We asked to hear from some actual studios targeted by plug-in maker Waves’ anti-piracy police (aka “banpiracy.com”). Here’s one report from Nick Buxton, via comments:

I haven’t read all the comments but wanted to add our experience; all our recording software is legal, we use uad plugs but wanted to see how waves worked; couldn’t get a demo version, so tried out a “copy” on personal projects; decided what we already had was better so decided not to buy; but didn’t erase the “copy”; stupid; now maybe we were denounced, although since we didn’t use it on any commercial projects, this is not likely; whoever is behind this, got a court order by claiming that we advertised wavelab on our website, which was true, and that wavelab belonged to Waves, which is not; result, visit from a court officer, examination of our computer, legal proceedings; now we could fight this; false information for a court order, no proof we used the software, we are a tiny company; etc etc… but this costs legal fees, time, stress; so we are considering taking up the offered “solution”, ie buy the plugs, probably have to pay some legal fees, but end of story; i am making no excuses; we were wrong; but this does not seem to me the best way to sell your product

WaveLab is, of course, developed by Steinberg, not Waves, though both have the word “wave” in it.

And we have heard from countless readers that people really do evaluate copies before purchasing. That’s why smart developers offer legit demo versions — and many, many do. They not only cut down on piracy, but reduce the number of people who skip a product completely because they can’t try before they buy. Of course, even those who don’t aren’t regularly in the habit of sending people unannounced to your studio. (Though that would be an interesting idea for tech support, one users might welcome. “Hi, just here to spray for bugs.”)

Updated: Waves really do have plug-in demos, so either this person was misinformed, or this isn’t the whole story, or both. (see comments)

Before we launch another piracy debate, I’ve been having plenty of informal conversations with major music developers since this came out. They’ve been pretty unanimous in my unscientific surveys. They all feel their business is getting hurt by piracy, by people who can afford to pay but don’t. But they do also value their relationship with their paying customers. And so far I haven’t found a single developer who thinks Waves’ banpiracy effort is a good idea. That’s little surprise, though, as so far there seems to be no evidence that banpiracy represents anyone other than Waves. (Now, as I said, this was unscientific, so if you’re a developer and you think banpiracy.com is a good idea, feel free to share.)

I think the issue of who is onboard and which products are being targeted is a relevant one, though. Let’s assume for a moment Waves’ tactics here are defensible. Waves, I put the challenge to you: either demonstrate you have other developers onboard with you, or stop trying to convince people this is an effort on behalf of the industry.

  • Adrian Anders

    I think the studio owners were being very irresponsible to their paying customers. Cracked software often causes severe problems in DAW environments and may even contain trojans, viruses, and/or worms that could compromise the data of their clients. Beyond the moral obligation to buy the software they use, they violated the trust of their customers by having potentially damaging software on their machines.

  • Oli

    I was "evaluating" a copy of Lucifer and decided to buy it to integrate it into Live performance. Sadly, development was halted and it was no longer available for purchase because of recent rampant piracy. Pretty ironic situation since I was on my way to buy it after ripping it off. P.S. The plug freaking rocks regardless.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Adrian, I do tend to agree … and the comment here does note that he's not "making excuses." But the absurdity of confusing WaveLab with Waves and going after studios in this way still seems evident here.

    There really IS a lot of demo software out there, which is why I'd tend to say, either find software you can evaluate legally — one way or another — or look elsewhere. If software uses a dongle scheme you don't like, look elsewhere. There's enough competition in this market that you don't have to use anything you don't want to. Unless people are just making excuses — and that's another matter.

  • Snark

    Sorry, but we only have his word to go on about this WaveLab thing. It's just an (un)educated guess, but that sounds incredibly bogus to me and I bet there's more to it.

    I feel no sympathy whatsoever for any studio caught up in this. As an amateur musician I PAY for everything I use and have never used cracked software – even though I only ever use plugs for 'personal' reasons. Since when does it say in software licenses that you only have to pay if you're using their hard-developed product commercially? That's like stealing a tin of beans from the supermarket but claiming it's okay cos you're not selling those beans in a restaurant.

