Q&A: “How to Prevent People From Stealing My Work”

Short version: You don’t. (But don’t take my word for it, read here for example)

Longer version:
One of you readers sent me an email containing some questions about publishing. Here’s my opinions and thoughts:

I have some questions that have been giving me a head ache. I figured there is only two ways for me to distribute, not counting on getting into stores. One, download over the internet or Two, ship out a CD.

You can actually have downloadable version in the net, and additional CD shipping. Many ecommerce providers have CD option as well (check for example Plimus, eSellerate or BMTmicro and see what they have to offer).

General trend seems to be favoring digital distribution (via internet), rather than CD/DVD option, so my suggestion would be to go for internet distribution, and additionally have CD if you really want. I haven’t used CDs but somebody somewhere at some year said that it wasn’t big (or at all) addition to their sales to have CD. Don’t know what the situation is today for indies, but I’d guess most of the developers concentrate on the internet.

The first problem I see with both methods is Copy Protection. How can you stop someone from downloading your game for themselves, then giving someone else a copy of the game they paid for? That would cause you to lose out on Capital because person two got the game for free.

You cannot stop people from downloading your game for free no matter what you do if you bring it online. Even MMO games have been hacked so that there’s pirate servers floating somewhere, people playing for free.

You simply cannot do that.

What you can do is to start thinking whether you really lose capital, and try to change your thinking about piratism. Reading this gamasutra article can be a good starting point.

It’s a tricky thing, but in the end you really cannot prevent people from stealing your work.

Having some sort of DRM might be a good option for you, or it might do nothing good. Some vote yes for DRM, some vote no – both sides support their view with statistical data, so I guess it might depend on the game too.

Whatever you decide, you have to realize that somebody somewhere can hack your game and there’s not much you can do about it.

As for CDs or DVDS….copy protection methods cost a lot of money….money I don’t have right now. Not to mention, if sells go well….their could be an issue keeping up with the demand if I were to publish the title myself (too many CDs to ship out at one time).

If you need to ship “too many CDs” that’s a positive problem. And… simply not a problem if you use an ecommerce provider that handles CD shipping.

There’s this website call, www.Shareit.com. The company is an online publisher, but I really don’t trust them. For starters…they don’t answer emails. Secondly, are they even doing any business?

Shareit actually could be called ecommerce provider (who handles the online transactions) rather than a publisher (who would do marketing, promotion among other duties).

I’ve bought stuff via Shareit earlier, and I think I even got some affiliate payments from them at some point so I think they were okay. Not sure about the situation today, but I’d head over to forums (like indiegamer boards or gameproducer forums) and ask around. I personally think they are okay the last I’ve heard (but of course you are better of checking this on your own).

Can you or someone that knows about this kind of stuff point in in the right direction? Please…..I only get one shot at this so I want to do it right. If you can get me a list of Publishers that publish Interactive Entertainment Software over the net, you’ll have my gratitude. I’m leaning towards over the net downloads…but once again….the fear of someone making a copy for a friend is eating at me.

I presume by “publisher” you really mean an ecommerce provider (which handles online transactions). At some point I was using eSellerate (was good), then BMTmicro (was good) and latest being Plimus (good as well). So, check these out (there’s others too – just ask around for “ecommerce providers”) and simply pick one and go for that. You can always switch later if you want.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. from what I’ve heard, there’s already pirated iphone apps.. and torrent files/servers hosting these…

  2. I beg to differ. Its not easy to copy / pirate games on iPhone and BREW platform. If you develop for these platforms you are secure with your assets. I highly recommend noobs to get into this space as there is a LOT more potential.

  3. @Steven: This is very true, an unknown developer can get loads of solid word of mouth PR by ‘letting’ pirates have and distribute a product.

  4. There is also the option of designing it so the “pirates” are helping you distribute the product. I know that isn’t always an option, but it’ something to keep in mind.

  5. In my experience Plimus has be a solid choice, and a logical one for smaller projects. I think it’s wise to point out that once a game (or any medium; really) leaves your hard drive, it’s basically open warfare on it. You really can’t expect it to not be rendered free for the masses – so, in reality – it’s better to generate a GOOD product, which will encourage people to purchase it based solely on its quality.

    Another way to staunch the flow of theft is to release a demo. It seems statistically that many people steal (games, at least) simply to try them out. If your product stands on it’s own, and is fun, you can be sure they will buy it after play testing a solid demo.

    Anyway, just some thoughts::

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