The REAL Rogues

  By Shamus   Aug 7, 2008   93 comments

The following is about the most incestuous link I’ve ever put up:

Fellow blogger Jay Barnson (who was one of the participants in my XFire Aftermath series) has a great article titled Going Rogue over at The Escapist (where I publish my Stolen Pixels comic) and in that article Jay interviews Steven Peeler, the guy behind Depths of Peril, which I reviewed back in June.

If you’re having trouble following all that, I might suggest making a flowchart. Another option is to simply give up on the previous train wreck of a paragraph and move onto the next one, which I promise will be far more lucid:

The article is about the jump from being a mainstream developer working for The Man, to becoming an indie developer and working for yourself. Whatever faults The Man may have, he’s usually in a better position to pay you than (say) you are. The tradeoff seems to be that you can work on the kind of games that interest you, on your own terms, at your own pace, and for the audience you think is important, as long as you’re willing to work hard for very little. On the upside, if you make a hit, you get rich instead of your paymasters.

It’s a good read. My hat is off to the guys (and non-guys) who take the risk and bring us games that otherwise wouldn’t get made. What’s most disappointing is to see that pirates are targeting indies. Says Peeler:

Since we are a small developer that has a hard time getting attention, you would think we would have very little piracy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at all. It’s depressing how many sites are pirating Depths of Peril.

And he’s not the only one:

Some of them cloak it all with this thin veneer of ‘sticking it to the man’ and being ‘anti-DRM’ and ‘anti-big corporations.’ Despite me giving a free demo, no DRM, innovative games, at reasonable prices with great tech support from a one-man company, the bastards still rip me off and take my stuff anyway.

Cliff Harris, Positech Games

If you have pirated an indie game, please correct this error by following these steps:

  1. Get an electric hedge trimmer.
  2. Coat the blades with Tabasco sauce.
  3. Switch it on.
  4. Drop it down the front of your pants.

Alternatively:

  1. Pay for the game. They’re usually very reasonably priced.

Barring that, at least stop seeding and indexing the things. Sheesh. There is a difference between “sticking it to The Man” and “sticking it to some guy”. Nobody is going to take your quest against those nefarious corporations seriously while you’re shafting regular people who put out good games with good support and no DRM.

And to the indie developers out there: Survival horror, man, survival horror. Underexploited market.

Think about it.

2020202013There are now 93 comments. Almost a hundred!


1 2

  1. Fenix says:

    I’ve pirated before, but pirating an indie game is just wrong! I mean pirating in general is wrong and I’m an A-hole for doing it, but there’s only so low you can go.

  2. Joel D says:

    ^ You said it perfectly. Same for me.

  3. Sigma says:

    I have followed your instructions, though I have not pirated a game, just be safe.
    Is a burning, searing pain a normal side effect?

  4. Rason says:

    I really think its time some of those hackers out there that call themselves chaotic good hackers, aka, they only use their knowledge to harm bad people, should start targeting pirates. As it is, the most infamous arch nemesis are the pirates and ninjas, well you network inclined, password breaking, ‘good guys’, ninja isn’t that bad a title is it? I want to hear in the news about how a bunch of those user to user hubs suddenly lost their ability to work…..

  5. Facus says:

    Pirating is theft, plain and simple, and NONE of them are Robbin Hood. Fueled only by greed. I used to pirate, ill admit it. I felt It was my privlage to try before I buy. Seeing as there is a lack of demos these days. This changed when I achieved a steady income, and knew I had enough cash flow to buy (though I really wish I would have pirated hellgate london, would have saved me $50 poorly spent).
    Support the products you like, it shows that your willing to spend your hard earned money on products you like. And when they know what you like, they can tailor the product to you.

  6. Krellen says:

    I simply do not understand where this thought of entitlement to things came from – because that is the root of piracy, and a plethora of other problems plaguing the economy these days. Really, we all just need to learn one fundamental lesson:

    If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.

    This applies to games, to houses, to electronic gadgets, and anything else you can think of. It’s a fundamental truth – because if you do need something, really need it, you’ll find a way to afford it.

    It’s simple. Any child should understand this concept.

  7. Face says:

    I’ve pirated games books for my favorite RPG, but to be honest I’ve only done it to get electronic copies to keep on my laptop. I did go through my collection and realized that I had some modules that I didn’t own physical copies of, so I had to go purchase those.

    Not saying I’m any better than other pirates, just doing some weak justification.

  8. Nick says:

    I am, sadly, guilty of doing just this. Not as much as I am of bigger companies, but occasionally smaller ones with products ACTUALLY worth it (such as uplink, Darwinia, and the excellent Avernum series). I think I’ll repent and get the Avernum series soon (I DO repent when the game is worth it, such as the Warhammer 40K RTS and The Act of War RTS).

    I will, however, never do it again. I’ve purchased Eden from PSN (if you can call PixelJunk an indie developer), and plan on looking into others. I plan on becoming a developer myself sometime too.

  9. Zaghadka says:

    Krellen,

    A lot of people can’t afford health care and a lot of people can’t afford FOOD. They do need both to survive.

    For example, your advice falls flat in the face of a working mother (who was a friend of mind) having her abscessed tooth pulled in an E.R., because she couldn’t afford decent dental care, and her job didn’t offer a health plan. Even in the E.R. she still couldn’t afford it, but she was running a life-threatening fever, so they were not allowed to turn her away.

    Guess who gets stuck with the bill?

    People suffer greatly from not being able to afford the things they need all the time. It’s one thing to say that they aren’t entitled; I’d agree with that. It’s another thing entirely to claim that such situations don’t happen.

    That said, “If you can’t afford something truly unnecessary, DON’T OBTAIN IT ILLEGALLY” is probably what you really meant to say, and I can agree with that 100%.

