Better DRM


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Mintmag
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The commercial version of Macrium Reflect Uses DRM for activation. I'd like to request a more offline friendly version of it. I've bought 6.1 and I'd love to upgrade to 7 but I take issue with the way the DRM works. If you attempt to install Macrium Reflect on an offline computer it will use machine ID to active the software. I would prefer it if I could just use my product code. Pirates need not bother with this but paying customers do. Another program I own is VMware workstation. It cost me around $400 when I first bought it and to my surprise it only use a product code to work so you can install it on an offline system without the need for machine ID please consider this request and thank you making the free version so good.
backuper
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That said st you can de-register it easily and transfer the license. But that does not help when you have a disk crash or something. I also agree that most copy protection does only harm the honest user.

jphughan
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I too agree that DRM can become a pain even for legitimate users, but I don't understand how one can expect it would be feasible to use only the regular product code in an offline activation scenario.  In that case, a software pirate could simply enter that code on several PCs that were always kept offline, or even several PCs that were kept online but where techniques had been employed to block communication specifically with Macrium's servers.  Either way, Macrium would have no way to know that you had used your single license key on multiple PCs, never mind a way to stop it at that point.  The reason a Machine ID is incorporated is because it makes your license only usable on that particular PC, until as backuper says you choose to deactivate that license to free it up for use elsewhere.

I personally believe that Macrium's licensing model even for the offline scenario is easier and more flexible than most these days (looking at you, Microsoft....), and at least in one situation where I had a licensing issue, Macrium Support was very quick to get it resolved.  Even if there are some applications that charge more and still have more lenient licensing mechanisms, I would hardly call Macrium's model a "bother".  It's not as if they demand that you periodically reactivate permanently offline licenses.

Edited 4 June 2018 8:00 PM by jphughan
Mintmag
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My response to that is take a look at another program that I purchased called VMware Workstation Pro. This was one of the most expensive programs I've used and also has a very interesting take on DRM. Here's how it works

If you install VMware workstation on a computer that's not connected to the internet and enter in the licence information it will activate and work.
Now, does this mean you can use the one license on multiple offline machines? Well the short answer is yes since there's no way to enforce that. However, I don't think this is really a problem as long as the licences isn't shared with other uses. I own multiple computers myself. But there's another trick to this DRM. I ran a few tests. I installed VMware workstation on a computer and blocked it with a firewall to see if it would activate. It did not. However when I installed it onto a PC with a fresh installation of Windows and no internet connection it worked just fine. So the DRM can somehow tell when you're actually offline and when you're using a firewall. If I was to share this licences on the web with pirates not only would the pirates have my information but the company would know it was me as soon as one of those people connected their system to the internet, which in my opinion is a great deterrent. Despite being a paying customer of reflect I use the free version. I can not risk one day not being able to access my images because I've lost internet. This software is meant for emergency after all and emergency software needs to have as little that can go wrong as possible. 
jphughan
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Mintmag - 4 June 2018 8:31 PM
My response to that is take a look at another program that I purchased called VMware Workstation Pro. This was one of the most expensive programs I've used and also has a very interesting take on DRM. Here's how it works

If you install VMware workstation on a computer that's not connected to the internet and enter in the licence information it will activate and work.
Now, does this mean you can use the one license on multiple offline machines? Well the short answer is yes since there's no way to enforce that. However, I don't think this is really a problem as long as the licences isn't shared with other uses. I own multiple computers myself. But there's another trick to this DRM. I ran a few tests. I installed VMware workstation on a computer and blocked it with a firewall to see if it would activate. It did not. However when I installed it onto a PC with a fresh installation of Windows and no internet connection it worked just fine. So the DRM can somehow tell when you're actually offline and when you're using a firewall. If I was to share this licences on the web with pirates not only would the pirates have my information but the company would know it was me as soon as one of those people connected their system to the internet, which in my opinion is a great deterrent. Despite being a paying customer of reflect I use the free version. I can not risk one day not being able to access my images because I've lost internet. This software is meant for emergency after all and emergency software needs to have as little that can go wrong as possible. 

