Single software licence shared 774,651 times

Avast lets a licence carry on being traded to see how many people download its software illegally

Nicole Kobie
6 Dec 2010

A single licence for Avast security software has been used by 774,651 people after it went viral on a file-sharing site, according to the company.

Avast noticed that a license for its paid-for security software, sold to a 14-user firm in Arizona, was being distributed online. Rather than shut down the piracy, the company decided to see how far the software would spread.

The Avast Pro licence showed up on file-sharing sites, and a year and a half later it had topped three-quarters of a million active users.

“We found our licence code at a number of warez sites around the globe,” said Vince Steckler, chief executive of Avast Software. “There is a paradox in computer users looking for ‘free’ antivirus programs at locations with a known reputation for spreading malware.”

The licence is being used in 200 countries – and has even been installed on two computers in the Vatican City, Avast added.

“It was quite interesting how fast it went, but at some time the party has to end,” Avast spokesman Lyle Frink told PC Pro.

The company is turning the piracy into a marketing opportunity, looking to flip users of the pirated version to genuine software by popping up a notice on machines with the illegally-shared edition offering a link to the free or paid-for versions.

While Frink had no data about exactly how many pirates had chosen to go legitimate, he said there had already been “some conversions”. He added: “It’s going according to plan.”

Steckler told PC Pro that the Arizona firm has had their license replaced. "We also reminded them to keep their licenses secure."

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