  10. guy says:

    The rampant coyote has a commentor who has suggested changing the term “Pirate” to “Douchebag” in an effort to remove the coolness factor

  11. MadTinkerer says:

    The “games are too expensive” justification goes away when you’re pirating $10-$20 games.

    The truth is: piracy is all about lazyness, greed, and ignorance. It has nothing to do with idealism. There isn’t a reason for the pirates to not pirate indie games when they’re already pirating everything else.

  12. Sitte says:

    If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.

    QFT, assuming your lifestyle allows you to spend time reading video game websites.

    Which, for all of us, clearly is the case.

  13. Zukhramm says:

    I suggest all the people dealing with anti-piracy measures be called Ninjas and that they face the Pirates in open battle. No one survives. So, all the DRM programers are dead and all the pirates are dead. Everyone is happy.

  14. July says:

    Yeah, it’s best to work on the kinds of things that interest you, because “Otherwise, you’ll be up against people far more enthusiastic for the genre than you, and they’ll kick your ass every time.” -Scott McCloud

    On the pirating charge; I can understand if some people want to play games without the DRM system, and it’s true that not much of your money actually makes it to the developers when you pay $50 for a game. I think it’s better to just stay away from DRM, rather than pirating it. At least buy it and then pirate it, if it’s something you absolutely have to play. But, at least that is something I can understand. On the other hand, pirating from indies? That’s not the same thing at all. No DRM, and all the money will go to the developer when you buy it. If I want to buy an episode of Sam and Max, it’s about $9.00. I’m pretty sure that most pirates have that kind of money. It’s hard to understand the kind of person who would begrudge them their hard earned $9.00.

    Do they think that indies won’t miss the money?

  15. Krellen says:

    Zaghadka said:
    A lot of people can’t afford health care and a lot of people can’t afford FOOD. They do need both to survive.

    While I am not without sympathy – I’ve spent the past four years working for non-profits, including a Food Bank, and will likely spend the rest of my life doing the same – I can’t help but suspect that much of this stems from indiscriminate spending elsewhere. Yes, there are people for whom the necessities are in fact a question everyday, but the number who are truly in this position not of their own fault are small; much of this is a side-effect of them purchasing things they didn’t need in other realms. Housing is a big one; not everyone needs to own a house, and not everyone with kids needs to own a house. When you surrender the “need” for a house and instead find an apartment/condo with sufficient space to live in, you free up a lot of money from your budget; mortgages tend to run in the thousands, while rent is in the hundreds*.

    The health care problem is a bit of a different beast, because it’s simply a broken system. But no one steals health care. Sometimes they get it free and taxpayers/investors eat the loss, but it wasn’t stolen – it was given freely.

    *Regional variations apply.

  16. R4byde says:

    If you have pirated an indie game, please correct this error by following these steps:

    1. Get an electric hedge trimmer.
    2. Coat the blades with Tabasco sauce.
    3. Switch it on.
    4. Drop it down the front of your pants.

    I nearly fell out of my chair reading that. And it gave me a great idea for a new DRM scheme to sell to EA! Razor sharp DVDs! Think about it. If the consumer can’t touch the game without getting cut, they’ll never be able to duplicate it!

  17. Al Shiney says:

    Krellen, I gotta take issue with the line “not everyone needs to own a house”. Without getting all sentimental here, owning your residence is the American dream … it’s also the single most important investment you’ll ever make in your future. I don’t care if it’s a 1 BR condo, owning is always better than renting and that is not likely to change.

    The reason the mortgage industry is crashing is because some banks made stupid loans to people for houses that are way more expensive than they can afford. Everybody wants the newest, biggest, and best with all the modern bells and whistles, even if they have to take out a 40 year mortgage and make interest-only payments on it. That’s a recipe for disaster … which is exactly where we are right now.

    Four words are all that’s needed to set people right and it’s something that our parents, grandparents, and their parents knew how to do … live within your means.

  18. Calite says:

    I’ve bought a Positech game and tried(and liked) demos of other Positech games. They’re unique, fun, and cheap.

    Seriously, I think the most expensive one is like 20-25 dollars, and there are occasional deals such as “Buy a game and get this game 15% off” from the site, so there’s no reason to complain about prices. I intend to buy more of Cliff’s games in the future. Pirating games made by one man so he can make an honest living is disgusting. I see no difference between that and stealing crops from a farmer.

  19. Davesnot says:

    to those that say, “I won’t do it again..”.. fine.. but that indie game company also won’t put anything out again.. because they went broke.. you buying the game the next time does nothing for the dude you stole from the first time.

    It only keeps you from committing another crime.

  20. Greg says:

    Personally, I found a way to afford my habits :P Screw housing, screw food, screw health care. Enlist, let the government take care of my needs, and let me take care of my wants :)

    By the by, I’m a pirate as well, but in the “Down Periscope” way. Arrrr!

  21. Kevin says:

    I have some thoughts about that “sense of entitlement” you mention Krellen, but my feelings on this topic get political pretty quickly and wife turns purple whenever I start going down that path in a public forum. As she points outs out, getting people to like you is much more effective for increasing readership of a webcomic than insulting everyone who comes to it for entertainment.

    But whatever.

    I know I kind of consider it a privilege to be able to pay for the things I want these days. It makes me feel good about myself, and about the system I’m supporting. I find that I enjoy the products and their creators more because I feel I’m actually invested in them. Sometimes I can’t afford something the instant I want it, but when did saving up to get something special become so outré? What if I wanted a computer and broke into someone’s house and just took it? How is that different?

    If you gotta be a thief, steal office supplies from work. Don’t steal the dreams of a guy who is trying to find a job that makes him happy.

  22. GAZZA says:

    Why Tabasco sauce? Surely barbeque sauce is more appropriate for indie pirates, or am I thinking of hot dogs? …

  23. m2 says:

    I have pirated before, but only for a game that I had bought already for the consoles but felt that I was entitled to mod support for it. So I got it from a friend for the PC.

