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The Truth About Piracy

By Shamus
on Thursday May 29, 2008
Filed under:
Video Games


The Pirates Who Don’t Buy ANYTHING.
If you don’t get it, this might help explain the joke.
Yesterday’s scourging of BioWare’s EA’s clumsy falsehoods led us back to the old discussion about software piracy being “theft”.

I think the closest analogy of piracy is the one Bruce offered in the comments: It’s like sneaking into a movie. Sure, it’s not “hurting” anyone – nobody becomes poorer by virtue of your viewing of the movie – and you are not depriving anyone else of the product. (We must assume the theater is infinite in size and all the seats offer the same view for this analogy to work.) But most people recognize that sneaking in is still wrong.

In the case we’re dealing with, so many people are sneaking in the fire exit that there is a certain herd comfort to the act. After all, “everyone else is doing it and we’re not hurting anyone.” The sense of scandal is gone.

To combat this, the theater owner first began hassling everyone as they came into the theater to make sure they had tickets. This was a mild annoyance, but had no impact on people coming in through the fire exit. When that plan failed, they began frisking customers as they came in. This was very annoying and insulting, and many people wouldn’t stand for it.

Some people have quit going to the movies outright.

Some people buy tickets, run outside, and come in the back way along with all of the leeches to avoid the invasion of their privacy.

Some people sneak in and claim they will pay for a ticket on the way out if they liked the movie. Some of them even mean it and occasionally do so.

Some people sneak in, but rarely stay to the end. They usually leave halfway through, often to sneak into some other movie. They enjoy the thrill of jumping the fence and getting in more than they enjoy movies. If the movie was free, they wouldn’t bother seeing it at all.

Some of the people sneaking in do so because they are broke and can’t afford to buy a ticket. (Some of these would very probably find a way to pay for a ticket if they found they could no longer use the fire door.)
Since realizing the great influx of people into the theater through the fire door, the theater managers have gone nuts. Now they have a new policy every week. Strip searches. Restrictions on what you can wear. Restrictions on where you can sit. You can no longer buy a ticket for a friend. Usually you have to pay for a ticket before you can find out what they’re going to do to you before they let you in, and you can’t get a refund if you refuse. They try to boot out people who don’t have tickets, but those people people loop right around and come back inside, like mice. Sometimes they accidentally boot out a paying customer. Some of those people just sneak back in, but some storm off and vow never to set foot in the theater again.

Now, we know that the number of people sneaking in is greater than the number who buy tickets, but beyond that we have no way of knowing what things would look like if everyone was honest. The portion of the audience that came in the back door is – depending on who you ask – somewhere between 50% and 90%. But we don’t know how many people sneaking in actually bought a ticket, we don’t know how many people would buy a ticket if they had to, and we don’t know how many people are refusing to go to the theaters at all because of the hassle at the entrance. The only number we do know for sure is how many tickets are sold, and it’s not possible to derive any of the other values from that number. People try, but it’s all guesswork. The theater owners act like everyone who comes in the back is a leech.

Making matters worse is the fact that theater owners won’t share notes with each other, so they have no way of telling if any of their absurd policies is having any impact on the problem.

I’ve spent a lot of time hammering away at the companies that have implemented these ruinous and insidious copy prevention measures. Perhaps I’ve made it seem like I’m on the side of the pirates. Just to make it clear that I’m not sailing under the jolly roger: In my own view, piracy is wrong. It’s wrong even when the people making and selling the game are senseless, self-destructive fools. It’s wrong even if the game sucks. It’s wrong if you’re broke. It’s wrong even if “you weren’t going to buy it anyway.” It’s wrong and I don’t do it, ever.

It is not my intention to preach at pirates and get them to change their habits. I’m not anyone’s mum, and it’s not my place to tell people how to act. I actually think that having lots of people repent of piracy right now would be horrible. The managers would conclude their monstrous policies were working, and we’d get a double helping of the same, forever after, in every game they put out.

I don’t delete comments from people who talk about pirating a game, because I value frank (yet polite) honesty in this discussion. I don’t encourage people to give money to EA or 2kGames because those companies don’t deserve even the modest measure of help I might be able to give them. I won’t give them my money, so I’m not about to suggest other people give them theirs. Everyone has to work out for themselves how they want to behave in all this.

I’ve had my say on what I think the solution is.

Which brings me to the only weapon I have at my disposal: I vote with my dollars every chance I get. I’ve forsworn BioShock, Mass Effect, Spore, and other big-name titles because of the contempt they show for honest people. I buy stuff from Stardock, even if the game isn’t really my cup of tea. To wit: My interest in Sins of a Solar Empire was minuscule compared to any of the games I mentioned above, and it cost more. ($60 Collector’s Edition. Ow.) Stardock got me to pay more for a game I wanted less, and all they had to do was treat me like a customer instead of an enemy.

Yes, this is a long sermon, once again directed to the choir. If I knew how to reach the ones responsible, I would do so.

Comments (140)

1 2 3

  1. Lanthanide says:

    Gazza – Actually the reason that only collector’s editions come with that sort of stuff, and why collector’s editions are usually limited, is because it actually does cost a lot of money to make those things, most importantly the cost in actually distributing them (adds lots of weight). This came up with Hellgate where they wanted to put a complete copy of the comics in with the collectors editions, but simply couldn’t afford the extra weight.

    Also that sort of stuff doesn’t help with digital distribution, which is the way of the future and is a major part of Stardock’s “no DRM” standpoint – by not having to pay for all of the shipping and losing money on retail sales, they can make their game digitally distributed with 0 DRM and hopefully make up for the increased piracy by the getting a bigger slice of the pie from the digital distribution.

  2. ArchU says:

    Vegetable pirates. As the incarnation of the god of fruit and vegetables I approve of this post.

  3. straechav says:

    Well, I don’t really have anything to add, except that sam said somewhere in the first third of the thread: “CDs now cost a lot less than ten years ago yet musicians make more” and at this point I’d like to take the time to throw a frickin’ huge pile of bullshit straight at sam until he chokes in to it. He’s talking out of his ass.

    I should know, as a musician, that musicians have NEVER made any money and are making LESS now than before. Sure, the business is bigger, but the corporations are even worse. Only ones who make any serious money out of CD sales (as in beyond what your company pays to the cleaning lady, in a month) are the ridiculously big names like Madonna & Et al corporate entities.

    As for the topic, I boycott DRM games, and I will not buy a console, and I might pirate a game that I’ve boycotted if I feel so inclined (but I haven’t pirated Bioshock, so it’s not certain that I will bother). So that’s pretty much it. I’ve made my stance clear. I’m voting with my wallet.

  4. Arelion says:

    I think it’s sad that you pretty much can’t play ANY games without an online connection anymore. Even the less intrusive games almost always require you to access the internet to authenticate once. It’s kinda sad for people that don’t have any internet access (I know from being one for a long time) to see all these good single player games out but not be able to buy any of them because they all authenticate online. Either way, I’m not going to buy any of these games anymore, thanks for warning us Shamus!

  5. braincraft says:

    Voting with your wallet won’t work.

    IF sales increase/THEN draconian copy-protection will continue, because clearly it’s not hurting sales.

    IF sales decrease/THEN draconian copy-protection will continue, because the loss is clearly due to piracy.

