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Piracy Security Your Rights Online

Single Software Licence Shared 774,651 Times 446

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the running-rampant dept.
nk497 writes "A single licence for Avast security software has been used by 774,651 people after it went viral on a file-sharing site. Avast noticed that a license for its paid-for security software, sold to a 14-user firm in Arizona, was being distributed online. Rather than shut down the piracy, the company decided to see how far the software would spread — it's since popped up in 200 countries, including the Vatican City. Now, the company is turning it into a marketing opportunity, with a pop-up encouraging users of the pirated copy to download a legal copy of the free or paid-for version. Avast isn't sure how many pirates have gone legal, but said some have made the switch."
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Single Software Licence Shared 774,651 Times

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  • by clone52431 (1805862) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:39PM (#34460800)

    Well, that’s a good start, I guess.

    • by Kenoli (934612)
      Suing hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world could be tricky.
    • I am somewhat interested in how many people will actually pay for a license; this might be a good way to estimate how many people who download unauthorized software would have paid for the software in the first place.
      • I am somewhat interested in how many people will actually pay for a license; this might be a good way to estimate how many people who download unauthorized software would have paid for the software in the first place.

        I don't think this would prove that at all. It's more likely to show how many people felt guilty and decided to buy a license just in case the company eventually decides to sue people.

        • by OnlyJedi (709288)
          Actually, since a license is free for non-commercial use, it's most likely to show how many people are too lazy to fill out an online form or register an account (possibly giving their email up to spammers--I mean marketing). Kinda like using bugmenot to get into free-to-register websites.
  • by mattdm (1931) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:39PM (#34460814) Homepage

    Amazing how that works.

    • you know, like the old days, when code was in magazines, and you could use it free. you could patch it or turn it around yourself, and learn something useful reading the stuff you didn't want to type in.

      and the Avast folks have a list of the files in Windows handy, so they don't have rogue updates that brick your system by quarantining core files.

      try it, you just might buy it. I did for my last surviving XP machine.

    • by Chapter80 (926879) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:03PM (#34461156)

      I would love to see how they worded their pop-up so as not to offend people or scare them away.

      ATTENTION! The Virus Software you are using has been pirated.
      Please put in your name and credit card number, and you will be legally licensed.

      The last thing I want to do, if caught pirating something inadvertently is to provide my identification.

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        Probably using words like "genuine".

        And I suspect a lot of the people who have pirated copies of avast didn't know it. A friend/whoever set their computer up for them probably put it on there for them.

      • by clone52431 (1805862) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:19PM (#34461368)

        You can see it near the bottom of this page [avast.com].

        I was mildly disappointed at how scary they made it look, but meh. It’s not like they were telling the users anything they probably didn’t already know, and I’d say that the music industry has successfully waged a shock&awe campaign to inform people of what, exactly, they can do to you if they catch you making unauthorized copies. I’d have been much more impressed if they had tried to present a more friendly and informative message. Something along the lines of:

        We have detected that this copy of avast! Pro is using an unauthorized license code (in other words, you didn’t pay for it).

        Perhaps you didn’t realize it, but avast! also offers a free edition for personal and non-commercial use. Please select from one of the options below:

        [ Downgrade this copy to avast! Free Edition ]
        [ Learn more about pricing plans for avast! Pro Edition ]

        Simple, to the point, and non-scary.

        • by Machtyn (759119)
          I have met ... okay, I haven't met them, but I follow-up behind them on occasion ... tech's and tech firms that will install unlicensed software on a client's computer. Quite often, the user/owner does not know about the unlicensed copy.

          Perhaps the line should have read

          We have detected that this copy of avast! Pro is using an unauthorized license code (in other words, you didn’t pay for it - if you paid for it, contact your sales representative).

          Perhaps, through an attorney :)

      • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:21PM (#34461390)

        The last thing I want to do, if caught pirating something inadvertently is to provide my identification.

        Yeah, I hate it when I accidentally log into bit torrent and download software rather than paying for it. I mean, the keys are practically right next to each other.

      • by drolli (522659) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:26PM (#34461462) Journal

        Dear Friend!

        I feel that i can thrust you. You seem a decent man, running a nice anti-virus software. As it turns out, the late owner of the company of the software you are using left me a fortune in licenses. However, i need a business partner.......

    • No, that would be if we linked to the official press release [avast.com].

  • great (Score:5, Funny)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma ... minus herbivore> on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:39PM (#34460816) Homepage
    Cue 4,000,000 slashdot posts how this proves, objectively, with 100% accuracy, that software piracy does zero economic harm and is actually beneficial to everyone involved.
    • Re:great (Score:5, Funny)

      by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:41PM (#34460844) Homepage Journal

      This proves, objectively, with 100% accuracy, that software piracy does zero economic harm and is actually beneficial to everyone involved.

    • Interestingly, for the most part, personal non-commercial use of a software shouldn't really be taking money from anyone IMHO.

      However, in this case each and every copy is taxing Avast's servers, which is most definitely harming Avast.

