Sink the Pirates, Part II

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jul 23, 2008

Filed under: Random 115 comments

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.


From The Archives:

115 thoughts on “Sink the Pirates, Part II

  1. StingRay says:

    you should do the responsible thing and find the SMART ones.

    What is it about video games that draws out the morons? I’m researching a paper on games as art, and of course that brought me to Roger Ebert. In one of his columns, he talked about a professor’s student who was looking to write his thesis on the idea that games are art, and he wanted to show his professor how that was possible. The guy then chose Simpsons: Hit and Run as his shining example of the video game industry. The professor was not impressed, and I was left slack-jawed.

    There must be something to the idea that games rewire your brain, but only towards making stupid arguments. And the problem is that “journalists” will seek out the morons because they can make for a controversial story. Anti-piracy people point at the idiot and say, “What an idiot,” and pro-piracy people say, “Wait a minute!” People start talking and your readership goes up. I think it’s because of that that you’re not going to see a change in the way piracy is reported.

    It’s really too bad, because if companies pulled their heads out of the sand and investigated the real reasons for a lot of people’s piracy, they might learn a thing or two. I’m a weak-willed individual, so I’ll probably end up buying Spore, but I’m thinking about downloading Mass Effect and Bioshock simply to drive up the numbers, and then trashing the file. I’ll play those games on my 360, where I don’t have to deal with the associated issues.

    As an aside, I did buy a copy of the Creature Creator, because I’m weak. However, I justified it because it would install on my Mac. Then I read that there was Securom on the Mac version, too. So, I downloaded a cracked copy of the game, and have had no issues with it whatsoever. I’ve uploaded and downloaded creatures and had full access to the game. That may not be an option when Spore comes out, but I figure I might give it a shot.

  2. The Lone Duck says:

    My thought is this: if you wanna go boating, but can’t afford to buy or rent a boat, you’re out of luck. Stealing a boat is not an answer. If you bought a boat, but you don’t like state regulations on you boat (i.e. engine size, etc.) you’re out of luck. That’s the way I see it with IP. If you wanna start a grassroots campaign to politically change the way IP is handled, that’s one thing. But if you can’t afford videogames, take up a new hobby. Or play free online flash games. Pretending to have a justification is foolish. We don’t need Mass Effect or Bioshock so much that we’re willing to support piracy to play them the way we like.

  3. Nathon says:

    I keep seeing that group of people who crack games they’ve purchased lumped in with pirates too. I don’t see how they’re pirating anything. They’re playing the game (or listening to the music or watching the movie) they purchased. It may be illegal, but I see nothing immoral about it. I don’t know if these folks should be lumped in with Rosa Parks, but bad laws deserve to be broken. I guess the pinnacle of moral high ground is to not play the game but it’s not a very big step down to buy it, crack it, and play it (in that order).

  4. ima420r says:

    The people who download games just for the sake of having the game for free, they don’t really count. They are pirates, but they are the people who wouldn’t have bought the game in the first place. A company doesn’t loose any money or any sales because these people wouldn’t buy the product even if it wasn’t available to download.

    The peple who count are the ones who would normally buy a game, but because they can just download it, they save their money and get it for free instead. They represent a real loss for a company. That’s why there needs to be a reason for buying the game, like online play or downloadable content. Even adding an option to play without the CD/DVD is a good idea. It makes people more willing to buy a game and less likely to download it (or a crack for it).

  5. Moridin says:

    With boats there’s no need to worry that it stops working if you renovate the dock or get a new one.

  6. Nathon says:

    Boats are regulated by the government because they can have a negative impact on their environment. If you were in the market for a boat and the seller told you that servicing the boat anywhere but at the original store was verboten, you’d look elsewhere. I know. “It’s not a perfect metaphor.”

  7. Deoxy says:

    The Lone Duck,

    There are several problems with your position. The most obvious is that you assume the legality of “click-thru” agreements, which are clearly not moral (changes to agreements AFTER money has already changed hands), and whose legality is questionable at best (they don’t have a good track record in court – and most companies go to some length to keep them from getting to court, which suggests what they think the odds are of such agreements standing up in court).