    But I would never pirate an indie game. With their smaller, niche markets, every dollar actually counts. Sure, they count for EA and 2K, but 100,000’s of mainstream consumers lured by payola or by the marketing hype will buy the game anyways, DRM or not.

  24. Ian B. says:

    Looks like we’re (quite literally) getting another taste of spicy Shamus here. I like it. :)

    As for the entry itself, I fully agree. Indie developers work hard and deserve every penny. I’m not saying that the developers of mainstream titles don’t deserve their pay — I’m sure most of them do — but they’re going to get paid regardless. It’s just that indie developers are typically the ones that take the risks and put out the innovative titles (for affordable prices, might I add) for the mainstream ones to rip off.

  25. Jimmie says:

    I simply do not understand where this thought of entitlement to things came from…

    I know exactly where it comes from but this is definitely not the place to bring up that particular discussion.

  26. blizzardwolf says:

    If you look at it from an economic standpoint, piracy is the natural response to the decisions these large media developers are making. Leaving aside all the talk about sticking it to the man and showing a strong dissatisfaction with their actions, it’s simply a matter of consumers moving to a better product.

    As Shamus has pointed out, the cost of legitimately purchasing a computer game goes beyond the $50 or $60 a customer pays at the cash register. Customers now have to deal with outsourced, often clueless and English-weak tech support. They have to deal with needlessly convoluted installation and downloading instructions, like having to install and learn STEAM, or having to download “Official patch v1.21″, or learning what settings and options may have to be changed on their video cards, or processors, or monitors, to run said game, and again, with little to no help from those producing it.

    And then of course there’s the steadfast policy of all software companies not to accept opened software returns. Understandable given their situation, but the fact is these companies are essentially asking customers to gamble money on a product that may damage their personal property, may or may not work as they need, and which may or may not even be worth the money. It doesn’t take a particularly educated person to see the rip-off in that.

    Compare this to the product offered by piracy, and the costs associated with it:

    A pirated game is free. It’s not laden with the intrusive DRM measures that a store-bought copy is. The community tech support is often very clear in their advice, VERY knowledgeable, friendly, and quick to respond to common, and even unique problems with reliable information.

    Learning how to download and operate a pirated game can be the work of a single afternoon, and that’s knowledge which will serve a customer for numerous applications in the future. Of course there is the risk of being caught and prosecuted, or sued, but most pirates will agree that the risk of that is inversely proportional to the amount of people pirating at once. In essence, they can’t sue everyone.

    When it comes to large companies, they’re showing piracy exactly what mistakes to avoid. Now a person can call piracy “theft” if they really want to get on a soapbox, and by the technical definition they’d be right. But that’s semantics. What’s happening with piracy and the larger companies is simple economics. If you view internet piracy as a company instead of a term, it’s offering the same product as, say, 2KGames, but for less money, with more convenience, less hassle, and more customer support and respect.

    I know we all agree that game developers themselves deserve money for their art, and if we could pay them directly and get a game in return, we would. But why should customers pay money for an inferior product with inferior service, from a vendor which has no respect or concern for said customers, when they can go to it’s competitor (piracy) and get a superior product with better service and treatment, and for less money?

    You can’t call it theft when it’s not something worth paying for. And as deplorable as some people may find piracy, the vast majority will see it just like that, a better product for less money. And there’s no reason not to, this is Marketing law 101, and there should be no shame in punishing these companies for their mistakes by following it.

    Of course this argument only applies to major game companies. Indie developers should have our support and backing, and there is no excuse except abject greed and laziness for pirating from them.

  27. Veylon says:

    Well put. I use the Demo-DRM-Availability trifecta to decide how much sympathy I should have towards anyone pirating a game. The price doesn’t enter into this, as a company has a right to ask whatever they want for it. It’s theirs, after all.

    Depths of Peril has a demo, lacks DRM, and is available as a digital download everywhere, so I can have no sympathy for pirates there.

  28. Kizer says:

    GAZZA — Tabasco sauce creates a burning sensation when combined with a hedge trimmer and dropped inside your pants. Barbecue sauce simply can’t compare.

  29. krellen says:

    You can’t call it theft when it’s not something worth paying for.
    Yes you can.

    If it’s something not worth paying for, don’t get it. You don’t get to steal something just because it’s not worth paying for. Your only options are to pay for it, steal it, or not have it. Anything else is semantics, usually trying to justify option #2.

  30. Dev Null says:

    Heh. I know you often write these things in advance Shamus, so I’m going to guess you had already seen it. Still, can’t blame a guy for trying…

  31. Kris says:

    Blizzardwolf
    “You can’t call it theft when it’s not something worth paying for.”

    Yes you can because it is theft. Someone else owns that property and you took it. That is theft no matter how you try to justify it. If I think Ford makes a peice of junk car does that mean I get to steal it?

    “And as deplorable as some people may find piracy, the vast majority will see it just like that, a better product for less money.”

    I like how you keep saying less money. Be honest, it’s NO money because you stole it.

  32. David V.S. says:

    warning: preacher moment

    Krellen wrote:
    > I simply do not understand where this thought of
    > entitlement to things came from

    It’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins, so at least it’s not a recent development.

    The Latin word avarita has become avarice (greed), but the original meaning of the word is slightly different since avarita can also apply to desiring anything that we believe is justly ours. The nearest English word is “entitlement”.

    Entitlement is the opposite of agape (self-sacrificing love), the Greek word the New Testament uses to talk about acting justly while never demanding justice from others.

    Do we demand our “fair share” of praise, recognition, and reward, or do give without expectations?

    The old self, sustained by self-interest, believes it is harmed when denied what it is entitled to. The new self cannot be threatened (Romans 8:38-39), feels no entitlement, and can afford to giving unceasingly without expectations.

