There are many systems that can lock your software or document, allowing you to control access to that file. But problem arises with assuming that this will stop all theft? A well thought out, thorough protection system can deter theft, but it cannot stop it 100%.
An "unbreakable" protection system simply does not, and will never exist. If someone really wants your information, they can get it, even if it takes years of work.
SO WHAT'S THE POINT? WHY USE ANY PROTECTION AT ALL?
There is no 100% security guarantee in anything, but that's no reason to totally ignore protecting your intellectual property -- A thief can easily kick in your front door and rob your house, but you still lock door right? Locking door is not 100% effective security, but we still do it. Why? Because locking door deters most potential theft and those who are more determined will have to work a bit to get in.
WHO SHOULD USE PROTECTION?
The big question here is, HOW VALUABLE IS YOUR INFORMATION TO YOU? Sensitive, proprietary or private information demands some sort of protection, otherwise transmitting over net is not an option.
If your information is not free, then it's obviously of some importance. So, how much damage would it do to you if it were made freely available? What type of impact would it have on your sales and could you (or would you) absorb that without thinking twice?
Is a $14 Ebook worth paying for another service to protect it? Probably not, but it depends on situation and target market. What about a $2,000 report? Does price change perspective?
Business protect their property. If you believe your information or software to be of a unique or proprietary nature, you should protect that information using some means, no matter how small.
Companies like Microsoft lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to software theft and fraud, yet they continue to implement protection measures in their software. I would guess that without any protection whatsoever losses would be in billions.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT?
Like I said, there is no 100% way to prevent every possible incident, but you can make it very difficult and less likely to happen. At best what you should hope is to provide just enough security to close obvious security flaws and discourage would-be thieves. But not so much security that it discourages honest users and customers.
Here are some common protection schemes:
No Protection: Just distribute your information and hope for best.
- Pros: No special process to access file which means less support issues
- Cons: File can be passed around, copied, distributed and/or sold without authorization from owner. Can't prevent access after chargeback or refund. ---
General Password Protection: Simply requiring a predetermined password to install or register file.
- Pros: Simple for customer or end user.
- Cons: File and password can be passed around, copied, distributed and/or sold without authorization from owner. Can't prevent access after chargeback or refund. ---
PC Unique Password Protection: Generates a unique password based on User's machine.
- Pros: Can't pass around file since it is basically locked to one machine.
- Cons: Requires an extra step for registration; Customer cannot move file to another PC; If their PC crashes they will need another unique password; Can't prevent access after chargeback or refund. ---
Post-Purchase Activation: Requires activation by online server. After user purchases they are entered into an online customer database. They then install and register file by entering their name/email or some data. The server confirms purchase and then activates software.This method is become more and more common with big name software.