I Am a Software Pirate

by Kevin Hisel
from The Status Register of the CUCUG, April 2014

Some years ago I came across a really great Windows program (Creative Element Power Tools) that added a ton of cool, geeky, power-user features to the operating system. I immediately registered and happily paid for the program mostly to support the authors and to escape the trial-version time limit. I liked this software so much that I bought a second copy for another machine I use frequently.

A few weeks ago, I installed a new boot drive on my main machine and the program popped up an error that it had expired and I needed to enter my registration code. No problem, I thought, since I meticulously save all registration codes. No dice. The developer has ceased development of the program and apparently disconnected the online registration key validation mechanism. The website was of no help and the company would not respond to multiple emails.

Today I needed one of the features and was frustrated that this function, which I paid for, was not available. After more fiddling with trying to get the program to recognize my valid registration key I did what I had to do: I looked for a "cracked" copy of the software.

That was pretty easy to find but I was nervous about installing something so dubious on my beloved main PC. The first attempt to install the faux version failed since Windows (rightfully) demanded administrator privileges to modify anything in the Programs directory. Now I'm really on the brink of totally toasting my machine if this illicit software includes a trojan or other malware. I scanned the file for malware, checked that my boot-disk-image backup was up to date, gritted my teeth and selected "Run as Administrator." The "crack" program copied some files and reported a successful installation. I rebooted and lo and behold, Creative Elements Power Tools was happily running on my machine providing me with the paid-for features I have grown to rely on. As far as I can tell, after a few weeks I am malware free.

Something is wrong with a software distribution model that disables the product if the developer decides to discontinue support. I was forced to the underworld of the Internet to unlock something I have already paid for. I guess I am happy that the pirates who "cracked" the program are out there, but I'm not pleased that I was forced to live in their world.