WAVES and PACE defend their anti-piracy hardware protection and respond to allegations of technical difficulties from a blog entry … and why, if this discussion really matters, we should look at it a different way.

At the beginning of the month, we pointed to a blogger who posted what was essentially a rant about why he was fed up with PACE. (PACE is a common anti-piracy developer whose technology is most often deployed as an iLok dongle, but available as software-only protection, as well.) The blog entry began with a series of technical problems, but developed into an argument about why the author felt third-party anti-piracy technology was problematic in general. There’s nothing so unusual about that, or even the fact that he announced he was "boycotting" products that use PACE. I’m sure you’ve heard people gripe about PACE and iLok; I’ve heard just these kinds of rants for years, and the word "boycott" does come up. (Whatever the equivalent of a "watercooler" is for audio — coffee maker? — it’s something you hear, period.) That’s not universal — some people are very loyal to PACE-protected products, and in some cases prefer an iLok to another solution. But complaints are common on the user standpoint; it’s no secret that copy protection in general is not something that users are enthusiastic about.

What made this slightly unusual was that the blogger, Adam Schabtach, works as a developer (for Audio Damage), and that a rant that a few years ago might have been shared with friends wound up on the Web. (The blog entry was NOT an official message from Audio Damage, but it did cause the blog to be received differently than if it had been a random user.) And because I believe in meeting these issues heads-on, I personally helped the story get more attention.

Of course, just as the Web amplifies rants, it also amplifies the responses. You can read some 86 comments in response to Adam, some very well-reasoned, some heated (including those who claim Adam was biased by being a developer). Sure enough, some people stepped up to defend PACE and iLok. Some did not, though there were two separate responses, one frustration with PACE, and the other with WAVES customer support. (I should note, these are not the same issue. Any developer, no matter their intention, can be bitten by unhappy users.)

There was also an official response: I was contacted by PACE Anti-Piracy. PACE had communicated with WAVES, the developer whose products Adam was using. Waves didn’t contact CDM, but PACE relayed this response from them. Specifically, both PACE and WAVES called into question the blue screen that had so frustrated Adam, claiming it had another cause:

The last written correspondence WAVES had with this user was over two years ago. No other mention in their database of correspondence with this user under this name.

In this "article" the user mentions to different scenarios where he has attempted to install/use Waves.

It is difficult for Waves and PACE to comment on the first attempt as there are not enough details for us to diagnose the problem. [PACE agrees – not a lot of info and historically very very few if any Mac issues seen].

A Waves tech rep will not recommend a user to reformat his system unless; they have found a number of symptoms indicating a major problem with the system. This is extremely rare. I can speak for my self, handling thousands of cases by phone and email where I have maybe suggested 1 or 2 users that they need to reformat their system.

[Note: PACE will NEVER recommend such reformatting due to any PACE issue as that is not how issues can be resolved].

The second scenario is not PACE related, this is an issue with Windows DEP (Data Execution Prevention) protocol.

“The installer almost immediately informed me that it had to restart my PC, so I let it. It launched itself automatically after the PC rebooted, started the installation process, and then my good faith and efforts were rewarded with this: (picture)”

There is a very simple fix to overcome this. All of WAVES tech support reps are aware of this issue and are able to resolve this issue within minutes. Period.

End of Waves response.

Since this description and Adam’s didn’t match up, I went back to Adam to find out what he had to say about Waves’ response. He wrote back:

I did not contact Waves after this most recent failure of their product because my previous contact with them was completely unsatisfactory.

Regardless of what their records say, I was asked on the phone whether reformatting my hard drive was an option. At the time there were not "a number of symptoms indicating a major problem with the system." The support rep seemed essentially stumped by the problem, and I believe asked about reformatting the drive as a last-ditch attempt to rectify the situation.

It may indeed be true that the problem documented in my blog is not related to PACE but there is no way for me to know this as an end-user. This Waves bundle was the first PACE-protected product I attempted to install on this system, and it was the first whose installer caused my PC to blue-screen. I have successfully installed products from at least ten other vendors on the same system–products that are not protected by PACE.

As I attempted to make clear in my post, this incident was only the latest in a number of problems I have encountered as a (former) user of PACE-protected products, not an isolated one.

To be honest, I’m not sure this really clears up much about this particular situation. It certainly demonstrates that one technical incident — or even a series of incidents experienced by one user — can’t really be taken as the basis for a deeper discussion of anti-piracy technology.

In fact, what it seems is that this is really more about customer support and a dissatisfied customer than anything else. (And yes, for the record, sometimes people who develop software are also themselves customers — often demanding customers, I would imagine.)

Ironically, it illustrates the opposite case of what Adam had originally been trying to illustrate.

In his original post, Adam said,

This points up the biggest problem with PACE: if something goes really wrong, the maker of the PACE-wrapped product can’t help you.

But the reverse is also true: if something goes wrong with the maker of the PACE-wrapped product, PACE often gets blamed. That’s neither a defense of PACE or a criticism of the software maker; it’s just a matter of fact. And in this case, something did go wrong: at the very least, Waves wound up with an unhappy customer; that’s inarguable. Unhappy customer can translate to larger rants about technology, which in turn can make other unhappy customers. That’s what happened with an infamous 2002 PACE rant on ProRec. You can read an archived copy of that story on Google, though looking at it again, even a hardened PACE foe would have to admit there’s plenty in there that’s just not technically true, at least today. If you want to criticize PACE, in other words, that’s not the best place to start: the concepts are sound, but the examples may not be, and that’s a problem.

Also, if you do want to talk about PACE (or any other scheme), you also have to talk about the different ways anti-piracy pteoction is used and supported by vendors. Take hardware keys (known to most of us as “dongles”): you’ve lost or broken your dongle. Some vendors will sell you a replacement for a fee (say, $100), or even replace a broken dongle for free. Some will make you pay the full purchase price of the product (say, $500, or $1500). Now, how do you feel about dongles? Probably depends on which vendor you purchased from, huh?

I think the good part of all of this is that discussions are being had in the open, more so now than even in 2002. The challenge is basing those discussions around technical realities, not just personal experience. Likewise, while Adam may have made broad arguments based on specific technical issues, you’ll notice WAVES and PACE avoided all of the broader questions he asked. (Does PACE actually prevent piracy, why do we use it, and is it really better for developers?)

And if we were to continue the above back and forth, I expect we could get a circular argument going between Adam, readers here, Waves, and PACE — and learn absolutely nothing from it.

So, if none of these is a good way to look at the issues around piracy and software copy protection, what is?

My New Year’s Revolution for 2008: we will look at these issues in a comprehensive, technically-accurate way, involving both developers and users. There are two major topics here: one is piracy itself, and the other is anti-piracy measures, whether it’s a simple serial number protection, an iLok, or BanPiracy.org suing studios. It’s time for a serious examination of how bad the piracy problem really is (or isn’t) at this point, what makes people invest in software in the first place, and what can be done to improve the customer/developer relationship. It’s also worth revisiting the available options for protection, what the drawbacks and advantages are, and just what users really think of them.

I won’t pretend to be neutral, because I’m not — I have my own opinions, and I’m happy to be upfront about them. I think the effect of pretending to be neutral can be tip-toeing around the issues. I don’t believes that serves anyone, whether users, software makers, PACE, WAVES, or anyone else. But I also don’t want my opinions getting in the way of the full spectrum of discussion, because I don’t think my own opinions are all that matter. (Far from it.)

If you’re interested in being part of this conversation and series — PACE and WAVES included — let me know, seriously. We want to hear from software makers and users with different experience of piracy and copy protection. The "cat is out of the bag." (Or is that, dongle is out of the box? Torrent is out of the tracker?) No one can avoid the discussion. We can just try to make the discussion more productive.

And if you do get a blue screen of death and can’t get an answer why, let us know that, too, and we’ll see if we can find your solution. Philosophical discussions aside, I know users don’t like things to be broken, whoever is to blame.

Stay tuned.

  • Matthew Johnson

    As a user I am very glad to see you open the discussion of this issue. I have had lots of frustration with copy protection as a user over the years and seriously question the benefits it provides to developers.

    Another related issue I would love to see covered is the limited or non-existent (particularly in the case of sample-based products) demos we are often expected to base purchasing decisions on and the increasing trend towards restricting license transfer or charing exorbitant transfer fees. Users need to be able to make informed purchasing decisions up front when investing in products that can be quite expensive.

  • This kind of protection is a sick system. We pay extra money to prevent ourselves for the possibility that we might become criminals. What image does such a company wants to achieve? They are probably not aware of this.

    Steinberg with their dongles. No I don't want to stick those into my laptop. Only to prevent myself from becoming a criminal. I have an old copy of Cubase and Nuendo. Two dongles. I never use these programs anymore. I totally hate them. Not only because of the bugs but mostly because of that stupid dongle and their issues.

  • BTW, I'm certainly happy to contribute to the debate about software piracy, if that helps, from a developer perspective!

    We know that people will install pirated copies of our software. Which should be read as "they are happy to steal from us". It is s shame that people do this; not all software companies are big, for a company of my size, it is directly stealing from the mouths of my family. If I was your neighbour or friend, would you steal 100 dollars from my wallet when I wasn't looking? I am a nice guy, I look after my family and friends, my wife is a teacher, we try to help society; what have we done to deserve being stolen from? If I wanted people to use my stuff for free, I'd make it shareware. I can't afford to do that, I have to try to sell it to make a living. This casual theft of media is sickening, and is symptomatic I believe of many people's casual disregard for their fellow human beings. And that being a given, there is little that can be done about it apart from appealing to people's better instincts.

    I also get very frustrated with people complaining that we price software too high. I guess people wonder why software companies charge at all? Well, if more than half of all prospective sales are actually taken by people using hacked versions of our software, that means that we have to have a price twice that we would otherwise have to, to generate the same income. We know if we charge too much, we won't make enough sales. We have competition! We haven't go the luxury of doing stuff for free, we're not kids staying at our Mom's house, we're real people raising families, trying to make an honest living. But when people know that can get stuff for free simply by stealing it, that doesn't set a good baseline, and distorts everything.

    The warez "people" delight in having cracked any release within days. I wish there were a way to stop such sites being active; that would make a difference. Maybe the broadband providers should be obliged actively to blacklist them. No media protection scheme is perfect, they can all be cracked and it is such a shame that we have a need to use them in the first place. But the bottom line is this problem with casual theft that is endemic in society.

    Dongles: I don't like them as a user, but can see why some companies have gone that route to try to protect their sales revenues from dishonest people.

    Oh, one more thing: we have a 30 day full-featured evaluation period on our products, lots of tutorial videos, and a very active forum, to give users a great chance to seriously evaluate and discuss our software before having to decide if they want to buy it or not.

    Hoping this is of interest!


  • as a powerbook user i gotta say: i hate dongles. i got 2 usb ports and even IF i use a hub it still blocks a lot of space i need! every protection is crackable, its proven. so whats the point? a GOOD copy protection (like ableton live) is best i think. it shuts down after detecting a pirated version but lets you still use some basic features in some weird ways i gotta say.

    lets say, logic comes with a dongle. than the prize would be upped by about 50$… and 50$ bucks is still a lot of money. you could get a cakewalk instrument for that! why should i pay for some useless plastic?

    i used CAD programs back in the days and the used to give away hacked versions to good customers so they dont have to use the dongle anymore! now THATS nice!

    and at work we simply cant use a dongle! the time it would take to get that darn thing into every computer when needed we could as well switch to something else. keyword here is: multi-installs with one licence. what about that people? anybody else got trouble with that in any way?

    trial versions that demand a hardware dongle? you're kiddin… ill stick to freeware than.

  • Scott

    Spell check please.

  • E. Robert Frank

    Dongles may be a pain, but ultimately they are the only copy protection that has held up to the efforts of hackers. The Synchrosoft dongle has only been broken once and in the requisite NFO file the release group said the amount of work required to emulate the dongle was staggering and that they had no intention of doing it again. They may as well have just written a glowing endorsement of Synchrosoft.

    That said, I personally have not upgraded to the latest version of the Korg Legacy Collection because they use such a dongle, nor any other software that uses one. The idea of not being able to use software I have bought due to losing or breaking a small piece of plastic is not one I can get behind, even as I understand why they must use dongles.

    I'm happy with Live and SONAR. I can live with Native Instruments' Service Center.

  • ehdyn

    To Pete

    People who are "stealing" your software are not legitimate users. You shouldn't concern yourself with them.

    Imagine that you have a store where you operate completely on trust. 99% of people come in and seeing that you are blind take whatever they wish while smiling in your face.

    The joke is on them, they will never become involved with, appreciate, or use what they have taken from you. It will collect dust, and eventually be discarded. They never had the intention, or capability of forming an ongoing healthy relationship with you.

