Cracked Plugins: What you should know about “stolen” software (2023)

However, some people think otherwise. It is interesting that the most popular article on The Future Muse blog is Install Unregistered Kontakt 6 Libraries (10 Step Tutorial). I assume this is because there many people try to install cracked Kontakt libraries. People want to save their hard-earned cash. However, is it ever legal to download and use cracked plugins? Is it actually stealing or something else?

Are cracked plugins legal?

It’s never legal to download cracked plugins. Plugins are considered intellectual property. Developers have spent many months, sometimes years, creating amazing products. Legal downloads are how developers get paid for their work.

Before I continue, this isn’t an article about morality. I think (and hope) your conscience will inform you in the long run.

Instead, I want you to consider the ecosystem of the music tech industry as a whole. Your attitude and actions can come back to affect you later.

The reason I wrote Install Unregistered Kontakt 6 Libraries (10 Step Tutorial was to help producers install their own samples. Similar to what I do for my own music production. The purpose what not to help Kontakt users install cracked software.

Personally, I love music and do not need to be paid handsomely for me to do what I do. Making music is what I love and I want to help others do the same. This is why I offer free Kontakt samples and a free mixing bundle on this blog.

There are thousands of kids sitting at home producing music on a laptop. Most of them simply cannot afford to buy a $200 Kontakt library from Native Instruments. This is why they resort to downloading cracked plugins.

What are cracked plugins?

Maybe you have downloaded cracked plugins, but do not actually understand what they are.

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VST plugins and instrument libraries that are available for purchase are encoded with a license or serial number. This means that users must activate the plugin by entering the serial number before it’s fully functional.

When a plugin is cracked, the need to purchase a license is circumvented.

Plugins are cracked by using 1 of these 3 methods:

  • Keygen–an illegitimate (illegal) serial number generator
  • Patch–uses code to modify the script of the plugin’s operating program
  • Loader–bypasses the startup stage that requires the serial number

All of these methods are illegal and unethical.

Take advantage of freeware

At the very least, make sure you exhaust the many alternatives to cracked plugins. There are actually several ways to get a great sound without downloading illegal software.

Audio software developers (myself included) are creating free tools to help them with developing their flagship products. Native Instruments has free libraries with sounds are quite good.

4 alternatives to cracked plugins

Cracked Plugins: What you should know about “stolen” software (1)

1. Find & Download Free Plugins

One of the most popular places to find free VSTs is Bedroom Producers Blog. They do a great job of publishing all of the most recent free VSTs available online. Some of the plugins are bad, however some plugins are so good you’ll wonder why they’re free.

Other great resources for free plugins:

2. Use plugins included with your DAW

Most digital audio workstations (DAWs) come with tons of virtual instruments and plugins. Logic, Ableton, ProTools, Cubase, and Studio One all come with sounds and mixing plugins. Make use of them!

As a Logic Pro X user, I use several plugins included. Certain tools like the Channel EQ are used in just about every mix.

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My approach to the virtual instruments is to run them through either a preamp or a guitar pedal. This way I can shape the sound and add a bit of harmonic distortion. I rarely use Logic Pro virtual instruments straight out the box.

3. Create your own samples and sounds

The best producers create their own sounds. Using samplers found in Native Instrument’s Kontakt, you can have your sounds ready to triggered by a MIDI controller.

Try creating just a few new samples for each project you work on. This way your music will sounds that are at least somewhat “original”.

4. Free trials and demos

One of the easiest ways to get your hands on great software plugins and virtual instruments is to demo them. Most demos last for 14 days. That’s a long time.

Try out some new compressors and EQs towards the end of a project. This way you can use some of the best plugins on your project.

Are cracked plugins legal?

In 2003, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued the Anti-Piracy Warning Seal. This seal made it legal for violators of anti-piracy laws to be fined or imprisoned.

In 2015, Jakub F was sued by Microsoft after pirating their licenses. Jakub’s pirating resulted in $188,034 in damages for the company. To avoid paying a fine Jakub had to produce an anti-pirating video that had at least 200,000 views. To date, the video has over 1.2 million views.

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With this said, the chances of you being penalized for downloading cracked plugins is slim. In fact, suing individual user for illegal downloads is too much of a hassle for big software developers to deal with.

Therefore, there seems to be little incentive for users to stop downloading cracked plugins. Right?

Are cracked plugins safe?

No. Aside from being fined by large and small tech companies, there are other risks involved with using cracked plugins.

Due to the methods used to crack licenses it makes them susceptible to computer viruses. Many of the viruses can compromise your computers sensitive data such as passwords and credit card info.

