Free technical help for digital creators - music, video, art, photography, graphic & web design

Software copyright protection by Matt Ottewill

Many computer users will at one time or another have some "pirate" software installed on their system. Some of this software may have been "borrowed" from a friend who owns a legitimate version, some may have been "hacked" and contain operational bugs. Software piracy is a huge issue for any developer. "Creatives" who take pride in never having paid full price for the programs they own feel different when they find their own copyrighted work (be it MP3 files, original programs or animation work) freely available on the Internet. Commercial software companies invest huge amounts of money in developing their programs and therefore try to protect them from piracy. Over the years they have tried a number of different strategies ...


A dongle is a small hardware device which accompanies a program and which attaches to one of the computers ports, typically serial or USB. The program will not run unless the dongle is present. A dongle must never be installed or removed while the power is on or it will be damaged. Logic Audio and Lightwave both use dongle's.

Serial Numbers

Installation of the program will halt unless an owner serial number (supplied with the program) is entered. The serial number is retrievable from any media created with the software by the software's authors. Most DTP software is protected in this way.

Floppy Authorisation's

During installation an authorisation floppy (supplied with the program) must be inserted. It contains 2 or 3 "invisible" authorisation files. If the installation program finds an unused file it will allow installation to continue. Programs installed in this way must be uninstalled to ensure no authorisation's are "lost".

CD authorisers

Having installed the software from the installation CD, from time to time the software requests that the CD is used to "re-authorise" the software. Steps are taken to ensure that the CD cannot be cloned or its contents copied to another storage device.

Web challenge/response /serial number codes

During installation a number which identifies your computer is retrieved. Together with a serial number (normally supplied with the software license) this number must be entered into the publishers web site. Shortly after, a unique unlock code is emailed to you which allow you to complete installation.