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Hardware key for software license

Dongles for single licenses over multiple computers
  (+1, -5)
(+1, -5)
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You and I both own more than one PC -- and I do mean PERSONAL computer (as opposed to family computer, server and whatnot). And more often than not we need the same pieces of software on most of those machines. Since most of us need Windows and the associated cohort of software, we currently need to pay up for each and every duplicate license (or else risk the ensuing trouble).

Which is utter crap. When James Bond gets a license to kill, he doesn't need to get a duplicate license to kill at home, now does he? Neither does he require distinct licenses to kill using his knife, gun or any other gadget. So then, when I pay for a license to use Photoshop, why would I possibly need distinct licenses for my laptop, home computer and office computer? Simple: Adobe knows I'm not James Bond -- as a software user, I'm by definition the villain, and as such I would most certainly abuse any such rights, should they be given to me. So they play it safe: one license for one computer, scumbags! Why do they do this? That's still one of the great mysteries of our times, since I could just as easily get a cracked copy, which is just as illegal as allowing my employees to use my single-user license at work while I use the same license on my laptop.

Even so, let's play ball and address the paranoia on its own terms. Why not design a hardware device which enables the use of a given license on any computer it's currently attached to? The concept has been available like forever (check out the Wikipedia link), but to my knowledge the intent was never to allow portability for the user, but rather to limit copies (which is obviously bollocks, but I won't go into that).

Of course, we all know hardware costs money. But I would gladly pay a few extra dollars for a dongle when I buy a 1,000 EUR piece of software in order to ensure portability within the limits of the legal license -- wouldn't you?

gutza, Jan 28 2009

Dongle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dongle
Dongle @ Wikipedia [gutza, Jan 28 2009]


       Maybe I misunderstand you, but I can't find the new invention here. Allowing portability is just the other side of hardware copy protection - if you can prevent coping through a dongle, you can afford to allow portability; if your hardware key is built into the machine itself, you can't. That seems really obvious and nothing new.
jutta, Jan 28 2009

       Lots of enterprise software has been doing this for years... Back in the day they used dongles that hung off the parallel port.   

       [marked-for-deletion] Widely known to exist (amongst those in the industry, at least).   

       edit: I misread.
Spacecoyote, Jan 28 2009

       The problem is that "standards" don't work for copy protection. To have a standard means you have to share the intricate details of its working with many other companies in the industry. All copy protection is based on secrets. The inner workings of the hardware key are the secret in this case. The more people know the secret, the less time it takes for the protection to be cracked open completely and become utterly useless. That is what happened with Content Scrambling System (the copy protection on DVDs).
Spacecoyote, Jan 28 2009

       My understanding was the software with a dongle from years ago was not copy protected, just needed the dongle to work. Intentions aside, you purchased a licence and a security measure to prevent you from abusing that licence. Is this not the same?
superjohn, Jan 28 2009

       Unless you want to include an "unspoofable" black box in your computer and open yourself up to a hell of a lot of internet supervision the idea is no more effective than any other copyright protection. If you believed that "insert the software CD" was undefeatable then this might impress you, otherwise look elsewhere.
WcW, Jan 29 2009

       What is to prevent the end user from implementing a software defeat that simulates the presence of the dongle using a virtual drive? Even if the key is something more complicated, nothing prevents a motivated end user from reverse engineering the hardware or defeating the request for the hardware on the software side.
WcW, Jan 29 2009

       A different business model would provide a more practical solution. I still do not understand this 20th-century concept of charging people for large integers. Large numbers existed in the 1800s, and they were all free.
ed, Jan 29 2009

       Since you're all over the place on what this/these dongle(s) would do, let me ask what you envision happening when you remove your Windows XP dongle from your home PC and take it to work to use it there? Does your home PC shut down? What happens when someone steals your dongle and what stops them from selling it on eBay? What stops a disgruntled employee from arriving to work early and flushing all your Photoshop dongles down the toilet? What do you do when your dongle breaks and leaves you unable to process payroll?
phoenix, Jan 29 2009

       I don't think this is a realistic solution, but then again I can't come up with anything better. "fair use" (as defined for the music industry in Canadian law) allows the kind of usage you're looking for, but that isn't the license you have.
FlyingToaster, Jan 29 2009

       Spacecoyote, WcW, phoenix, I have made it clear in the body of the proposal that copy protection in itself is not the actual purpose here. We know it for a fact that all copy protection gets cracked sooner rather than later, regardless of whether it's based on typing letters from the manual, CDs, dongles and whanot. But using such copies is illegal -- the point here is to provide the software companies with a reasonable insurance that multiple copies of the same piece of software can run legitimately on multiple computers -- the operative word there is "legitimately". The choice to break that copy protection is certainly yours, but then you're back to using illegal copies.   

       phoenix, buying a portable dongle would be optional, I don't suppose Microsoft would complain if you kept buying one license per computer. Regarding stealing the dongle and selling it, you're opening a completely different can of worms regarding consumer rights vs. software licenses (that is, that you can't resell).
gutza, Jan 29 2009

       ....... so....... complicated AND pointless.
WcW, Jan 29 2009


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