In 2012 alone, pirated plugins have snatched $228K in revenue from their actual developers. Just like any other pirated software, you can find pirated plugins distributed freely in the market. Aside from the fact that pirating plugins, or any other software is illegal, should you take the risk and pirate a WordPress plugin?
As a general rule, you should never pirate a WordPress plugin. There are numerous reasons why it’s a bad idea. A pirated plugin may contain malware, doesn’t include updates or support, is bad for SEO, and it’s illegal.
You may not be aware of the dangers of pirated plugins. Before you install a plugin you’re not sure about, you should know how to spot a pirated plugin and what the dangers are.
What are pirated plugins?
WordPress plugins are additions to WordPress that improve the functionality of your website. Premium plugins can be purchased from the WordPress Plugin Directory or other marketplaces like CodeCanyon. Once users purchase these plugins, they get a license to use the plugin, typically for one registered website.
However, some developers modify these plugins to evade the terms and conditions of use. This way they can use these plugins on multiple websites without purchasing extra or extended licenses. By pirating the plugin, they don’t have to pay the developer for the use of their plugin. While this might not seem like a big deal, it takes money away from the developer and reduces their incentive to create premium plugins.
This unauthorized modification is a type of theft that is illegal. A pirated plugin is also known as a nulled or cracked plugin. These plugins are often available for free, making them very attractive for users. Who wants to pay $100 for a plugin when you can download and use it for free?
Why do people Pirate plugins?
Many WordPress users are small business owners or bloggers. Due to their limited budget, it may be difficult to afford premium plugins. Moreover, people are always tempted to go for cost-cutting options. Hence the demand for nulled plugins in the market.
Many malicious plugin authors make money by supplying pirated plugins to the market. Not only do these people earn a profit from this, but they also achieve other motives like:
- They earn ad revenue by selling nulled software on their website.
- Sometimes they also collect personal and sensitive data without the knowledge of the website holder. Such precious information can be used for different illegal activities.
- By downloading such pirated plugins, users allow hackers to hack their sites. Such hackers attack the website, further stealing the business/website’s revenue and assets.
Should You Pirate a WordPress Plugin? What are the Dangers?
The risks associated with pirating WordPress plugins are immense. Even if it sounds like a good idea, you really do not want to ignore the dangers of downloading or installing a pirated plugin. The developers might face severe legal punishment or fines. But, the end-users are also affected. Let’s look at the main concerns about using pirated WordPress plugins.
1. Risk of exposing your site and device to malware.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime complaint center, almost $4.2 billion were lost to cybercrime and fraud in 2020 only in the US.
Pirated plugins are not only harmful to your device (by corrupting your system with viruses), but it also gives hackers a way to steal your personal data, your customers’ personal data, and your revenue. It can also negatively impact your website’s performance by making it slow and difficult to navigate.
2. No automated updates
WordPress premium plugins allow automated updates to improve the plugin or provide additional benefits to its users. Those who use pirated plugins are deprived of such benefits. Not only do they have to install updates manually, but they might also have to pay every time they need to update the plugin. It is important to note that with WordPress updates are sometimes necessary. A plugin that is not updated may not be compatible with a newer version of WordPress. Thus, without the ability to update your plugin, your website may not function properly.
3. No support system
WordPress has an efficient and dedicated support system that gives 24/7/365 guidance and support to its premium plugin users. They have highly trained professionals available around the clock to solve all your issues. By using a pirated plugin, you will not have a support system available, and you will be on your own if any problem arises.
4. Bad for SEO
Pirated plugins can completely ruin your position in search engines. Consider the type of people who create pirated plugins. These plugins often add black-hat or spam links to your website, eventually redirecting users to corrupt websites. If detected by a search engine like Google, you may be penalized, and your site may also get black-listed or even re-indexed. In this way, your revenue and all your hard work will be lost.
5. Legal issues
6. No access to new features
Ordinarily, WordPress plugins are updated with new features that can improve your website. Sometimes these new features include ways to boost your profits or improve your visitors’ experience. Users of pirated plugins will not be able to use any of the newly updated features (as a license key will be needed to access new features). They will be stuck with old and outdated features.
By using pirated plugins, you are making it harder for developers to make a profit, so they have less of an incentive to create the next great plugin. Instead, you are helping a digital thief. In the long run, this means fewer innovations and less opportunity for you to find awesome plugins.
How can you tell if a WordPress plugin is pirated?
If you are a consumer, you might not want to crack a plugin yourself. However, you could accidentally purchase a pirated plugin. How can you tell if a plugin is legitimate? The best way to ensure all of your WordPress plugins are original and safe is by only using plugins found on the WordPress Plugin directory or trusted third-party sources.
The WordPress Plugin Directory is a directory of free WordPress plugins. All of these plugins have been vetted by WordPress and WordPress will boot any plugin from it’s directory if they discover it has been pirated.
There are numerous premium plugins, which makes it difficult to know which plugins (or themes) to trust. However, most premium plugin developers create a free plugin that is listed in the WordPress Plugin directory. If possible, try the free plugin first. Read the reviews, and see how the plugin works with your website before purchasing the premium version.
Still, asking yourself, should you pirate a WordPress Plugin? Some people are tempted to pirate WordPress plugins, but the risks are high and there’s no real reason to do it. There are thousands of free plugins for WordPress that work quite well, and some of them are even better than the paid versions. In addition, you can find affordable premium plugins. Be cautious with every plugin you install. A pirated plugin may cost you more in the long run, than if you had just paid for it.