Instead of getting a $100 product for free, you may end up with identity theft and a maxed out credit card. This is the downside of the dark web.

Criminals will be criminals. If they are willing to steal from Microsoft, what makes you think they won’t steal $1000 from you?

This can potentially result in a non-refund of stolen funds from your bank. Banks and other financial institutions cannot legal refund stolen money if your information was compromised due to pirating software.

Can you update pirated software?

One of the long term issues with cracked software is that there isn’t technical support and updates available. If you are a Mac OS user, this means that even a minor update can cause your plugins not to work.

This means that you will have a never ending cycle of looking for the most up-to-date crack license for your favorite (illegally owned) plugins.

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In the end, this will cost you time and a lot of effort. This is especially true if you have have 30+ cracked plugins.

Keep it simple

Cracked Plugins: What you should know about “stolen” software (2)

Do not fall into the trap of feeling like you need every plugin that has ever been developed. It is unlikely that your music will improve just because you have more VSTs. Let’s be real.

Talented composers and music producers are able to identify what sounds and production tools will help them achieve their goals. For instance, acoustic producers should not spend tons of money on auto-tune products like Melodyne.

Don’t waste your money or your time. For many new plugins, there is a certain amount of time needed to learn how to use it fully. So once you find sounds and mixing tools you need, take a break from buying new plugins.

The less “new stuff” the better

Remember the first time you opened up a DAW? You were clueless.

That first day you probably didn’t make a whole lot of music. Instead you were tinkering around, try to find the record button. This is how most of us are with new analog gear and software plugins.

New stuff slows down our workflow. Although new stuff can potentially open up new paths of expression, it can also be a distraction.

Put a limit on how much “new” you allow in and instead focus on mastering the gear (plugins included) that you currently have. You’ll be amazed at what you already have.

FAQs

Are cracked plugins safe? ›

You risk of damaging your computer: Many cracks include viruses and backdoors which will harm your system. And yes, nowadays even on Mac. When screen recording, you risk of being accused of using pirated software. In fact, many artists have been blamed publicly by exposing software in videos which they did not buy.

Can you get in trouble for cracking plugins? ›

It's never legal to download cracked plugins. Plugins are considered intellectual property. Developers have spent many months, sometimes years, creating amazing products. Legal downloads are how developers get paid for their work.

Is using cracked software safe? ›

There is a security risk

Lastly, there is a major security risk involved in using pirated software. Legitimate software is safe to use. However, with pirated software, there is always a risk of downloading a malicious piece of code containing trojans, malware and even ransomware.

What happens if you use cracked software? ›

Using or distributing pirated software constitutes a violation of software copyright law. Companies and individuals face up to $150,000 in penalties for every instance. They've also committed a felony that can lead to up to five years in prison.

Are cracked Vsts illegal? ›

It's illegal, you risk putting viruses into your computer, and you're most likely going to end up with bugged software. If you are looking for a cheap option that provides millions of samples from incredible VSTS, you can try Splice for free and then it costs only $7.99 a month.

Can plugins cause viruses? ›

They can also cause data loss given that they collect personal information, including login information, and send it secretly. Furthermore, they can insert harmful software: viruses, all types of malware and backdoors.

Can you sell plugins made with JUCE? ›

If your sales are small, just release your apps open source under the GPL. Then you can remove the splash screen and analytics in JUCE for free. You can still sell your plugin under the GPL and no one is going to repackage your apps for free if you're only bringing in a few thousand.

Can plugins be malicious? ›

Malicious plugins exist and are rampant. They usually are installed without the user's knowledge and they usually hide within downloaded bundles and updates. These harmful plugins will and can compromise your device whether it is a Mac, an Android, or a Windows.

Are cracks legal? ›

The distribution of cracked copies is illegal in most countries. There have been lawsuits over cracking software. It might be legal to use cracked software in certain circumstances. Educational resources for reverse engineering and software cracking are, however, legal and available in the form of Crackme programs.

Do cracked software have viruses? ›

Computer viruses also spread through downloads on the Internet. They can be hidden in pirated software or in other files or programs that you might download.

What software is the most pirated? ›

What is a little unexpected is that when CDL repeated their investigation by looking at worldwide search data, WinRAR came out on top. That's right, the humble data compression tool that comes with a 40-day free trial that seems to continue indefinitely is apparently the most pirated piece of software in the world.

Do cracked apps have malware? ›

Since you can sideload apps to your Android phone outside of Google Play, you might be tempted to download cracked apps to access Android apps for free. This is a bad idea because most Android malware arrives through these side channels.

