I have made a product and did something similar to Game Dev Tycoon recently with my software (although it wasn't a game), where I seeded my own "cracked" (I just removed the licence checker) software, but added a line of code that sent a ping to my server telling it "Hey, IP xxxx just launched the pirated game".

Now, this only accounts for people who downloaded my torrent, not other people's.

I would like to motivate the users with the 'pirated' version to pay for the software. As I see it, my options are:

  • Do nothing (a larger pool of users overall will bring in more paid users)
  • Send a gentle "Hey I know you're pirating, please consider buying my product if you really enjoy it, it keeps us afloat" message to them when they boot it up
  • Do above but put a countdown where they have to look at the screen for 30 (or whatever) seconds before continuing
  • Do something like these people, where you basically break a core feature of the product

Making the software not work is not an option as people will always be able to get around it.

  • 2
    Hi Chipperyman. Could you kindly provide some argument why this falls under UX?
    – Izhaki
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 23:43
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    Because it's how I deal with piracy to the end user, affecting the user experience of my program.
    – Jon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 23:46
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a business decision versus a user experience decision.
    – Hynes
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 2:27
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    The OP wants to induce a change in User Behaviour by communicating with a user via software. How is this not UX?
    – Jason A.
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:30
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    I agree that it's a UX question. Commented May 20, 2014 at 8:45

4 Answers 4


I'd go with a gentle and unobtrusive message (option two). Anything else from nagging to complaining or begging will just drive them away from the idea to give money.

Either way, make payment as easy as possible. Pirating is driven by laziness, not money.

  • 1
    +1 for make payment as easy as possible. That really is the key in a lot of cases; strive to make doing the right thing easier than doing the wrong thing (from your perspective)!
    – user
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 11:07

There are no right or wrong answers here, as it depends on your business model. So I'm going to throw in another extra one.

Offer them a discount.

Arguably, money is the issue. Offering a discount, clearly stating that you know they're pirating, might just do the trick. It's almost like offering a criminal a discount instead of calling the cops.

Of course there's the chance that they just don't want to go through the effort of giving you their payment details, for whatever reason they might have (effort, trust, etc) but even then, they might just admire your methods more so than those of people blocking use of your software, turning this into a great advertising opportunity.

  • 2
    +1 I am not in favor of offering discounts, not up front anyway (detracts value from the product), but this seems like one scenario where offering a discount can turn a bad situation into a better one. Commented May 20, 2014 at 10:30
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    Aren't you rewarding negative behaviour by giving a discount to those who pirate the software? Also I would query whether the amount of money is the issue? It could just be the behaviour of the pirates that they will always rather have something for free rather than pay.
    – Sheff
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 10:44
  • This is a good one (+1) however I feel like there's the issue of: If people figured out that there was an exclusive discount for pirating, they would pirate it first to get the discount, and maybe even say, "Hey, I already have the game, might as well just keep it"
    – Jon
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 14:12

The most effective action will depend on your users, context of software use and the reason they do not pay e.g. too lazy, not enough value, not enough disposable income, belief software should be free (freetard). Understanding this can steer to best option.

The gold standard solution for this problem is to implement a few of the options most fitting to your audience, then see which one gains the most conversions.

But first make sure the revenue collection and licensing is as seamless as possible.

Other interaction options

  • display a permanent "Donate" panel
  • display an "Unlicensed" panel / watermark
  • watermark outputs
  • place a gentle request at random times in key interactions (e.g. 5% chance that "Save" will trigger a "Please pay")

On top of the great suggestions here, try and make it clear that you are a person not a faceless company.

A rather extreme but effective method I've seen is someone attach a picture of their son with a message:

This is [sons name], he relies on money I make from developing this software to eat, if you can't afford to buy this software Jimmy would really appreciate you making a small donation using the link below

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