    Another is your concept of law. While this is not nearly as important, Jim Crow laws are a good illustration of immoral laws that are nonetheless on the books. This is such a case.

    The peple who count are the ones who would normally buy a game, but because they can just download it, they save their money and get it for free instead. They represent a real loss for a company.

    And, to see if priacy is really loss or not, you also need to include those people who would NOT have bought the game without being able to “try before they buy” or without the extra buzz or exposure from more people playing, or whatever. I know those people exist because there are several people here giving examples of the former, and I personally am an example of the latter (more than once).

    These sales offset lost sales – it’s possible that piracy is a net gain in some cases (though that seems pretty unlikely at the moment). There are certainly music groups and book authors who have decided the “give it away and see who buys it anyway” model was worth a try (and at least some for whom it seems to have worked out BIG TIME).

  8. DaveMc says:

    I can’t wade in to this again, I’m exhausted. :) I’ll be watching with interest, though.

  9. Marc says:

    if you wanna go boating, but can't afford to buy or rent a boat, you're out of luck. Stealing a boat is not an answer.

    Not to defend piracy, but that’s a weak analogy, if only because you can’t steal a boat and leave the original untouched, in the hands of its owner. If you could take a photo of someone’s yacht and then sail away in that, then we’d be talking.

  10. qrter says:

    The peple who count are the ones who would normally buy a game, but because they can just download it, they save their money and get it for free instead. They represent a real loss for a company.

    Except that they don’t, that number of people is imponderable – it can’t be measured. I’m not saying those people don’t exist, I’m just saying there could be any number of them. The number could be devastatingly huge. It could also be surprisingly insignificant.

  11. Illiterate says:

    Marc — Taking a boat isn’t piracy?

    I must be missing something…

    For better or worse, equating copyright infringement with theft is the best way IP owners have found to gain agreement that it’s a bad thing.

  12. Crusader Corim says:

    To clarify before I start commenting: I am not a pirate, never have been a pirate, still have my original copies of X-com, Civ II, etc. I take the time to find ways to make them work on my current systems because they rock. I do play new games, although all of my new game purchases in the past year have been online (RSPoD, Sins)

    Now: IP is one of the foundations of our system of government. It’s even in the Constitution, and it’s there for a reason. When they dealt with it, copying was paper copies, and now it is digital, but the essence is the same. You’re not paying for the last game, but for the next one. If you don’t like their game, don’t buy it. If you don’t like that they don’t release a demo, don’t buy it. If you’re not sure it’ll work on your system, don’t buy it. (I have decided against purchasing games for all these reasons).

    The fact is that we (PC gamers in general) are losing our voice in the industry because of things like this. Developers are going to the consoles because of 3 things. First, it’s very, very hard to pirate games for consoles, since it can cause your entire console to go down, and can prevent future updates. Secondly, consoles have a set hardware profile, which means no fooling around with bling-shading and blop-mapping settings. Thirdly, consoles have a built-in audience, whereas not every computer is a gaming rig.

    Unless we can convince, by actions and not words, developers that these are not hindrances, we can expect more travesties like Unreal Tournament.

    I’ve managed to monopolize plenty of space on Shamus’ blog, but I look forward to your responses, especially the anti-IP crowd.

  13. StingRay says:


    The number could be devastatingly huge. It could also be surprisingly insignificant.

    It’s too bad there’s not a good way to figure that out. You can’t look at Sins of Solar Empire’s piracy rate versus Bioshock’s because maybe Sins simply isn’t as popular. And if EA suddenly takes out the DRM from Spore, that’s still doesn’t really give you any numbers, because you have no idea how many people might have pirated the DRMed version. I’m suddenly very depressed about the future of the industry.

  14. Drew says:

    The people who download games just for the sake of having the game for free, they don't really count. They are pirates, but they are the people who wouldn't have bought the game in the first place. A company doesn't loose any money or any sales because these people wouldn't buy the product even if it wasn't available to download.