    When I was very young I dreamed for many years of making music, but could not afford any hardware that was circulating at the time.

    I learned about sound synthesis from books and magazines years before I ever touched a real one. Slowly, through mowing yards, and recycling scrap metal I was able to cobble together a PC for music making.

    In those days it was very easy to get your hands on a cracked copy of generator, and logic. Despite the fact that I had literally dreamed of owning a synth, completed entire songs in my imagination, and now had an incredibly capable synth at my disposal it did nothing but gather dust on my hard drive. I would open it up, and simply not feel any of the drive I felt earlier to learn how to use the programs, or accomplish anything with them. I wondered why my intense interest in music had suddenly vanished.

    Eventually, after hearing the new music being created by Richard James-Sean Booth-Rob Brown-Mark V.H.-etc… I decided to give it another shot.

    This time I had to decide how much I really wanted to make music as the man behind the counter was asking for a not insignificant sum for that shiny new drum machine.

    And thats just the thing really-plunking down all that money is an affirmation of your commitment to the craft.

    Long story short-I read, and re-RTFM until it fell apart. When I brought that thing into bed my girlfriend knew I was insane.

    I did love to make music, but only when something had to be invested into it.

    Ever since that time I've become more and more ritualistic towards it.

    Quaristice is set to drop soon. Am I going to DL it?

    No. Why would I want to diminish, and cheapen the event for myself. I've been buying, and getting way more than my moneys worth from these guys for nearly fifteen years. Of course I want to vote with my dollars, and support their work so they can continue in this vein.

    The thief has to value what they are taking from you.

    The kid that "stole" generator, and logic is now an adult that owns Reaktor, and Logic Pro-along with tons of other plugs.

    If I had not paid for them, I would be just another curious hobbyist, not a dedicated user.

    My best advice is to follow what Urs H. does

    Evolve your software over time, forge a relationship with your users so they have a name to put with the company. They will understand that you are a human who needs support and sustenance to continue on.

  • Hi ehdyn,

    Just to say – many thanks for some heart-warming comments. I guess you're right. I certainly hope so. πŸ™‚


  • dead_red_eyes

    @ Scott – "Spell check please."

    Go be a grammar and spelling nazi somewhere else. If you can't add anything meaningfull to the conversation, then STFU.

    I too hate dongles, they're such a pain in the ass. It sucks even more having to take them on the road with you during a tour, because if you misplace just one of them … you're screwed.

  • As a dongle user, I have to say its a love hate relationship. I like the ability to just plug the dongle in on an unlicensed system and be able to work without having to deal with any other issues. It makes development easier as well, assuming you haven't forgotten it…. then I fucking hate the dongle.. πŸ™

  • I happily buy audio software. I value the talent and hard work that goes into building the good stuff.

    However I do not value being treated like a criminal. Basic copy protection will prevent casual piracy, so it's worth having, but I consider PACE and similar copy protection schemes to be both abusive and pointless.

    On one hand they absolutely do not stop organised piracy. We already know that Waves — for example — has been been pirated fairly widely. Bluntly, the development of copy protections schemes is an arms race developers cannot win.

    On the other hand, these schemes punish legitimate users. They do this by being complicated, prone to failure and otherwise a pure inconvenience. Essentially paying customers get rooted around, while folk using pirated software likely have a better user experience.

    That flat out stinks. Those developers using PACE need to stop having a hard-on for copy protection and instead focus on looking after their customers.

    By all means, developers need to be aggressive about pursuing pirates, but this should not involve punishing your paying customers. I consider that point to be very important. Overly aggressive copy protection makes for a _poorer_ product.

    I will not buy any products using schemes like this. I don't enjoy being treated like a criminal after I've paid for something.

  • grimley

    I have a Syncrosoft key for Cubase/Halion/HyperSonic/KLE + KLDE and I have had the same problems with it on my 2 old PC systems and now on my new Macbook Pro … somethimes it just can't find the dongle and I have to remove it and plug it in again or find another USB port to plug it into to. Of course Live crashes when this happens. I have found that I rarely use these applications/plugins now because of this hassle.

    As far as I am concerned the water is so tainted now that no matter what guarantees a dongle company makes I will never trust them and will never buy another "dongled" product.

  • Reading the story about Waves and blue screen, I felt a need to comment as I had a similar experience just a few days ago. I am the developer of a VST-hosting sequencer called Podium. One of my users had reported problems with Waves plugins and so I decided to implement full support for the Waves WaveShell VST. The following is an extract from a post I made on my forum:

    Today I decided to install the Diamond 5.0 demo bundle I downloaded from the Waves website. First time running the installer, it soon exited with a request to restart Windows. This made me anxious as this was an indication that it had installed some low-level service most likely related to its copy protection mechanism. On Windows restart the installer started again, and then presented the blue-screen-of-death with a message saying: "An attempt was made to execute non-executable memory". Unbelievable!

    I can then power-off/on to reboot without the installer starting automatically, but running the installer manually again results in the same BSOD. This is on a standard Dell PC, 2GB memory, running XP Pro. The PC has never had a USB-dongle inserted, and there has never been any warez or cracked software installed. I now have to live with the uncertainty that Windows stability on my PC may have been compromized by this installer.

    Reading your article I'm glad to learn that Waves support would be able to "resolve this issue within minutes". I didn't contact Waves. I downloaded one of the other Waves demo bundles, which installed without crashing, even though this installer also insisted on restarting Windows during installation. My bad feelings toward PACE may be misdirected in this case, but the fact that an installer for some demo software can BSOD my PC left me entirely unimpressed. I have a great respect for Waves and the quality of their plugins, but I don't trust their protection system.

  • anonymous coward

    Since I'm not seeing many people here coming out and admitting things… here's my take…

    In the past three years, I've spent over $13,000 in music-related hardware and software. Seriously. I checked.

    I have made roughly $0 as a result of that investment.

    On the software side of that, none of it is possible to use without a dongle.

    Of the software that I didn't buy and have been "evaluating" for some time now (well over a year), one choice has stood out to me, and I plan to buy it when I start making money on music or when I feel like I can comfortably afford it. For now, I use it maybe once a week for maybe two hours, probably less. Eight hours is barely enough of a trial period in my eyes, hence using it for about a year and making sure it's right for me, especially in comparison to all the other options.

    I do not have a family to support, so much of my cash goes to food, gas, and my hobby: music gear. If I had a family to support and music was still a hobby, I'd see even more reason to pirate things.

    I have a real job where I use graphic design and programming software. I used two different graphic design programs back when they were in their infancy. Again, I made no money from them at the time and so had no moral quandary with myself as to whether or not I should buy them. Eventually, I decided I liked one better than the other and I started a job that allowed me to profit from it. So I bought it. I also bought a later version of it (although I never installed the legal copy since the illegal one was much more convenient to carry around on a USB stick in case of a hard drive crash, a system failure, or if I simply wanted to reformat my computer). The cracked version was simply more convenient, even though I owned a legal copy.

    The industry standard graphic design program (not the one I went with) also got pirated quite a bit back in the day. I truly believe that that got it lots of present-day users, including many corporate licenses. Much like Windows. However, the exorbitant cost of the industry standard program, along with the very comparable feature set of the other graphic design program made me eschew the industry standard one.

    Part of this debate reminds me of a comment I read today on another article, regarding a fine for a small criminal offense. $5,000, the person argued, would be a small amount that would cause the person to never commit the crime again, without having them have their lives ruined by being unable to pay the fine and going to jail. That struck me as rather ignorant. For some people, a $5,000 fine *will* ruin their life. For others, they may as well keep committing the crime for a lark, just to see how many times they'll get caught. For myself, I'm somewhere in between. A $5,000 would really screw my credit over right now, especially if my insurance hadn't held up last month and helped pay for a $4,000+ medical bill for an ER visit.

    The solution… there is no perfect solution.

    The best I can come up with is… make a quality product, update often (warezers practically get drunk off of having the latest versions) but with real improvements (customers hate security updates but like additional features), hit the crackers hard, do not punish your customers, and if you can afford to, go donationware. One app I love that I really need to buy soon has a built-in ad (no calls to the internet) for the free version… seems like a decent model to me, from the customer perspective.

    Anyway… I can understand the argument from all sides. I figured I may as well be the anonymous (hopefully… Peter?… please don't publish my IP! πŸ˜› ) first person to just come right out and admit to being afflicted with the jaded pirate mindset.

    Happy holidays, everyone!

  • Ollie

    Still, PACE does not work without admin rights on PC. It is a pain in the …..

  • Re: >> "My New Year’s Revolution for 2008: we will look at these issues in a comprehensive, technically-accurate way, involving both developers and users."

    What a great idea! We need a more sober discussion on this topic. Right now it's way too often that you simply hear people screaming "Hitler!" on both sides. And we all know when we have Hitler the discussion is dead. I know you can bring it man. Good luck!

  • Vladimir Balder

    Well I'm putting my money where my mouth is: I didn't buy Logic in the past 5 years. Sure it looked nice, but I was not willing to pay for a dongle, and communicated this clearly to stores and apple. Once the new logic without a dongle came out this autumn, I was first person in the store to buy it.

    Now same thing with pianoteq. They know I will not buy it until their challenge-response system is switched for a system that is guaranteed to work even if the maker goes out of business. Let's see how it plays out…

  • anon

    Vladimir – Did you read their FAQ?


  • Vladimir Balder

    Anon: you mean the section "What happens to my license in the event that Modartt no longer exists? -In such a case we will provide all license holders an unlocked copy of the software."?

    Yes I'm aware of that. But it's control issue: They only *say* to do so, the control to do otherwise is still in their hands. When I'm buying someething, I want this control in my hands.

    Imagine modartt being in the red, and another company buys them, then strikes this clause, then discontinuing the product. Where am I left then? With nothing.

    When I buy something, I want the security to still being able to use it in 10 years (of course this might need an old computer from ebay). When modartt insists on challenge-response, they can take the installation on new gear away from me at any time. Which is something I'm not willing to honor with my money.

  • Actually, this "what happens to software after the developer dies" question to me is very interesting. Everything short of serial number authorization (or no authorization) poses a potential problem. Then there's the question of how to even get at the files, let alone source. It's more than just a copy protection issue, though clearly that's important to people, too. I'm not exactly sure how developers could deal with this, but it is something that comes up regularly … and it's a bigger deal than when you have a tangible, physical object as with hardware.

  • Peter,

    I've thought a lot about the issue of what happens to abandoned software. If a developer is going to discontinue a software product (or is in the throes of dying, itself), here is what they should do, in order of preference:

    1) release the code base as open source.

    Unfortunately, this will never happen as the code base, even if it isn't developed anymore, represents intellectual property that is worth something to someone and can be sold as an asset.

    So, the next alternative

    2) release a method of translating the proprietary document format to an open standard.

    It sounds simple, but this could potentially be a large project. But, users really REALLY need a way to bring their documents and projects forward. Case in point: Mosaic users.

    3) release a version of the final app, freeware, sans copy protection

    This is really the least a company can do. Remove the copy protection so users can continue to use the software reliably under emulation of a previous operating system.

  • #3 to me seems the most realistic of those — in most cases, if the software isn't sold to someone else, that would be at least feasible. #2 would only help DAW/sequencer users, and we could really use a common file format for that anyway. #1 is trickier than it sounds as a lot of existing code relies upon other, proprietary/licensed code; open sourcing isn't always easy. But that still leaves #3 open.

  • Sizzurp Sippa

    Just use the pirated version, and you don't have to worry about copy protection, and you don't have to pay a cent. It is foolish to pay money for a crippled version of software when you can get an uncrippled version for free.

    If software developers want to get paid for their software, then they need to learn not to punish, harrass, and insult their users for choosing to purchase their software.

    ilok and Pace are the software developers way of saying "we don't want your money, just pirate the shit".

  • Pete


    Just use the pirated version, and you don’t have to worry about copy protection, and you don’t have to pay a cent. It is foolish to pay money for a crippled version of software when you can get an uncrippled version for free.

  • Pete

    Bah! That lost my text. πŸ™‚

    Try again.

    Wuld you buy pay more for license-key protected software, if there were a cheaper version available with dongle protection? Would you always buy license-key protected software in preference to using a pirated (stolen) version?

  • First off, I work for PACE. I've been working there since August 1st, 2006.

    I'd like to present two points of view; one from PACE, and one relayed from our developers.

    The PACE POV:

    We have a slogan here at PACE: "Copy Protection Sucks, License Management Rules". (I keep pushing us to make T-Shirts that say that.)

    The first part of that, "Copy Protection Sucks", basically says "we know". We know that if we get in your way, you're going to hate PACE. We know that it can be really annoying to have to carry a dongle around, or to shuffle licenses between dongles. We get it.