    It's a pathetic excuse.

  • http://www.audiodamage.com Chris Randall

    "There’s enough competition in this market that you don’t have to use anything you don’t want to. Unless people are just making excuses — and that’s another matter."

    And that's what it boils down to. Every single defense I've ever seen of piracy involves some permutation of the statement "I wanted to use it but I didn't want to spend any money." Plain and simple, that's what it boils down to and I defy anyone to provide an explanation that involves something besides that phrase at the root.

    We went from being a small company to being a medium sized one, with continued growth on the horizon, simply by charging a reasonable price for our products and providing good support. I submit that this is a reasonable way to fight piracy, and that Waves' method, actively pursuing "pirates" and charging ridiculous amounts of money for their products, along with providing mediocre support and no guarantees, is the not-so-hot way. But, like Peter said, there's more than one fish in the sea.

    -CR

  • subbasshead

    This isnt in defense of piracy, but I say god bless companys like Cycling 74 that happily provide 30 days of free trial of their software AND its fully fucntional during that trial period.

    Why dont all companies do this?

    So many demoes have crap limitations, so all you can do is dabble with the product not actually use it week in week out in an actual production capacity & truly see if it is worth the money….

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    When I look at what you get for paying $500 (Logic 8 + all the instruments and plugins) compared to Waves, it makes me laugh in disgust. I hope Apple adds similar if not better plugins to Logic in the near future. The surround impulse response reverbs they put out recently dance circles around the Waves equivalents.

    That said, if you're caught pirating, you only have yourself to blame. Waves? If they weren't so damn greedy, they would probably make more money on plugins since more people would be able to afford them!

    I applaud Apple for not only making Logic much cheaper, but also for including other apps such as Soundtrack Pro, Compressor and Impulse Response Utility.

  • http://www.deltasleep.net deltasleep

    I don't think that the "tin of beans" or "loaf of bread" theft example is an appropriate comparison. To be fair, the tin of beans should be infinitely duplicable at no cost to the original tin of beans owner or the pirate. So really, the issue at question here is the idea of the tin of beans, not the tin of beans itself.

    So I guess it's more like going to the grocery store and stealing the ideas and engineering from a tin of beans. Which is still wrong, but it's not the same kind of loss to the bean company that a direct theft of the tin would be.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, in this case, one major hotel chain comes to you on the off chance you have one of their towels, then dispatches a legal team.

  • coolout

    Waves could curb piracy better if they just made their prices more competitive and threw away WUP instead of chasing deadbeat studios.

    Have they learned any from the failures of the recording industry and the successes of the video game and movie industries?

    If you make the product affordable plus easy-to-purchase most of the audience won't bother trying to steal it and your consumer base will grow.

    Waves' policies have totally turned me off.

    I'll never give them a dime.

    I'd rather give my money to Universal Audio.

  • http://briarmonsmetrach.googlepages.com/home runagate

    The solution to all of this? Freeware VSTs!

    http://www.dontcrack.com/freeware/software.php/id

    There's basically nothing that you can get for $5000 that you can't get for free.

  • Aren Downie

    While I'm not a huge fan of all of the Waves Plugs, Some of them are quite good and worth the high price. (L-Limiters & MaxxBass for me). Also, the product stability of Waves is a big factor for many- those old sessions with Waves Plugs open up just fine from 4 years ago… it's hard to say that about many plug-ins out there.

    And although they may have "creative" anti-piracy techniques, they do indeed offer demos for their plug-ins:

    14 days: Fully Functional, no ilok needed.

    * 360° Surround Tools

    * Broadcast & Production

    * Diamond

    * Gold

    * IR Convolution Reverb

    * L3 Multimaximizer

    * Masters

    * Musicians 1

    * Musicians 2

    * Native Power Pack

    * Platinum

    * Renaissance Maxx

    * Restoration

    * Transform

    7 days: Fully Functional, no ilok needed.