    And, as the recent Mass Effect release makes clear, no amount of fan outcry or logical argument will affect corporate policy, since the only thing that matters is sales/profit.

    Didn’t the record companies already fight this battle and lose?

  6. MaxEd says:

    I’m of a variety that sneaks in and then decides if movie worth paying for. More often than not I run out screaming obscenities after first half an hour of movie.

    For example, I just had to try TMNT game from last year. But PAY for it?! It’s developers DESERVE to go out of business for such a terrible product!

    Sometimes, you CAN use demo-version to decide the worthiness of the game. But Fallout 3 will not have demo. Will I buy it? Of course NOT! After all I’ve heard there is only a SLIGHT chance I’d like this game. Will I download it? Probably, just to give it its SLIGHT chance.

    And sometimes demo version just showcases the best part of the game, or as it was in case of Test Drive Unlimited for me, it doesn’t show how BORING and REPETITIOUS this game is. Sure, the game was fun for first hour or two, but when I finally understood that you’ll have to give a ride to 30 IDENTICALLY LOOKING people to get some obscure bonus – I quit it. Without paying.

  7. Stranger says:

    Re: #69 Braincraft
    I think they’re still fighting this battle.

    Re: Post

    Interesting analogies, but it does break down here and there. Frankly, I’ve stopped pirating things actively. Quite a few things I play, I have on a CD archive somewhere from an old HDD and since I’ve moved like 7 times in the last five years I’ve lost a lot of my “proof of purchase”.

    Does that make me a pirate, for copying it off my old HDD or a backup of, rather than reinstalling from the 3.5″ floppies?
    (Bearing in mind, as well, my floppy drive has started shredding the film inside the diskettes for some reason.)

  8. Jez says:

    I sort of have a foot in either camp. I’ve pirated a few games, generally ones that are years old and nearly impossible to find outside of usenet or a torrent. But as I write this post I’m downloading painkiller legally off Steam. It cost me about 12 dollars AUD, and for that I get the original Painkiller and the expansion, all of it not counting towards my download quota because my ISP has its own Steam content server.

    On the other hand, I pirated Bioshock after reading about the rigmarole of issues PC users were having with the game. I really did want to play it and would have bought it were it not for the restrictive DRM and high likelihood I’d have had some technological issues. I’ll pirate a game if it’s more convenient to do so than it is to buy, most times it isn’t because you lose multiplayer content or have to lose a big chunk of your download quota, but the game publishers seem to be trying pretty hard to make piracy attractive.

    I might end up pirating Mass Effect and/or Spore as they’re both games that I quite want to play but don’t want to be shafted by publishers. It doesn’t help that the retail market in Australia has been screwing the pooch for years. Despite the fact that the Aussie dollar and US dollar are nearly on parity, we’re still paying a hundred dollars Australian or more for games at dedicated games retailers here.

    It’s sort of like I want to do the right thing and give them money to support them making more games I enjoy, but numerous factors at a publisher/retail level are making it extremely difficult to do so. Why should I do the right thing by them if they won’t do the right thing by me?

    Just my two cents.

  9. Dana says:

    To me, piracy is at its heart neither a technological nor a social problem, but is a mere SYMPTOM of a flawed, unimaginative, and completely unrealistic business model (a “denial of reality”, if you will).

    In our society, we have gotten in the VERY bad habit of using the exact same business model to sell both rival and non-rival information, when these two types of information (or “products”, if you prefer) are utterly different from one another and require different approaches.

    The location of a good fishing spot or a shared use of an item (like, say, a computer) is rival information. The more people that have access to that information (or product), the less value there is for each person. Or to state it another way, there is only so much TOTAL value. And so if anyone gets access to the information (or the product) without paying, it makes every other individual involved poorer.

    A computer game, a movie, and a book all represent NON-rival information. Each person receives essentially the same value from the information (or product) regardless of how many other people have access to that information. And so in contrast to rival information, the more people who have access to the information, the MORE TOTAL VALUE IS CREATED. This is an incredibly powerful fact that almost no one seems to have noticed.

    This is such a powerful fact that I believe it to be absolutely SELF-DEFEATING to try to LIMIT the number of people who access your product. Some have even gone so far as to argue it to be immoral (to limit the flow of non-rival information), since it makes us ALL poorer, though I don’t go as far as to say that (in part because morality per se doesn’t interest me).

    So how to fix things? Change your marketing model. One way is to build advertising directly (and integrally) into the information itself (not in a patched-on fashion so that it is easily stripped out) and then give your product away FOR FREE. This is, in fact, how Shamus (and the internet in general) does things. This is how television has always worked (although it will need to work a little harder to keep working this way, since the advertising is too easily stripped out these days).

    That is not to say that selling direct advertising is the only way to work this model. Capturing another human being’s attention is inherently valuable, and advertising other people’s products is only one way of realizing that value. But treating non-rival information AS non-rival information is (to me) nothing more than dealing with reality REALISTICALLY (which is all that science does, IMHO), and I believe that the people who realize this and act accordingly are going to end up running the show and evolving a completely new way of distributing information, which will make us all wealthier than we have ever been before. :)

  10. DanK says:

    * The console version of BioShock outsold the PC version by a factor of ten.

    Keep in mind the console version came out a lot earlier than the PC version – a lot of people who may have bought it on PC already had it, played it, saw it, or rented it in advance.

    And this is even aside from DRM – and from this blog alone, a lot of people (myself include) believe strongly enough to *not* buy a DRM laden game.

  11. Dolleater says:

    Jennifer Snow said:

    Piracy is not a “medium”. It is taking things that don't belong to you without permission from the rightful owner. I very much hope that you “younger” kids get to spend the twilight years of your lives living in the communist dictatorship you so obviously yearn for where everything you EVER produce is taken from you without your permission and distributed free to the unwashed masses. Maybe then you'll understand just why us stubborn old people (28 years old in my case) object to your obscene entitlement complex.

    Is it really that hard to imagine that just because something gets pirated its always a bad thing? The product gets used, the brand could become a symbol of quality for the user. And in the future they might actually buy something related to the product, maybe its the same product they copied, only cheaper, etc.

    Its kinnda sad to see how so many people feel that its really necessary to police EVERYTHING. Like the regular person would go haywire if it wasnt. But guess what, ALOT of people are actually pretty COMPASIONATE and SUPPORTIVE that like to think for themselves and like having the freedom not to purchase a product, and naturally the freedom to support the product.

    CONTROL isnt everything you know.

    btw, im only 4 years younger then you, so i wouldnt really diffrentiate that much between us.

  12. Rob says:

    Where do second-hand sales come into the equation? The publishers see zero revenue from the secondary market and I would bet they don’t like it.

    I bought (second-hand) more PS2 games than any other format I’ve ever owned, because I knew I could get at least 70% of the price back in exchange for another game. It mostly cost me £2-3 to play a game through, sometimes due to price fluctuations I broke even or made a profit.

    The value I place on games just doesn’t match the price asked, and so I just don’t buy them. The only game I bought new was the Orange Box for PC, which worked out at about £3 a game. That’s my level.

