on May 29, 2008
|If you don’t get it, this might help explain the joke.|
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.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.