    The second part of that, "License Management Rules", relates to giving users control of their licenses. We're constantly trying to make it easier for users. We're also working on ways to give end-users more control of their licenses and for developers to be able to deliver licenses more easily. If users have to put up with some sort of DRM system, the R in DRM should work both ways.

    To some extent, we're already there. iLok.com lets you shuffle your licenses between your own iLoks for free or transfer a license you've sold to someone else for a nominal fee. The dongle itself holds 100s of licenses instead of just 1. I think copy protection has come a long way, and I think PACE is leading on that front.

    Contrast this with the "activation" systems rolled out by Adobe and Microsoft, and you'll realize just how bad DRM can be. I have a mail box with 189! email messages with serial numbers for software. After entering 10 serial numbers, I really start wishing for a dongle. Pro-Audio engineers especially are always jumping from laptop to desktop, to new desktop, to studio, to gig, and a dongle makes more sense then anything else.

    So the main point for your readership is that PACE really does try to listen to user gripes and address them. We're not perfect, and DRM is hard! So if you have a problem, contact the respective support teams.

    But we do get it.

    The Developer POV:

    We had lunch recently with a small plugin developer. The plugin developer was really happy with PACE because before he'd started protecting his product there was just him working part time. His sales were so dismal he was thinking about folding up shop. Everyone had his plugin, but no one had actually paid for it. Instead he went with PACE. He now has 15 products and 6 employees.

    So from the outside, it may seem annoying that you have to put up with our DRM system. What a typical user doesn't know is that most of the products you use in pro-audio only exist because of DRM. Go to your software shelf and trash 80% of your plugins and reduce the features in the remaining plugins by half. That's what things would look like without DRM.

    Photoshop has a market niche many, many times larger than that of ProTools. Photoshop plugins are pretty easy to write, much easier then DSP code. Yet the corresponding market for Photoshop plugins is a stagnant swamp. There are probably more ProTools plugins then there are Photoshop plugins. The difference is that early on Digidesign made a decision to protect their software and that ended up getting extended to protecting the third party developers as well. The consequence of that decision has been a huge secondary market for those plugins, for the benefit of all.

    Pro-audio software exists as a flourishing software market because they embraced DRM early. The DRM may be annoying at times, but being without some of your favorite software would be even worse.

  • Pierce,

    First, you're throwing around a lot of a numbers that we are supposed to take at face value with nothing to back them up. 80%, reduce by half, stagnant swamp. According to whom? What study? What hard numbers? Anecdotal stories of lunch with smiling, happy plugin developers prove nothing – especially when you don't even name the plugin developer. Of course PACE is going to paint a rosy picture of the benefits of it's kernel-level driver; it's in your best interest. But it's a little like asking a car manufacturer to give his unbiased opinion on green-house gas emission standards.

    Also, the comparison to Photoshop plugins is dubious at best: most PS plugins crap, and moreover are redundant to anyone who really knows the program. Frames, borders, over-the-top filters. These are things Photoshop already does in six different ways, and can be automated pretty easily. Those plugins that do truly extend PS can easily be protected from casual copying with some sort of C/R or license key. But, honestly, I've been using PS *heavily* for over a decade and just once have found a plugin that actually extended PS in any meaningful way. The rest are for the dilettantes and people who haven't bothered to dig into the program. And, as far as I can tell, some of these developers have been producing plugins for as long as I can remember, so it can't be *that* dire on the profit front.

    And finally, keep in mind, you're not the only player on the block. So a user has to content with your dongle/kernel-diver, that of whatever host their using, whatever plugins they have, *and* a list serial numbers. This is a problem with proprietary software locks: everyone wants to the only game in town and conducts themselves thusly. So, now I've got 3 dongles, a kernel-level driver, plus all my serials. At what point did this get easier for me, the user?

    I commend Peter for taking this head on. We could stand to have a serious, hard look at the implications of DRM on creative software applications. But anecdotal stories and fuzzy numbers don't help in any way, for either side. They are just, in the words of The Wire, juking the stats.

  • Pierce:

    The "Developer POV" section of your comment is the most perfect example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy I've ever seen in print. He has 15 products now and 6 employees because he went with PACE? My hairy left nut. Audio Damage has never had more than a simple serial, and we do more than fine with low prices and good customer service. (You remember those concepts? While they are alien to PACE, they are, in fact, tried and true methods to extending the bottom line.)

    There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. A product is NOT instantly viable, and therefor profitable, in this marketplace because it has "License Management" (and there's a nice piece of cognitive dissonance). Shelve the market-speak, because that shit don't hold water anywhere but a quarterly sales meeting.


  • I'm just saying end users never hear the developer side. You can bitch me out for not having statistics, but come on, this whole thread got started because 1 guy had a problem he didn't even bother talking to tech support about, and ended up blaming a completely different company for the problem. Isn't that an anecdote?

    So I have an anecdote back at ya. One guy in his spare time, 1 product, went with DRM, now has 6 full time employees besides himself and 15 products after he went with PACE for the first product. Is that everyone's story? I dunno, maybe I should go out to lunch with customers more often. πŸ™‚

    As for whether the comparison to PS plugins is valid, they seem like similar market niches to me, yet, as you say, most of the 3rd party PS plugins suck. I think the markets are similar enough that I suspect it could be very well the lack of DRM. From our customers, who do have the real numbers in front of them, they tell us directly that when they produce a plugin in several formats, some of which they protect and some of which they don't, that the non-protected ones don't sell very well, and they don't take that format very seriously as a result. So there you have identical markets, but the presence of DRM has led to developers shifting resources from the non-DRM market to the DRM market.

    As for "kernel-level drivers", realize that its not required. Developers can enable/disable different features of our software at will. We don't even require a dongle we support activation and we also support just simple serial numbers. That's all up to the developers. But the feedback we get from developers is that dongles end up being less support headaches and easier on everyone in the long run. Serial numbers and activation just end up with support hassles for them. "Dude, I lost my serial number. Honest…" Pro-Audio guys are always tweaking/upgrading/changing systems and 10 support calls later, they'd rather ship the guy a dongle…

    As for Chris, uh, dude. Google/BitTorrent. That's all I can say in a public forum. BTW, I'm not a marketing guy I'm one of the web guys, and PACE isn't big enough to have Quarterly Sales Meetings. The only reason we have Yearly Sales Meetings is so Andrew has something to say at the Company Xmas party… Oh, and don't quote latin at me again, it makes my brain hurt.

    Yet remember, I started all this out with "Copy Protection Sucks". But what is the alternative? If you want to have a real discussion on DRM that will really change the industry, have one on what rights you as user should have under DRM. Like I said above, the R should work both ways.

    DRM Trivia/Rumor: Apple will let you re-download all your purchased iTunes songs _once_ if your hard drive died.

    What "right" of the user is Apple providing?

  • Vladimir Balder

    Here's what's wrong with dongles, and Pierce, unfortunately you cannot take this away: Dongles introduce a *single point of failure* where there wasn't one before. With serial numbers, when the machine fails I get a new machine, when the software fails I re-install. No matter what happens, I'm 100% certain that I will be able to continue on my project. When you add a dongle, this element can break in the worst moment, and then you cannot reinstall something or just quickly buy a new machine – you're out of luck.

    You may argument with reliability statistics. But here's the hard facts: electronics break. It happens again and again, which every component. Including the PACE dongle. Now when this dongle contains the key for 10000 dollars worth of plugins, there's a really big risk right there.

    When designing professional IT systems, you try to remove all single point of failures. Have backups for everything.

    Unfortunately, dongles are the exact opposite of this thinking. Their guiding prinicple is about having such a single point of failure. That's why they are, in my own very personal opinion, ticking timebombs.

  • No, the markets aren't really similar at all. When you buy a Photoshop plugin it works in exactly one "host" – when you buy a VST there are a lot of hosts/sequencers/DAWs in which they can work. The idea that PS plugins are redundant (i.e. suck) in most cases has nothing to do with DRM. It's that most of the time they don't provide any real enhancement to program to those that use it in an advanced capacity. The "if only the company had money they've lost to piracy their product would be better and their sales would increase" argument is false. It just doesn't apply. Let it go.

    Figure out another way to make your case.

  • zig

    I have worked within this industry myself for several years, 'protecting' clients such as SYMC and his Norton product range to several game titles for various companies. I would like to make 1 short and precise comment:

    *** protections/drm systems are there to keep the honest people honest ***

    If someone truly wants a copy of a particular title, they WILL get it. Its more about taking the temptation away from your customer if u really do (as a developer) lack trust in your user-community and potential supporters.

    This really is a big topic and many a research paper has already been published. I look forward to what unfold next year on this topic and site. Well done CDM…

  • Pierce:

    Neither Adam or I are users in the strictest sense of the word. Obviously, you're out of your depth here so I'll give you helpful hints. Adam is one half of Audio Damage, Inc. and I am the other half. We're multi-platform developers, just like you, and we've carved a not-insignificant niche out of this rather troubling market simply by being personable and trusting. Obviously, it goes against the PACE Company Song, but it is certainly possible, and even viable.

    I won't bother to call bullshit (again) on your point (again), but you didn't read Adam's original post very well or my replies, and obviously didn't know me from Adam (brutal pun intended.) But suffice to say, I was actually party to the entire service go-round with Waves the first time, and the re-installing the second time, that prompted the original blog post. Adam has no real axe to grind in this situation; if anything, he is completely ambivalent at this point, but he did not lie. Your simply wishing it didn't happen (which is essentially what you just did, twice) doesn't change the fact.

    In any event, what you're really looking for is English instead of Latin, so how's this: Patronize me again, motherfucker, and I will make it my life's mission to make PACE look stupid. (This, interestingly, isn't a terribly difficult task, so I'll quickly have to find a new life's mission.) What I said was "after this therefor because of this" isn't logically possible. You said your Nameless Developer became a success after he switched to PACE. This is just stupid, so don't bring it up again. You're more than welcome to write me in private and we can continue telling each other how wrong the other is, but don't you lay this passive aggressive bullshit on me like I'm some petulant child. You've made a conscious choice to essentially call my business partner a liar in public, as yourself rather than an employee of PACE, and I won't put up with that.


  • Actually, Pierce, I have to apologize. I think I missed your point at the end of your letter. Mainly because it was so fucking stupid. When you said "As for Chris, uh, dude. Google/BitTorrent. That’s all I can say in a public forum." I assumed you meant that I could find Audio Damage products there. That is, of course, going to happen.

    What you _really_ meant was "because Audio Damage doesn't use PACE, you can find their products on BitTorrent. If they used PACE, this wouldn't be the case." That is, of course, a ridiculous statement, as most anyone would know. I have another logical fallacy that statement clearly falls under, but it is in Latin, and I don't want to hurt your brain again. Virtually all PACE-"protected" products are available almost immediately in all the usual places. We're all adults here, so the whole "can't say more here…" Jesus wept.


  • Fresh Freddy

    In all honesty I don't know a single computer based musician or studio that does not have some form of cracked software. It is a massively large problem for developers. Almost all students uses a variety of cracked software. Many computer based musicians have never and will never pay for software of any kind unless it comes with hardware eg. mbox, korg legacy, uad, liquid mix or bundled with a soundcard.

    The problem is not going to go away by threatening people, trying to make people feel guilty or obliged. Calls to fact that you might be a small developer with a family to feed really amount to nothing in terms of global software piracy.

    The problem is the same as it is for all intellectual property be that music, films or software. Many people do not feel obliged to pay for something they cannot touch. It is clear that a new business model is needed and the model needs to take into the global nature of the game.

    I personally hope to see subscription based software in the future. Most people happily pay for there internet connection, satellite tv. I hope to see music software going in this way. I can pay a set fee and use whatever software I want. I can imagine different subscription packages such a student, semi-pro, pro each costing a little more. Although developers would be earning much less money per unit they would be earning much more money overall.

    The only other alternative for developers is to make some hardware or try to sell liscences of their product to soundcard developers, speciallised music PC developers etc.

  • Now that I'm in a better mood (Pierce's flippant replies _really_ pissed me off last night) I feel that I should point out that it is convenient for small developers to blame their lack of business on piracy. In actual fact the blame would usually be better placed at the doorstep of a stilted business mode, bad customer service, or a product that simply isn't interesting.

    Or to put it another way, the long tail market (of which plugins for DAWs could be a poster child) needs a certain finesse to manipulate in your direction, as a developer. If your company isn't doing well, you can, of course, blame it on piracy, but make sure you look long and hard at all the possible causalities. Are your UIs interesting? Do your plugins sound good? Are they easy to use? Have you spent money advertising? Or do you just post in Kvr?