  13. MaxEd says:

    Dana, while I agree with your point of view, there is some problems with advertising. For one thing, “Generation Y” seems to pay less and less attention to general ads (there was an article about it somewhere recently). Another problem – it’s hard to integrate advertising into some kinds of games. How do you integrate Coca-Cola ad into High Fantasy setting RPG? Or BMW ad in WW2 strategy game?

  14. Karsten says:

    I won’t support or do piracy either. However, according to Danish law it is legal to crack (or break) a region coding on game-dvd or a movie-dvd so that you might play or see it in the player (machine) of your choice.

    One of the Bioware employeers have said that the Securom servers for activations are region coded which makes the Securom copy protection….well, I think, you can figure this one out for yourselves…smart people as you all are.

    I also witnessed how people struggled with this game – just to play it, or even to get it activated over the net. I warned Bioware and EA about this. And yet the activation servers were down for a long time, it seems; I witnessed how people got frustrated as they couldn’t connect to the activation servers…

    I also witnessed people having to disable virtual drives, their Deameon tools or Alcohol 120% (or Nero), all perfectly legal programs – just in order to activate the game. People behind firewalls were also needing to disable their firewalls…just to activate the game, MEPC, over the net. (which sort of is a contradiction-in-terms, I think…)

    And apparently someone did forget to tell Bioware to test the game on quad core machines; people with Nvidia’s Geforce 8800 graphics cards were also not able to play the game – sometimes not to install the game, too…

    And if you just look in the tech self help forum at the bioware boards for MEPC forums, you will see a lot of people having trouble plating this game – because of the drm scheme…

    Someone mentions that devs. etc. should provide an incentive for people to actually buy the game. I agree 120% on this. Back in the olde golden days of gaming (in the late 1990’s) you would get a nice box with nice cover art, a nice cloth (sometimes a paper map), and an nice bound manual i.e. you got extra content with your game. The pirates did not get this, of course.

    Rewarding yor trusted and loyal customers is really the to go, imo. I have suggested that Bioware hold a rafle of some sorts between all the registered MEPC owners to see who will get a cool item, unique to only them. A signed copy of the new Mass Effect book, Ascension, maybe??

    Imo, the developers behind The Witcher, is doing to right thing. They are holding contests right now that last for two weeks. But the contests are only open to those with a registered copy of the game; if that’s not an incentive to go out to buy the game…

  15. “Didn't the record companies already fight this battle and lose?”

    Not much DRM on the CDs I buy — and I buy them, I don’t pirate the music.

    Though I note the musician posting feels free to pirate games, but is upset that he is making less money due to pirates.

    But look at all the people who went out of business or who gave up and sold out.

    There is a reason there will not be another Wing Commander game, why they cut out the last half or so of the filming and script on the last game and why the script for the next game ended up in the trash instead of in production.

    A reason why instead of a real Privateer II they just slapped the name on an unrelated product and dropped the development team (which made me glad I didn’t quit my job and take the offer to join that company).


  16. MaxEd says:

    “But look at all the people who went out of business or who gave up and sold out.”

    More often than not it’s the result of bad management, stockholders’ treason, internal team quarrels and other piracy-unrelated things.

  17. J says:

    I actually think that having lots of people repent of piracy right now would be horrible. The managers would conclude their monstrous policies were working, and we'd get a double helping of the same, forever after, in every game they put out.

    This is where you’re fundamentally wrong, Shamus. It’s about the only place where you’re wrong, but there it is.

    The best possible thing (in the long run) that could happen is for people to stop pirating the damn games and people who hate the DRM to stop buying or pirating.

    When only legitimate copies are being played, but sales figures still suck, they won’t be able to deny reality any longer.

    It won’t happen, of course. The number of people willing to stand on principle as firmly as you do is small.


  18. wintermute says:

    Dana, while I agree with your point of view, there is some problems with advertising. For one thing, “Generation Y” seems to pay less and less attention to general ads (there was an article about it somewhere recently). Another problem – it's hard to integrate advertising into some kinds of games. How do you integrate Coca-Cola ad into High Fantasy setting RPG? Or BMW ad in WW2 strategy game?

    Well, in the latter case, on the sides of German fighter planes, of course.

    But yeah. The reason people these days pay less attention to adverts is because we’re so inundated with them. The average person sees something like ten times as many adverts per day than they did 20 years ago, so we get better at tuning them out, or we’d have no time to do anything else. So the advertisers dream up new and exciting ways to push adverts at us.

    I mean, even ignoring actual adverts on TV, I can’t watch a show without them taking over a quarter of the screen every five minutes to tell me about some other show that I don’t want to see. And product placement has gone from being something that happened occasionally to a typical revenue stream.

    Embedding adverts into games isn’t going to be much more popular than forcing you re-register every time their servers hiccup, but it might be less likely for people to actively try to circumvent. Or it might be more likely to make people decide they just don’t want it. Who knows?

  19. MaxEd says:

    wintermute, If we remove protection and place ads, Warez Scene will move to disabling in-game ads, because they HAVE to have something to do on their free time :)

  20. Jeff says:

    “is it moral to break a law that you feel is unjust?”

    There are those who would argue that it's immoral not to.

    “First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing because verbing weirds language.
    Then they arrival for the nouns, and I speech nothing because I no verbs.”

    Oh wait, wrong poem.

    “First they came for the Communists,
    – but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
    – but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    – but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
    And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

  21. Blackbird71 says:

    “How do you integrate Coca-Cola ad into High Fantasy setting RPG? Or BMW ad in WW2 strategy game?”

    Well, BMW started as an aircraft engine manufacturer, that blue and white symbol of theirs is a spinning propeller against the background of the sky. That could make for some potential tie-ins. But I digress.

  22. MaxEd says:

    Blackbird71 Something telling me that BMW would not like to be associated with nazi fighter planes ;)

  23. Drew says:

    My issue with the analogy is that I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with getting their ticket checked on the way into the theater. There are lots of ways to buy tickets (and nowadays, games) and ensuring that you have a ticket is a reasonable thing to do. Should theaters just assume anyone who’s walking in has a ticket? That just doesn’t make sense, even though it would be easier on the paying customers. Furthermore, the average movie theater tears your ticket, so you can’t pass it to a friend and get them in on the same ticket. This is awfully similar to the concept of checking an activation code. So I don’t think I have a problem with that, either. Now, if indeed they check your ticket 10 times during the movie and make your life otherwise more annoying, that’s certainly an issue and I can understand being upset about it. But something like, for a recent example, the RSPOD DRM, which only “checks your ticket” before letting you play, seems pretty reasonable to me. I can’t see any way that it’s more intrusive to the average player than, say, entering a CD key, it certainly prevents one very simple sort of piracy (i.e., giving all of your friends the game and having them install it using your key), and it serves the purpose of “checking tickets”.

    Ok, so if you don’t have an internet connection on your machine, you can’t play. I’d say it’s highly unlikely for this to be an issue for more than a trace number of potential players, and those people couldn’t download the game in the first place. So let’s not contrive situations that don’t make sense. And maybe you can’t go back and play the game in 10 years. That’s probably valid, but if that’s a pre-existing condition on the purchase, it doesn’t mean you can’t play now. A company is offering you 8 or 10 or 30 hours of entertainment for a price. I think it’s a relatively straightforward transaction, and if the price doesn’t seem justified to you simply based on what you might or might not be doing in ten years, that’s fine. If you want to use the movie theater analogy, I can’t go to my local theater with a ticket I purchased to see “Life is Beautiful” in 1998 and expect them to show me the film. Of course the analogy breaks down here…

    My point is, I think grouping together the concept of “checking tickets” with “frisking”, “constant annoying” and any other arcane measures someone might come up with is obtuse. Just because two different approaches seek to solve the same problem doesn’t make them equal.

