- Only make your IP available via a special browser plugin.
- The browser plugin should only work on Windows and certain versions of MacOS. Forget those Linux hippies, have you ever seen one of them wearing a tie?
- Make the plugin nice and buggy. If it doesn't fail at least half the time the customer tries to use it, then you aren't trying hard enough.
- Tease them by showing them a low resolution on-screen preview of the product that is just about readable if they squint a bit.
- Don't allow the customer to save a local copy of the product in electronic format (other than by taking screen captures of every page of the low resolution preview). The plugin must only work if the customer is reliably connected to the Internet.
- Here's the killer feature that will ensure your customers never come back: only allow them to print out the product once. Make sure you disable the browser's print preview and print to PDF features. With any luck their printer will jam or run out of ink half way through the first page!
[It goes without saying that you shouldn't mention any of these restrictions until after the customer has given you their money.]
This mini-rant brought to you courtesy of this morning's attempt to legally purchase a piece of out-of-print sheet music in electronic format. Not having done this before, I honestly expected to receive a simple un-restricted PDF file that I could save locally, view on screen, transfer to a mobile device, print out multiple times, etc. Note that nothing about this system makes it particularly difficult to re-distribute (pirate) the information once you have got it out of the plugin and into a usable form. Nor does only allowing it to be printed out once prevent one from photocopying the printout and handing copies to the rest of your band. It only adds an extra layer of needless inconvenience, and the risk that your printer will malfunction during your one attempt to print it out and leave you without a usable copy.
I haven't named the music seller because it looks like their main competitors use the same system, so presumably they are doing this because they are forced to by their license agreement with the music publisher(s) rather than because they think it makes any kind of business sense. Nor do I entirely blame the music composition software company that wrote the horrible browser plugin; presumably they did it because somebody paid them a lot of money to do so, not because they enjoy tormenting and alienating a large portion of their target market. Although it's true that the plugin keeps failing when I try to do anything with it, there's no way to tell if the blame lies with bugs in the software or our currently-very-flaky Internet connection (the browser just replaces the music display with a message saying "Plugin Failed.")