better than the software situation. If you are a musician, you make *real* money from becoming famous and its consequences as well as from selling records. Media has to pay for what it broadcasts or distributes because it can't get away with piracy; by definition, it is public. If the general public is listening to a performer's music, that performer is going to have lots of opportunities to make money even if most people are not directly paying, even if they are mostly sharing music files. But who suffers is the *manufacturer* and *distributor* of CDs. These companies pay performers a very small fraction of the sale price of an item. I was in the publishing business, which is somewhat analogous. It was standard when I was active that an author might get 7% of the retail price of a book. A book would sell for, say, six times printing cost. You need that margin to support the printers, the distributors, the wholesalers, the retailers, and leave something for the author and the publisher. When the technology suddenly makes the physical book unnecessary, all these people could be out of business. So of course they fight the change. And they are doing everything they can to try to define ripping a track as a major sin, a moral outrage, depriving the artist of his or her rightful due.
There is a story. A poor man was walking by a street-vendor's stall, where meat was roasting. The man stopped and sniffed, smelling the delicious odor. The street vendor accosted him and demanded that he pay for the privilege of smelling the meat. When the man refused, the vendor grabbed him by the collar and hauled him off to a judge. When the judge heard the story, he ordered the poor man to hand him a coin, which was reluctantly but obediently tendered. The vendor, smiling, stepped up to the judge to take the coin. "Not so fast," said the judge. "Here, smell it!" Then he handed the coin back to the poor man.
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