    Business is business; as Fresh Feddy rightly points out, piracy is part and parcel of digital sales in the 21st Century (and tennis shoes, too.) Either your model allows for it, and you make a good product for a reasonable price, or it doesn't, and you don't. In most cases, conveniently blaming piracy puts the onus on an un-named and un-traceable 3rd party. PACE uses this foible of personality, where the developer can blame anyone but himself, to sell their own product, of course.

    I submit the following: there is no such thing as an audio software developer that has been put out of business solely through piracy. Prove me wrong.


  • It's a bit like 'anti-virus' software. Who announces the latest evil virus….the anti virus software manufacturers! Go figure.

    For me I'm very happy dongles exist because, like being a vegitarian, it cuts down my choices. When they first appeared I resolved never to have one and this now cuts out a lot of software. Hurrah!

    I use DP not PT

    I use all NI's stuff- Absynth/Kontakt/Massive/FM8/Kore/Reaktor

    I use Atmosphere and Stylus

    I use Sonalksis

    I use Amplitube and Vinyl

    I use Tassman

    Garritan and Perc Adventures and a few more..

    You know.. I'm happy, I got what I need and I'm PACE and Dongle free.

  • Well, said it before in different forums, and will say it again…

    I will NEVER EVER buy pace protected software. Also, whenever buying software, I GREATLY prefer software without copy protection. Dongles are worst, but challenge/response is close second. There are great plugins out there without copy protection, and I am a paying customer of, among others, Sonalksis, OhmForce, FabFilter and AudioDamage. If I can find a non copy protected software that does the job, I will not buy a copy protected one.

    Please note that I don not use cracked software. If I want it, I buy it. Period. If I can't find it without Pace, and can't find any good alternative, I'll simply have to manage without.

  • Oh, right, forgot…

    Pierce: "iLok.com lets you shuffle your licenses between your own iLoks for free or transfer a license you’ve sold to someone else for a nominal fee."

    WOW! I can transfer the license between the dongles, FOR FREE! Really! And i can sell my license for just a tiny fee of $50 or so. Man o man, this really makes me want to buy more iLok protected stuff!

    Oh, but wait, if I didn't have a dongle to make using the software I have bought and paid for harder than it should in the first place, then I wouldn't even have to bother with the annoyance of my USB ports filling up, or the hassle of juggling licenses between my dongles at all…

    Also, when I think of it, most other companies (at least the good one, the ones that I am prepared to buy stuff from) allow you to transfer licenses to another user free of charge…

    If you really want people to look at the dongle as an added value, you will probably have to do quite a bit better than that…

  • Adam Schabtach

    It would be interesting if Peter's proposed discussion could touch upon an issue that Chris's submission alludes to. The issue is this: despite what anyone–including the RIAA, the MPA, or PACE–want you to believe, it is impossible to determine how much business (i.e. sales, i.e. income) is lost to piracy. It simply can't be done. You can't do a controlled experiment that demonstrates the affect of piracy on sales. There are too many factors affecting the sale of a product. You can't say "this product sold better than that product because it had copy protection" because they're two different products. There are seasonal variations, economic variations, variations of style and fashion, and so on and so on. Even Pierce's example of the developer who now has 6 employees doesn't tell us anything because time elapsed between the initial introduction of the product and the (presumed) re-introduction of the PACE-protected version. Two different times, hence two different markets, ergo no conclusion. (Also, was the addition of PACE really the only thing that changed? Did the developer do a website update at the same time? Did the developer add one of those 14 other products at the same time? Etc. All of these things affect the perception of the company in the eye of the customer, and hence affect the customer's decision to purchase the product.)

    I'm not saying that PACE and other DRM mechanisms can't reduce piracy. What I am saying is that nobody can measure the effect of piracy in itself. If anyone can point me to a published study that contradicts my assertion, I'll be happy to read it.

  • D. Cravens

    I'm another Logic user who waited YEARS for the dongle to go away… I will never buy a dongled product.

    Oh, and I own a software development company, so I understand the IP issues. DRM is a losing game. Provide value for your customers and they'll happily pay for it.

  • It's all fun and games until the flying monkeys attack.

    Once of the reasons DRM providers rarely bother to participate in forums like this is because it always seems to degenerate into people screaming at us. You end up feeling like a stripper in a mosque…

    In my first post, I started by admitting that copy protection "sucked", and then relating a story from a developer. I basically got called a liar, a marketing shill, and reamed for not having statistics and research papers to back me up. (Silly me for not having footnotes in my comments, I thought I was making a blog comment, not writing a research paper….)

    All this screaming is just signs of a discussion that's more about religion then actually trying to improve the industry, or ways we could improve our product. That's why I'm here: to get ideas of ways to improve our product. If you're just here to scream at me why DRM is evil, lets have that discussion someplace where you're picking up the bar tab, because I've been there done that. I vote for the Zeitgeist in San Francisco.

    The minute a developer takes money from an end user, a relationship is created. In the analog world, if you buy a car, the car itself functions as proof of ownership. In the digital world things get more complex. If cars were like software, the minute you purchased the car, you'd immediately have to visit the dealership for the car "update". That is, the software purchase process started with people buying a box with the software inside of it; directly following the car model. It seems to me that using the analog model for digital products has become totally bankrupt. You buy a box with software in it, you get a magic number, and a CD-ROM that you immediately throw away in favor of downloading the latest version off the internet instead.

    So software publishers have been trying to move away from the original analog model in order to find something that makes sense for them and for customers. What you really bought above was the magic number, not the box, and not the CD-ROM. The magic number then functions as "proof of ownership" for the software.

    When a developer implements a serial number scheme for proof of ownership, to my thinking they're implementing a form of DRM. All DRM solutions have their good points and bad points. They all have different ways of resolving the same proof-of-ownership problems:

    Is ownership transferrable? If I give my serial number to someone else, are they now the new owners of the software? Or is the serial number a one-time thing? Is the new owner entitled to tech support? Is the old owner?

    Is the software licensed to the human who forked over the money, or to the computer? Different publishers say different things. Microsoft says computer. I personally, owning 2 computers, say me. Apple says "computer, unless you buy a 'family pack', then we say 5 computers". Ok, how do we license Pierce the user instead of Pierce's computers?

    Under all the screaming, there are users with needs, and publishers with needs, and DRM companies like PACE caught in the middle. I'm here to try to improve things for both. I don't think there are any perfect solutions for the problems the publishers and users face, but I think they can be improved.

    PACE may be famous for the iLok, but we offer non-dongle DRM solutions as well. For that matter, all of our DRM technology comes in levels for the publisher to decide what works best for them. We provide a solution that puts us in the middle between the user and the publisher, then we get blamed for decisions publishers make on their own. Such is life. As Peter pointed out to start this thread, to the end user, they see this system of PACE+Publisher, and they like to blame PACE because "it must be the evil-DRM guys it can't possibly be because writing installers for Windows is hard.."

    That's why I'm here, I'd like to address users issues, get ideas from users how we could make our product less annoying and clear up some of the FUD.

    Speaking of which, Chris, I don't know what pushed your buttons. I wasn't trying to be flippant with you but I work for a DRM company. So writing in a public forum "Dude, when I googled Audio Damage serial number the first thing that came up was a keygen program" is the equivalent of posting naked pictures of someone else's wife on the Internet. I was actually trying to be polite. I also don't know where you got this idea that I'm some sort of PACE/DRM fanatic. PACE has a collection of tools. At the top end is the dongle, at the low end is no licensing at all, just tamper proofing. Publishers like yourself can choose which of our tools to use, or not use, or use none at all. Its a free country there are advantages to all approaches.

    But Chris, I think that when you set your product's price at $29, and then added a serial number scheme, you're changing how you conduct business because of piracy. Your plugins seem to be well liked, so more power to you. I don't think that every plugin can be $29 though. Some plugins are going to be more expensive because of more complexity. If I made an instrument plugin for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I'd have to pick up their bar tab. That would easily make the plugin $299. (Joke, I know Mormon's don't drink.) Someday, Audio Damage might want to produce a more expensive plugin, and then you might need to consider more stringent DRM measures. Hopefully, by then, we will have resolved whatever issues you have with our stuff enough that you would consider PACE. Or not. It's a free country.

    So moving on to comments from others:

    Vladimir: You are absolutely right that the dongle is a single point of failure. That is why in PACE's case, we have a product called Zero Down Time that essentially every time you synchronize your ilok with ilok.com it backs up the licenses on the dongle to our website. Then if the iLok breaks, we will immediately give you 2 week licenses for all your products to put on a second ilok while you send us the original for analysis. Once we receive your ilok and analyze it, we then send you new licenses for all of the products that were on the iLok. (Andrew would like me to insert some caveats here no doubt, but I'll just say it isn't perfect yet and that we live in the middle between the end user and the publisher.)

    We came up with that because an end user like yourself suggested it, and we've always had the RMA program for recovering licenses.

    rydan/D. Cravens, others: Dongles aren't for everybody. The people who like our dongle tend to be people who move between systems a lot, so they feel like the dongle gives them more freedom with less hassle because serial numbers can be their own kind of hassle. People who move between systems less often dislike the dongle because then the hassle of serial number is lessened. It all depends on whether you interact with a few systems or many.

    Once you have the dongle though, you do get benefits that are harder to implement without it. Publishers who use the dongle or stronger DRM are generally super willing to hand out demos and trials; I think that's been a clear consumer win there.

    Even serial number schemes can be improved on. Serial numbers are just annoying in a different way. As I said, I have 180! emails I have saved with serial numbers. How annoying an SN scheme is versus a dongle depends on how many numbers you have times how often you switch computers.

    Similarly, no copy protection at all means that you can't just go to the publishers website to get the latest version. Easier in one way, annoying in a different way.

    Specific to rydan: The fee is only $25. I think you'll find that publishers are less willing to "transfer" non-DRMed licenses then you think. If their model is that they license the "computer" instead of the "person" (i.e. Microsoft), no go. With Adobe, if you buy a "used" version of Photoshop in a bookstore, it all depends on which tech support person you get and how nice you are. Adobe's latest DRM system hasn't a clue: they don't really know if they're licensing the computer, or the user, or both. Valve (Half Life 2) doesn't allow transfers at all, the licenses are tied to your Steam account. Not sure if you can move your Steam account to another computer, and I'd really like to know, because I had to rebuild my Windows system from scratch recently.

    Adam: As far as I know, all the developer did was make the new version a universal binary. That is, old version: PPC, no protection. New version: Universal, protected. They gave us a lot of the credit for the increase in sales; I wasn't going to argue. Sure its an anecdote, but its an anecdote I hear from publishers: Protection=Profit, no-protection: not so much.

    A long time ago a studio owner made a comment on one of these threads. He said that DRM was good for his business because it meant that as an honest studio owner, he didn't have to compete with dishonest ones who offered cut-rate studio time, but then had cracks instead of the real thing. Again, an anecdote, but an interesting one. Buying the software was an expense, he didn't mind competing with the other studio on price/features/software, as long as the other studios weren't pirates.

  • Andy


    Been working professionally for 20 years in audio and music. One thing I experience: it's dongles that are pissing off most people- especially the home studio market but also the roving pro.

    I move around from studios to theatres all year round. You know what Pierce- I HAVE A LAPTOP!

    And I meet fellow workers who have often up to TEN usb dongles sticking out of various hubs on their laptops because they run PT and Waves (I do not)

    This is crazy- we dont want to install software on lots of computers.

    Laptops are fine. So why the dongle.

    Further -guess what we need as audio pros- lots of USB sockets!

    Its just unbelievable whoever dreamt up the dongle up was an idiot.

    Now I'm not blaming PACE for all this, it is the software manufactures fault too.

    It's a bit like blaming camera manufactures for domestic surveillance.

    If you want to really listen to us then hear this: recommend to your clients to implement choice: dongle or authorization. Problem solved.

    (but perhaps you make a bit more profit from a dongle implementation..??).

    NB: Logic now dongleless. Why do you suppose that is?- ah of course Apple deliberately want to loose money.

    Funnily enough they nearly picked me up as a new customer.

    It's all about fear!

  • Many of our publishers do support both what everyone is calling activation now and dongles. We actually do want to get where dongles are a user choice exclusively for portability, its just a hard problem if you want to go back and forth while being secure. But I actually have a hard statistic for dongle vs. non-dongle: when given a choice, 95% of the users choose the dongle. People HATE being forced to buy the dongle, but they don't mind it once they have it.

    Do your fellow workers have 1000 licenses? They should be able to put 100+ licenses on an iLok. That's exactly what ilok.com is for (which is what I work on). As far as I know (only been with the company for a year and a bit), when PACE decided to do a dongle, they designed in 100 licenses. At the time (7 years ago), they could never imagine needing that many!

