Subscription: The Software Industry’s Answer to Piracy, and the Benefits to Users


As experienced users of computer software, many of us know that piracy is a huge problem for the software companies.

What is software piracy- and what is so bad about it?

Software piracy is the illegal copying, distribution or use of a software. Software piracy may involve the original software but with an illegally obtained license code, or a modified version of the original software that does not need a proper license code to run. There are many software online which can be used freely without a license; these are known as “freeware”, and can be used without restrictions, so you don’t have to worry about being on the wrong side of the law. However, using software without the proper codes and without the proper authorisation can cause users to be slapped with a huge fine, or even jailtime.

Why is piracy taken so seriously? Well, here is how software piracy is bad for everyone:

  • The software companies don’t make money, and the programmers don’t get paid. Many people may think that “Hey, those companies are already making a lot of money. They don’t need to get more money from me!” But creating the software, especially the ones with powerful tools, take a lot of time, effort, and brain juice to program. Programmers put in a lot of effort into the software, and the company they work for protects their hard work as well as promote the software to get the word out.
  • Users of pirated software may have their personal and financial information stolen. This is because pirated software are usually loaded with trojans or viruses. Whether you buy your pirated copy in DVD format or by downloading from a website, the version you get may look and handle like the real thing; but there is always a little extra somethin’ somethin’. When someone cracks a software to enable users to install and use it without keying in a legitimate code, it also takes a bit of time and effort. And the general rule of thumb is that no one gives something away for free for nothing. If someone is able to crack it to modify or remove the codes that check the authenticity of the installation, that person is also perfectly capable of adding unauthorised extra codes in. Usually these extra codes – typically known as trojans – would be tracking the users on the computer, storing information about all kinds of things ranging from the kind of websites the user visits to personal data like email passwords and even credit card information; and then quietly sending the information (without the user’s knowledge) to an unauthorised recipient (usually themselves).
  • The software pirates are the only ones who benefit financially. If they’re selling DVDs, even at a few ringgit per DVD, they’re able to make hundreds of thousands because the cost of a DVD is almost negligible compared to what they charge. They didn’t put in the time and effort that the original programmers did to build the amazing software. If they’re distributing the pirated version online, it may appear as if they are helping you out by giving you the software for free; but the reality is, their websites are usually riddled with trojans and viruses that will automatically install themselves into your computer without you realising it. That’s why you’ll notice that many of these websites require you to go through many links and even download certain “free” software before you are able to download the actual software.

This is why software piracy is such a big deal, and the software companies have been battling the pirates for a long time, both in their own interests and the interests of their customers.

So if software piracy is so bad, why is it such a big problem? Why are customers still buying or downloading pirated software? The reason is quite simple: COST. Some of these software, which are quite powerful and amazing, can cost quite a pretty penny.

For example, the Adobe suite of software are a few hundred US dollars each; which can come to a total of one to two thousand US dollars for a bundle of software. This can come to a few thousand ringgit, depending on the currency exchange. This can be a little too much for some users, including students, freelancers, and people who just want to use it for their own personal use.

In a bid to battle piracy and to offer a more affordable solution, the software industry have been changing to the subscription model within the last few years.

What is software subscription – and what is so great about it?

Previously, software are purchased as a one-off bundle. Once a user has purchased a software, the user owns that license and can use that software indefinitely. However, the user only owns the license for that particular version. If the software company releases a new version, the user would need to buy an upgrade license in order to get the new version. An upgrade license is usually sold at a lower price than a brand-new license, although some users would choose not to upgrade until many versions later as sometimes the upgrade license fee can still be a little pricey. In theory, if the user is happy with the current version they purchased, they can keep it forever; but the problem is, computers don’t last forever, and if the user’s current computer fails one day, he/she has to buy a new computer; and usually old versions cannot be installed on a newer computer system. Software companies also reserve the right to stop offering technical support for a particular software version if it is deemed too old as their technical support team would have to spend their time focusing on providing support for the more current software.

Software subscription is a pay-as-you-use model. Users generally can opt to pay per month or per year, with a discount offered for longer terms as an incentive.

What is so great about subscription:

  • Cheaper in the long run. With subscription, you are automatically entitled to the latest updates, versions and technical support. You don’t have to pay for upgrade licenses.
  • Flexibility in purchase. You only need to pay when you use. Many software companies allow you to stop or resume your subscription without much hassle.
  • Reduces cost. By buying directly from the software company, cost is significantly reduced. You don’t have to pay the middleman fees (which can be a significant amount); you don’t have to pay for the DVD cost and shipping; and software companies will usually offer a discount as an incentive for you to subscribe.
  • Eliminate unused software. Some users only need to use the software a few times. Subscription allows you to only buy the software when you need to use it, and if you no longer need it, you can stop your subscription and remove the software from your computer.
  • Easier to order. Subscription allows you to buy directly online using verified payment gateways, and you can choose the exact software bundle that you need, whether you only want a single software or a combination from the same software company.
  • Less technical headache. You don’t have to worry about legalities or authorisation code issues. Your subscription will be tied to your email and password. If you ever need to uninstall and reinstall in another computer, or if you need to monitor your installations (if you purchase multiple licenses), you can just login to your account.

Of course, many software companies still offer one-off licenses if you prefer those over subscription. Understandably, some users prefer one-off licenses as they will own those licenses for life, and they can use the software legally without time restriction. It is really your choice as a user, and it depends on what your needs are.

If you are using a pirated version of a software, it is highly recommended that you switch to a legal copy for your own protection, and to support the makers of the software. With the subscription model, you can opt for a more affordable license for your use.


About Zyen

Zyen is passionate about computers, and has been in the software and website industry for more than 15 years. She sometimes speaks in binary, and is waiting for the invention of a Holodeck.