    *Q-Clone

    7 days: Fully Functional, iLok needed.

    * GTR3 – Guitar Tool Rack

    * API Collection

    * Mercury

    * L3-16 Multimaximizer

    * L3-LL Multimaximizer

    * V-Series

    * MaxxVolume

    * SSL 4000 Collection

    * Vocal Bundle

    * Z-Noise

    * Waves Live Bundle

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Aren — I agree. And I wasn't aware that much was available as a demo, including the L3. Interesting.

    @runagate: I'm not sure I'd agree that the free plug-ins stand up to the $50,100,500,1000,5000 plug-ins… quality is definitely variable, as with anything, and there are certainly times when many of us feel it's worth a little investment. But I do absolutely agree these are options — and all the more reason, assuming someone can afford a computer, that they can't then claim they can't afford legit software. It just ain't so. If any of us got stuck on a desert island with the free, or even the free and cheap stuff, I think there's quite a lot we could do … particularly on Windows.

  • http://briarmonsmetrach.googlepages.com/home runagate

    I'd be equally intrigued as to what the multimaximizer or the maxxbass can supposedly do that BuzRizer or C3 multiband can't do.

    I've not tried all of the Waves plug-ins but so far as my well-heeled ears can tell they don't sound any better, let alone 5$ better. My guess is that, as is so much in the musical world, it's just another guitar-store salveman head-trip sor of thing. I'd kill to try out the 360 surround ones. The IR is wonderful, though rapidly being superceded by various home-brewed ones. I think Enigma and the doppler one are genius, though aDoppler (free) is just as good and anyone with knowledge of parameter automation can create their own Enigma or whatever else they'd like in a modular DAW host. Samplitude's noise reduction is much better than Znoise, though I certainly can't think of a freeware alternative. My suspicion is that they sell as well as they do because their GUI presentation takes the fear of computers out and makes them recognizable as the studio tools of old (a profoundly anti-innovation social occurance, if you ask me). Then again I am painfully well aware of the fact that I am in the thick of discussion with freeware developers (and inexpensive ones, too) and am therefore continuously proselytizing to a suspicious crowd about audio tools that receive very little hype. We've suddenly found ourselves in a situation where an all-in-one suite of plug-ins is less tantalizing when there's 1500 potential plug-in tools that could achieve a more complex and more project-specific effect used in concert, though they may each have been made on a different continent and don't look anything alike and have silly names. Part of it, too, is the decades-old conundrum that boring companies simply cannot maintain the interest of the best and the brightest programmers, who will do in their spare time what IBM employees can't be bothered to do, isn't made in fear of the bottom-line, and won't be marketed to anyone.

  • ctx

    Clearly it is inappropriate for them to cite other people's software as their own and use that to justify examining the studio.

    I don't buy the studio representative's explanation either. "I'm not making any excuses, but here are my excuses." Here's an easy solution: Shut up and quit bringing pirated software into your business.

    To the extent that Waves are going about it in a legitimate manner and don't impose non-trivial expenses on the studio (assuming they have not pirated any Waves plugins), I don't understand any uproar or complaints. How else are they supposed to go about it? Call places up and say "Hey, are you guys pirating our stuff? No? Oh, ok, thanks."

    But I will be glad to support some less intrusive method once someone suggests one that would actually work.

  • figtree

    This is an age old argument – but the simple fact of my life is this. I never would have purchased ANY audio software if I hadn't pirated all of it at one point in time. When I was in school I stole as much software as I could get my hands on. (which was all of it). I learned how to use it, I learned to love it, and I learned to depend on it. Soon after that I spent several years selling audio software to tons of people. I was only good at it because I had exhaustively used literally everything out there. I made big software companies tons of money. After that I got a better paying job and started buying all that software. I now own everything I use. I have even bought software to replace my legal and functioning NFR copies – the 'legal cracks'. Throughout all of this my stance on piracy has never changed. I think it's abused by plenty – but for me – and for many many others like me – piracy directly has Made large software companies thousands and thousands of dollars.