      It's quite nice to see such a constructive approach to the problem.

    • Re:great (Score:5, Funny)

      by SailorSpork (1080153) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:40PM (#34461674) Homepage
      Ironic that a Pirate themed product called Avast is using piracy as marketing...
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:53PM (#34461012) Journal
      There was a time when the algorithm for testing Microsoft keys was that the sum of the digits was divisible by 7 (I think). Setting every digit to 7 was the simplest way of doing this, although there were other options were possible. I often used these instead of bothering to look up what the actual value should have been.
      • Dang...that brings back memories. I remember the code that worked every time for Win95. It had a lot of sevens and a few zeros (No, I'm not posting here). I never installed a pirated copy, but just used that number to save time when installing.

        Wow...I feel like a grizzled old soldier reminiscing about the "good old days".

        I won't bother to tell you to get off my lawn. You'll figure it out when you see my field of land mines.

        -JJS

    • by Whalou (721698)
      Isn't that what came out of that famous Microsoft's Speech-to-Text demo video?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:40PM (#34460830)

    “We found our licence code at a number of warez sites around the globe,” said Vince Steckler, chief executive of Avast Software. “There is a paradox in computer users looking for ‘free’ antivirus programs at locations with a known reputation for spreading malware.”

  • uh...what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:40PM (#34460836) Homepage

    The pirating of legally-free software never ceases to amuse me...I know the licence is for a "paid" version of the program, but still, for personal users, the "free" version is more than sufficient. That being said, Avast's response to this has been PERFECT.

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      I could be wrong but doesn't the free version of Avast refuse to close its window or something equally annoying? Or was that some firewall software?
      • by Cytotoxic (245301)

        I don't know about any problems. I've been using it for the wife's computer for about 6 months. Seems pretty nice so far. They'll pop up and try to sell something every now and again, but it really isn't a big deal compared to the free service they provide.

        I use clam anti-virus on linux for my laptop, and it seems a little more intrusive when scanning than Avast on the wife's PC - but that is probably due to the massive difference in spec between the two machines.

    • I think Avast about it *because* they have the free version available. They know that they are losing next to nothing because, at best, most of these people would be using the free copy anyway.

    • by windcask (1795642)

      The pirating of legally-free software never ceases to amuse me...I know the licence is for a "paid" version of the program, but still, for personal users, the "free" version is more than sufficient.

      Replace "personal users" with "people possessing common sense."

      The #1 reason I avoid pirated software is because more often than not, they contain malware and viruses. Now, isn't pirating an anti-virus program that has a free version readily available more than a little self-defeating?

      • Now, isn't pirating an anti-virus program that has a free version readily available more than a little self-defeating?

        They pirated the license key.

    • by DrXym (126579)
      I think it would be better to say "you are using a pirate version, it'll continue working for 30 days, then auto updates will stop working, if you want to buy go here". If people want to continue using it then fine but after 30 days they're putting themselves are greater and greater risk because it won't stay up to date any more.
    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:20PM (#34463104) Homepage Journal

      The pirating of legally-free software never ceases to amuse me...

      Just this morning, I googled for the name of a program I wrote. Among other places, I found it as part of a 45MB Mac disk image of cracked applications.

      If you really want to pirate my software, then there's not much I can to do stop you. That's fine, I guess, but you'd probably be better off downloading it directly from Sourceforge.

  • by nlawalker (804108) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:42PM (#34460850)

    As it turns out, when asked, all 774,651 people were "just trying out to see how it was before they bought it."

  • by dmomo (256005) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:44PM (#34460886) Homepage

    At least 774,641 searched for the file (wanting to pirate it) and found this copy first. If this copy was not there, 774,641 would have searched for the file and found what was otherwise the second result for said software. What we can say is that 774,641 pirated the software, not that the uploaded caused it to be pirated 774,641 times.

    I'm trying not to condonng the pirates or sympathizing with the software company. This is just (hopefully) an objective observation.

    • by Corbets (169101) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:13PM (#34461292) Homepage

      At least 774,641 searched for the file (wanting to pirate it) and found this copy first. If this copy was not there, 774,641 would have searched for the file and found what was otherwise the second result for said software. What we can say is that 774,641 pirated the software, not that the uploaded caused it to be pirated 774,641 times.

      I'm trying not to condonng the pirates or sympathizing with the software company. This is just (hopefully) an objective observation.

      You're still applying an interpretation. What it says is that 774,641 copies of the pirated key are in use (or something similar; depending how they gathered their stats, it might be that many IP addresses, which may or may not correlate to actual installed copies, or... whatever).

      When you say that 774,641 people searched for the file and found it first, you're making an assumption that is no more valid than any other guess. My own assumption, to provide a contrary point of view, is that people actively went out actively looking to get their hands on the paid version without paying for it, as when I enter a variety of Avast-related search terms in Google, I get their website, not warez sites.

      In any case, I like the way they handled it, though I would have supported cancelling that license as well (after discussions with the actual owner of the license).