  24. DaveMc says:

    Dana (#73), thanks for a thoughtful reply. I certainly agree that there are serious, important discussions to be had about the nature of information as a commodity, and about how we should measure value independent of the value-as-scarcity model that has applied for most of history.

    Most people who pirate games are not interested in those questions, or at best they pay lip service to them, along the lines of: “Richard Stallman says information wants to be free, so . . . Dude! Free Mass Effect!” This isn’t helping.

    You are clearly not a member of that particular camp, so thanks for chiming in. I still think that the best solution is to either support developers or boycott them, not try to have it both ways by “boycotting” them in the form of taking their creations for free. Essentially, I think people have a right to their business model, even if others think it’s archaic and flawed. But you’re absolutely right that it feels like there ought to be a way to make the free, wide-spread distribution of your creation into a strength rather than a weakness.

    Sort of a tangent, but I was talking about this sort of thing to a lawyer friend (yes, they do exist) and I mentioned the slogan I keep seeing online, “I don’t believe in imaginary property.” His response was interesting: “But all property is imaginary.” And he’s right. Property (ownership) doesn’t exist in nature, it’s created by a set of rules (laws) that everyone agrees to live with. Your ownership of your house is an abstract thing supported by the laws of the country you live in. Digital property has some characteristics that make it more imaginary than most, like the ability to be infinitely replicated for free, but the idea of being able to own something is still an abstraction, just like in the real world. Interesting take, I thought.

  25. BeAuMaN says:

    Hey Shamus, not sure if you’re still paying attention, but back-responding “Five Ways to Fight Software Piracy: The Publishers vs. The Pirates, Part 2”

    On your fourth point, you said that piracy groups aren’t likely to hang around and update their cracks for the latest version…

    However, I’ve found mostly to the contrary in my experiences, actually. If the game is at least decently popular, a number of groups continue putting out cracks for the latest version. Examples that come to mind are Warcraft III, Civilization IV, and Neverwinter Nights, which still put out cracks to this day for new versions.

    Of course, WCIII doesn’t require a CD anymore, so I don’t think there’s anymore cracks out (As Blizzard finally decided to remove the CD-in-Drive restriction). Same with Neverwinter Nights. Civ IV used some DRM, though I haven’t played it in a while.

    Just thought I’d offer a little insight.

  26. Wynd says:

    PC games are starting to look pretty sad in comparison to consoles nowadays, though. I recently bought a PC copy of the orange box, and portal bugs out once the game starts, and TF2 crashes every other second (supposedly known bug).

  27. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,what about people that simply cannot obtain the legal copy?Some years in the past,I was unable to buy the original because no one imported it,and I had a dial up(plus no credit card,plus online sales werent developed for games).I did pay for those games,but not to a publisher(I did manage to get some of those legally later,but thats not what Im saying here).True,people that sell the games this way are criminals,but what about the buyers that are supporting these pirates?Some would gladly pay more for the original if it was available.

  28. DaveMc:
    Mm . . . sure, all property is imaginary. In that sense your “I don't believe in imaginary property.” friend is missing a point. But I think he’s reaching for something real nonetheless, just expressing it poorly. It’s closer to the “rival goods” Dana was talking about.
    The concept of property is imaginary–it’s an abstraction. But at the personal level, at least, it’s an abstraction with a very compelling philosophical base. There has been personal property as long as there have been people. Sure, in nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes it’s often not considered a big deal, but it’s still there–only one person can use a spear at a time, and the person who made it is the logical one to be able to decide who gets to use it.
    When you get into software and other freely copyable things, and the question of using a copy rather than taking away the original, we’re talking about a whole different kind of abstraction, and one which really only makes sense in a modern economy, and specifically one based on markets. The violation involved in theft of property is about taking away what someone else had. The violation involved in piracy of software is about potentially depriving someone of expected profits from selling you a copy. Not only is it more abstract, it’s a different kind of abstraction, and one with much narrower context. Try to tell a hunter-gatherer why there’s something wrong with using something everyone can use without exhausting it, and they’d think you were crazy. In a completely different direction, a socialist would say “well that’s the problem with private ownership of the means of production, isn’t it?”

    Incidentally, that also suggests a possible direction for the production of non-rival goods: Public funding. Works for the BBC. If society decides how much money they want being spent making video games, then all the companies can put their games up for free download and the government reimburses the game companies based on game popularity.

    I’ve noticed one other thing. I use Linux, and so I pay attention to open source software. When I first started, there were effectively no open source games in the sense we’re talking about–there was solitaire and Frozen Bubble and a few board games, plus some clunky attempts at arcade stuff that tended to look stupid, freeze and die. Even Richard Stallman didn’t really expect open source games to get far, and figured that it didn’t matter that much because copyright on games was probably more about all the artwork and story than about the software, anyway. But lately, I’ve been noticing all these Free Software games and game engines reaching maturity and starting to function well and look pretty cool. I find myself wondering if this has anything to do with frustration at the state of the PC game industry, DRM etc., and whether open source games will start to rise until they become a significant force in PC gaming.

  29. RHJunior says:

    Let me throw something in to chew on.

    The consumer still (on some level) believes he’s paying for a tangible product— a book, a magazine, a CD, a DVD. The medium, in short.

    The producer believes that he is selling “content” IN the medium.

    In actuality, what is being bought and sold here is ACCESS to the content in the medium.

    However, we are living in an age where data is divorced from its medium which makes it almost impossible to limit access.

    This is the reason broadcast television stuck with the advertising and merchandising model— free content, with other goods (advertising space, show-related products and services, etc) to sell on the side.

    Perhaps it is time for the entertainment industries to start looking back at that model for new ideas….

    Make the game free, sell tied-in merchandise, advertising space, product placement, etc? Why not? They should at least give it a try.

  30. RHJunior says:

    Add to the above another idea:

    Make the game free.

    Sell downloadable mods for the game online. Make new ones every now and then, to keep interest fresh.

  31. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Love that analogy Shamus.

    I thought DRM wasn’t too bad for me, but I just found an old game in some box after moving. It’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and apparently it has some form of small SecuROM protection. I have Vista, and after installing the game, it wouldn’t even play, telling me that it had some problem with me trying to run the game on an emulator, stating SecuROM’s involvement. Now, I can’t even play a game that I purchased… I miss that game.

  32. TalrogSmash says:

    Over restrictive loss prevention always leads to the downfall of the enforcer. The United States of America exist today because business interests in the colonies found it cheaper to fund, run, and fight in, an insurgency than to pay British Taxes.

    I can’t help but think of prohibition every time I read these piracy posts. The US government single handedly insured that criminal orginizations would get all the cash flow they ever needed by making alcohol illegal. Certain PC publishers are making sure that the pirates will never have a problem finding customers the same way. They are under the bus, right where they were thrown by said publishers.