  33. Derek K says:

    “I don’t care if it’s a 1 BR condo, owning is always better than renting and that is not likely to change.”

    No, no it’s not. I bought a manufactured home. I took out a loan to get it. I lived in it for 7 years. I moved. I can’t sell it for what I owe on it. I finally found someone to take over the payments on it, but my parents actually took out a loan to make a down payment, which isn’t covered. So I have sold the house, and still owe money. If I’d been renting, I’d have come out equivalent, but wouldn’t have the down payment, and I wouldn’t have paid property taxes, and I wouldn’t have paid upkeep for things that the lease company would have done.

    It’s usually worth it. And it’s “the american dream” apparently. I’m really thinking that I’d rather lease for the next several at the least (I’m in a rental house now).

    @blizzardwolf:

    *boggle*

    A few points:

    I like how installing and using Steam is a complex and difficult activity, given where you included it, but pirating games is an afternoon’s work that helps you forever. Because every pirate uses the same setup, and Steam is *ungodly* hard to use. I mean, click, download, wait, click to play. Who on earth can handle that?

    And patching – um, I’m pretty sure getting a legit patch for a legal game is a bit easier than locating a new crack for a new patch. Especially for the majority of people who aren’t enmeshed in pirating games.

    The suggestion that if you buy the game, you get moronic support, but if you pirate it, you get great support is also a complete non argument. If you buy the game, you get the same support the pirate does, plus some. It’s not like you go to a community forum and see posts like “I’m sorry – we can’t help you with legit copies, only pirated ones.” If you’re talking specifically install, perhaps, but that’s about it.

    “In essence, they can’t sue everyone.”

    So it’s okay to do something, as long as enough other people are. Ah. I’m not gonna pull a Godwin on you, but seriously – can you really buy in to an argument like that? You’re admitting it’s wrong, but saying you’re ignoring that, because you probably won’t get caught.

    “But why should customers pay money for an inferior product with inferior service …. a superior product with better service and treatment, and for less money?”

    So that more games get made? I don’t know if you really understand this, but people have to buy a game to get more games made. You’re basically assuming that other people will buy enough to fund you getting another game. You are leeching off legit people. You don’t find that any way distasteful or wrong?

    And then there’s the classic piracy argument:

    “You can’t call it theft when it’s not something worth paying for. And as deplorable as some people may find piracy, the vast majority will see it just like that, a better product for less money. And there’s no reason not to … and there should be no shame in punishing these companies for their mistakes by following it.”

    Yes. Yes you can. It’s theft. It’s a product that should require you to pay for it both by law and by custom, and you aren’t. It’s theft. And to suggest that some how your pirating the game will show a company how to make a game? Seriously? These are the same people that say “Not buying a game won’t make a statement to the company, they won’t notice.”

    “Of course this argument only applies to major game companies. Indie developers should have our support and backing, and there is no excuse except abject greed and laziness for pirating from them.”

    Because the people that work for major game companies are somehow worse people than indie designers? They are undeserving of money?

    The argument is “Well, those people will get paid anyway.”

    Only until the company decides that making games is not profitable, because no one buys them, and starts laying people off.

    Everyone that works for a large company is just as human as an indie developer. Your impact may be less obvious, and less proportionally painful, but it’s still there. Big companies go out of business, and lay people off.

    AND big companies, in a lot of ways, are the way they are (focused on huge games that bring huge profits, rather than marginal niche games) BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE MADE IT NOT PROFITABLE TO BE ANYTHING ELSE!

    Why is EA Games the way it is? Why do they make Madden every year? Because if they go with other things, they don’t make money. They have no other choice. And they are just as strident in their “Pirates made me do it” arguments are you are in your “The Man made me do it.”

    But despite all this, the pirates won’t care.

    It makes me amazingly sad to think, even for a minute, “Maybe the RIAA would be the best thing that could happen to video games.”

  34. Daath says:

    “Yes you can because it is theft. Someone else owns that property and you took it. That is theft no matter how you try to justify it. If I think Ford makes a peice of junk car does that mean I get to steal it?”

    This piece of hyperbole is been cut apart about a thousand times. Pirate doesn’t take anything, he makes a copy of it without compensating the owner. It’s not theft, more like… unauthorized usage or something. The pirate with no regrets would be absolutely enraged if some punk took his car for a joyride without his permission, even if the deed was done at night when he didn’t need it, and the car was returned at pristine condition, ensuring that nobody lost anything. He’d hardly be as mad and hurt as if the punk had actually stolen his car, though.

    Just about every excuse for there being nothing wrong in ripping off others is pretty weak, but blowing the sins of pirates out of proportion and sanctimoniously condemning them for something they didn’t in fact do really won’t change their minds. I suppose it’s better at trumpeting one’s ethical superiority compared to the unwashed masses, though, which is really the national sport at West these days.

    Anyway, sure, don’t rip off the indie devs. I’ve done it sometimes, though only in cases where they can’t be ordered without credit card (not that easy to get around here). If you want to think I’m a bad person for acquiring an illegitimate copy of something I can’t get without considerable load of extra trouble, it’s fine with me. Enjoy the thrill.

  35. Steve C says:

    @Kris:It is not stealing and it is not theft. It is copyright infringement. They are not the same thing in reality nor are the treated the same under the law in any country.

    If you take my fire by lighting a candle from my fire without my permission, what have I been denied*? You have denied me compensation for all the work I put into building the fire, but it is not theft.

    *And YES, denying someone else property is the important part of theft, not the permission aspect. And yes, if you do something against the reasonable wishes of another person just because you can that does not make you a thief. That makes you a douchebag.

