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How to approach/sell license based software


I'm currently writing a defect tracking system that is in some respects similar to FogBUGZ. However, my software will be written in PHP and some problems come with that from it being a scripting language.

The first and biggest problem is that there is no widespread way of hiding the source of the files to prevent people from hacking the software. This basically defeats the strategy of creating several versions of the software, for various licensing schemes - 5 user license, 20 user license and so on.

Since the source code of the PHP scripts is open, the customer can just open the files and remove the 'artificial' limit of the license.

I can imagine that a similar problem is probably experience by you guys, since ASP scripts are also open to scrutiny (sp?) of your customers.

How do you approach the problem of shipping a product with the source code available and the possibility of customers by-passing the limits of the license they just bought ?


Joao Prado Maia
Friday, November 1, 2002

Once the bits have left the building there's nothing you can do to prevent people from changing them into other bits.

We use licensing because most customers are honest, and they want an honest way to keep track of how many licenses they are using so that they can use our software honestly.

The customers that aren't honest are a lost cause, anyway, you're not going to get any money off of them no matter how much code you write ;)

Joel Spolsky
Friday, November 1, 2002

Check out from Zend. It allows you to deploy apps in PHP without source code, providing another level of protection.

However, as Joel said, if someone really wants to bypass your licensing, they will.

Tim Sullivan
Friday, November 1, 2002

Anyways, you'll benefit from pirated software anyway. If your software gets a lot of attention to the point of being pirated, you've done a very good job, and people liked your code that much, to the point they'll redistribute it! Well, you won't get any money directly off that, but you can get some market share. Think about it, and then think why Microsoft is not so aggresive against pirating their products - yeah, well, they've put that online activation thing, but you can just reinstall your Office and get some more free time, so that's not such a good protection job.

Carlos Villela
Wednesday, November 6, 2002

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