    PS love the comic, there was much milk in nasal passages

  33. DaveMc says:

    Purple Library Guy (#92): See, now there you go, illustrating how this debate gets so much more complicated when smart people get involved. :)

    Riddle me this: Is the question of obtaining games for free (I’m dancing around the term “piracy” here, obviously) identical with these larger questions about the flow of information, information as a non-scarce resource, and so forth?

    The thing that tends to infuriate me is that I think the getting-games-for-free crowd (who may not wear actual eyepatches or peg legs) are co-opting some of these arguments, but I think they’re just looking for a justification that lets them get big-budget, highly polished games without paying for them. This just clouds the larger debate, thus my infuriation.

  34. Jeff says:

    Rewarding yor trusted and loyal customers is really the to go, imo.
    No kidding, I had a pirated Oblivion copy available and ended up hiking for something like 4 hours trying to hunt down a copy so I could get me hands on that shiny (fake) gold Septium.

    I failed. :(

    Although I’m glad I didn’t buy Oblivion. Morrowind > Oblivion. But I’m digressing.

    Essentially though, if you look at something like Mass Effect, if the manual was sweet and it had nifty things in the box, I’d buy it even if I had a functional pirated copy next to me. I loved the Fallout manuals… I recall that on at least two separate occasions I actually read them cover to cover when I was bored. Can’t download THAT.

    This is akin also to the music CDs of my Current Celebrity Obsession. I’m in Canada, she’s in Taiwan. Her CD/DVDs are practically impossible to find over here. Easier to download… but her CD packages come with the lyric/credit book in which she models, as well as all these nice mini-posters (well, postcards) of her. Thus I hunt them down and buy them.

    City of Heroes/Villians had these little Heroclix type figurines in their Collectors Edition… just a dinky little plastic thing like that, and I suspect that’ll give sales a boost.

  35. MaxEd says:

    Did you notice that Internet is a bit like Communism? “From each according to their abilities, and to each according to their needs” – as long as “needs” is satisfied copyable digital goods?

  36. @Dolleater:

    Do you even know what a medium is?

    I consider myself a shameless pirate of many things but I have never attempted to morally justify my actions by appealing to some sort of poorly-thought-out pirate’s credo. We are not some “younger generation” ushering in a new “medium” called piracy. We, and you’re apparently two years older than I, are simply pirates. And piracy, of the media kind, has been around for many more generations than you seem to think. Back then, I think our elders called it “bootlegging.” And it wasn’t free, because bootleggers charged you for it. But it’s still a form of copyright-infringement-piracy.

    Piracy is not a “medium” of anything. This would imply that piracy was a tool or format. It’s not. It’s an economic and social phenomenon. A prevalent one. And it won’t be replaced by anything. It might be carried out with different methods, or with different distribution channels, but it’s still the same phenomenon.

    There actually are situations where piracy can be a good thing, but these all rely on the pirated gaining benefits not directly related to sales of the actual pirated product. Bands letting fans pirate their music in order to build a fanbase that wants to see them in concert, buy merchandise, or even (if they’re awfully sentimental and feeling guilty) buy some CDs or mp3’s. Comics and TV shows from outside a country gaining traction in other markets due to international piracy (sometimes of a benign sort–there do exist fansubbers who stop fansubbing when a show they’ve been pirating has been licensed properly), where they build up an audience for the product proper as well as merchandise.

    But these circumstances don’t apply towards games. Unless said games have plenty of physical merchandise they can capitalize on–which the vast majority of them do not. A pirate who downloads a game illegally has no external incentive to actually buy the game they pirated. And that means there’s no reason for them to repay the people who worked their asses off (often in really, REALLY crummy conditions) to make the game. Your primary justification is in building confidence in quality of product by the developers. So that when (or even if) they release another product in the future, the pirate might buy that.

    It’s telling that you didn’t try the other excuse. The one where you say you might buy a copy of the pirated game itself. Because, you know, you liked it so much and are assured of the level of quality the developer has established, and would like to financially support them so, hey, maybe they might actually have the budget or the go ahead to make another game?

    While your justification might fly for big-name games, who usually sell enough copies in spite of piracy for their developers to afford to make more games, it simply doesn’t fly for games made by smaller companies. Companies that might consist of a trio of people who are in it because they love the games they make and are hoping, with the faintest of hope, that enough others might want to play the sorts of the games they’re making to justify actually making a living off of making games? Yeah. Indie folks. Their games get pirated, too, buddy. And it’d be nice if every person who pirated an indie game would actually do as your half-hearted justification says, and use their positive experiences with the pirated game as reason to support the game developers who put blood, sweat, tears, and their own savings, to make the game those pirates liked so much. And, you know, actually have the heart to buy a legit copy. Using the pirated download as a demo, and giving the dev some payment as thanks for a great game. If only pirate apologists actually put their money where their mouth was.

    Aren’t honour systems just delightful?

    As a pirate of many a tawdry torrent, one who never attempts to verbally justify his actions to others–and who never apologizes, even when he’s buying a copy of something he’s pirated out of nothing more than sheer guilt–I think you’re full of it. And your justifications sound like some sort of elitist quasi-anarcho-commune-idealist apologist’s

    Also, you misspelled compassion. And you call us retarded. (Alright, technically, you called our likely reasons for the dismissal of your arguments retarded. But as that requires the function of cognitive thought, you basically called us retarded by default.)

    In case anybody’s wondering, I generally don’t pirate games because if I wasn’t going to spend money on it, I probably wouldn’t bother waiting for it to download and then play it. And it’s not hard to actually buy games. What with having a credit card and all. Perhaps having bad experiences waiting days for a torrent of Oblivion to finish dl’ing, then actually playing it and realizing it was crap put me off to the whole idea of pirating games. It also made me a more careful buyer, too, but that’s another issue entirely.

    As a tangentially related aside: Have you seen what licensors and distributors charge for anime DVDs? It costs nearly two hundred dollars just for one season’s worth of episodes! Hell, I could buy four season boxed sets of Scrubs for that much! I’ll buy a reasonably priced anime DVD season set–one season for 50 bucks–even if I’ve seen it a bunch of times on fansub.

    Otherwise, I’ll just go loot and plunder off the digital high seas. Yarr.


    And just so nobody’s confused on the matter, I’m also the guy that went on at length as to why draconian DRMs were futile and didn’t do a damn thing other than earn pirates goodwill from the DRM’s victims. I also hold to the simple and logical truth of: “Piracy is not the issue, sales are.

    Because I believe in that truth very, very strongly, I vote with my money. If a developer deserves a sale from me, then by Jove they’ve got one. Sometimes, I think a developer might deserve that sale solely on their principles alone. That’s why I buy from Stardock on brand recognition alone. Not because I pirated anything from them and thus associate their name with quality–though, after buying GalCivII and Sins, I do make that association–but because they don’t treat paying customers as though they were criminals.

    I guess, in some strange way, that makes me “principled,” or whatever you people might wanna call it. Not by how I justify piracy to myself or others, but by how far I’m willing to go just to further the actual principle of it. And by furthering the principle, I mean actually pay money in direct support of it.

    Come to think of it, that might also be why I stopped pirating games and started buying them. Hmm. I wonder.