  • As a comparison (Score:2, Informative)

    by Aussenseiter (1241842)
    The RIAA would extrapolate 774,651 equivalent illegal downloads as $11,619,765 in lost revenue - and then go to the courts.
  • This will still be used by the RIAA/MPAA/etc. Because look at it. It's proof that piracy cost Avast 774,651 sales. I like the non-litigious response by Avast, and their remedy is offered in such a way that a lot of people will probably take it, so they don't harm their user base by driving people off. But props to Avast. You handled it right.
  • Not that everyone pirating Avast and Photoshop could get by with linux. But I bet a huge majority of college kids that are pirating the latest Office, Photoshop, etc could get along perfectly fine with an apt repository.

    Maybe that should be Ubuntu's next marketing campaign. Tell college geek-wannabees that there is a super secret way to pirate free software called "apt-get". It's not for everyone since it has a steep learning curve. But if they master it, they can get some sweet software for free. Maybe a w

    • as funny as you are trying to be, that was one of the reasons I switched to Linux during college. I refused to pirate software anymore, so the only way I could get the shit I needed was to switch to Linux.

      Rather than use apt-get however, I wanted to be ultra-1337 and learned emerge.

      Now I've got a job and can afford software, so I use Mac.

  • Last I checked the US State Department recognized something like 194 countries. So they appear to have coverage of 103% of the countries in the world!

    • OMG - "they" are hiding entire countries from us now!

      Technically, you are correct - there are 194 or 195 countries, but there are dozens of territories and dependencies that might be counted separately. E.g. many would count China, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Taiwan as 4, but China would say 1...
    • by H0p313ss (811249) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:07PM (#34461216)

      Last I checked the US State Department recognized something like 194 countries. So they appear to have coverage of 103% of the countries in the world!

      Rounding error. This is what happens when you let arts majors use computers.

  • by Trelane (16124) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:59PM (#34461108) Journal
    It's clear that they can see where the license is used on warez sites without spying. But how do they know what countries the *users* are in, and how do they push the advertising to them? Inquiring minds want to know!
    • by TheUni (1007895)

      Are you serious or am I just missing the sarcasm?

      User requests updates, server checks license and notes IP. How is there a conspiracy here?

    • by lwsimon (724555)

      I'm guessing geolocation based on IP when they check for updates and authenticate with their license key, and that there is a mechanism for showing alerts built into the software...

    • by demonbug (309515)

      It's clear that they can see where the license is used on warez sites without spying. But how do they know what countries the *users* are in, and how do they push the advertising to them? Inquiring minds want to know!

      Presumably the software checks back in for virus definition updates and such periodically once somebody installed it, regardless of source. AV software is pretty useless if it isn't kept up to date; not too surprising they track by software key, then just run a lookup on the IP that requested the update.

  • As Microsoft Security Essentials [microsoft.com] is offered for free for personal and small business (up to 10-PCs) use, the only reason I can think of to pirate AV software is because you're also pirating Windows and can't pass the WGA validation test. Even then why bother...just use the free version of Avast that doesn't care about WGA validation.

  • by ameline (771895) <ian.ameline@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:03PM (#34461174) Homepage Journal

    They are likely grateful that people are using their software rather than the superior (and free) Microsoft Security Essentials. (Yes, MS makes a piece of software that is superior in virtually every way to its competition. Hard to believe, but it's true.)

    http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/ [microsoft.com]

  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:11PM (#34461268)

    So...what's the code they were using anyway? Just curious....

  • has been used by 774,651 people

    I wonder how they figured that out... Installs or IP addresses or People or reported back to Big Brother NIC MAC addresses or ?

    I installed AVG-Free four times on two machines this weekend.

    I'm the only person using both.

    One install on a traditional machine.

    The other machine has removable drive bay hard disks. One disk for real work that being Linux. Four with different installs of Winders. (Why? the ultimate compatibility test is to boot into W2K on a W2K only hard drive and see if it works, also I have

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:15PM (#34461338)
    Am I the only one that finds it slightly humorous that people were pirating a product called Avast! ... ? :)
  • by SoundGuyNoise (864550) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:26PM (#34461460) Homepage
    How fitting it be that a bunch of landlubbers calling themselves "Avast" be victims of piracy.
    More grog me boys!
  • by dmomo (256005) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:37PM (#34461622) Homepage

    As another poster confessed, I would be hesitant to download any pirated software less out of moral qualms than out of fear of malware. Add to this, the fact that much software does use an Internet connection, even if the software's functionality does not require it. Being always connected has changed things. Software can phone home and does so often. Be it for "update checking" or "license verification", vendors have a better notion of where their software is installed than ever before.

    Sure there is firewall software to stop unauthorized Internet access, but now so many applications use the network that there is a lot of noise to signal or vice-versa. These days, when I have a software need, I try to find a (legitimately) free alternative whenever possible.

  • by metalmaster (1005171) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:51PM (#34461852)
    I'd like to see the usage stats for that one.

    It was possibly the most widely used VLK for pirated Windows XP copies. I reported seeing it used on a community college network at one point. Im sure i got that admin into some hot water

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