  36. Antwon says:

    I don’t care if it’s a 1 BR condo, owning is always better than renting

    I’d respectfully disagree with that statement, suggesting that which choice is better is a function of the prices in one’s local market. I’m in the Silicon Valley at the moment; going by local home prices and rental listings on CraigsList, the same property that I could own with a mortgage of $4,000/month I could rent for perhaps $2,300/month. Even after factoring in tax benefits and the “you can do whatever you’d like to your own home and The Man can’t tell you off!” X-factor, it’s reaaaaaally tough for me to justify a position other than “I’m going to keep renting, salting away the extra savings every month, waiting things out for a more reasonable time to buy”. (Doubly so if one believes that property values are more likely to go down than up in the immediate future.)

    Apologies for the digression. :)

  37. Kris says:

    “This piece of hyperbole is been cut apart about a thousand times.”

    By pirates whose moral compass is hardly the barometer we should measuring by.

    “Pirate doesn’t take anything, he makes a copy of it without compensating the owner. It’s not theft, more like… unauthorized usage or something. The pirate with no regrets would be absolutely enraged if some punk took his car for a joyride without his permission, even if the deed was done at night when he didn’t need it, and the car was returned at pristine condition, ensuring that nobody lost anything. He’d hardly be as mad and hurt as if the punk had actually stolen his car, though.”

    So if the person who took is car for a joyride was caught he wouldn’t be charged with theft? Interesting theory.

    “I suppose it’s better at trumpeting one’s ethical superiority compared to the unwashed masses, though, which is really the national sport at West these days.”

    I suppose when you are the one commiting the unethical acts having them pointed out to you so you realize the negative impact of those acts on others would be considered trumpeting.

    I also like the attempt to turn this into a west vs east matter – did your original argument dry up?

    “Anyway, sure, don’t rip off the indie devs. I’ve done it sometimes, though only in cases where they can’t be ordered without credit card (not that easy to get around here). If you want to think I’m a bad person for acquiring an illegitimate copy of something I can’t get without considerable load of extra trouble, it’s fine with me. Enjoy the thrill.”

    Why not mail a cheque to them after acquiring the pirated copy? Right, because its only a rationalization to make you feel better about your theft.

  38. Mythin says:

    Thank you Steve C. I was going to say the same thing.

    I’m very tired of the attempt many people make to associate copyright infringement with theft. It’s clear this is done because almost everyone agrees theft morally is wrong, whereas many people will either not understand copyright infringement, or may even find nothing morally wrong with it. Remember, morality and legality are not the same.

    It is still illegal, there are still repercussions and for many it’s still morally reprehensible, but it is NOT theft.

  39. Steve C says:

    It’s like blaming the drunks for creating Al Capone.

    It doesn’t really matter if you stick it to “the man” or “that guy over there with red hair.” It’s still douchebag behavior but it also should be expected. Piracy is the natural unlawful behavior that emerges from the flawed system, like rumrunners if you outlaw booze. The business model of packaging software in a cardboard box and selling it on a shelf like cereal is flawed. People are going to open it up and tell each other the secret decoder ring password. Fix the system and piracy will also be fixed.

    The music industry bemoaned the closing mall music store while abdicating market power to Walmart. Walmart quickly became the industry’s biggest revenue stream. The music industry bemoaned the internet and kicked and screamed as they railed against the machine. Then comes iTunes. iTunes is now the biggest music retailer and dictates terms to the music industry. Why? Because the music industry was incompetent and refused to change to the times. iTunes saved the music industry because they were too stupid to save themselves.

    Now PC gaming is dying. Shamus is right in that it seems to be more of ashame to see the indie developer work harder and get less for it. It’s even sadder when people kick them while their down. But it doesn’t matter if they are the biggest producer of buggywhips or the small shop that makes artistic buggywhips that can only be made by a true craftsman… I still want to yell at them you are trying to sell freaking BUGGYWHIPS! SMARTEN UP and make something people WANT before you bankrupt yourself! It’s really hard to feel sorry for stupid people, neither individuals nor groups.

    If game developers came up with a new WORKING business model for PC games we’d all be happier. Blizzard figured out a new way. Indies can too, or they will die the capitalist market death of the buggywhip makers.

  40. Derek K says:

    Theft is the easiest metaphor we have to deal with it.

    The fact is that the legal system has not caught up with technology. That doesn’t make something any less wrong.

    Also:

    “If you want to think I’m a bad person for acquiring an illegitimate copy of something I can’t get without considerable load of extra trouble, it’s fine with me. Enjoy the thrill.”

    I do, in fact. “It’s harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd” is far from a justification for “So I didn’t pay for it.”

    That’s the argument my 14 year old uses to explain why our dogs didn’t get fed, or the dishwasher didn’t get emptied, or why she didn’t do her homework.

    To me, if it’s too hard to acquire, or I am unable to do so, I DON’T DO IT. I don’t say “Well, it’s hard, so I’ll just take it.”

    Let’s take another metaphor: Robbing a bank. If you steal $75,000 from someone’s bank account fraudulently, the money will be replaced by the government, or the bank. You have not actually deprived the person of anything. Is it wrong? *Someone* will pay for it, but it’s some monolithic entity that won’t really feel the pain. So is it justified?

    The basic perception issue is whether you have a fundamental right to own or play a game. I say “Hell no.” Pirates obviously say “Hell yes.” And neither side can even conceive of how the other can say that. Which is why we’ll never fix the issue until something significant happens, whether it’s a change in the laws, an entity that takes over, or publishers changing their paradigm.

    Also also:

    “SMARTEN UP and make something people WANT before you bankrupt yourself!”

    If it’s not something people want, why are people pirating it? I am a bit confused by that argument too – your product sucks, so I stole it (infringed on the copyright) and played it.

    If it sucked, why did you play it? If you played it, it didn’t suck, so your argument is done. Unless you enjoy playing games that suck, in which case, it didn’t suck, in some way, and you should pay for it.

    Again, the idea that ‘your product isn’t worth buying’ translates not to ‘so I won’t buy it’ but ‘so I’ll take it anyway’ doesn’t work for me.

