What are free plugins? (a public service announcement)

Free plugins are plugins that the manufacturer of the plugin provides free for use, or fully functioning limited versions that are free to use and can have the limitations removed by purchasing.

Unfortunately for everyone, many people often confuse “illegal” plugins, plugins that have had their copy protections removed illegally (“cracked”), as “free” plugins. Those are not “free” plugins, those are “illegal” plugins. While you may be able to obtain these plugins for “free”, they are not, indeed, free.

Another instance of this is “receiving plugins from friends”, where “friends” provide you with a copy of their plugins directory. (just a heads up; most times this doesn’t work due to other missing dependencies). This is also illegal; you did not pay to use those plugins.

There are many actual free and useful plugins available. I’ve listed many of them here on this site, but there are many others that you can find on the net. Most (if not all) of the actual free plugins have user agreements that prohibit distributing them second hand, so I can only provide links here. However, many of the free plugins you might “find” on the internet are actually cracked, illegal copies of plugins that normally require purchase. I strongly discourage the use of these plugins for many, many reasons.

  1. They are illegal.
  2. The process required to “crack” the plugin for use actually requires altering the code. These plugins are often un-reliable and unstable because of this process and can turn your smoothly running DAW software into an unusable pile of garbage fairly quickly.
  3. They are illegal.
  4. The people who “crack” these plugins are, by definition, unethical. Many times exploits are included in the cracked plugins that can allow these individuals access to your system(s) and all of your data.
  5. They are illegal.
  6. The programmers who work on these plugins rely on the income of their sales for their livelihoods. These are real, hard working people, many supporting families, that deserve to be supported for doing their jobs.
  7. Have I mentioned that they are illegal?

Many users have come across cracked plugins and have been tempted to use, or actually used them. I would like to plead with users not to do this. No matter what your reason for doing it is, no matter what excuse you give (“They’re too expensive”, “the Copy protection screws up my machine”, etc) they are still just that, excuses, and it is still just plain wrong.

There are plenty of alternatives:

  • There are quite a few really excellent free plugins.
  • There are quite a few really excellent low priced plugins.
  • There are plugin rental programs.
  • There are online stores with no-credit payment plans (American Musical, Sweetwater, and ZZounds to name a few).
  • There are organizations that are dedicated to working with developers to provide authentic, low priced plugins to users: Don’t Crack

So, getting to the answer to the question; what are free plugins?

  • “Free” plugins obtained from the manufacturer’s website? Free.
  • “Free” plugins obtained on a promotional disk from a different manufacturer or from a magazine or other publisher? Free.
  • “Free” plugins obtained from a torrent site? Not free.
  • “Free” plugins given to you on a disk from a friend? Not free.
  • “Free” plugins that you know cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars normally? Not free.

Bottom line, don’t use cracked plugins. Ever.