dongle for patches
Not in a million years!
I am not a fan of open source — I’m quite happy to pay for good products that improve my own work — people are entitled to be compensated for their efforts if they so choose. However, as a performing musician, there is absolutely no way I will get up on stage with a system that has the potential to fail due to a poor copy protection scheme.
In particular, regarding dongles (from a blog entry I wrote once) – "And no, don’t bother to suggest dongles (iLok or whatever) as options. Those are just as bad. They can break, get lost, they take up valuable USB ports and/or you have to schlep around with a USB hub which sometimes doesn’t even work properly with dongles."
I’ve talked to quite a few well known musicians on this topic — none of them will use dongles. Interestingly, some of the more well known musicians have been able to persuade vendors to create special builds that don’t require a dongle or indeed any other copy protection.
Some people hate dongles, some love ‘em. C74 has probably provided the best solution (if you’re going to have copy protection): you get to choose your poison.
But to the question at hand: is there any point at all in copy-protecting a Max patch? People have been trying to protect patchers for decades. Literally. But at the end of the day, the patcher contains a plain-text description of the patch in a well-defined location. Read and savor that.
No matter how much you CP your patch, there’s always going to be the text description of it, sitting there, waiting for someone to Copy-Paste it into a text file saved with the .maxpat suffix.
The only way to effectively copy-protect your patch is by encapsulating some essential processing in an external written in C, and include some copy-protection code in there, as well. It can be done, but it’s not a rose garden.
If you’re willing to pay, you have options:
Mac and Windows copy-protection for any .exe and .app (not just Max apps) = $495 ($295 for one or the other by itself)
Windows Max apps need the Max 5 encryptor add-on: $150
Mac Max apps do not need the encryptor
I’ve been in touch with the company and they claim all is well for Max 6 apps too.
If and when I build something I want to sell, this is what I’m planning to use. I haven’t tried it as of now, but knowing a special module was designed specifically to encrypt Max apps is encouraging. You can also use their service to automate licensing and payment for your apps. And of course it can be used for other .exe files, like Unity apps, Flash standalones, etc.
I imagine there are other options as well, but the peculiarity of Max is the openness of the .mxf. So whatever option you use, there needs to be a way to encrypt at least that part, then you need the copy-protect for the overall app.
You may want to clarify with Excel Software whether their encryption for Windows now allows your app to run from the the applications folder. When I used their CP, this was an issue. It’s quite a while ago and I don’t remember all the details, but it turned out to be a critical issue for the project I was working on.
If you’re looking at any CP system, I would recommend asking for a sample protected application to test, over and above demos of the CP workflow (also important, but you see lots of the latter; not so much of the former).
Dongle is a big deal breaker. I’ve never used one, and never will, for both practical and philosophical reasons.
This kind of thing always bums me out though. Imagine how much better everything would be if people put their creative/engineering energies towards producing something amazing, rather than protecting people from it. But that’s a whole other can-o-worms.