You not thinking it's a problem to install the software on multiple machines isn't really relevant.  What's relevant is the licensing policy of the software.  Normal Reflect licenses are explicitly licensed to be used on one PC at a time, not by one user at a time on any number of PCs that they own.  If VMware is licensed differently, then maybe they're ok with not being able to monitor or address multiple installations.  As for the firewall test, I wouldn't call that comprehensive since there are a variety of ways that the application could have differentiated truly offline vs. blocked, and as a result there are multiple ways that this mechanism could have been deceived other than whatever firewall application you were using.  The hosts file springs to mind.  But I personally also don't think it makes good sense to devote engineering resources to more complex DRM check conditions like that rather than improving the core functionality of the product -- unless of course there are a significant population of customers complaining that the existing functionality is too burdensome.  And again, even if the licensing could be made more lenient, I hardly see the current design as a bother to end users, and I can certainly understand Macrium's desire to have the mechanism it currently does.  I mean, how often do you even have to go through the activation routine anyway?  Uninstalling and reinstalling Reflect on the same PC does not require reactivation by default, so it would seem this would only even come up when transferring the license to another PC or performing a clean rebuild of your existing system, neither of which is an especially frequent activity for most users.

As for the callout about not being able to access your images because you've lost Internet connectivity, that isn't a legitimate risk.  First, Rescue Media continues to work forever after it's been built, so even if you deactivated your license, you'd still be able to use any Rescue Media you had in order to perform backups and restores, as well as mount backups for browsing.  You could even keep an ISO stashed away somewhere to create new Rescue Media on demand.  And second, Reflect Free can restore things just fine.  I admittedly haven't tested whether it supports restoring Incrementals or encrypted backups since it doesn't support creating those, but maybe it can still restore them.  That might be something you want to test if it worries you that much -- but again, you'll always have Rescue Media, and Macrium has wisely chosen not to include DRM in that environment, presumably specifically to avoid creating problems in emergencies.  And that's despite the fact that that decision has already resulted in a paid version of their Rescue Media (including ReDeploy) having been pirated by inclusion in at least one WinPE-based application suite I'm aware of.  So the deterrent clearly isn't enough for everybody, and at that point the damage is done because the software is out and there's no way to disable Rescue Media.

Edited 4 June 2018 10:04 PM by jphughan
Mintmag
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That reply could've been a lot shorter. And no, I don't think it's a problem to sell licences to users instead of systems. I think that's silly and only contributes to piracy. A lot of software business work this way and tie the DRM to the IP instead of the machine. As for the VMware licences you're welcome to read it yourself on their website.

As for the emergency situation I mentioned before it still stands. What if something happens to the rescue media. You can download not only the media but also the tools to build it and get it working on an offline system if needed. It call comes down to murphy's law. What can will go wrong and at the worst time. So the best thing to do is to reduce the amount of headache and obstetricals for when such things occur. Like DRM and silly licences practice for example 
Edited 5 June 2018 7:20 AM by Mintmag
jphughan
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Licensing by IP?  That's not practical except for software that's only sold to people that have static IPs, otherwise you could potentially have to reactivate every time you rebooted your router -- and how would activations of permanently offline systems even work in that scenario?

It sounds like what you really want is for Macrium to change their licensing policy to per-user rather than per-PC.  If that happened, I agree the activation process could probably be simpler -- but until then, I understand Macrium's desire to take reasonable steps to curb piracy. Their current process isn't burdensome, and your proposed mechanism would allow unlimited activations of offline systems, and possibly even tweaked online systems.  Even if someone didn't broadcast their license key to the public, that's still a lot of opportunity for misuse among a person's own PCs.  I would also argue that Macrium already makes complying with their licensing terms reasonable.  The Home 4-pack costs almost exactly the same as 2 regular licenses.  50% off is a pretty great deal.  Even the regular price doesn't seem bad to me considering the importance of what the software does, frankly.

As for the emergency case, your own post above talks about downloading things, which implies some online connectivity, and even if that connectivity is on a different PC, that's all you need to perform the current offline activation routine.  Then there's the fact that paid versions can be installed as 30-day trials, which means you'd have all functionality available even before activating, with the sole exception of ReDeploy on your Rescue Media.  So the only case I can see where your proposed mechanism would be significantly easier would be if your PC died, you had no Rescue Media, had no Internet access anywhere (even from a smartphone), and needed to restore your image onto a different PC and therefore use ReDeploy.  Even in that very improbable case, I would bet Macrium Support could help you with an offline activation over the phone.  For any other case, Reflect Free or temporarily using a trial would do whatever you needed.  Or am I missing some other scenario?  If not, then I can understand Macrium not wanting to make it easier to pirate their software even among one user's multiple PCs just to simplify one highly unlikely recovery situation.