    Now of course, its not enough. Would your objection be less if you could fit all your licenses on one dongle? How many slots would that take? Is 500 enough? 1000? 2000?

    As for why there are dongles, dongles could go away tomorrow if Apple and Microsoft built in support for some form of DRM to their operating system. Since they don't, you need a secure processor, hence a dongle.

    We do make money on the dongles, sure. But as a consequence, we charge less for licenses. We see license+dongle+support as a package, where exactly that breaks in terms of $ isn't important.

  • Pierce, I hear you, but I don't think this is entirely a religious issue. We're hearing from various people who prefer even challenge and response authorization (as provided, for instance, as an option in Max, also using PACE) to the dongles. And the fact is, if people are moving between machines they own — desktop to laptop, for instance, or just physically moving *one laptop* — the serial number authorization is more convenient, hands down. I can see dongles being more useful in that case if it were a foreign machine and you wanted to move a bunch of authorizations at once, but not on a machine I own. Plus, I can keep serials stored somewhere safe online (like a protected page on Backpack), which I can't do with a dongle. So, I can see why a developer might still choose the dongle, but it seems to me to be very difficult to argue that's to a cutomer's advantage. Maybe the developer will go out of business otherwise, and maybe the user will buy the product anyway, but they're just not going to *personally* see it as a plus. (Like "oh, boy, a dongle!" plus I mean.)

    That said, yes, this is just the dongle, not all PACE's products. I think it is worth clarifying those things, and it's clear from the beginning of this discussions that users aren't clear. So, we'll try to deal with this more systematically in the new year — I think for now people are venting. That's maybe not revealing anything new, though I don't think it's FUD. (FUD usually means *spreading* fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and I think more accurately users genuinely are afraid, uncertain, and doubtful.)

    Funny you should mention Steam, though. Steam is not without criticism, but here's there multiple computer system:

    "Can I use my Steam account on other computers?

    You may use your Steam account on any machine which can connect to the Steam network – Steam allows you to download and install any games registered to your account as soon as you log in."

    "If I format my hard drive or get a new computer, will I need to purchase my games again?

    Since games purchased on Steam are a one time charge, you do not need to purchase any games you already own again. To access your games after a hard drive format or when you get a new computer, simply log in to your existing Steam account and then download your games again."

    That said, no, you cannot resell games you've purchased, though I wonder if that's as much of an issue to people as the ability to easily access their *own* purchases (and for music software, as well).

    And, admittedly, part of the reason this works is because Steam generally runs online, though there's an offline mode available:

  • Jeff

    I'm a new commenter, but this discussion is very interesting–good to see it happening. To introduce myself: I’m a law student who makes music in my spare time.

    I'd like to post two arguments against DRM systems in general. I'll try to organize this to make it easier to read (hope the HTML comes out ok):

    Thesis 1: DRM only hurts the customer: it is pragmatically ineffectual and an insult to paying customers.

    DRM is pragmatically ineffectual because it provides pirates with a superior experience.

    The pirate enjoys a better experience, with no dongle or activation worries, than the user who has paid, say, $300.

    I will go out on a limb here, as a nonprofessional who nonetheless owns a fair amount of software, and admit that after I buy software, I regularly install a cracked version because the cracked version doesn’t require DRM dongles, activation, license-refresh, or any of the attached headaches. This is a rational choice.

    DRM is comparatively unjust because it intrudes upon and offends only paying users.

    I feel insulted that I should be treated with suspicion not just in spite of my being a paying user, but, comparatively, as a virtue of my being a paying user.

    I don't know if you have Best Buy stores, or have been to NYC, but visiting Best Buy in NYC is similar–if you buy something, you are compelled by a burly man at the door to stop and check your receipt. If you're not holding the bag showing you're a customer, they do not stop you. Arguably, that group not stopped includes successful shoplifters. Waiting in line to show my receipt in order to exit, after patronizing this store, has made me dislike and altogether stop shopping there. This was my innate reaction, both in terms of argument, and in terms of gut-reaction, because I am rightfully insulted at a moral level for being treated like a criminal due only to the fact that I paid for merchandise. In sum, the developer may feel better having the DRM 'burly man' there to stop and check the receipts, but there are negative collateral effects to this.

    So to take it further, take this hypothetical: You have a store, and the law is that all who wish to carry the software out of the store must have a receipt and their receipt must be checked at the door. Even if you wished to avoid it, there is a 'burly man' (i.e., DRM is meant to be compulsory, instead of the honor system) to force you to stop. Law abiding citizens will of course follow this law, and pirates will not if they can avoid it. Checking everyone at the door may be effective for a time, since there are intact walls forcing those with the software to pass by the DRM 'burly man.' However, every software crack opens a new unguarded door to the store. The law abiding citizens continue to pass through the guarded door, but the pirates pass through any door they wish.

    Now imagine the law abiding citizen must show their receipt to the store not just at purchase, but every time they wish to use their software. The pirate continues to need not show anything ever. Even given the ease of ‘showing the receipt’ via dongle- or internet-based license verification, where is the justice in this? I have not been able to come up with a the rational argument that justifies this treatment of the customer versus the pirate, though “DRM failsâ€Β at least explains it.

    Thesis 2: Even if DRM worked as intended, it would still be unjust:

    Let’s imagine for a minute a ‘perfect’ DRM system, which is completely transparent to the licit end user, and completely opaque (a roadblock) for the illicit user. Arguably, this is unlikely to happen, but with Microsoft/Intel/AMD/TCPA successfully inserting the Trusted Platform Module in all new computers, it’s worth thinking about.

    If this were the case, there is no pragmatic argument—the licit user does enjoy a superior product. However, the justice argument still remains. Can it be justified to treat a customer like a criminal? Social norms have conditioned most people to show their receipt at the door without an argument, but even if this becomes acceptable, is there really a justification to ‘show a receipt’ during all further use of the product? Essentially, even if there is a perfect DRM, an enormous problem still exists: That after you purchase something, have verified your ownership once at the cash register, that ownership can be revoked unilaterally without any human oversight or justification merely by failure to ‘show your receipt’ at the right time.

    Look at the larger context: It is telling that in law, if you do not want to show your receipt, a brick and mortar store does not have the right to hold you unless they specifically believe you have shoplifted. A police officer also does not usually have the right to detain you without probable cause under habeas corpus (sorry—we’re talking about copy protection, not human rights, but inside joke to us Americans). In civil, free society, authorization is assumed until there is reasonable suspicion otherwise. So why should DRM reverse this?

  • Pierce: Well, first of all, about license transfers. No, not all companies allow free ones, or even at all. However, good companies, the ones I prefer to buy stuff from do. I have bought Ableton Live 2:nd hand. No problem, no fee. Native Instruments Massive 2:nd hand. No problem, no fee.

    Also, in my rather (albeit rather limited) experience, it's usually the companies that make life hard for their paying customers by using drm/copy protection, that also tend to charge for or disallow license transfers. Not the kind of companies I want to give my money. So, as I said. A company using pace (as it is now) will not get my money.

    About what could be done. Well. As I said, I really prefer products without copy protection, or with just a serial number. However, in order to make it as little hassle as possible for the end user, here is my idea:

    Use a dongle, pretty much like you do, but include some kind of insurance, so that the licenses will be replaced if the dongle is destroyed or lost, free of charge for the end user. Also, allow license transfers free of charge.

    Apart from that, implement a "server" solution, so that every dongle could be installed on one machine, and then be accessed by every machine on the network, so all licenses were floating licenses. Also, allow a computer to "borrow" the license, without dongle, for say up to 30 days at a time. This would mean that the license is busy, but it should be possible to "recover" the license at any time from the license server, making it free to use again on the network, and invalidating it on the computer that previously borrowed it as soon as it connects. Yes, in theory, this would mean that the machine that borrowed the license could use it simultaneously as someone on the network for the remainder of the lease time, but that is just something you have to live with, in order to provide flexibility and choice to the paying customer.

    If this was the case, and if it worked flawlessly on every computer, with every software and hardware setup, then I would prefer this solution as number two, that is next after no/serial nr copy protection.

  • Well, had a little extra thinking time…

    Somewhere, the question was up, if you would pay extra for a product to get it without copy protection. I would. No question about it.

    Say Cubase for instance. I'd gladly pay $100 to get a license without copy protection, so I cuold install on my studio computer and laptop and use them without having to move the dongle. (I would still honor the license agreement and not use them simultaneously). The same goes for Ableton Live, even though I have less trouble there, since they allow more than one simultaneous install as long as you promise not to run them simultaneously.

    Also. Say some company release a really high quality native plug, like some of the UAD-1 plugins, but native. If it was iLok as of now and $50 I wouldn't buy it. If it was $250 and no copy protection, I most likely would. Also, if it was $250 and ran on the system I suggested in my previous post, I would probably buy it as well.

  • As the developer of a free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech DAW, its pretty funny to read this thread. On the one hand we have a few representatives and users of license management/copy protection schemes explaining why their products make sense, how they help some set of individuals and so on and so forth. On the other hand, we have a group of plugin users and a few plugin developers explaining how these schemes are an anathema to them in various ways.

    The issue comes down to cash flow, nothing more and nothing less. If it was possible to make a living allowing to people to "pay what its worth to you" when distributing audio software, there would be no copy protection, no license management schemes and no debate. So far, its proven very hard to make a living doing that, for just about everyone. So instead there is a game going on: users want access to the functionality offered by a piece of software. They'd like to pay as little as possible and when using the software, be bothered as little as possible by licensing issues and copy protection schemes. Developers on the other hand generally would like to make a living from what they are doing (there are some superb VST plugins done by avowed hobbyists with no commercial aspirations, but they are the exception that proves the rule).

    So, the developers (that's me) have to consider what steps they can take to make it likely that more rather than less money will flow to them as a result of releasing a product (or an upgrade). They can consider a whole suite of options, which include great customer relations, great products, schemes like PACE's, and many others. In the end, they will never really know what would have maximised their income – they only know what the outcome turned out to be with the choices they did make. And for many people, the choices will depend on how much they believe they need to make. I know from experience that making a living from selling cheap software is very, very hard to do; its not much easier making a living from expensive software either, but there are few factors stacked in your favor. A company or even individual developer whose goals are relatively modest can probably find ways to generate the required income without schemes like the ones PACE offers, or the similar schemes used by various DAW makers et al. Once the goals start to get more expansive, this becomes harder and harder to do, and the appeal of making it more likely that every user of your software will pay you for it becomes stronger and stronger.

    In the end, there is a dynamic going on between developers and users that represents their opposing interests. Users really would be better off if the software they wanted to use was free-as-in-beer, freely copyable, modifiable by anyone, and utterly cross-platform. There is one condition though: someone has to be around to write, document and support the software, and that means that some revenue from somewhere is flowing into supporting those activities. If enough users agree to pay without being forced to, no CP/LM/DRM schemes are necessary. If they don't, then developers either have to figure out another way to make a living, or try to force the hand of users into paying more (in terms of frequency or amount).

    All I know for sure is that if I got US$0.50 for every download of the OS X X11-based version of Ardour that has been downloaded in the last two months, I'd be living very comfortably. As it stands, users voluntarily throw in a little over US$1000/month, hardly enough to support a US-based software developer beyond a pretty shabby kind of existence. Should I consider making users pay? Should I just focus on making the software better so that they'd be more willing to pay? Should I contact PACE? Should I believe that other human beings are basically good and that karma will take care of things, or should I believe that its a dog-eat-dog world and I'd better get smarter at grabbing what I can?

  • Peter: Working on convenience. Would love to see our system MORE convenient than your perception of simple serial numbers. However, its a hard statistic that when users are given a choice, they're currently overwhelmingly choosing the iLok over software auth. Don't know why, but while they hate only having one choice, if they have both, then they choose the iLok.

    I hear what you're saying about convenience, I'd like to see our stuff as convenient as iTunes, and we're working towards that. But when all this stuff was designed, end users we're telling us that just requiring an Internet connection for license download was a showstopper. That's why the iLok has a smart-card dock on it.

    Now of course, its years later, and having access to the internet is just assumed. Most of the publishers are going away from hardware cards towards delivery via ilok.com and when we talk to end users about being connected to the Internet, they say "why wouldn't you be connected? I don't understand the question?" So that's enabling us to do some things we thought of years ago, but publishers/end-users weren't ready for yet.

    Jeff: New rule. I only debate DRM if you're picking up the bar tab. πŸ™‚ Not to be flippant, but many of your beliefs don't jive with the facts, so it ends up being religious, and while I'm willing, that's only if Whiskey is involved so I can embrace my Irish heritage while we do so… Paul Davis makes some good points; I use lots of open source software for my job, and I'm always saying "I'd pay $250 for an installer package and a decent manual!" There's a definite tension between end user happiness, cost, and DRM options.

    rydan says: Use a dongle, pretty much like you do, but include some kind of insurance, so that the licenses will be replaced if the dongle is destroyed or lost, free of charge for the end user. Also, allow license transfers free of charge.