    On the upside: These piracy debates have absolutely strengthened my resolve to never ever pirate another game, and to be sure my daughter knows that doing so is absolutely wrong. Before all this, I was sort of “eh” about the idea – I wasn’t gonna do it any more, because it was wrong, but I might have gotten lazy and grabbed something, and if I’d heard she pulled something down, I’d say “Eh, whatever.” Now I’m pretty much strongly anti-piracy, and I’ve already tossed out some old burned CDs I had laying about from years ago.

  41. Zukhramm says:

    I didn’t post in one of the earlier piracy posts here, for some reason.

    We all know that digital content can be copied indefinitely. And this is the most obvious point. If we had he ability to copy physical objects, would it not be allowed to do so? Would it not be our duty to make sure everyone could get everything they needed?

    But obviously, intellectual property is not the same as regular property. Should it be treated as such? Should it ony be so in some points? Should it be possible to “own” it at all? To me, the ability to “own” a piece of text or music has always seemed strange.

    I am thinking, that maybe the age of making money off of inellectual property by means of sold copies is over.

    Now does this make it less wrong to pirate? I don’t know, it is still, no matter what, still wrong by law. However should you break a law you consider wrong? In some cases it is right to do so, in this, I don’t think that is the best solution.

    The best thing to do is probably to either get into politics or create something yourself and do things differently.

    And I can promise you here, on the internet, that I am going to buy the music I’ve downloaded.

  42. Mythin says:

    Let’s take another metaphor: Robbing a bank. If you steal $75,000 from someone’s bank account fraudulently, the money will be replaced by the government, or the bank.

    Everyone keeps using theft as a metaphor. It’s NOT close AT ALL. Theft deprives someone of a good. In your case, the $75,000 is replaced by the FDIC, which is funded through taxpayers, which means you are depriving the budget of the U.S. (or whatever country) of that $75,000.

    In a copyright infringement case, you are depriving them of potential revenue. Let me give you a hint about potential revenue: it’s not real. It’s not money that you can hold. It’s occasionally money you can spend through speculative loans, but it’s no more real than my imaginary friend Bob. If someone isn’t going to purchase your game, than so-called “piracy” isn’t depriving them of anything at all, just this fictitious “potential” that would never have been realized.

    Just so we’re clear, I haven’t pirated a game in a long time, and have no plans to do so in the future. I’d just rather everyone call a duck a duck, rather than pretending it’s a swan.

  43. Burning says:

    I am familiar with most of the justifications of piracy. To my shame, I used some of them when I was younger.

    There is one question I would ask those who would defend piracy, a question which I personally have never seen a piracy defender dare face. Do you want to accept the consequences of everyone else accepting your justifications?

    Because, you see, a dedicated pirate relies on the existence of people who reject piracy. Making games takes money. For game companies to make money they have to sell games.

    If the piracy justifications are universally accepted and taken to their logical conclusion, no one will buy games any more. Initially they won’t buy games because they have embraced piracy, but shortly they won’t buy games because no one makes them any more.

    Frankly, if you can’t answer this to my satisfaction I will conclude that you don’t really want people to embrace your “moral” position, but you just hope you’ll get people to shut up and leave you alone.

  44. Zukhramm says:

    Well, Burning.

    I’m not sure about two things.

    Would people stop buying games if no one saw piracy as morally wrong?

    Would people stop creating games if there was no money to make?

    Maybe, maybe not.

  45. journeyman says:

    I’d never pirate an indie game for the same reason I’d never burn or download an unsigned band’s demo or self-released album without their permission. It just feels WRONG, like you’re ripping off a guy you could look in the face rather than a stereotypically evil (or genuinely evil in some cases) corporation.

  46. krellen says:

    There is a huge difference between “violating” copyright for fair use – ie, “legitimate” reasons – and violating it simply because you want something without paying for it.

    Piracy isn’t theft because you’re depriving someone else of a good. It’s theft because you are acquiring something without paying for it. You’re even using it for its intended purpose, yet you haven’t paid for it. You’re a thief, and I really don’t care to hear the fancy tags put on it. Thief is what we call people that acquire things without paying for them, even if the “thing” is electronic and “virtual”.

    All “valid” justifications for piracy have a simple answer: don’t play the game. That’s what I do. That’s what Shamus does. Regardless if your reasons are DRM, trial, lack of funds, or lack of respect, the correct answer to your “problems” with game developers is to not buy and play their games.

  47. Mythin says:

    Krellen, there is a difference, you are not a thief. Legally, theft and copyright infringement are two different things. Now, you may morally equate the two, but in every since that matters legally, copyright infringement is not theft. The idea of intellectual property is a legal fiction invented with the intent of giving incentives to creators to create. Since IP is a legal fiction, we must use legal definitions when discussing it.

    I really don’t care if you want to hear the fancy tags I put on it, but expect me to not listen to your arguments when you don’t even seem to understand the legal implications and insist on calling it something it isn’t.

  48. Namfoodle says:

    I find the justifications and rationalizations for software piracy pretty weak. I also disagree with the idea that it doesn’t qualify as theft.

    In the final analysis, software piracy is the theft of someone’s ideas and the theft of someone’s work.

    If you don’t think ideas are worth money and can be stolen, you haven’t been paying attention. Maybe you think ideas are worthless because you’ve never had any good ones of your own.

    If you don’t think people should get paid for their work, I can only assume it’s because you’re incapable of doing any worthwhile work yourself.

    Stop making excuses for piracy and admit to yourself that you are a coward and a parasite.

  49. GAZZA says:

    What’s the copyright period at now – 90+ years, if I recall correctly?

    The reason I ask – in the local Electronics Boutique store in Perth (Western Australia), they still have The Sims 2 (a 5 year old game) selling for its original price, and they even still sell the Starcraft Gold Edition and Warcraft Battle Chest at their original prices – indeed, they’re on the main shelves, not stuffed away in the “old games” section (unlike many more recent titles).