Does cracked software have Trojan? ›

Downloading cracked/pirated software may cause trojans to enter the system. Cracked versions of the software are often embedded with malware.

Can u get caught pirating software? ›

What are the consequences of software piracy? Software piracy is stealing. If you or your company are caught copying or distributing illegal copies of software, you could be held liable under both civil and criminal laws.

Can you go to jail for pirating software? ›

The Criminal Piracy Penalty

Selling illegal software is much worse. For businesses or individuals who are caught selling pirated software, they can be fined as high as $250,000. Additionally, an offender can be jailed for up to 5 years in prison. And they'll have a permanent record of a felony.

Should you pirate plugins? ›

Pirated plugins require manual updates, and sometimes you have to reinstall or even repurchase the pirated software multiple times. That's time-consuming, but it's also dangerous. An outdated plugin is like an open wound; instead of treating it, you let it get infected by malware and hackers.

What happens if I use cracked FL Studio? ›

You'll make some fine music that's what will happen. However, don't do it. It's illegal and it's not right. Basic version of FL costs only $99 and unlike most other DAWs, it only requires a one time investment.

Are free Vsts safe? ›

VST plugins are used in audio production. They are software based and a question is usually raised about whether or not they are safe. VST Plugins are very safe provided you buy or download them from a developer's website or authorized third party website.

Are plugins a security threat? ›

Another way that plugins can be security risks is if you are using a “nulled” plugin. These are free versions of paid plugins and they almost always carry significant risks with them. Finally, WordPress plugins can become security risks for your site when you stop using them.

How do I know if a plugin is safe? ›

WPScan Vulnerability Database is a good place to check if any plugin is a security threat. The service lists plugins and their known vulnerabilities. You can look up a plugin by name or filter all plugin vulnerabilities alphabetically.

Can Chrome plugins be viruses? ›

Malicious Chrome extensions can be created with malicious code from the start or they can be “updated” with malicious code once they gain a certain level of popularity.

Can you make money from plugins? ›

There are two major ways of selling and earn money from your plugins. You can either sell the plugins on your own website, or you can sell the plugins on a third-party marketplace. Both ways have their pros and cons, which we will talk about later on.

How many plugins is too many? ›

Too many plugins can lead to security breaches on your site, site crashes, bad performance, slow loading speeds, and more. A good rule of thumb is to never exceed 20 plugins. If your site is hosted on shared or budget cloud hosting, try not to use more than 5 plugins.

Can you make money making plugins? ›

If you're a focused plugin developer and work on your marketing, you can certainly get there. Just over 1% of plugins on the WordPress.org repository have over 10,000 active installs. If you're a focused plugin developer and work on your marketing, you can certainly get there.

Are nulled plugins illegal? ›

In the WordPress realm, nulled themes and plugins aren't illegal and we'll explain this in detail in this guide. So, we understand how tempting it is to use nulled software as it gives you access to premium features for free. But nulled WordPress plugins and themes are often riddled with malware.

Can a deactivated plugin still be exploited by hackers? ›

Inactive plugins are still executable files and in the case of hacking attempts, which are becoming more common, these files can get infected or can be used to install malware on your website. If you remove them you decreases your threat of allowing hackers access to these files.

What is plugin malware? ›

The plugin features one of the best malware scanners, offering software to monitor file changes, verify the integrity of WordPress, plugins, and themes, and to remove malicious code and viruses from your website. Once installed, you can choose between a Quick Scan and a Full Scan.

Is crack and pirated same? ›

Software cracking is considered an illegal activity as it leads to copyright infringement. However, the cracking is considered legal in reverse engineering for educational purposes. On the other hand Software piracy is also one of the ways of using software by violating the end user license agreement.

Is cracking stealing? ›

The term “cracking” means trying to get into computer systems in order to steal, corrupt, or illegitimately view data. The popular press refers to such activities as hacking, but hackers see themselves as expert, elite programmers and maintain that such illegitimate activity should be called “cracking.”

Where can I download cracked software safely? ›

The following are the 10 best websites to download cracked software for free without any hassles.
  • Softpedia — www.softpedia.com. ...
  • CNET Download — www.download.cnet.com. ...
  • SharewareOnSale — www.sharewareonsale.com. ...
  • Ninite — www.ninite.com. ...
  • FileHippo — www.filehippo.com. ...
  • Download.io — www.download.io. ...
  • FileHorse — www.filehorse.com.
20 Jul 2022

Why are cracks detected as Trojans? ›

I'm fairly certain crack tools are detected as malware or viruses because, by definition, they are. Their specific purpose is to modify programs and files so that they don't work as designed. They delete verification files, modify registration status and do whatever they can to make their target not work as intended.

