on Jul 23, 2008
I’ve been following the comment threads on the previous post on this subject and I feel compelled to retreat a bit and shore up my position further back. I joined Sean Sands in saying that inviting pirates to the debate was a bad thing, but the comment thread on the post on this site makes a really good case to the contrary. You can’t look at the comments and dismiss them all as a bunch of grabby selfish amoral jerks.
But I still get annoyed with stories that try to give the pirate’s point of view. And here’s why: It’s not that we shouldn’t listen to pirates, it’s that if you ARE going to put pirates / piracy advocates / IP reformists in your news article, you should do the responsible thing and find the SMART ones.
Some slack-jawed pilfering loser who downloads games because he can’t be arsed to pay for them doesn’t have much to say except for a bunch of weak excuses. “I pirate games because they suck and the publishers don’t deserve my money and besides these games are so awesome I can’t possibly be expected to live without them.” Right. They don’t even warrant a rebuttal because they’ve already done that for you.
But mixed in with the genuine freeloaders are people who buy games and crack them to bypass the needless DRM. Are these people pirates? I don’t think so, but they’re constantly getting lumped in with them. Some people have different ideas on how IP should work. I disagree with those people, but their opinion is more nuanced than “gimmie” and I think the comments thread proves they have things to say that are worth hearing. There are also people just trying to protect themselves against buying a non-returnable game that doesn’t work.
There are a lot of reasons people hit the torrents, and I think talking to the “gimmie” pirates is giving a voice to the most shallow and least interesting actors on that side of the divide. I agree with Sands that those people don’t have anything illuminating to say and propping up these strawmen cheapens the whole debate. Talking to them also short-changes the more interesting people – the ones who do (sometimes) buy games and who are concerned with more than just getting things without paying for them.
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.