    Still a pirate in general, though. Call me a hypocrite if you want–at least I’m not pretending I’m not.


    EDIT: Dear lordy, I’ve hit the 1d100 mark. Well. This is amusing. And to mark the occasion, I’ve finally gotten a Gravatar account.

  37. Blastedt says:

    Is it wrong if you bought a ticket but lost it?

    Is it wrong if tickets stopped being sold 10 years ago, but the showing is today?

  38. Hey, if it’s the only way, then matters of right and wrong are moot. As the great wise ones said: “Who cares?”

  39. DaveMc says:

    DC Jasper (#100): What a rant! That was both awesome and refreshing.

    Long-term, I think the only solution is to get gamer culture to change. If “the pirates who don’t buy anything” get reactions from fellow gamers that make them feel like jerks rather than heroes, perhaps some percentage of them will decide to fork over some money rather than playing for free. There’s no technological or legal method for achieving this, or rather, any such solution would be so draconian it might as well be called the Smaug Act.

  40. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Thats where the analogy breaks,or stretches.Yes,it is wrong to sneak in the theater if you loose your ticket,and you should buy another.However,if the teather has information about you(for example,you are some sort of a member),it should be able to give you a replacment,but that would be a long hassle.

    If you have a season ticket for one theater,but it bankrupts and the movie is being shown in another theater,yes it is wrong to sneak in there.However,your season ticket should be refunded to you,either by the theater,or by some insurance company,or by the movie companies,or by the state.


    In order for that to happen,first paying customers have to feel threated right in order for them to start reacting to pirates like that.The way it is now,why would you call someone a jerk because he doesnt want to be constantly on the internet,has his CD constantly in his drive and has his system completelly reformated,save for OS and the game he wants to enjoy?

  41. LintMan says:

    I love the Veggie-tales reference – just perfect.

    I’m not a pirate – I buy all my games and software, but like some others here, I’m pretty skeptical of the 50-80% piracy numbers. PC’s may have a larger installed base of hardware, but that’s a virtually unrelated figure to the base of PC gamers. I’m an engineer and work in a tech company, surrounded by other techies who guaranteed all own one or more PCs. I know a number of them who regularly play console game, but I don’t know a single person offline who plays PC games. Not one. I have a Half-Life 2 gift in my Steam account thats been sitting ungifted for months because of this.

    Also, BioShock shipped with the most draconian DRM to-date (until this latest round of nonsense), and yet THEY USE ITS PIRACY FIGURES TO SHOW HOW BAD PIRACY IS. Somethings wrong here. Either their piracy numbers are wrong, or their uber-DRM is a complete and utter failure that only screws their paying customers..

    Lastly, I like the movie theater analogy also. I’ll emphasize one point of the analogy that really works for me: all the strip searches and, now, cavity searches of the entering ticket holders at the front door has no effect on stopping the people entering the back door, who are still entering without the hassle, so the only losers are the actual ticket holders.

  42. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heres a few fun facts:

    When galciv2 appeared,someone(an admin tied in with starforce forums,I forgot who exactly)wanted to show how a no DRM game was innefective,and posted a link towards a galciv torrent.And now,2 years later,I browsed the net a bit to bring you these shocking(well,not so shocking)revelations:

    Twilight of arnor,a game released on april 30th has no cracks,no torrents,nothing(well,I did manage to find beta torrents,and two serial numbers(didnt check these),but aside from that,nothing),yet mass effect,a game released on may 28th(the NA release),has loads of torrents and cracks(although,judging by the comments,the cracks Ive found dont work so well,but fixes are coming out daily).

    Conclusion:The stronger the copy restriction you put on your game,the more people will try(and manage)to crack it.

  43. DaveMc says:

    Daemian Lucifer (#104):

    In order for that to happen,first paying customers have to feel threated right in order for them to start reacting to pirates like that.The way it is now,why would you call someone a jerk because he doesnt want to be constantly on the internet,has his CD constantly in his drive and has his system completelly reformated,save for OS and the game he wants to enjoy?

    No, I have no problem with any of that, if it’s done by a paying customer. What irks me is the way people (not all, but many) adopt the role of an irate customer while skipping over the minor step of actually buying anything. If you’re trying to get access to the product you paid for, I’m not going to raise any objection to that, and if that was the way all cracked games out there were used, that would be absolutely fine with me.

  44. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “What irks me is the way people (not all, but many) adopt the role of an irate customer while skipping over the minor step of actually buying anything”

    True,that is hypocritical.

    But consider this:I own a program that I bought dirt cheap(5 euros back then),I use it at least once a week,yet I had the cd in the drive just twice in the last two years(during the instals),and I entered the cd key just 3 times(during the instals,and during the first patch).The program has great online support,and nice patches(that are more upgrades than patches,since barelly anything is broken).And yet I cannot name a single game that was made in the last 5 years(and probably even more)that I played for tenth that time,that was at least tenth as valuable to me.And all of those require a cd to be present in the drive,most of them require online activation,most are broken and require numerous (large) patches in order to run properly,and some are even worse(stardock and indy games arent like this though,but the rest are).So I simply wont bitch to anyone for wanting to remove all that unnecessary crap from those games.

    Oh,and try to find a crack for twilight of arnor,and youll see that no one wants to crack the game.That kind of respect simply cant be bought

  45. Steve C says:

    It bugs me when people start using “legal/illegal” language, especially when it’s not used correctly. On top of that people have so many personal ideas of what “pirate” means it’s lost all ability to be useful in a real discussion of the issue.

    To clarify lets limit what I think the OP was about; cracking/hacking software you legitimately own. In other words this was paid for software in a box that was legal when it was sold to you (didn’t fall off a truck, etc) and all you do is “use it” in a single location and don’t distribute it.

    In that case any way you “get it to work” (including crack it) is legal under US copyright law, including the DMCA. I’ve read the whole 17 U.S.C. and the DMCA does make allowances for that sort of thing but the onus goes onto the user (aka guilty until proven innocent). Acquiring the software tools to be able to crack it are more likely to be illegal, but again are not necessarily so. You may not believe me, but the exceptions are written into copyright law (which the DMCA is a section.)

    Under the law, software is generally treated like it was a written work such as a novel or newspaper article. If you buy a book and rip out a page (like the publisher information at the front) it’s not morally or legally wrong.

    People are going to mention the EULAs too. EULAs are predominately invalid and not worth the paper they aren’t written on across the G8 countries. US makes it harder to answer the EULA valid/invalid issue because it depends on where you are and which district court hears your case. Most US district courts deem EULAs to be invalid. The 7th and 8th says they valid as does a special law (UCITA) in Maryland and Virginia. Even with those exceptions far less than half the USA it’s still legal.

    Sadly in litigation the group who is willing to spend the most money is going to win, and you can guess who has the money.

  46. illiterate says:

    I am not so sure that those who put the effort into pirating paid-for games would also put effort into stripping advertisements from free games. I certainly have no problem putting up with the pre-vertisements and inter-vertisements when watching tv shows on the official websites of the owning networks. And I will definitely choose a free legal download over a free illegal one. I buy my games, btw, if I actually can.