    This isn’t precisely true at all. If people who “wouldn’t buy the game anyway” were put in a position where they couldn’t pirate any games, it’s quite likely that some of them would feel the desire to play a game, and would find themselves going to buy one. That’s not to say they’d necessarily buy THIS game, but the fact that they can download any games makes them less likely to feel the desire to go buy one. If it’s safe to believe that “video gamers” would like to fill some number of hours in a given week playing video games, then filling any of those hours with a pirated game directly reduces the number of hours they spend filling them with purchased games. And if there were no pirated games available, they’d either select a different pastime, or they’d go buy some games. I bet in many cases, people who “wouldn’t buy a game anyway” fall into the group who’d end up buying some games after all if they lost the ability to go grab them for free.

  15. Derek K says:

    “With boats there's no need to worry that it stops working if you renovate the dock or get a new one.”

    If you’re concerned about that, then perhaps boating is not the hobby for you. Or alternatively, you need to drive change to get boat makers to change their docking mechanisms….

    There are problems with the game industry. Stealing the games is not the way to answer it. If we really want change, we have to make a public outcry, and we have to not buy things that we want, because it’s the principle of the thing. And that’s hard. I sure as hell don’t care enough about video games to actually mount a campaign. And I know that, much as Securom type things piss me off, they don’t piss me off more than I want to play the game. Thus, I allow the companies to continue doing it, and simply rage away on a blog.

    It’s my own damn fault things aren’t changing, and I know that. But I don’t try to use that as a justification for why theft is okay….

    I’ve been trying to have meaningful discussions, and we’ve had some in the other thread, but again this seems to be heading towards the “Publishers are evil/I can’t afford it/The game has problems that I shouldn’t have to pay for” discussion justifying theft. To me, it’s fairly clear cut: If the game has problems, but you still wish to play it, you should pay for it. If it has problems that are too much for you to want to play, you should get a different game.

    I know people are broke. Until very recently, my video game budget was the $40 a month I spent on MMO fees, and Gamefly. There were a metric ton of games I wanted desperately to play, but couldn’t, because I couldn’t afford them. And such is the way of living in a corporate driven society. I didn’t get NWN2 until three months ago. I didn’t get the Orange box until 2 months ago, and then I only got TF2. My friends mocked me when I finally got Oblivion, saying “Uh, yeah, I played that last year, ya know?” Etc.

    Also, I wonder how many pirates are also the same people complaining that there are no good games, because everything that comes out is just a formulaic sequel? Because formulaic sequels still sell. And companies make the games that sell. Because no one bought an experimental sci-fi shooter rpg RTS art game, no more get made. Even if the first one sucked, 95% of the people that played it didn’t buy it, so they said “Eh, we could do better, but there’s no market for it.”

    Do you really think Fallout would get made today? No. People make safe games, because stuff that pushes the limits doesn’t make money, and companies can’t afford to toss money at games that may or may not succeed. Part of the process of making games is making crap, and seeing that people bought it quick, then didn’t continue buying, so you know there’s a market for it, but you did it wrong…..

  16. ZeroByte says:

    I still don’t quite get the hard to pirate console games thing. Over here in the Philippines pirated PS3/Xbox 360 games are pretty easy to acquire, same with getting a chipped system. Perhaps game publishers just don’t get hit as hard by console piracy in first world countries as the people with actual money to spend on games are forced to buy original copies, whereas here they aren’t even expecting any significant sales so they can ignore piracy. Last I heard, Microsoft doesn’t even officially support the Xbox360 here in the Philippines. Come to think of it, does it indicate that game companies are actually aware of the argument that a pirated copy isn’t necessarily a lost sale?

    Anyway, another thought about piracy. It’s a bit of a stretch since movies doesn’t quite equate with games but I recently saw a documentary about Chinese film makers and one of the interviewees said something about how piracy helped him with his craft. That he would not have been able to see as many movies as he has if there weren’t pirated copies and that would have crippled him some.