It's also worth pointing out that even in a true "no Internet access at all" scenario, your proposed activation mechanism would only help if you already had both a Reflect installer and your license key stored in an offline location -- and if you're already doing that, how hard is it to back up a Rescue Media ISO along with a copy of the manual USB Rescue Media build instructions available on the Macrium site?

Edited 5 June 2018 2:40 AM by jphughan
jphughan
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And since you suggested it, I went and looked at VMware Workstation's licensing policy.  It's not per user or even per PC.  It's actually per host OS, so if you had a dual boot system and wanted to use it in both OSes, you'd actually need two licenses for that one PC (source).  So using VMware as an example while saying that you don't see a problem installing it on multiple systems that you own doesn't really help your case for easing up Reflect's licensing mechanism.  It just shows people will take advantage of more lenient licensing enforcement to violate the terms, as you apparently may be doing with VMware (or would at least feel ok doing). The fact that you don't see a problem is irrelevant, as is the fact that VMware isn't taking steps to block you from doing that.  Those aren't the terms the vendor is offering, and if someone doesn't like those terms, then they can obviously choose not to buy the software, but they can't legitimately just decide that they'll use it according to whatever terms they feel are fair and that their piracy is the vendor's fault for not having a licensing model that's more to their liking.  But of course some people clearly do exactly that if given the opportunity, hence some vendors taking measures to hinder that.
Edited 5 June 2018 1:55 AM by jphughan
Mintmag
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I didn't say license by IP I said I've used programs that check IP as part of their DRM. Are you not reading my posts?

I'm really not interested in discussing the fine details of EULA's I just don't care. It is in my opinion! That a per user licenses is in better interest for the company and the users over all then a per OS or per system one. All I said about VMware is that it can be installed offline, so don't go twisting my words. Reflect should also be able to install and work offline. It's not abusing the license if the license permits it which it should!

Edited 5 June 2018 7:18 AM by Mintmag
Nick
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Mintmag - 5 June 2018 7:15 AM
I didn't say license by IP I said I've used programs that check IP as part of their DRM. Are you not reading my posts?

I'm really not interested in discussing the fine details of EULA's I just don't care. It is in my opinion! That a per user licenses is in better interest for the company and the users over all then a per OS or per system one. All I said about VMware is that it can be installed offline, so don't go twisting my words. Reflect should also be able to install and work offline. It's not abusing the license if the license permits it which it should!

Thanks for posting and expressing your opinion.

I honestly share your views regarding DRM, however, we needed to find a balance to avoid wide scale abuse of our software licensing and support.

Software piracy is a blatant attempt to avoid paying anything by users that may not ever purchase in the first place. Paid license abuse is seen as an acceptable transgression for many but is by far the worse scenario for us. Without enforcing a per PC installation we would have (and have had in the past) a noticeable impact on license revenue and, more damaging, an increase in support. IP and MAC addresses are easily spoofed and cannot be used to establish a machine identity. 

PC hardware can be extremely varied and complex and if you consider variables such as software and firmware RAID, SSD, NVMe, UEFI and legacy MBR booting etc and of course VSS problems, support can get very complex and is a major cost. In many cases a single support contact far exceeds the cost of the software license, sometimes by a factor of 10 or more.  Unfortunately, customers with multiple installs of the same license expect support for all installations, including deploying to new hardware, regardless of what the EULA states. We have to make sure that the number of support cases per license is at an acceptable level otherwise we have to increase the license price.

To my knowledge, we have never had a situation where the licensing protection has prevented legitimate use of Macrium Reflect in an emergency situation. We try to make sure that our licensing rules have as little impact as possible for those that use the software legitimately...

1.. Rescue media has no DRM, so if you can restore from a dead PC to another without a problem.

2. You are not prevented from installing a single license on two PC's. The installation is flagged as a warning that it's not permitted in the EULA, but you can install the license and continue operation unaffected. Any legitimate licensing issues are dealt with swiftly and unquestioned by us after contact. We can, and do, release licenses from a dead PC within minutes.


Kind Regards

Nick - Macrium Support

Edited 5 June 2018 1:07 PM by Nick
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