V.i. Labs’ Technology Could Turn Software Pirates Into Paying Customers, for Software Vendors Big and Small

12/13/10Follow @xconomy

The best solution to software piracy isn’t shutting down the offenders, but finding out who they are, says Michael Goff, marketing director at V.i. Labs.

The Waltham, MA-based company makes software for other software vendors to find out who’s using—and misusing—their product, and to turn them into paying customers.

V.i. was started in 2002 and began with the intent of shutting down software piracy before it happens. In fact, V.i. stands for the photography term virgin image, a nod to the company’s focus on keeping original software code intact and protected. V.i. founder David Pensak’s resume includes DuPont, Raptor (provider of the first commercial Internet firewall), and digital rights management company Authentica, which was acquired by EMC in 2006. But V.i.’s scope has evolved and expanded since it released its first software protection product in 2006, Goff says.

“What we found is that software protection has its place; it’s something we still offer,” Goff says. “The way piracy works is you’re never going to really be able to stop people from cracking your software. You’re just making it harder for them.”

So rather than trying to prevent the inevitable, V.i. is trying to identify the source of the problem, with its CodeArmor Intelligence software. The idea is that many of those pirating software and downloading free copies could make for viable customers. Most are already customers, in a few senses, Goff says. They’ve done the research and shopped around and have determined a certain product is the best, they’ve just decided to download it for free, Goff says. And often, bigger enterprise customers just happen to be using more software licenses than what they’ve paid for, and are unaware that they’re not in compliance. So V.i.’s aim is to help its customers target those who are using their product illegally and sell them the right number of products and licenses to be compliant.

“Now you’ve taken this lost revenue opportunity and you’ve turned it into a customer,” Goff says. In fact, across all of V.i.’s clients, there’s potentially more than $750 million in revenue to be tapped into, through targeting sources of piracy. It’s a number V.i. keeps track of with a ticker on its homepage.

CodeArmor Intelligence offers an … Next Page »

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  • http://www.theblackninja.com/ Jeb

    That is genius. If they go through all the trouble of cracking it, then of course they are potential customers. They would probably be the most dedicated customers since they are also obviously talented and skillful enough to try and beat the system.

  • Johannes

    So essentially this is a spy software for pirated software.

    “It provides them with [...] network domains, IP addresses, and e-mail domains, and determine their geographic location.”

  • http://www.vilabs.com Michael Goff

    Just to clarify – CodeArmor Intelligence is not spyware. It is integrated into the application by the software vendor and only runs when piracy is detected. It can also be configured so it does not collect any personal information. It is nonintrusive and is comparable to phone home functionality in a wide range of applications that check for the latest updates, report crashes, etc.