    I wonder if the same could be said about the piracy of games. Lets take Russia for example. As of late there are a lot of games coming out of Russia. With the state of the Russian economy being what it was, I would wager that quite a few of those developers had pirated a game before. I know it’s not a justification for piracy but it could be an unintended consequence of piracy, the enrichment of the medium as a whole.

    Hey, there’s a wobbly argument if there ever was one!

  17. StingRay says:

    @Crusader Corim

    I kind of have the guy instinct that reason 2 and 3 in your list are the primary reason developers are moving away from computers. Piracy just smacks of a sympathetic ploy to me.

    For me, right or wrong, copyright is a Constitutional issue in the sense of someone else profiting off of your work. I have no disagreement that someone who puts a copy of a game up on ebay is entirely in the wrong. Someone who copies a blog post and sells it as their own is wrong. Even a bit torrent site that asks for money in order to keep running is wrong.

    I get fuzzy when it comes to piracy where no money is exchanging hands. If I make a copy of a music CD, or a game, or a movie and give that copy to a friend of mine, then I’ve technically violated copyright, but I have a hard time seeing that as wrong. Pirates who pirate solely to share the love or fight the man or free the information or whatever…. I dunno.

    Without any way to prove that X% of pirated software would have been paying customers, I just don’t see lost profits as a viable argument. I mean, as it stands, the thieves who developed Limbo of the Lost (they profited off of copyrighted material) could use the “Pirated copies are lost sales” argument to claim that Limbo of the Lost should be on top of the sales charts. I never would have paid for the game, not even after it reached notoriety, but given a chance to download it and take a peak at the train wreck, why not? That download, though, was not a lost sale. Never would have been.

    I agree that the best course of action when dealing with abominable customer relations is to simply leave. Don’t buy it, don’t pirate it, don’t talk about it. In sales, the only bad press is no press. I think, though, that that’s an unreasonable expectation. I also doubt that it will do any good. They won’t listen to their paying customers. I doubt they listen to the silence of a non-participating customer.

  18. Winter says:

    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 certainly agree there–the only reason to pay attention to those people is for the purposes of mocking.

    At least the “information should be free” camp has an actual, sensible (if extreme) philosophy. (One which i kind of subscribe to in fact, but in the case of purely digital entertainment/art it probably doesn’t work.)

  19. Delve says:

    If the game has problems, but you still wish to play it, you should pay for it. If it has problems that are too much for you to want to play, you should get a different game.

    Except that I don’t know it’s broken until I’ve payed for it. At which point it is completely unreturnable.

    I’ve downloaded countless demos that inexplicably refuse to run on my computer. I delete them, and look for something else. This is a hindrance, but acceptable for something I haven’t paid for. Once I’ve irrevocably paid for it though I expect it to work. I don’t expect to be told ‘You need Shaders XYZ, go buy a new $300 video card,’ or ‘Your CD drive is too old and doesn’t support my new anti-customer features, go upgrade.’ I can’t tell that from the tech specs and I don’t care to carve my brain pointy enough to be able to (if that’s even possible, many of those little boxes are so vague it’s laughable). If you can’t tell me whether your product is going to work on my system then you’d bloody well better have a ‘try it out’ option first. If the only ‘try it out’ option is to pirate the bloody thing then so be it. I don’t have enough disposable income to pay for entertainment that isn’t, much less to upgrade my system every 6 months to keep up with your capricious system specs.

  20. Derek K says:

    @Delve: I’ll say it again – perhaps computer gaming is not for you. Consoles might be your best bet.

    Part of having computers is that sometimes, stuff doesn’t work, you need to tweak, or you need to upgrade. Consoles don’t have that issue – they work, or you return it.

    The disconnect I have here is the idea that somehow, if you don’t know that the game will work, you should be able to take it for free. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy a book when I buy it. Should I be able to photocopy the entire thing first, then read it, then decide? I don’t know if I’ll enjoy a meal when I order it – should I get to eat it first, then decide if I’ll pay for it?

