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How to Arrange Software Licensing

Natalia Yashenkova
Natalia Yashenkova
Head of Marketing and PR at StarForce Technologies

Natalia Yashenkova has more than 15 years experience in software development and information security. Before StarForce Technologies she worked at Netris and Vimcom Optic.

23 Mar 2018

Software licensing is used to protect the developer’s intellectual property (copyright) and to specify how the end users can use the software. Licensing helps the developer or the publisher protect their software products from piracy (i.e. illegal software distribution and use) and from software changing (the publishers of online games are fighting with cheaters and the developers of corporate systems are not interested their clients to change the code on their own).

Software licensing implies creating a license agreement and restricting the software use in some way.

License agreement determines how the end user can use the software product. For example, it specifies whether (s)he can reverse engineer or modify the product. Besides, the license agreement specifies the conditions under which the licensor provides the product. This means whether the developer (the publisher) retains the right to provide the product licenses to other users at the same time (non-exclusive license), or does not retain it (exclusive license).

Restrictions in the program use can include limiting the program functionality, specifying when and where the program can be used, as well as specifying the number of users or devices.

Mostly two software licensing methods are currently used.

With the help of serial numbers as a license system

A DRM system is embedded into the product. Serial numbers are used to provide access to protected software program. Various licensing models are used to distribute the product: Buy only, Try&Buy, Demo, Try&Die, Subscription/Rent. License management is carried out through security parameters, for example, the choice of functionality available in the Try mode and / or through the parameters of the serial number, for example, the number of runs, the operating time, the available territory.

With the help of user account (online authentication)

The user gets access to a product or a service after (s)he logs in and buys subscription (for some systems). This is how the Steam distribution platform works. A user buys subscription and gets access to games. The users cannot use the platform without logging in. Another example is Microsoft Services that the users can only access after they log in.

StarForce DRM features

To protect software from piracy, StarForce offers custom licensing system that embeds DRM into the product. StarForce DRM allows protecting various software products from hacking, copying, illegal use and distribution.

The basis of StarForce DRM is a unique protection that is embedded into software. Once the protection is implemented, the users can only use the product after they buy the license. A license can be a serial number for activation (the user downloads the product from the internet), an optical disc or a USB flash drive with the product distribution package.

Main StarForce DRM features are as follows.

Managing the product functions: enabling or disabling various program modules depending on the license.
Limiting the time when the product is available: specifying the product start date, the maximum number of runs, and total operation time.
Specifying the number of computers the product can run on.
Checking the license after the specified number of days (periodic license confirmation).
Withdrawing the license if the publisher suspects license violations (blacklisting the serial number).
Withdrawing the license temporarily (deactivating), if the user needs to modify the configuration of his/her computer. Restoring the license (reactivating).
Getting statistics on how the protected products are used, for example, when and where the product ran for the first time (for serial number).

By combing the features of StarForce DRM, you can create various licensing models for your software. This means you can specify on what conditions the user buys the product, as well as the user's rights to use the purchased product.

In particular, StarForce DRM licensing system allows binding the protected product to user’s computer, to local server or to remote server. In each of these cases, the product requires activation with a serial number in order to run. The publisher or the developer generates the serial number on the activation website.

With binding to computer, the protected product binds to the end user’s computer. This means the product can only run on this particular computer.

With binding to local server, activation is required for the license management service that is installed on a server in a local network. Client applications on the end user computers connect to the license management service and request permissions to run. The service monitors the number of client applications that are running simultaneously. This means the service limits the number of computers the product can run on.

With binding to remote server, the protected product binds to the end user who is identified by the serial number, rather than to the end user’s computer. The protection system checks the license each time the protected product runs. Besides, this licensing method prevents multiple end users from running the software on behalf of a single legitimate end user.

For the protection methods mentioned above (binding to computer, to local server or to remote server), StarForce DRM licensing system collects statistics on how end users work with the protected products. Statistics is available on the activation website. It allows tracking all information about serial number generations, activations and deactivations, as well as analyzing product distribution and forecasting the dynamics of sales.

You can obtain the following reports:

all product activations;
activations with a specific serial number;
product activations by countries;
activation attempts;
activation dynamics;

When comparing the use of serial numbers to activate access to software and online authentication, the advantage of the first method is the ability to work without connecting to the Internet after the first run, or even internet connection is not required at all when using a USB flash drive or CD as a key. Also, an account, as a rule, belongs to a certain person who can quit, and a serial number is transferred to a physical person or to a company without binding to a specific user. In case of dismissal, the serial number can be deactivated and transferred to another computer of a new employee, having spent one or two minutes on it.

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