Has SaaS Effectively Ended Piracy? We Look Into The Shareware Revolution

According to a 2019 report by DataProt, the software industry lost $46.3 billion to piracy theft. In the US, 16% of software is used without permission.

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A confluence of SaaS and Open Source models have effectively stemmed piracy over the last ten years. Today, the most popular SaaS platforms can't be torrented or pirated. Slack, Salesforce, and Notion are all examples of Shareware, a business model that encourages sharing free proprietary software with the option of premium, paid subscription services. SaaS doesn't lock people in or make users pay from the start.

"SaaS and other cloud models might be the only real way to eradicate piracy for good," said Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect at West Gate Networks. "If you can control software and keep it protected inside the cloud, users can access it only when it's been paid for."

One of the first companies to do this was Salesforce, who offered a free trial, subscription-based payments, and no software to install. Google Docs removed the need for people to purchase expensive licenses to access the popular Microsoft Suite, and their “Share” button transformed how documents can be distributed across the internet.

Adobe is one company that has benefitted from its shift into SaaS-based software. The newest versions of the company's best-selling products, like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, are now available with a subscription to their cloud service Creative Cloud. With its hefty licensing fees, Photoshop is historically one of the most pirated pieces of software.

Over the years, software subscriptions have curtailed piracy even as costs have increased. By allowing monthly subscription options in lieu of a perpetual license, more users can access premium products and skip unreliable torrented versions of the software.

SaaS architectures also make self-installed and managed software feel antiquated. As organizations expand and contract, so do their software needs. SaaS models can meet the needs of any organization in an instant, without the high costs of hardware purchases and architectures to support older models.

Aside from software that demands sales calls and annual billing, almost every SaaS product hinges on modern Shareware and subscription-based billing. Many offer free services, some have free trials, and sharing is easier than ever before. Who needs to pirate Photoshop when all it costs per month is the price of lunch?