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In early May, I was honored to participate on a panel sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers in San Jose titled, “Brand Protection in the Digital Age: Anti-Counterfeiting and Anti-Piracy.” The panel was moderated by Abhi Joshi, Managing Director and U.S. Software Asset Management Leader at PwC, and included leading experts on the frontlines of piracy:

  • Richard Atkinson, Corporate Director, Global Piracy-Conversion Team, Adobe Systems
  • Hank Barry, Partner, Co-chair, Emerging Companies and Venture Capital Group, Sidley Austin
  • David R. Callaway, Assistant United States Attorney, Computer Hacking/Intellectual Property (CHIP) Unit, United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California
  • Jeffrey Gee, Director, Global Brand Protection, Symantec Corporation
  • Anne M. Kelley, Assistant General Counsel & Senior Director, Intellectual Property in the Supply Chain, Microsoft
  • Julie Salcido, Special Agent in Charge, San Jose Field Office, Office of Export Enforcement, U.S. Department of Commerce

One of the major themes echoed by Microsoft, Symantec, and Adobe during the panel was the evolution of traditional anti-piracy programs to include a business development focus. Richard Atkinson of Adobe presented interesting findings based on research and experience at Microsoft and Disney. He suggested compliance programs should focus on “well-intentioned victims” – customers who will (or did) pay.

This group includes users of pirated software that are:

  • “Legally-inclined” (want to have legitimate software and believe that they have legitimate software), or
  • “Opportunistic” (looking for discount opportunities and not sure if they have legitimate or pirated software)

It excludes users who are “Pirate-Inclined” – those that have no motivation or capacity to be legitimate and know that they have pirated software.

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While traditional anti-piracy programs have focused on stopping the “Pirate-Inclined” (by increasing licensing and software protection and takedown notices aimed at piracy distribution channels), customer conversion is happening with “well-intentioned victims.”

Atkinson noted conversion rates of well-intentioned victims of 83% in mature markets and 30% in emerging markets. This certainly jibes with the 60% global conversion rate that our partner Software Compliance Group is achieving. It also underscores the value of solutions like CodeArmor Intelligence and CodeArmor Control (with its dynamic in-app messaging and responses to drive conversion) to identify where the use of pirated applications is occurring and how pervasive it is within those deployments.

All of these companies have been using software intelligence as a method to understand the scope of misuse and adoption: examples include using activation data, Torrent download data, and trial downloads. Yet adoption intelligence is ideal, since it focuses on what is actually being used and not simply installed. By analyzing usage data, vendors are better able to identify the well-intentioned victims and prioritize their compliance/business development efforts.

Our customers are seeing the benefits of this shift in focus toward a business development model (to the tune of $300 million in new license revenues in 2013 alone), so it is great to see representatives of industry leaders like Adobe, Microsoft and Symantec focusing on piracy as a significant conversion opportunity.