  • http://www.paulsop.com Doktorfuture

    I want Waves to make a super plugin which combines all their plugins into one huge monster that needs 8 cores to run in and costs the sum of all their plugins to the power of 3.1415. Ideally, it should take at least 17 minutes of mouse scrolling to cover the entire virtual control surface.

    For copy protection, it should have biometric and facial identification. If you stop smiling even for a minute, the video recognition software should lock down parts of the control surface (making its functionality an index of your outward happiness).

  • http://axiom-crux.net axiom-crux

    Ive totally used the try before I buy technique, if something is good I always save up and buy it. 15 day+ unrestricted demo trials are great, but for plugins that have cutouts or noise I don't concider them demos.. you really cant see how they would function in a serious project.. and also many of my projects go over 15 days. I can honestly say Ive used cracked software but if I like it I ALWAYS buy it. I don't even like cracks, I feel like they probably cause crashes and other nasty problems (viruses? though I use mac so thats not much of an issue :P ) I even have heard of people paying for cracked plugins, doesn't that seem like an oxymoron?

    Im curious if the record labels will take a hint. I honestly think that copyright is a big problem right now especially. but I really think things like this don't help. I do agree with them going after big professional studios, hell if your making 1+mil a year at a commercial production company, you better be paying for your tools. I feel like Im arguing with myself.. ugh

  • http://www.slapdelay.com stiff

    Yeah, as noted, Waves do have demos, so their defense is a load of bull. My experience with Waves is actually good. A few years back I downloaded one of their demos to try, I ended up not being able to try it very much so I asked for a new demo license- got it, no problems.

    A while back I asked them about a couple of things regarding one of my blogs. They weren't interested, but at least they had the decency to respond (and actually pretty quick) and just say no. That might sound like a small thing, but it's surprising how many can't take two minutes of their lives to respond to an email before you've grown to be a "somebody".

    Not really out there to defend Waves in their pirate hunt or their "WUP assing", just saying that there are some very good sides to this company as well.

  • http://www.electrozebre.com Lael

    Hi,

    "It takes one to know one", "likes attract likes", etc.

    I am just wondering how Waves have been doing business so far to only see the world as a place full of pirates and robbers.

    Now my concern goes to who is paying for the cost of the procedures, knowing that they file complaints at studios more or less at random, based on the yellow pages. This particularly when two cops and an attorney bang at your door in the morning only to find a valid dongle, as it just did happen in France. I am hoping we are not subsidizing all this ourselves through an unfair use of public administration…

    On the way, I want to give a big Hi to Apple who has endeavoured to kill the entire industry with its personal 4 billion of cash by selling much much better software than competition (Final Cut Studio, Logic Studio) at a tenth of the expected price. If nobody noticed they now own most of the supply chain, killing independent distribution on the way (giving them a HUGE 7% discount to live with and pushing at them incredibly high quarterly targets). So when they start selling bottled water and chocolate bars on the Apple Store it will be the moment to start worry… and it will probably be too late to do so.

    Back at Waves, it is their Swan's song. They make me think of the recording industry (or Microsoft btw). People that spent most of the 90's asleep by the pool waking up only to notice that they completely failed to adapt. They both DISERVE to vanish in history because, for both, the current failure is under their own responsability. Ang guess what, I bet they know it very well.

    I own both a Gold Bundle Dongle, an iPhone… and a Nuendo license…

    Sorry I was a bit longish, Cheers

  • http://sudara.modernthings.net Sudara

    I would like to point out that many many many younger musicians do not have $5,000 budgets to blow on Waves plugins – they can maybe afford a computer and a DAW – Seeing as these are the very same people who often "grow up" to purchase the software and become loyal customers, WAVES is making a mistake by not being smart and playing to the reality of the situation.

    Let WAVES join the RIAA as an embarrassment to our generation – not only being incompatible with the 21st century but detrimental to the very business model and customer base that supports them.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I still say, take your budget, get the plug-ins you need. There is never a situation where you have to spend x amount of money on this stuff; from free to $500 to $1000 to, yes, $10,000, there are choices that fit that budget.