  47. MikeSSJ says:

    About that analogy:

    I have to admit that I used to be one of those people that sneak in through the back door, too.
    However, ever since I finished school and got myself a job, I’ve stopped doing so. I haven’t pirated a game ever since – which comes down to about 2 years now. Actually, even back when I was doing it, it was a pretty rare occasion, and, aside from two or three instances of “Hey, we all want to play this game in multiplayer, so we’ll make a copy for everyone who doesn’t have it, okay?”, it usually WAS because I couldn’t afford it.

  48. Matt L says:

    The interesting thing is that the largest user base of the PC currently (MMO players) currently have a form of DRM every time they login, the user name and password.

    This is not seen to be onerous, is linked to a registration mechanism and can be used across multiple instances of the software on many machines.

    Could this be used for single player games? Yes. Would it? Who knows.

  49. Sniffing_Zombies says:

    I bought Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 for my son because I’d read every gaming magazine and they all stated that ME was better than Halo 3 and any other god fearing game. I don’t play xbox games. I would rather sit and my pc. I have a laptop – it was the best thing you could buy 2 years ago – but by ME PC listing the requirements Gforce x3r5tbt or whatever I’m not knowledgeable enough to understand that. I didn’t realize that my laptop’s 256mb X700 ATI card wasn’t good enough to run ME for the PC. So I paid $110 for two ME games that I’ll never play. I could play the 360 version and someday I’ll buy a new PC with a graphics card good enough to handle Mass Effect, but by the time that happens, ME will be a distant memory and ME 2 will be on the horizon.
    Civilization I-IV are my all-time favorite games, but when you want a space game, their mods just don’t do it justice.
    I state all this because I too have Stardock products. Because ME won’t play, I’ve gone back to GalCiv2 awaiting their newest add-on Twilight Arnor. What I like with Stardock is that they scale their games – a kick ass graphics card will show kick ass graphics, while my used-to-be-kick-ass-graphics-card will show used-to-be-kick-ass-graphics. I just don’t understand the inabilty of Bioware to release ME with the ability to scale down their game graphics. I want to enjoy the role-playing aspect of their game, even if I have to suffer without seeing some Super Duper Effects. Totally not getting the Mass Effect here.
    So, I do must believe in Stardock. And I can install GalCiv2 on more than just 3 PC’s without permission (I’m donwn to only 2 pc’s left…I can’t needlessly install it on another PC to see if the graphics card will work there….)
    So in the end, I kinda wish I did bit torrent mass effect. I thought I’d buy an awesome game – I mean it’s awesome after all and if it’s awesome they should warrant my money. But alas, I didn’t quite understand the graphic requirements – neither did the guys at Fry’s – and you can’t take back a product you can’t use (Because you can pirate it). So really, this puts me in the “I shoulda pirate to find out if I could run the game” section of the bleachers.
    Oh well, enough of my rambling. It is my first post ever – even if I read all of DMotR and the many deaths of Marcus.

    Zombies Rule
    Sniffing Zombies

  50. Troy says:

    Piracy is wrong because it drives up the prices of software.

    I pirate because there’s no punishment and even maintaining a PayPal account is such a pain in the ass that paying ANYTHING for a game is out of the question.

    Going to actual stores is possible, but good games still cost way too much, partially because of pirating and partially because of the preventative measures they add against it.

    It’s all very complicated. I’m also using a pirated Windows XP, because XP costs a LOT of money and Microsoft is making it harder and harder to get.

  51. Drake Sabre says:

    In my own opinion, some piracy is acceptable, due to circumstances. For example, music CD’s at most stores are 15-20 dollars each, most likely due to record companies raising prices to combat the very piracy it causes. That’s fine once or twice, but for severe music geeks (like me) who get 4-5 albums per month, that’s insane. Especially for teenagers or children. I’m sure if albums were 5 dollars each, piracy would drop sharply. I don’t consider downloading something you bought piracy. I’ve got dozens of old records lying around my house I’d love to be able to upload. I payed for them faithfully. Just because I want to listen to it on my legally owned iPod doesn’t mean I have to buy it again for twice the price. And what about people who’s discs have been broken somehow, or they downloaded it and got a virus? Money down the drain. Inherantly if the record companies had a more sane responce to the original pirates, then maybe piracy wouldn’t be so much of an issue. No one takes such a rediculous approach to shoplifting. Why does digital shoplifting have such an uproar? Piracy is not really great normally, but it’s become okay due to bad responces.

  52. Steve says:

    To be completely honest, I pirate a lot. I do but games and what not for consoles and I rarely download ROMs due to my extensive vintage video game collection but all of my music and just about every program on my computer is pirated. I have a good amount of PC games that I bought but that’s only if the game got a good rating and its from a company I like. I don’t want to support a company that’s McPiss. I admit that I very very much enjoy getting stuff that I want for free. I actually get a little annoyed about crap on pirates. Pirates are innovative. The companies that complain about pirates the most have more money than we could wish to have. Oh, and I agree that the 50%-90% statistic is complete ass. Good article otherwise.

    Oh, and also.

    Now, this is a story all about how
    My life got flipped-turned upside down
    And I liked to take a minute
    Just sit right there
    I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air

    In west Philadelphia born and raised
    On the playground was where I spent most of my days
    Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool
    And all shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school
    When a couple of guys
    Who were up to no good
    Startin’ making trouble in my neighborhood
    I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
    She said ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air’

    I begged and pleaded with her day after day
    But she packed my suitcase and send me on my way
    She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket.
    I put my walkman on and said, ‘I might as well kick it’.

    First class, yo this is bad
    Drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass.
    Is this what the people of Bel-Air Living like?
    Hmmmmm this might be alright.

    But wait I hear they’re prissy, wine all that
    Is Bel-Air the type of place they send this cool cat?
    I don’t think so
    I’ll see when I get there
    I hope they’re prepared for the prince of Bel-Air

    Well, the plane landed and when I came out
    There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
    I ain’t trying to get arrested
    I just got here
    I sprang with the quickness like lightening, disappeared

    I whistled for a cab and when it came near
    The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror
    If anything I can say this cab is rare
    But I thought ‘Naw forget it’ – ‘Yo homes to Bel Air’

    I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
    And I yelled to the cabbie ‘Yo homes smell ya later’
    I looked at my kingdom
    I was finally there
    To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air

  53. Fahd says:

    Heres a somewhat different take on piracy that has to do with locality. I’m not gonna say where I’m from, just that its somewhere in Asia in order to keep it appropriately vague! I’m pretty sure that the situation is the same for most of mainland Asia and that a significant number of pirates are from here too

    Anyway, where I’m from, pirates are not just one way of getting games (or any software). They’re the ONLY way! There are absolutely no distributors offering genuine material. Why thats so is a chicken-and-egg discussion. No sellers cuz no buyers/no buyers cuz no sellers…

    Anyway, in such an environment, piracy has become a way of life so deeply entrenched that I’ve developed a mindset of getting games from some warez site instead of (gasp!) buying it.

    Trying to change but its like giving up smoking after you’ve been a chain-smoker for more then a decade!