    Done! If your iLok malfunctions in the first year, PACE replaces it, and your licenses free of charge as part of our warranty policy (including shipping). If you break your iLok physically, analyzing your broken iLok for licenses costs $40. That means that we physically take your iLok apart, dump its memory, verify its serial number, generate replacement licenses, etc. (Dolores & Sam do that. It's a lot of manual labor.) We also include a free replacement iLok, so essentially it works out the same as buying a replacement.

    We also have the Zero Down Time program, where when you report a problem, we immediately send you 2-week temporary licenses during the RMA process. That's essentially the insurance you were talking about for breakage.

    I'll reiterate a previous point: Visiting iLok.com and clicking "synchronize" backs up your iLok. In fact any license that has been delivered via iLok.com we know about and has been essentially backed up the only exceptions are licenses delivered via smart card, or if you have a pre-programmed iLok.

    iLoks that are Lost/Stolen are currently an iffy case, because its out of our control. If you report it to us, we report it in turn to the publisher. If you are nice to publisher's support people, there's usually no problem. Note that isn't any different from the same situation with "I lost my serial number", and in practice its usually better.

    We'd like to be able to offer the same guarantee we do for breakage for lost/stolen and are negotiating with the publishers about how to do that, but it will also require some changes on our end too.

    As for free user-to-user transfers (again, moving licenses around in the same account is free), that involves notifying the publishers, the occasional fraud case, yadda, yadda. If we charged more for licenses we could do it. NI, etc. are willing to do it because they're hoping for upgrade revenue down the road, something we won't see. So we'd lose money if it was free. In practice, its just part of the cost when you buy a license from someone else, just like a seller on Ebay pays Ebay. (Go to Ebay and search for iLok if you want to buy some software 2nd hand.) I bet a much higher percentage of PACE publishers support transfers then non-DRM publishers because I know its something like 90% of our customers, while most non-PACE publishers its up to the discretion of the support person.

    We've looked into forms of network copy protection, its an idea, though it hasn't caught on much outside of universities. I'll also say that software revocation is a hard problem. So when we solve the revocation problem, we might be able to do something like this.

  • Andy


    When you tell us your "hard fact" about people choosing an iLok over serial authorization I'm afraid I don't believe you. You are obviously going to say that. Your statistics are 'bent' in your favour. Let me tell you to do your research again with a bunch of people I know- youll find it's different.

  • somosanto

    Jeff, thats a really good analogy there.

    Its always good to see new things in an old light, if you catch my drift. If we wouldnt put up with stuff in real life, we shouldnt have to concerning soft products.

  • somosanto

    Several people have said that the usb protection stick is a pain.

    I dont have a whole bunch of keys, but dont they work with a hub?

    For not "losing" them to thieves at the concert, you could even stick that in a big old metal lunchbox.

    I do see however a problem with them; they are rather useless (besides being a key, obviously). I'd love to see apps that run on a stick, without having to be installed. (tinyapps) The key would be the registration, the copy protection, the app itself and the hard disk space it needs to run.

    (possible? would compatibility problems prevent it from happening?)

    The freightening prospect of loosing that, is essentially the same as now; you wouldnt be able to run the soft, you wouldnt be able to convince the company that you lost it, you d have to buy it again…

    You would be able however, to sell it on, there could be a larger 2ndhand market. Probably not what companies want anyway.

  • Jeff

    Pierce: I understand your point about the "religious" debate. However, I'd call this at worst "philosophical." "Religious" seems like a way of turning the debate into an arbitrary isolation of equivalent subjective values (e.g., "Hey, you're a christian and I'm a jew–what's the point of argument, it takes all kinds!"), rather than a real hierarchy of logical inquiry. I believe reasonable people can come to agreement on these points, even they both believe their own arguments are better than others, and the abstract debate need not just be discarded as unworkable. I mean, two ships can usually find a way to avoid passing in the night if they're actually looking for one another…

    I know most developers wrap their software in copy protection for purely pragmatic reasons. My argument is of course also that, pragmatically speaking, the benefits (trying, and failing, to stop pirates–though I'm sure the argument is that some casual pirates are dissuaded) seem to be outweighed by the costs (loss of software flexibility and damaging relations with end users who are treated with frankly insulting distrust after they've loyally paid lots of money).

    That said, the overall issue is: DRM is basically overlapping and superseding the types of usage restrictions normally reserved for copyright law in this world, but going even further by restricting not just distribution, but also end-user use of the software itself. There is little law to regulate this. If DRM is thus unregulated by the law, and publishers can unilaterally rewrite the millenia-old agreement implicit in purchasing a thing, it should at least be regulated by thorough consideration of its effects. However, under these circumstances, with such a power disparity, there's a pretty big risk it'll never be fair.

    Now, I recognize that DRM itself is a response to users' unilateral rewriting of that agreement through the magic of internet sharing. However, that does not justify the publisher swinging the pendulum of purchaser's rights so far back in their favor that buyers can't even be said to 'own' a thing (since they require getting continuous permission to use it).

    And note that this argument stands even if publishers just call the purchased right a right to a 'license' rather than a movable chattel. At any moment, all usage rights can be removed unilaterally without warning or justification (internet authorization), and/or can occur completely by mistake (losing a dongle and being at the will of the publisher to supply/sell a replacement). That's awfully harsh. Insofar as the only thing bought is the right to use the software under such tenuous conditions, there is a real argument that, under restrictive, continuous-authorize DRM, the user really 'buys' nothing at all, and 'licenses' only a promise ultimately conditional on the moment-to-moment inclination of the publisher. In law (sorry, I am a law student), such an illusory promise may not even be legally defensible as a contract, though nobody's tested that argument in court.

    Granted, that's extreme. But it is a realistic way of characterizing the rights involved. And I think the points are valid enough to warrant a real response–maybe by you, Pierce, or if you are tired of defending against all of these posts (understandable!), then maybe by another. Either way, just filing it into the 'religious difference' pile really just institutionalizes the decision not to debate, I think to everyone's loss.

  • Jeff

    Somosanto: That's an interesting idea, given the drop in USB stick memory prices. I imagine that some apps would function better than others for this (i.e., apps that can be loaded into resident memory and forgotten, probably not large sample sets).

    I do have to admit that, though it's a creative way of getting around the authorization problem by merging the start and endpoints of the DRM checks, you point out my main worry–that really it's just trading one fear for another by putting them all in one basket. (Losing the stick would be disastrous.)

    Additionally, there's still a likelihood pirates could pirate it using the same techniques, since it's basically still just data, albiet now stored on a stick versus a hard drive, and I'm guessing it could be made into an image like most other media.

  • somosanto

    Jeff : this plan has indeed the same disadvantage that it can be pirated, but at least the customer is rewarded for taking the official route to a product.

    Well, maybe not rewarded, but something is put into the scales to balance out the distrust and inconvenience.

    The reason products like the korg legacy package sell well (and I predict the arturia analog experience to do so as well) is because the "dongle" has a plus (namely it has control functionality embedded) .

  • stepwriterun

    The only copy protection systems that I've had issues with is Korg's Legacy, and that might have more to do with the Legacy program than the dongle since my Cubase dongle has never given me issues, and NI's "Service Center". The PACE stuff has been ok to date (knock on wood) and I do prefer it over the system used by Native Instruments, which is totally FUBAR and useless since their stuff is typically cracked within days of release anyway.

  • somosanto

    stepwriter – what were the issues with it?

    I've long looked and finally found a KLC secondhand.

    Should I pass?

  • Jeff says: Granted, that’s extreme. But it is a realistic way of characterizing the rights involved. And I think the points are valid enough to warrant a real response–maybe by you, Pierce, or if you are tired of defending against all of these posts (understandable!), then maybe by another. Either way, just filing it into the ‘religious difference’ pile really just institutionalizes the decision not to debate, I think to everyone’s loss.

    Ok, I'll give you an example. I provided a hard fact, straight from a publishers mouth. They originally implemented only iLok authorization. (i.e., they didn't check "allow software auth" in our software.)

    A number of very vocal users complained. How dare you force us to buy an iLok, yadda, yadda, yadda. So they went back and turned on the check box.

    Only about 10 people asked for a software authorization after that.

    So I relate that fact, and immediately Andy tells me I must be wrong.

    I get that Andy doesn't like even the idea of a USB dongle, What Andy doesn't get is that he and his friends are not everyone in the universe. In statistics, its called a sampling problem. If you only ask the people who don't like dongles what they think about dongles, you'll get 100% hatred.

    Of course, the sampling problem goes the other way, presumably our customers end users are people who don't mind PACE.

    So I'm willing to see that I might have such a problem while Andy, who doesn't really have much experience with our products, blithely tells me I'm wrong, because it doesn't match his beliefs, or the beliefs of any of his friends.

    That sounds like a religious argument to me. πŸ™‚ And I never said I'm not willing to have it, I just prefer to do it when someone else is picking up the bar tab. Anyone want to meet me at NAMM? I warn you, I'm part-Irish…

    In your case, you started off with an incorrect presumption, a presumption common to DRM foes: That cracks are always available.

    That's just not true. PACE is to some extent in an arms race with the crackers. They crack something, we upgrade our technology, they have to upgrade their tools, and so on. But there have been long stretches of time when we haven't been cracked. It depends on where we're at with the arms race and it also depends on what platform you're one.

    We're currently in a low on one platform in our ongoing arms race, but the low won't last. Here's another fact: When cracks exist, our publishers see their sales go down. So it cannot be true that DRM is "unnecessary". Obviously, it is necessary. It's a lot easier to fire up BitTorrent then it is to get out a credit card…

    You also stated that if DRM did work, it would be unjust. I disagree. DRM doesn't, and shouldn't be totally one way. As a pre-law student, you're probably studying that for most contracts to be truly binding, they have to be fair for both parties. As a human being, you also need to realize that all human relationships work best when both sides can trust each other. When many publishers sign up with us, especially after a history of being pirated, they are often, well, tight-assed. PACE is then often in the role of end-use advocate; telling them "hey, you need to lighten up.".

    A good example from previous discussion is user-to-user transfers. Some publishers initially say "NO", because they want control after being out of control for so many years. PACE then usually says: "Look. Less then 1% of your users will end up doing this. But if someone no longer wants your software, denying them this will just piss them off. Don't worry about it. If your products are good, people wont want to sell them."

    Similarly, there's a guy who makes it his business to buy used pro-audio equipment from the estates of dead audio engineers. So he ends up reselling lots of licenses on Ebay. This bugged some of our publishers and we told them: "Look. Yeah, this guy is making money from selling your product used. But he's making money for the widows and orphans of audio engineers. Let it go".

    Gradually, after being in the unique position of being able to trust the end users, publishers come around, and then often surprise us. For instance, Serato now includes licenses for the previous version of a product when you buy a current version. (Not sure if this is true for 100% of their products, but I know its true for some.)

    Why? Well, because our DRM system enforces that this "freebie" doesn't become something someone can sell on Ebay, so its truly free for them to do it. It helps build their relationship with their customer. Try-before-you-buy demos are now just standard practice for our publishers, because they can trust the end user.

    Similarly, one of the problems publishers have without DRM is how to "bundle" products to reward customers by giving them discounts on their 2nd, 3rd, etc. product from the same company. The problem is, if they did that, Ebay would get flooded with people trying to make a cheap buck. Now, many of them are looking into steeper and steeper discounts so that every time you buy something from the same company, you'll get a bigger discount.

    Things like the Massive Pack really only can exist because of PACE's DRM.

    Like I've been saying, the R in DRM should go both ways, DRM done right can be a boon to users. Copy Protection Sucks, License Management Rules.

    DRM done right should build trust between the end users and the publishers, not tear it down.

  • Andy

    Yes yes Pierce, just figure out a way of doing it without a stupid usb hogging dongle!

    Ah but lots of developers have done so already -and seem to be happy with it- I don't see NI knocking on your dongly door. The point is that your 'angle' on all this is the dongle, that's what your selling to make your money. Granted you have other products but your big cash comes from the dongle system does it not? Or I am mistaken?

  • ehdyn


    I've never been able to understand why the dongle needs to stay connected after I have already booted Logic.

    I don't know if Ilok already does this or not, but you might want to consider making it so that the key is only required during the initial boot of the software. Otherwise, you should make it so that the key is a "thru-usb". Meaning that the user can plug a usb powered device through the dongle. No one wants to give up ports on a laptop. We need those for audio interfaces, and midi controllers.

