A Peak Behind the Piracy Curtain

A Peak Behind the Piracy Curtain

Many years ago, prior to joining Wilcom, I spent over 10 years working in the software security space with DRM (Digital Rights Management). Our solution protected valuable software as well as games against casual piracy. Companies invested hundreds of thousands, and often millions of Dollars developing, promoting and supporting their software, and they rightfully looked to protect their products and sell them to recoup those costs, further develop the software and turn a profit.

Unfortunately, another decade on and these illegal piracy practices have continued globally

“It’s only software piracy - who’s really getting hurt?”

These words have been repeated to me time and time again by friends, colleagues and even family members, but the record needs to be set straight. 

First and foremost, software piracy is a crime.

It is genuine theft, denying legitimate developers, publishers and reseller channels from earning their fair share. Large fines and criminal penalties are frequently imposed upon pirates. You may think that only large corporations are in the crosshairs of the law, but in fact very many smaller and medium size companies are being exposed.

Ethical trading - We use legal software!

Using legal software in your own business does not necessarily make you the ethical trader of the year. 

In 2018, a raid was carried out on an embroidery design outsource company in Thailand. 35 unlicensed copies of Wilcom’s software were found and seized by a group of lawyers and police. Computer hard-drives and other hardware was examined and photographed as evidence and the investigation began. The company operations were disrupted, staff were interviewed, and the local Director was prosecuted. This may even have been your outsource supplier?

This only happens overseas…

Well actually…. it turned out that the directors and shareholders of this Thai business were linked to a ‘legitimate’ US business with a long history in the embroidery industry, and ironically, they had an association with the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition which was formed in the mid 2000’s to
protect software copyright. All the while, they used legal software in the US, whilst outsourcing a large amount of embroidery services to their Thai counterparts who were able to provide these services at rock-bottom prices, taking advantage of lower labor costs as well as lower operating costs because they used pirated software.

These practices persisted for many years up until this surprise raid and demonstrates that even experienced industry practitioners can be misled.

Thailand Company Raided
Directors & shareholders of this Thai business linked to a legitimate US business.

The real victims

When you look a little deeper into piracy, aside from genuine sellers, you quickly discover all those others who are affected. Companies who take the true ethical stance by only using legal software and auditing their suppliers find it harder and harder to compete with companies using illegal software. To survive, they may need to retrench local staff or put increasing pressure on their outsource suppliers to cut margins and/or do the same.

Businesses using pirated software put themselves at severe risks of encountering malware. The BSA (The Software Alliance) reports that there is a one-in-three chance of this occurring when using unlicensed software. I will leave this topic for another day as it is vast and scary. Importantly, pirated software does not come with support, nor the ability to access critical software updates. Windows releases regular operating system updates, and you could come into the office to find that the pirated software is incompatible with an update, leaving you unable to complete an outstanding job. It is important to remind yourself that software hackers and those who sell counterfeit software are not interested in your lifetime value as a customer. It’s a grab-and-run transaction. They will not offer support or a refund if the software ceases to function and especially if it causes damage to your computer or network.

What is the cost of going legal?

Whilst you are reading this, raids are being carried out in South East Asia, India and Latin America. Investigations by Wilcom, the BSA and other partners are also taking place in other first world regions. It is not uncommon for the costs of legalizing after being caught to be well over 200% higher than if you simply negotiated to purchase genuine software through an official channel.

If you are using pirated software or thinking about that as an option, we recommend contacting your local Wilcom distributor and discussing the best cost options for your business.

A genuine Wilcom customer today is a Wilcom customer for life.

Our support network is here for you and your business. We also look forward to finding out about your specific future embroidery needs, as this helps us develop the features and tools your business needs to grow and to become more successful.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Wilcom partners with BSA | The Software Alliance

Wilcom has increased their efforts to support legitimate licensed users by partnering with BSA | The Software Alliance.


Richard Wienburg
Chief Marketing Officer
Wilcom International

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