Feel the Force: Software licensing and Star Wars

In the wake of the glitz and glam of the Oscars last weekend, all attention was turned to stars of the latest Star Wars offering, 'The Force Awakens'. And while most were concerned with the fashion, the accolades, and subsequent winners of this pivotal event in the film industry calendar, I couldn’t help but cast my mind to an earlier saga that has somewhat slipped into the ‘moments in film’ archives.

What I am in fact alluding to is the ill-fated release of a much earlier episode of the Star Wars franchise. For 'Episode III: Revenge of the Sith' befell a fate that still to this day poses a real fear for film professionals around the world: a breach and leak. One of the biggest films of 2005 had been released into the World Wide Web two weeks ahead of its scheduled release – not only undermining the creative efforts of all involved but testing the fans' ability to resist viewing temptation. You could quite literally feel the force.

But why is this of note? Well, quite simply, in the world of software licensing, a war between good and evil is still being waged every day, occurring in a galaxy that is far too close to home.

The duality of good and evil

Every second of every day, data is being hacked, breached, and repurposed online. This could be anything from an illegally downloaded copy of Adobe Photoshop – in which a software licensing ‘key’ has been infringed – to the redistribution of a leaked film that is yet to hit the silver screen. This is an endless game of cat and mouse between content owners/producers and hackers taking place on a continual loop; forcing not just the entertainment industry, but many business leaders, to toss and turn the night away.

Well this battle draws some rather unlikely similarities between the plight of the Jedi and the Sith. Good versus evil; Intellectual Property angels versus content stealing bandits. And whilst we all appreciate and acknowledge that stealing property that doesn’t belong to us is wrong, somehow, this doesn’t appear to have such a profound moral standing when it comes to digitised content.

Like The Force, often our desire for free and unlimited access to previously prohibited content is strong. And so many a-time we justify our dabbling into the dark side with the argument that we didn’t hack the source and release the content. We are merely bystanders or benefactors of someone else’s illegal hacking prowess. But if we are truly fans and appreciators of said creative masterpieces, should we not solidify our belief that owners of this work deserve to be fairly compensated?

The business case for software licensing

Whilst content creators do their job for the love of their craft, there is certainly still a commercial aspect that drives the business. So now our moral compasses are aligned, how can businesses deter those who choose to fully embrace their dark side and, with conviction, are still determined to breach software licensing laws? Well, there are strategic measures businesses can take to not only protect their property, but as a result also optimise revenue. This includes offering significant advantages to end-user experiences through measurable values when purchasing legitimate software.

Existing software licensing and asset management solutions allow businesses to oversee user authentication access points – highlighting exactly who is accessing what information illegitimately. Further to this, installing solutions with ‘wrapping’ technology offers a protective layer around the source code, safeguarding it from reverse engineering and tampering (aka the forces of evil). Having this additional layer of protection ensures that their intellectual property, trade secrets, and professional know-how are kept safe from hackers, which is not an easy thing for customers to do on their own.

Be the Jedi

There is no denying that we are all tempted by a freebie or an inside look, but it’s important to turn the tables and reflect on how we would feel if someone was to steal from us. The bottom line is digital replication and redistribution without the authority to do so is still stealing and against the law.

With IP theft costing businesses hundreds of billions of dollars a year whilst also exhausting the global economy of jobs and outstanding tax revenues, it makes sense for companies to instil software licensing safeguards. And well hackers may curse your name, you can hold your lightsaber up high knowing you chose the right side of the force.

Jake Fox, VP of Product Development, R&D, Software Monetization at Gemalto

Image Credit: LucasFilm, The Walt Disney Company