    On the user-error note. There is something extremely frustrating about heading out to a remote location for inspiration only to discover that you've either left the key at home, or "oh shit!" Did I lose it for good?

    Imagine if you found yourself on Mt. Shasta with a guitar(+blunt), but you were unable to play it because you forgot your key?

    Please, try to develop a contingency plan for occurrences like this. A kind of emergency ration if you will. The software should be able to see that you have in fact successfully booted it with a legit key before.

    Also, could you please explain to us what is meant by DRM? I don't recall ever having agreed to this scheme, and will never buy anything that I feel is unnecessarily restrictive. I thought we went through all of this with the "redbook" audio documents, and the courts decided that a consumer has the right to make backup copies of items(cd's) that they own. Why should MP3's, or software be treated any differently? When I pay for something-I want to own it-period. If I choose to sell it, or give it away it should be as simple as that. Many times I have given old hardware and software to people just starting out. They shouldn't have to be bothered with all of this hassle just to muck with some beats.

    Please explain why your company, and certain developers feel the need to charge anything beyond a nominal fee($5.00) for transfers of ownership. I'm sure many people are eager to hear the justification for this.


    Ryan C. Dean

  • somosanto

    [quote] I would like to make 1 short and precise comment:

    *** protections/drm systems are there to keep the honest people honest ***[/quote]

    I can actually relate to this; everyone would be speeding if it wasnt for speeding tickets

    just one question for pierce;

    why did steinberg switch to syncrosoft?

  • Interesting market research:

    "Find out how many potential sales a developer looses when they implement PACE iLok."

    Looking at the previous posts I could hazzard a guess the figure probably balances out the gains from stopping people cracking the software.

    As such research is impossible to conduct, we'll never know.

    But like I say, I don't see NI going under.

  • robin parry

    as a workin pro all i can say is i now use just logic 8 with NO other software, that works!

  • Andy, as I've said before we have non-dongle copy protection in addition to dongles. Many publishers give the user the choice, which is the best for everyone. When they do that, people choose the dongle version over the other by a 10 to 1 factor. Possibly even higher, I've heard 99-to-1 from some people at trade shows.

    So yeah, we make a higher percentage of income from the dongles, but that's because more users choose to get their licenses that way, not because of some sinister evil plan on our part. Remember, 100+ licenses fit on a dongle, so a full iLok is only 40 cents/license worth of dongle. We're seeing a trend now that people put more licenses on their dongle then they used to, so the license/dongle ratio is shifting towards licenses and away from dongles. In fact, towards what I work on (the website and web services).

    I have no way of telling why NI has their own thing. Could just be NIH (not invented here), could be inertia on their part, could be anything.

    ehdyn: I can't answer for everything, because we offer a tool that developers use however they like. So developers can check for the existence of the iLok after startup, but most of them don't bother.

    You seem to be making a feature request for what we call in the company an "airplane mode". Is that correct? We are definitely looking into things along those lines.

    As for DRM, its not my favorite term. I think that the user should have many of the rights you speak of like backup, etc. The dongle system obviously supports that, with software based authorizations its a tougher problem. But buying music and buying software are not at similar as you might think. When you buy software, you're also buying support, upgrades, etc. for a year.

    In fact, when you buy a piece of software in a store, often the first thing you have to do is download the upgrade for the software. So what exactly did you buy in the store? What you really bought was a subscription to the software, its updates, and access to the companies tech support. You didn't really buy the CD, you probably really just bought a serial number!

    That's the problem with what I call the "box model" of buying software. It doesn't reflect reality. If you "re-sell" your serial number, you've essentially doubled the support costs for that software because now the publisher has to support 2 people for one fee. Publishers are generally willing to eat the extra support costs if its a real DRM-protected transfer so they know that they've lost one customer but gained another.

    As for the transfer fee on our end there's support work on our end for the feature, bookkeeping to keep track of where the licenses to go, special tools for the publishers to track these transfers. All for a super small percentage of users doing transfers, and we don't charge that much for the license itself, so it makes more sense to place the costs directly where they lie. We're actually unique in doing user-to-user transfers, as far as I know.

    Come to think of it, does anyone know if the other dongle systems let you move licenses between dongles? (which is free, its only user-to-user that we charge for).

    somosanto: Before my time at PACE. I have heard that the CEO of Steinberg switched to Syncrosoft, and then surprise! became CEO of Syncrosoft. That might have had something to do with it.

    Andy2: You're comparing one DRM system (PACE) with another (NI). Not quite sure of your point?

    As for using PACE, our customers see an increase in sales, otherwise why would they bother? We try to make it simple to implement, but its not zero work. If you're going to do work, it must increase your profit, otherwise, why do that work? We wouldn't exist if we weren't helping software publishers make more money.

  • Well, just created a poll on the Swedish 99musik community. The readers are a mix of serious hobbyists and pros. The question was, which type of copy protection do you prefer, dongle or challenge/response. The answers so far are:

    Dongle: 7

    Challenge/Response: 23

    Quite a few have commented that they really prefer no copy protection except simple serial number, and that they do indeed take copy protection hassle into consideration before buying.

  • Pierce, where are you getting these numbers from as far as readers "preferring" iLok? I don't question that some do; I just question the ratios there. Is this using customers of PACE as the sample size, and then asking whether they prefer iLok or PACE software protection? That may well say something about some of the relative upsides of iLok vs. PACE's software alternative, but it still seems to me to be a somewhat self-selecting groups. Where are you sampling these folks? At the PACE booth? Based on contacts via the Web?

    Rydan, got a direct link?

    I would be very interested to do a similar poll. I guess you'd have to be careful about how you ask this to be scientific, but you'd want some comparison of iLok and other hardware keys, hardware keys vs. software challenge/response, and serial number-only versus other schemes.

  • Andy

    So Pierce..youll be in some kind of crisis now?

    All that you held to be true is now no longer so…or were you lying to us?

    But I guess your response will be one about surveys and statistics…

    Do us all a favour and stop trying to convince us that we like and need your product when we clearly do not.

  • Steve

    These comments are all getting a bit too long to read through so I don't know if anyone else has brought it up but anyway, here goes, this is my kind of open letter to the dongle world…

    Dear PACE et al

    I have no strong moral feelings towards piracy or the lack thereof so I don't plan to comment on those areas in particular (I mainly couldn't care less about the issue) but there is one point I'd like to get across and just maybe some of you will see some sliver sense in it. It seems to me that what is needed is a compromise between the users, who generally aren't thrilled with having to use a dongle that is from our point of view completely useless to anyone but you, and you, the music software world.

    I, as a user, really only have one reason to buy a dongled product, namely the quality of said product. But I risk introducing an X factor into my stable system which I am reluctant to do as well as inconveniencing myself with a small object begging to be misplaced. As a result, I shop around and buy a non-dongled alternative. And I am actually the kind of person who wouldn't really mind if I had to live with a dongle, I just haven't been given any reason to do so. In other terms, I have no incentive to buy a dongled product if there is an alternative available, legal or not. And honestly if I absolutely had to use Waves (which i don't btw), I'd rather use a sans dongle pirate version even if I had a license. But I may have been a little untruthful, I actually have a dongled product, it's called a tc powercore and it's a box that runs dsp accelerated plugins. The box acts like a dongle since I can't run any of those plugins without it. The difference between that product and your dongles is that I, the user, don't gain anything from adding it to my system. All that piracy issue aside, if I'm not going to get at least an acceptable performance boost from using a dongle (think iLok + a few dsp chips*) I won't ever consider buying it. Stop thinking piracy and start thinking business.

  • My numbers come, as I said earlier, from publishers that have implemented both challenge/response and iLok. That is, for the same piece of software, when given a choice, users overwhelmingly choose iLok over C/R. Its important to realize that we just create tools, how publishers use them is up to them, not us.

    As for an internet poll, come on, if internet polls proved anything, then Ron Paul is going to be the next president of the US.

    Steve said: "Stop thinking piracy and start thinking business."

    Absolutely. The better we can make our system for end users, the more publishers will choose PACE over other alternatives. That's the only reason I'm participating in this thread. PACE never, ever had a single-use dongle, they only went to dongles when there was USB, and they designed a dongle that could hold over 100 licenses. My job, ilok.com, was added to address the issues brought up by end users.

    PACE is not dongles, PACE is whatever does the job. I'm only passing along the dongle vs. C/R feedback because that's what publishers are passing along to us. We offer both tools.

  • What I've gotten so far from this thread:

    So far, most of the complaints have centered about convenience. There's this perception that dongles are less convenient than challenge/response. This position seems to be most strongly held by people who don't own a dongle, who avoid it at all costs.

    People who don't own dongles have certain cherished myths about how they work which are sometimes true for other dongles, but less true for iLok/PACE which support 100+ licenses, license recovery via our RMA program, ZDT, etc. If you don't own an iLok, you might want to read our FAQ page, some of these things are covered there.

    ilok.com FAQs

    There's this stated perception that serial numbers are more convenient. I'm not sure if people really believe that typing in 971358-317986-217898-123145-1659788 one hundred times if you have one hundred pieces of software every time you need to use a new computer is really easier then plugging a dongle into a USB container. I think its more about control, and I'm sure serial numbers are more convenient if you regularly use the same set of computers so each time you get a piece of software, you only have to type in 971358-317986-217898-123145-1659788 once on each of the computers you own. So the incremental cost seems lower.

    If you're doing the home studio->band studio->laptop->gig->recording studio tango, and you buy a new computer every year, serial numbers suck. I have 192 serial number emails saved on my computer (I've bought 3 pieces of software since I last posted). It really sucks when I have to type those in when I get a new computer.

    An earlier commenter, Vade, put it best: "As a dongle user, I have to say its a love hate relationship. I like the ability to just plug the dongle in on an unlicensed system and be able to work without having to deal with any other issues. It makes development easier as well, assuming you haven’t forgotten it…. then I fucking hate the dongle.. :("

    In other words:

    1 computer: hates dongles, prefers serial numbers or C/R

    2 computers: dislikes dongles, hates C/R, prefers serial numbers

    3+ computers: likes dongles, hates C/R, dislikes serial numbers.

    Because ultimately, its about whatever is the least work for the software purchaser, but which is more convenient depends on the particular users work situation.

    So all that is good to know, because we're working on stuff at PACE to make our stuff at least as convenient as serial numbers if not more so.

  • Aside to Andy:

    Dude, take a chill pill. You just don't get it. PACE offers a range of protection stuff, from serial numbers to dongles, and in the 18 years they've been in business they've only had a dongle since 2000ish. We're not a big company, total there's only 14 people. Most of our customers, the software publishers, are far larger then us. We have to do what they say far more than they do what we say. πŸ™‚

    So I don't really have a pro-dongle agenda, just the opposite in that I'm working on things that might or might not serve to de-emphasize dongles. Ultimately, we want our system to be easy and convenient, because easy and convenient is good business. I am passing along data about dongles vs. C/R I'm getting from our publishers, but I don't care either way really.

    If all this "Aha! You're wrong! Dongles suck!" stuff floats your boat, be my guest, but it doesn't really affect me. Neither me nor PACE is married to the concept of a dongle per se. The dongle has some advantages on a technical front over C/R, but Microsoft/Adobe are pushing what they call "activation" but is really challenge/response. Given that Microsoft/Adobe are the 6,000 and 500 pound gorillas in the software industry, our customers are coming to us and saying "we want that". So PACE is actively working on making both iLok delivery and C/R delivery easier for both the end user and the software publisher. Hopefully, unlike Microsoft/Adobe's solutions, ours won't suck.

    So perhaps you might want to reserve judgement on PACE for now. I assure you we're not perfect, I don't see any halos around the office, but I don't see any devil horns either! We're just a small developer, with a small niche, much like Audio Damage.

    Peter Kirn should have my email address, feel free to get it from him if you want to discuss your issues with me offline.

  • Andy


    Agreed – I simply do not like the way you quote dodgy figures to support the pro dongle viewpoint (and clearly I am not the the only one who takes exception) and then you lambast something so "low" as an internet poll. You cannot have it both ways.

    And to now say you don't care either way about dongles and you're simply "passing on the dongle/ CR feedback" is disingenuous.

    As is saying that PACE is just responding to the publishers demands.

    (Like an arms dealer- just making the weapons, what people do with them is well hey not our responsibility- not that I'm accusing you of such bad things but you get my point!).

    There are too many paradoxes in your arguments. You seem to be a good salesman however!

    So be it.

  • Pierce Wetter

    Adam. Jeesh guy. I feel like an Israeli talking to a Palistinan.

    We can both be right you know. Just because you don't agree with my numbers doesn't make them dodgy. It could quite simply be that PACE's publishers are serving a different slice of the user base then Audio Damage is, or that there is some other sort of what statisticians call a "sampling problem". If you read through some of the previous comments, I've been very upfront about that possibility.