    But as far as waiting for someone to find an approach that works, as I said before, I can't find a single developer *other* than WAVES for whom banpiracy's studio-busting approach works. Of course, for many other developers, the concern remains individual users. There's no question they don't want you pirating their software, even as a demo (and a lot have 30-day demos accordingly, or even Ableton's unlimited though save-disabled demo). But I don't think anyone outside of WAVES sees this as necessity, that's the point.

  • I can't tell yo

    If this is the studio in NYC that got busted, I worked there. Hahahaha. Thank God I dont anymore.

  • jimbo

    Waves is doing a horrible job convincing anyone to buy its software.

    1. I use Digital Performer. Waves' own website says that Waves doesn't support automation in DP5. It's been about a year since DP5 came out and Waves still isn't ready.

    2. Waves wants users to pay on top of their exorbinant prices to maintain their license, get support, etc. How about adding automation to DP5? Great support guys!

    3. No educational discounts. NONE. And you wonder why kids are pirating your stuff.

    To wrap up: Successful companies do everything they can to convince customers they are valued. They earn trust and are rewarded by continued loyalty and support.

    Waves has done nothing to endear itself to its customers.

    Now, instead of purchasing Waves plugins I'm going out of my way not to purchase them.

    Peter can you or someone do a piece on Waves alternatives? Thanks.

  • http://www.userlicious.com/ Nash

    Yes, the approach they've taken with banpiracy sucks, and yes, the Waves dongle sucks. But I'm having trouble with people saying piracy is Waves' fault because they "overprice" their products.

    Please compare Apples to Apples! Waves competes in the space of URS and McDSP, which all have similarly priced products and cater to high-end production studios. There *is* a difference in sound between that tier and what gets thrown in with Logic, or distributed for cheap/free. If you don't think it's any better, why even pirate Waves in the first place?

    And if you feel that the Waves sound is what your project really needs, well, that sound costs money. A Mercedes or Maserati may be "overpriced." But if you're happy with your Camry and don't care for the ecoutrements of the premium brand– don't go and bash them; because if you do, you're just misplacing a complex over not being able to afford what you really want.

  • http://www.userlicious.com/ Nash

    That came out a bit tough. On the other side, I think allowing piracy in schools is a good business strategy. Let students learn up on the proper tools while in school and when they grow into the professional world, they'll demand what they worked with. MS knows about all the pirated copies of their stuff that goes around campuses. They even put ambassadors at some campuses to spread the good stuff around. No joke, I've met them before.

  • Dave

    i think if waves would do a free but limited version of their plugs theyd be out of trouble. i used the free alpha synth and it just rocks, so i bought the real thing after i fooled around with the free version and i got to its limits.

    there are lots of GREAT freeware plugs out there!

    come on waves, some stripped down basic version for us common folks (you know,we get the first fix) and a big huge monster for big money for big things… i wouldnt need all the stuff offered by waves, but the quality is nice.

    i still tend to support nice and caring companies like ableton. ya know, they got a lite version too…

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    Does anyone in here know of a AU plugin that is as good or better than Waves L3 Multimaximizer or C4 compressors? It would have to be compatible with OSX & not need any external hardware. If anyone wants to check out a really cool software company that doesn't try to break into your studio:

    http://www.ohmforce.com/

  • http://www.thesimulatedcity.com Chris Blundell

    The piracy issue is complete garbage.

    Before I released my first album, it was released on as a 192kbps Torrent by the mastering company or the PR company or someone in the chain. People downloaded it. I got contacted by people who had illegally downloaded it and wanted to buy the CD version (yes, thats actually true). I sold it to them without suing their arses off. They've since bought remixes and singles from me and have become solid fans.