Can cracked software damage hardware? ›

So yes, software can damage (or even destroy) hardware.

What is the disadvantage of using crack software? ›

It is risky: Pirated software is more likely to be infected with serious computer viruses, which can damage the user's computer system. It is unproductive: Most pirated software does not come with manuals or technical support that is given to legitimate users.

Which country uses most pirated software? ›

Vietnam, with a piracy rate at 94%, continued as the country with the highest piracy rate in the region. China, with 92%, followed as the country with the second highest piracy rate.

Can Windows 10 detect pirated software? ›

Does Windows 10 detect pirated software? Windows 10 (as long as you've got a legal installation running) automatically scans your computer for pirated software.

What are the risks of pirated software? ›

What are the risks when using unlicensed software?
  • Fines and non-compliance with legal obligations. The use of illegal software violates some laws and can cause legal sanctions against companies and individuals. ...
  • Instabilities and poor application performance. ...
  • Infections and invasions by viruses.

Can APK be malware? ›

Because the APK files install apps on your system, they can pose a serious security threat. A person with malicious intentions could modify the APK before you install it, then use it as a digital Trojan horse to install and run malware.

How do I know if my app has malware? ›

How to Check for Malware on Android
  1. On your Android device, go to the Google Play Store app. ...
  2. Then tap the menu button. ...
  3. Next, tap on Google Play Protect. ...
  4. Tap the scan button to force your Android device to check for malware.
  5. If you see any harmful apps on your device, you will see an option to remove it.
10 Apr 2020

Which app contains malware? ›

Here are the eight apps that have been found to have the malware on Google Play Store: Vlog Star Video Editor (1 million downloads) Creative 3D Launcher (1 million downloads) Wow Beauty Camera (100,000 downloads)

How do I know if a plugin is safe? ›

WPScan Vulnerability Database is a good place to check if any plugin is a security threat. The service lists plugins and their known vulnerabilities. You can look up a plugin by name or filter all plugin vulnerabilities alphabetically.

Are plugins safe to download? ›

They are software based and a question is usually raised about whether or not they are safe. VST Plugins are very safe provided you buy or download them from a developer's website or authorized third party website.

Is it safe to install plugins? ›

WordPress plugins are generally safe. However, some plugins may come with security risks. These risks can be mitigated by performing basic due diligence before installing any plugin, and by installing updates regularly.

What is an abandoned plugin? ›

An abandoned plugin, as we said earlier, is one where the plugin author hasn't updated any of the release code for over 2 years. This means that in at least 2 years: there have been no bug fixes.

What are the three types of plugins? ›

There are three main plugin categories:
  • Instrument plugins.
  • Effect plugins.
  • Analyzer plugins.

How many plugins is too many? ›

Too many plugins can lead to security breaches on your site, site crashes, bad performance, slow loading speeds, and more. A good rule of thumb is to never exceed 20 plugins. If your site is hosted on shared or budget cloud hosting, try not to use more than 5 plugins.

Can plugins be malicious? ›

Malicious plugins exist and are rampant. They usually are installed without the user's knowledge and they usually hide within downloaded bundles and updates. These harmful plugins will and can compromise your device whether it is a Mac, an Android, or a Windows.

Does Chrome still use plugins? ›

Since the plugins page and the option of modifying the extensions have been removed by Chrome, it is integral to go through the settings or extensions in order to open the plugins page.

Do Chrome plugins still exist? ›

Web browsers still support add-ons but not web plug-ins like Java and Shockwave. The information here may not be relevant on the latest versions of modern browsers—for example, Chrome no longer has a Plug-ins page that lists installed plug-ins.

What is the best plugin ever? ›

Here's the complete list of the best VST plugins, instruments & synths in 2022:
  • Xfer Serum.
  • Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2.6.
  • Kilohearts Phase Plant.
  • Waves Smack Attack.
  • Arturia Pigments 2.
  • Parawave Rapid Synth.
  • TAL-Bassline-101.
  • Native Instruments Kontakt.
15 Aug 2022

Do I need admin rights to install plugins? ›

The user does not need administrative rights to show/hide plugins or to install/uninstall plugins.

Can you make money from plugins? ›

There are two major ways of selling and earn money from your plugins. You can either sell the plugins on your own website, or you can sell the plugins on a third-party marketplace. Both ways have their pros and cons, which we will talk about later on.

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