    So its not that I care about C/R vs. dongle, its that I get offended when I get called a liar just because you disagree with what I've been told by others.

    There's the old story about the 6 blind men who are feeling the elephant. One feels the ears and says the elephant is soft and leathery, the feels the tail and says its long and bristly, and so on.

    Perhaps we're just looking at different ends of the elephant.

  • edsoniq

    I am so glad to see that this problem did realy heat up as mush as serious it realy is.

    PACE is what made me avoid ALL products having it because of many many many halts in production due to windows crahses, fails to power off, fails to start etc.

    I a an owner of a huge soundtrack production studio with midi hardware of over thousand voices from every serious synthesizer and fx vendor.

    Well – seeing that so many people use DAWs based on computers wanted to give it a try.

    Glad to see tht such a miserable (by functionality and quality) almost-production almost-processing tools and plugins are not realy that usable because of such reliability issues like stupid pace.

    Installing plugin should not stop production studio for several hours for computer maintenance orchestra and vocal performers sitting and waiting till something works.

    I've got great computer guys in my company, so fixing things turned out to be a breeze (4 hours of stress)

    Storyline is simple:

    – computer room rack got reinstalled and was getting its software back on day by day

    – than somehow rack started to refuse to shut down and had problems with page file when booting

    – Connected rack A/D D/A converter hardware started to behave strange and jittery

    – computer terminal slowed down a lot

    – people from various places of world are waiting for recording, but multi channel multi mic setup cannot be used because of failure

    – computer guys rushed in, but got no idea what's wrong with it.

    – four hours and we are running low on coffe, tea and patience

    – bingo and brute erasing helps

    To get problems (by installling Pace) you just need to install someting with iLok or whatever Pace.

    To get rid of the problems (and Pace) uninstalling software and/or plugins – you also need to MANUALLY delete registry enties with "TPKD" as well as two TPKD.* files under windows

    Switched to hardware Roland multitrack machine since then, anyways.

  • Pierce: Well, if it seems that users generally prefer C/R over dongles, but your users prefer your dongle version above your C/R, perhaps that says more about your C/R solution than C/R versus dongles in general…

    Do you allow multiple installs using the same license? I would never buy a C/R protected product that didn't allow me at least two simultaneous unlocks, one for my laptop and one for my DAW. Quite a few offer more than two as well…

    Also, I am definitely in the dongle hater corner. However, If you think I have no dongled products and that I don't know how they work, you are very wrong.

    I have syncrosoft, because of cubase. The dongle calls from cubase slows it down quite a bit. It was very obvious if you compared running the real dongle and running a dongle crack in SX2 or SX3. Therefore I know quite a few who used a dongle simulator even though they had a real license. When C4 came, it could take a minute to add a new channel or change routing, due to dongle calls being made. Sick!

    Before that, cubase VST (3.7 and 5.0) used some parallel port dongle, have one of those as well. That one didn't work properly with one of my computers at the time, so I had to use the Radium crack, even though I had bought a license.

    I have a copy of Motu Mach5 on the shelf that I can't use, since somehow, the pace driver bluescreens my DAW on XP sp2 as soon as mach5 makes a call for the dongle. I have been in contact with both motu and pace about it, and after some time where, basically, pace blamed motu, and motu blamed pace, I bought Kontakt2 instead. So, now, I have a mach5 license that I have paid for, but can't use or return for a refund. This is when I decided to never, ever, buy anything with pace again.

  • liquidcosine

    wow, this has been quite a heated debate i've been watching… i unfortunatly have an opinion…

    i'm afraid i'd have to say boo to the dongle people, even with all their great reasons about cracked software driving costs up and b.s. Fact is, there are cracks for the dongles, there are cracks for everything, who cares, so some guy who will never make music professionaly might use cubase without having paid for it. Steinberg's customer base, and future hopefull users, most likely aren't the too poor to afford top notch software, and even if that guy or girl or advanced dog makes something of his music, when he upgrades his studio there is atleast a reasonable chance he will maybe probably purchase a 'real' copy, then realizing how much easier it was without the dongle go back to the cracked versions, and then you lost him forever, then comes the filing of chapter 11 bankrupcy and all you have to blame is yourself, dumb bastards.

    sorry i put you all through that…

  • Pierce Wetter

    Rydan, I can't comment on your non-PACE experience. PACE never had a parallel port dongle, only USB. You also can't really hang Cubase issues on our front, since that's a competitor who made different decisions. All dongles are not created equal: I hated all dongles before I came to PACE, I think the iLok is the first dongle that meets my minimum requirements for a usable dongle.

    We are seeking to improve our C/R offering, perhaps that is why people prefer the dongle, I can see that. Most people here at PACE think we need to improve that. As for single/multiple redemptions per license for C/R, that's up to the publishers, most of them allow two for C/R. What we really want to do is integrate all of our licenses methods so that users can move between them at will. If you have an internet connection, you shouldn't need anything else: no dongle, no serial number, no C/R.

    As for your current problem, I'm sorry to hear about that. I'm guessing there was some sort of bug with the Windows driver. If you ever have any kind of problem with this situation, try downloading the latest drivers here:

    Pace Downloads

    Do you know when this was?

    edsoniq: Sorry to hear about your problem as well. Do you know when this was?

    Rydan & edsoniq: It really is in our best interest to make our system as reliable as possible. I know we've had bugs in the past, but time marches on, the Windows guys say the drivers are much better now.

    liquidcosine: Sometimes there are cracks for dongles, but its an exaggeration to say there are always cracks for everything. There are times when there are no cracks for anything. The DRM folks are in an arms race with the crackers, sometimes we're ahead, sometimes the crackers are ahead.

  • Andy

    The expression 'writing on the wall' comes to mind here. A software protection system that brings whole commercial studios to their kness leaving clients missind deadlines resulting in loss of business.


  • Pierce Wetter

    Glad to hear you never have bugs, Andy.

  • Andy

    I'm trying to figure out why I'm being agressive towards you Pierce because your not behaving unreasonably!

    I think I just don't like the idea of being treated 'de facto' as a thief . Jeff put it very effectively earlier on, when he mentioned about 'Best Buy' stores in New York, where you are 'de facto' assumed to be a thief unless you can prove otherwise.

    (This comes from a country that 'de facto' assumes that the people in Guantanamo are terrorists- unless they can prove otherwise, without access to any legal framework; so it does not suprise me).

    This way of thinking is wrong and non humane and I worry very much where the world is going with this- as its all part of a bigger picture.

    Here in the UK we are experiencing a phenomona whereby you constantly have to prove who you are by a system of interrorgation from everyone in any official role- the bank clerk, the gas supplier etc. It is of course for our own 'data protection'.

    I fear nobody trusts anybody anymore.

    In the same way, and as Jeff pointed out, manufacurers must not 'de facto' assume that everybody wants to steal their software. This will alienate the paying customer in the end and is wrong.

    However, if a system must be in place to protect the software it must not impinge on the paying customer IN ANY WAY.

    Go chase the people doing the stealing but don't mix them up with your paying customers.

  • liquidcosine

    i've recently acquired a dongle for my ass, unfortunatly it is malfucntioning and i can't shit… so i tried my c/r, but my connection is down to ice storm, now i have a collostomy bag…

    everyone loses…

    especially me

  • Pierce Wetter

    Well, Andy, I can see how that would rankle, but that's not I look at it. If I did, that would suck.

    That is exactly why we're trying to build a better system than what we (or anyone else) has now. It's too early to talk about, but I think PACE can build a system that's actually easier to use than serial numbers.

    I actually agree with you more than you know. Whenever we have security meetings, I'm always pointing out that stupidity is much more common then evil.

    Did you know that the primary reason for the receipt scan at Best Buy, Fry's, etc. is not because thievery is that common, but because cashiers can miss ringing up items. Stupidity is more common then evil; its easy to miss the $299 iPod under the $9.99 DVD.

    It's really a fundamental design parameter in everything we do. For a real world example, there are probably 100 people who lose their serial number for every person that tries to "fake out" tech support by claiming they "lost" it.

    Looking at Audio Damage…Yep. The way your system works is that you end up keeping track of what everyone has purchased. So your customers have to login, and then then gives them access to the download. You probably track the downloads (or could) to see if someone is spreading their account around to 100,000 people. I suppose you could even stenographically embed the user's account name in the application, but I doubt you bother. Ah, I see, you have both protected downloads and registration codes.

    You use the same recipe, you get the same bread. I suspect you have a lot of the same problems with your system that we have with our system.

  • Pierce I am glad we concurr on some areas- btw I am not from Audio Damage, you are confusing me with Adam I think.


    However…… interesting to think that you thought my comments were from a software publisher.

  • Alan

    I don't mind the dongle in principle but I have have now spent well over 4 hours trying to get my latest purchases to function (East West play products) Every time I plug in my ilok I get a "Found New Hardware" prompt and have to reinstall the damn thing. Both Windows XP and Vista.

    My free time is a scarce commodity and I am pissed that no one is going to reimburse me for my wasted time. I bought this stuff on sale but the time waste factor has sucked up any 'savings' and it is now becoming quite expensive. Am I going to write any music this weekend? The way things are going, I doubt it.

    Thanks for nothing Pace and East West. Screw you guys, I'm going home.

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  • Big K

    Well, I've been working with Steinberg Nuendo from day one and never had probs with the USB dongle with about 6 licenses stored on it. I just plug it in where ever I record or mix and it works. Loosing it might be a problem, but… how often do you loose your car keys??

    Big K

  • D

    I think something people are missing here is that honesty/dishonesty are not black and white. Just because somebody bought a copy of the software, doesn't mean he won't try to share it among his friends.

    The DRM softwares are really there to keep those people honest.

    I am personally ok with copyright protection, AS LONG AS it is a stable software and doesn't disrupt one's work much.

    I've been on both sides of the isle. I am a developer, so I understand Waves' pain. But I also cannot always afford the software I want, and so..

    There are always many what-ifs. I believe it's really a balancing act. Software companies tries to make the process as painless and trouble-free as possible for the consumers.

    And consumers need to show some understanding and patience towards what the companies are trying to do: make some profit.

  • bloonsterific

    Just wanted to tell you all know how much I appreciate your postings guys.

    Found you though google!

  • Geekman

    I'm late to this party, but I've been watching the whole iLok dongle issue for several years now.

    My take is this:

    Copy Protection is middleware. It's something the developers want, not the end user. The Pace model is flawed because they are targeting half of their product to the developers and the other half is being shoved down the end users throats. The software manufacturers and Pace need to work closely together to make Pace's software work in the product as cleanly as possible, or at least remove the need for any action on the part of the end user short of the initial registration of the software when it's purchased.

    I think this is where people who have had problems with Pace's product get really ticked. They usually aren't savvy enough to know if the problems they are experiencing are because of iLok, the software they purchased or their own hardware. Since the software companies didn't develop the Pace iLok code, and it was probably just a bunch of libraries that were included in the compilation of their code, they really don't know what, if any adverse effects iLok has on the systems running their software. So the end user gets caught in a round robin of tech support calls between the software vendor and Pace looking for a solution and all they get is two parties pointing the finger at each other and providing no real solution to the end user.

    Microsoft and many other companies have adopted a "call home" method of software registration and activation. Even though this form of copy protection is more prone to cracking, it offers a fairly good form of copy protection without being too intrusive on the loyal customers. Plus you can't even buy a computer without a built in NIC card anymore, and who doesn't have internet access anymore? Plus Windows/OS X come with builtin drivers for almost every NIC card ever made and they are mature drivers that have been working fine for years. Not some proprietary, possibly buggy kernel level driver that the end user gets to beta test.

    Audio software is, at it's very core, demanding of computing resources. Any driver that hooks directly into the kernel at the lowest levels and affects how the kernel interacts with software and the OS should be avoided in DAW based systems. This is why when people have troubles with their DAWs it is usually recommended that they turn off all services they do not need and don't run more VSTs and other modules than needed, thus freeing up precious CPU cycles for use with the DAW software. That's all well and good except you can never turn off iLok or your DAW/VSTs won't work.

    If I buy a software product, and my system meets the minimum requirements for said software, I should not be expected to then have to go out and buy yet another piece of software/hardware just to make the product I bought run. For that reason, all copy protection should be software based and included in the installer of the software I purchased. Even if the software manufacturers don't agree, they should at least bundle the iLok dongle with their product, not make me go buy it.

    I am a developer myself, and I totally understand the need to protect the intellectual rights of software companies to the extent they can. But it should not be made to be the responsibility of the end user to enforce the copy protection themselves.

    Climbing off my soapbox now…..