    Nope. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

    Also, unless you’re a cutting edge first adapter, typically, there are a number of places on the interwebs wherein you can find information about how the game plays, and whether it’s likely to be an easy install or not. Granted, it takes a little time, but “I didn’t know if it would work on my machine” is hard for me to buy as translating in to “I pirated it, then tested.”

    And again, you may be one of the few that are legit, and buy it after finding out. But I’m pretty sure the majority of people who pirate with good intentions don’t follow through.


    “If you can't tell me whether your product is going to work on my system then you'd bloody well better have a “˜try it out' option first.”

    Agreed. That’s why the majority of the time, I only buy games with demos. Which, in theory, supports people releasing demos. Pirating it says “Eh, do a demo or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

  21. Nathon says:

    StingRay: The argument that an unquantifiable loss justifies an otherwise immoral action is deeply flawed. Making a copy of a CD (music) and giving it to a friend is quite obviously wrong from a moral or legal point of view. The facts that it has no immediate consequences for the copier and the copyright holder doesn’t know about it don’t diminish the immorality of the act. Along similar lines, I have no problem with anyone playing the CD at a party where people who never purchased it can hear it or with loaning it to that friend.

    The tricky part, as I see it, is in the demo world. What if I go to a friend’s house and play a game there? I decide I like the game and go out and buy it. I don’t think anyone (whose opinion is worth anything) will object to that. What if, instead, I borrow the game from the friend, install it, determine that it works, then buy it? Slightly less solid, but assuming the game has that requirement that the disc be in the drive in order to play, it’s fine with me. This is where the consumer rights vs. publisher’s rights start to matter.

    Now, if I download the game from a torrent site and install it I’ve clearly crossed the line into illegality but if I go out and purchase it once I’ve determined that it will run on my system, have I acted immorally? I’m not sure.

    Postface: I don’t do these things. The last game I played was StarCraft and I purchased it in the late ’90s.

  22. Matt K says:

    @Crusader Corim, StingRay

    Just to clarify the whole Constitutional issue, the history of IP protection is actually pretty long (going back hundreds of years before America ever existed) and since I have to make this quick, the whole point of IP law is to give incentives to people not only to make things, but to put them out there for others. The thought being that without protection people would invent and horde it thus depriving the world of the innovation.

    DRM in fact screws this up to a certain extent but as for that and my opinions (I have pirated thing on numerous occasions for a variety of reasons such a needing to see if I can play the damn thing in the first place) I’ll have to post that later.

  23. Nathon says:

    Derek K: I have to disagree. I routinely read parts of books while I’m standing in the book store. More to the point, if I’m in the market for a book, shouldn’t I at least be able to determine in what language it was written before I buy it? If I get a meal from a restaurant and it comes with bugs crawling all over it, I expect to not have to pay for it. In fact, people routinely send meat back to the kitchen because it’s not cooked to their liking and, in good restaurants, don’t pay for the replacement. The computer gaming industry is nothing like this. Saying “This is the way it is, if you don’t like it go elsewhere” does nothing to solve the problem. Of course stealing the games fixes nothing but the suck it up mentality is anti-useful.

  24. Crusader Corim says:

    I don’t disagree that two and three are the primary reasons, but one is depriving them of even the existing computer gaming audience, and causing the migration faster.

    Piracy where you don’t make money, “for the love of the genre” is just as bad. Consider if I reprinted Dresden Files books (one of the series I’m reading now). I took no money on them, I just spread them around because I really like them, and I wanted other people to experience them. That’s still wrong, because the books are not mine to do with as I please. The single copy of each book I own may be shared (and have been), but to make copies is to violate Jim Butcher’s copyright. The same is true of music, games, etc. The only difference is that it is difficult to tell because of the digital nature of the medium if it is the “same” copy that you have the right to. I have no moral argument with you borrowing a friend’s copy of Sins to try it out before you buy it from Stardock. However, for it to be ethical, you need to ensure that you’re not both playing it, whether by uninstall, or what ever. And in no way can anyone pretend that grabbing a torrent is the same as borrowing from a friend.