    Now, I’m not saying that games that are older than 5 years old should be free. But I think a legitimate question to ask is how long, morally speaking, should the company expect to still be paid the same amount for no additional work? Patents last – what, about 11 years? Why is art so much more intrinsically valuable than science?

    Piracy is wrong. There’s no real debate about that. But painting pirates as the black hats and the beleaguered game industry as the suffering victims is not telling anywhere near the whole story – that game industry is ruthlessly exploiting the less technically sophisticated portion of its audience.

    I think this issue has a lot more grey in it than many people are suggesting.

  50. Xinem says:

    Intellectual Property is not a legal fiction, although it is true that many people believe it should be. The extent of the protection granted by intellectual property rights is constantly being tested and tried around the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that right now in the U.S. and other countries IP rights are definable, defensible legal claims.

  51. Gaping_MAW says:

    Blizzardwolf said it very well. No matter how much you scream and rant and rave, pirates will still pirate stuff because THEY see it as a better option. Whether we call it theft or not DOESN’T matter.. the pirates don’t care!

    You have to make purchasing a better option to get pirates back into the mainstream consumer society. Make games for the people who pay, not for the pirates.

    Don’t whinge if your game gets pirated… focus on how to get people paying the money. FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMERS!

  52. Namfoodle says:

    By the way, when I look in my dictionary, “Theft” is defined as “stealing, larceny”. Stealing is defined as “to take the property of another without right or permission”. Larceny has a similar definition. Oh, and “Take” is defined as “to get into one’s possession by force, skill or artifice.”

    Mythin, I don’t understand where you get the idea that copyright infringement is not theft. It seems to me that the definitions overlap quite a bit. If you dowload a cracked copy of a game, you have “taken it without permission.” You’re a thief, one who steals, plain and simple.

    The fact that there are different legal statutes defining car theft, petty theft, shoplifting, armed robbery, burglary, and copyright infringement doesn’t change the fact that it’s all theft of one kind or another. The circumstances and the punishments may vary from crime to crime, but it’s all theft.

  53. Telas says:

    I’ve been of the opinion that piracy is theft, but I’ve also been a bit unsure of myself in that opinion because of the justifications thrown out there (DRM, etc). The fact that inexpensive indie games are being pirated pretty much nails it down for me: piracy is theft. Any ‘justification’ a pirate may offer is pretty much wiped out by that fact.

    Don’t believe IP rights are legal? That’s fine; you don’t need to believe that the federal income tax is legal for the IRS to put your ass in jail when you don’t pay up.

  54. Cybron says:

    As a bit of a pirate, I can tell you that the ‘pirates will steal everything not nailed down’ bit isn’t true. I’ve downloaded plenty of things, but never a video game.

  55. Veylon says:

    I prefer to attack piracy from a moral standpoint.

    Pirates are people who prevent the creative and innovative from realizing the potential of their creations. It’s not quite theft (depending on your definition), but that’s just a semantic difference.

    The creators of something have the right to decide how something they made is used. They deserve to benefit as much as they can from what they made. Because they made it.

  56. Mythin says:

    Perhaps the difference is how we view the implications of theft. I disagree with the theft label, because to me theft has the strong implication of depriving someone of goods. I guess based on a pure dictionary definition, a lot more things could be considered theft, but without that loss of property, I don’t truly consider it theft.

    What annoys me the most about using that term is that I constantly have to see it on many new DVDs (note, all legally purchased or rented) before the movie starts, and I’ve started associating it with propaganda of large movie conglomerates who are trying to create a social stigma around the act of copyright infringement.

    As far as my personal belief about IP rights, they’re rather complicated. I find the basic premise of copyright and patent laws to be sound, but the implementation to be flawed. The purpose, as I understand it, of these laws is to create incentives on creation by granting a limited monopoly on the ownership of an idea, after which, that idea will fall into general use. Copyright especially has gone from limited, to essentially eternal.

  57. Krellen says:

    While the longevity of copyrights is a valid thing to be upset about, that’s not even close to what we’re talking about. Piracy isn’t about taking ten or twenty year old games; it’s taking brand new ones.

    I don’t particularly accuse people that troll the Underdogs of being thieves, because that’s not what we’re talking about.

  58. GAZZA says:

    Krellen: the thing is, people trolling the Underdogs, as far as the law is concerned, as just as much pirates, are they not?

    Are they as bad as those downloading and seeding brand new Indie games? Of course not – but I was merely pointing out that it’s not entirely black and white.

    Make no mistake – pirating indie games is virtually always wrong. And buying games is virtually always right – legally at least. But there is a middle ground, I think – those who pirate games to get around the DRM after they’ve already paid for it, for one.

    I note several comments in Shamus’ latest post with love for Knights of the Old Republic. I actually did buy that for about $30 a few months ago, and it was buggy to the point that I couldn’t even finish the tutorial (as in literally – not that I got bored with it really quickly; indeed, I tried several times to get around it). I looked for patches and so forth, found very little, uninstalled it and moved on. By any reasonable standards I was completely ripped off.

    It’s not that pirates are bad guys. It’s that the guys on the other side are only good guys by comparison – not by any objective standard. (And sure, I’m oversimplifying – but I hope it is understood I’m oversimplifying for BOTH sides).

  59. K says:

    Piracy is wrong. I tried to buy Aquaria. And failed because their script did not take my weird street name which includes a “ü”. I then complained to them. And downloaded the game. And played through it. And payed it afterwards. :)

  60. Namfoodle says:

    Han shot first. Sometimes the “dick move” is the way to go. Whatever.

    You’re not going to find much love for piracy around here.

    And I seriously doubt you’ll ever change Shamus’s mind.