  54. Bobarillo says:

    @Fahd: I don’t think locality is the problem after all the interwebs exist not only for porn but also for ordering things such as original games, or downloading them from legit sites. The issue really is whether a $60 game should be priced the same way in “that country somewhere in Asia”, which is related to that mother-of-all-software-pricing debates concerning Windows. Of course, this doesn’t really go to the root of the problem that some people really think that software should be free, and feel entitled to sneak into the theatre as it were because they feel entitled to do so. It’s a nice idea to think that if software was reasonably priced based on the locality that pirating would disappear, but the fact of it is if you can get it for free some people really will do so.

    One day though, and that day may never come, the collective powers-that-be in every nation state will criminalize mere possession of pirated products and impose absurdly excessive penalties, then we’ll see. After all the nice thing about those countries in asia is that the niceties of law enforcement aren’t as prevalent as they might be elsewhere.

  55. JimmyHat says:

    I think the real problem with the PC Gaming industry is the same thing that’s happening to the music industry. They put out a continuous stream of garbage with one or two good products thrown in and they wonder why their sales are going down. The most convenient way to deal with it, is to have a scape-goat.

    If they were to only release one product a year…and have it kick @$$, consumers might have a renewed interest in their games/music.

    It’s the bean-counting, stuffed-shirts in the board rooms that are killing their respective industries. I think it’s irrelavent whether or not something’s being pirated. There are always going to be those that will not pay for the things that they use.

    I have stopped buying games. The costs are just too prohibitive and my system cannot handle any of the news one. Not to mention that fact that a FPS, is still just a FPS no matter how you package it. If I want to try a game out, I go to my LAN shop and try it out. 99% of the time, I’d rather play Unreal Tournament and not spend the money.

    my $.02
    ~ The Hat

  56. SinsI says:

    I think this analogy is completely wrong.
    You can only apply it to entertainment – once you move on to software, piracy becomes increasingly positive for everyone – you waste less time and efforts by working with the most appropriate tools and that greately contributes to the society in the long run – including the makers of the programs you’ve pirated!

  57. Chris says:

    Spot on once again!

  58. @ Arkmagius: It seems that the number of people who engage in some kind of “conscientious pirating” is large, if we use this comments section as a barometer.

    I personally think pirating can be acceptable in some contexts precisely because I don’t think that copyrights are acceptable. They rob the commons, they slow innovation, and are only needed in a predatory and irrational market economy, if at all. That having been said, I proudly support companies like Telltale Games. I also personally have found Steam’s balance between copy protection and access to be pretty acceptable, though admittedly I’ve never had a jonesing to play it at a LAN with no Internet access.

    Whatever anyone thinks of Steam, at the least their model (and I used to hate it back in the heydey when it was really onerous) has allowed many games to be sold at $10, allows consumers to download a legitimate copy of their game from anywhere, has unlimited downloads within your account, etc. They have given the consumer something in exchange. I feel that I own my Steam games.

    @ Kledrac: I know that the 90% number seems massive. First: If it were even 50%, wouldn’t that still pretty massively hamper the profitability of PC gaming? Second: Isn’t it plausible, given how easy it is to pirate whatever you want, that the number would be that high? Third: You’re forgetting about “one copy” countries, where only one legitimate copy is available in the whole country (or only a few). For many places in the Third World, there IS no option but to “pirate”. That’s something to add to Seamus’ initial movie theater analogy: Some people live so far away that the only place they can buy a ticket is from a scalper. They enter through the backdoor because they can’t access the front. Fourth: Look at bittorrents, or the amount of downloads of cracks. For that matter, look at how fast pirates can get up a crack. If a lot of people weren’t downloading it, you wouldn’t see people like aXXo releasing thousands of cracked products.

    @ Seamus: I do respect your position. There is a reasonable argument that piracy or theft, no matter the unmitigated and cruel stupidity, monopoly nature of many of the institutions like the RIAA, etc., is not acceptable. I just personally disagree. Corporations and corporate associations like the RIAA have used numerous criminal tactics and have hijacked the political system to protect their interests. We all suffer under GATT’s new patent systems, even though the vast majority of the world never got even a modicum of input on it. I don’t recognize their right to restrict my actions. They’re trying to steal from me, I’d be in fact stupid not to steal from them.

    You absolutely underscore the problem when you say piracy is a social, not a technological, problem. Piracy of products has been a constant even since the printing press: Cervantes was miffed about an unauthorized Don Quixote, and killed off the character in the second book. In particular, in the digital age, pirates will always win. If I have something on my hard drive, I can eventually crack it. The fact that the data has to be local, until we can get to a world of ubiquitous ultra-fast Internet, makes cracking easy. Even WoW, which doesn’t have a huge pirate problem because they’re not so much selling a game as a very, VERY popular set of servers, can be pirated if you play on private servers.

    But WoW is close to the perfect model. They don’t even bother to prevent you from transferring WoW to 20,000 computers if you like. And they have devoted almost no effort to cracking down on private servers. What they do is give an official version of the game that has what people are looking for: Large-scale collaborative social interaction. That is an example of something that, in Kevin Kelly’s words, is generative: It’s not free, it’s not easy to acquire, it can’t be copied or duplicated.

  59. Dave says:

    I really don’t get it. Stardock has openly admitted they don’t do anything about piracy. Their business model is simple: instead of trying to stop pirates from pirating, make a game good enough that people want to buy it. I’ve bought GalCiv2 and both expansions, and even though I don’t play them much, I’m still glad I bought them. I was curious about Sins, and a friend had a pirated copy, so I installed it… Impulse not only picked up the installation, it offered to update it. A pirated game. Then I played, and was absolutely blown away. I’ve since reformatted, and have not reinstalled it. If I do, I’m going to buy it. Stardock deserves the support, because they did nothing to stop me from pirating, but the game’s so damn awesome that I don’t want to. Pirating is punishment. Stardock is one of the few companies who actually cares about the people paying them: the gamers. I think the other publishers/devs would do well to take after them, especially in the Gamer’s Bill of Rights.

  60. baracuda says:

    So,You did get permission for using clips of Veggie tales on your site, since you are so honest, right?

  61. Whisker says:

    Via StumbleUpon

    I’ve probably got 25 pirated games in storage on my hard drive. Six of those games I also have a legitimate retail copy. One I have an OEM copy of (thanks Nvidia for CODWAW). Eight more are DVD rips from closest friend. That leaves a just four games which I have pirated from various websites. Why do I pirate? Because it means I’m not spending $50+ on a game that I can obtain for free. There are, in rare occasions, games I cannot find anywhere else, like X-Com Apocalypse, or Close Combat (from the 90’s baby). I’m not going to lie. If I had the money, I would pay for the games I do play. Being in college sucks, and I’m flat-ass broke. If somehow piracy was “cured” overnight, I would still buy games, but I wouldn’t be able to afford them very often, maybe once every three months.

    And, of interesting note, the developers putting DRM on their software is like the liberals trying to ban firearms from the people. Restricting law abiding people doesn’t do anything for the criminals like me. There are always ways around restrictions when you don’t give a damn about the law.

  62. Tim Anderson says:

    Voting with your wallet won't work.

    IF sales increase/THEN draconian copy-protection will continue, because clearly it's not hurting sales.

    IF sales decrease/THEN draconian copy-protection will continue, because the loss is clearly due to piracy.

    I disagree. If you don’t play the game, they will notice the lack of players due to the lack of high scores and such.

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