    I began with a pirated version of cubase, it stank, so I uninstalled it. I then worked with a pirated version of Tracktion. It was good, so I bought it. Versions 1, 2 AND 3. Then it went shit, so I removed it. I downloaded Ableton Live, it was great so I bought a legit copy and manual. Im going to buy version 7. I bought ProTools straight out, no testing, because of the hardware that came with it. Value for money.

    There is no way of stopping software piracy because a) you'll look like a complete money grabbing paranoid fool and b) there's simply no way of wiping it out completely. People always find a way. Napster goes tits up so you go to kazaa, that goes crap, move to Limewire, bittorrent… etc…

    Waves would let people off with a severe warning if they actually wanted to stop piracy, instead they seem to want to get money from the people who could potentially end up being their full-price paying customers. I've never owned a waves plugin and I never will, not even a pirated copy.

    The fact that they have money to send people around to catch people out using pirated versions of their products means that they have too much money already.

  • george 9734

    I understand what has been said here against Waves' tactics, and think things like RIAA suing poor people for a handful of downloads is totally evil, but let's face it – there are pro studios handling big clients and making lots of money with [k] software. Many years ago I used to belong to a Hotline server with cracked audio software, and many of the members were from big studios, they used to chat about it. These days I've got my software down to a few things I find useful and have either bought or are open source, so there. Waves aren't chasing college kids are they? Or, not yet anyway.

  • Dave

    waves? go away!

    @fliP: http://www.yohng.com/w1limit.html
    this one sounds fantastic!

  • george 9734

    I second that Dave, I've been using that one a lot!

  • http://www.johnnyrandom.com/ flip

    @Dave & george 9734:

    I just tried it. Seems like it could work good as a smash n' grab limiter. I'm looking for something more nuanced, like the L3 or L3 16. Multi-band is key:

    http://www.waves.com/Content.aspx?id=3173

  • Pier

    I bought the Native power pack from waves and right after that I discovered the WUP thing…

    If I had known this policy I would have never given waves my money. Never.

    After that I lost my plugins because of not wanting to pay the WUP and will never spend money on waves again. There are tons of good software alterntives out there. Sonalksis, UAD, etc.

    They sell their diamond bundle for thousands of dollars while logic is selling the whole studio for 500$….

    In fact I have to thank waves for their WUP because it made me search for alernatives. I was really blind thinking they were the best…

  • MrGrumpy

    You said >> couldn’t get a demo version

    I have worked as an audio systems integrator, installing audio software and configuring audio hardware for the past 5 years. I must have installed waves products hundreds of times. Some of them sound good others a crud … I can't stand what the L1/2's do at more than 3dB of reduction.

    Saying you couldn't get a legit demo version from waves is the biggest load of crap. They have always had legit demo's and you're also able to rent a plug for a week to try it out using the iLok system. Liar.

  • Dave

    concering the W1: if you want it multiband you can set up some routing (cpu is moderate there, i got a g4), but generally i hate multiband compression. i tried waves, but its just to harsh…and wait, would i pay 500 bucks on that? no.

  • StrangeCat

    Waves is great! I use UAD, PSP, OhmForce, Tritone, and others.

    but in the paragraph they say that have UAD and needed to try waves but couldn't get a demo LOL! What? what a load of crap! waves has demos of everything!

    Still this whole waves piracy police is not a good idea at all.

  • small studio owner

    ill make all of my customers sign a disclaimer with small print that reads: there is a $20,000 penalty for booking time in my studio for duplicitous reasons, such as trying to bust me for piracy, or if you are affiliated with the piracy police.

    hey, if they signed it, they have to pay it. same deal they give us. i believe lying to get into my studio would be exactly as bad as me using your demo commercially, and as such, i will FINE YOU HEAVILY for it.

    that said, i do not pirate software, and i will never buy waves after this crap.

  • http://www.hydrophones.com/MAI-Audio Richard Marschall

    The really professional alternative is to equip your studios with peer reviewed open source software avoiding all proprietary legal and business issues. You are then in a position to make any modifications or fixes you like and to migrate platforms. Let's face it, the customers who have the really big dollars don't let their projects get locked into toy town proprietary products owned by others.