  61. R4byde says:

    Perhaps the difference is how we view the implications of theft. I disagree with the theft label, because to me theft has the strong implication of depriving someone of goods. I guess based on a pure dictionary definition, a lot more things could be considered theft, but without that loss of property, I don’t truly consider it theft.

    Theft has nothing to do with whether or not someone else is deprived of a physical good. Theft is the illegal acquisition of anything. What theft means to you isn’t, quite frankly, worth a damn. You live in a nation state under the protection of it’s government’s military, in exchange for which you pay taxes and agree to abide by the rules or suffer the consequences. If you don’t like the rules move somewhere else that doesn’t have a problem with copyright right infringement -AKA the theft of ideas a person, or legal entity, paid a government for the special protection of.- like China.

    Make no mistake – pirating indie games is virtually always wrong. And buying games is virtually always right – legally at least. But there is a middle ground, I think – those who pirate games to get around the DRM after they’ve already paid for it, for one.

    This area is, legally, a bit grey. Those who download a pirated copy after purchasing a legal copy aren’t stealing anything because they already paid for it. But, is nasty DRM a legitament reason for theft? No.

    The truth of the matter is this: when you offer to sell someone a good or service, you have the right to place certain conditions on it’s usage. If the potential buyer does not like these conditions they simply don’t buy (or otherwise obtain) the item.

    To echo Krellen:

    Piracy isn’t theft because you’re depriving someone else of a good. It’s theft because you are acquiring something without paying for it. You’re even using it for its intended purpose, yet you haven’t paid for it. You’re a thief, and I really don’t care to hear the fancy tags put on it. Thief is what we call people that acquire things without paying for them, even if the “thing” is electronic and “virtual”.

    All “valid” justifications for piracy have a simple answer: don’t play the game. That’s what I do. That’s what Shamus does. Regardless if your reasons are DRM, trial, lack of funds, or lack of respect, the correct answer to your “problems” with game developers is to not buy and play their games.

    I apologize for the long post, thanks for reading this far, I’m almost done here. So in closing, are the publishing companies sticking us with possibly illegal contracts(EULAs) and invasive DRM? Yes. Do IP, and consumer rights laws need more definition? Yes. Does this situation give me the right to obtain a copy of a product without paying? No. If I don’t like the terms of service at a particular hotel, I don’t have to stay the night there. This is why I haven’t purchased Bioshock, Masseffect, or even anything that requires Steam or another form of online activation. I don’t like what the companies responsible for for these products want me to do in exchange for the right to use them. So I don’t play their games and instead give my money to people who treat me well like Stardock.

    Edited for quote box issues.

  62. Alan De Smet says:

    Namfoodle (52): The problem is that the “property” in intellectual property isn’t property as people overwhelmingly mean it. It’s a government granted monopoly. It’s hardly property; property as a general rule doesn’t expire in 90 years. If I infringe your copyright, if I “steal” it, you’ve still got your original thing. Put another way, if I have a copy of a game you made and sold to me, and I burn a copy and give it to a friend, what exactly have I taken from you, the copyright holder? I’ve certainly infringed upon your exclusive right. But if you call your insurance company, what exactly will you be reporting stolen? How much should they pay you to replace what you’ve lost?

    Much of this confusion is caused by the crude phrase “intellectual property.” It lumps a set of monopoly rights, rights with very different rules, under one law. You have trademark law, which if you violate is actually fraud, not theft. You have trade secret law, which is contract law; leak a trade secret and you’re breaking a contract. None of these things are really property as traditionally or intuitively understood. It’s useful to have a term that lumps these abstract legal creations together, but unfortunately the word “property” is confusing since it’s so weird.

    Yes, this is all very pedantic. It shouldn’t matter. But we have large corporations who are willfully trying to blur the line between theft of property and copyright infringement. They fear that they can’t convince the public that copyright infringement is wrong. So instead they’re scaring the public with sloppy comparisons. Of course the public isn’t that stupid; when they’re told that downloading a song off the net is identical to stealing a CD, they intuitively feel the difference. Bizarrely, this is hurting the case for copyright! I like copyright, and I believe it can and should succeed on its own merits, not by being lumped in with other crimes. You might as well start calling vandalism and littering with advertisements “placing a hoax device to incite panic.”

  63. Nick says:

    For a bunch of reasonably smart people, there sure are a lot of you that don’t understand the difference between larceny and copyright infringment.

    Antwon wrote:
    I’m in the Silicon Valley at the moment; going by local home prices and rental listings on CraigsList, the same property that I could own with a mortgage of $4,000/month I could rent for perhaps $2,300/month.

    Yes, but in 25 years after your mortgage is paid off, you have a property worth over a million dollars, probably much more. If you rented, you would end up with around $800,000 in cash, probably less, because rents will increase.

  64. Shamus says:

    Of course the old morality vs. legality debate has dragged this rudderless discussion into the familiar shark-infested waters. That’s to be expected. That’s where this thing goes every time we have it.

    (Thanks to those who are frustrated but keeping things civil. Really. Even when I disagree, I’m always grateful for polite and thoughtful opposition.)

    For me it’s not about the law. If IP law were re-written, abolished, or FIXED, or whatever, I would still pay for games even if there was no law forcing me to do so.

    Someone produced something of value to me. I want it. They have the right to set the terms of sale, because they made it. I can take it or leave it. I frequently leave it (BioShock, Mass Effect) because I can’t accept their terms.

    Call it “piracy” or “stealing” or “infringement” or whatever you like. I’m just respecting the wishes of the producer.

1 2

2 Trackbacks

  1. By » Gen Con 2008 Rambling (Semi-Live blog) on August 18, 2008 at 1:16 am

    […] to commit a technical Federal felony in order not to commit another very real one. Ask Shamus Young what he thinks about […]

  2. […] to commit a technical Federal felony in order not to commit another very real one. Ask Shamus Young what he thinks about […]

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!