    As for the “irrevocably paid for it” argument, I’m afraid that I must say “don’t buy a game where you’re close to the minimum spec”. It’s the policy I follow, and I’ve never had a game fail to work. Does it suck that I couldn’t buy Bioshock, Mass Effect, Crysis, etc.? Maybe. (There were other reasons I didn’t, but system specs removed them from the list entirely). Are there places where they are not clear enough on the boxes? Complain to the manufacturer.

    If you don’t like their return policy, DON’T BUY IT. Feel free to let them know why they lost your business, but that doesn’t give you the right to still use their product.

    I note here that I am discussing 1st world piracy. Third world piracy has been discussed, but as with international copyright and patent problems, there are more layers than I can cover in such a short space.

  25. TK says:

    Just thought I would chime in. This is a conversation/argument that we often see in blogs, forums, etc. The thing is, the conversation is moot. IP piracy is not going away, ever. Ever since computers have existed people have copied data and they always will.

    Right or wrong, there are no consequences for ip infringement, at least on a small scale. True, there’s a chance you might get caught by one of the **AAs and get sued for a couple grand, but the chance is so astronomical its practically non-existent.

    Right or wrong doesn’t mean much if no one cares. If people cared, we wouldn’t need laws. That’s why people think twice when stealing in the real world. “Stealing” on the internet is carefree.

  26. Davesnot says:

    If you can’t afford a boat.. make one..

    If you have the wrong engine size for the regs.. it’s a ticket.. they won’t stop building engines because of your ticket.. the only one hurt is the pocketbook of the guy fined.

    Steal software.. it’s stealing money.. it ain’t no moral Robin Hood thing.

    This belief of being “entitled” to stuff.. it’s just idiocy propogated by lousy parents that can’t say no to their kids or at least teach them where stuff comes from…

    The human brain can rationalize anything.. think witch trials, inquisition, holocaust, W., .. but that doesn’t make it right.

  27. Daosus says:

    I don’t even bother with most computer games anymore. I play Open Source or old games because it’s not worth it to me to try to make sure everything is compatible, and that I won’t get screwed by some convoluted DRM scheme. In some ways, I feel that piracy has muddled the issue of what makes a good game.

    I think there are really three questions with regard to piracy:

    1. What is piracy?
    In this case, it is the unauthorized copying and distribution of someone else’s work. Also, robbery and plunder on the high seas.

    2. Is piracy immoral?
    Yes. Irregardless of the arguments made to support it, it discourages further development of entertainment, causing a net loss to society. If you pirate something because you don’t like their DRM (without paying them money), or because they didn’t provide a demo, you are messing up the way the market works. When something doesn’t sell, people start to look for the reason. If they find piracy, they start trying to fight piracy. If they find that people want a demo, they will provide a demo. The reason many games don’t have demos is because the market has not told them that they need them.

    3. What methods are effective for combating it?
    Shamus has posted many good ways, as has that article “Better than Free.”

  28. Crusader Corim says:

    A few quick hits:

    Firstly, the conversation is hardly moot, because the difference is between an act we know is wrong and one we believe to be right. It’s true that there are no consequences to small scale piracy, but there aren’t any to small-scale book copying either, but we don’t justify it.

    Secondly, Nathon, I don’t believe that the attitude I have is anti-useful, because what I do is take my business to people who meet those needs. I have only bought indie games and Stardock games recently, have been very satisfied, and enjoyed my gaming experiences immensely. What this means is that gaming companies who follow Stardock’s model will increase in profit, those who do not will decrease. The market will increasingly create more Stardock style distributions.

    Thirdly, the bookstore analogy is apt, since bookstores intentionally let you read pieces of books ahead of time, because it increases sales. Do I think every game should have a demo? Yes. Do I think it would increase sales? Yes. Does that mean the game companies have a requirement to provide them, or that we can pirate them if they don’t? Absolutely not, anymore than we could copy a book from a bookstore that doesn’t let us browse. They hold the copyright, they can do any stupid thing they want with it. I’m not their business manager, if I were, they’d have more demos, but it’s their right, not mine.

  29. Jeff says:

    I bet in many cases, people who “wouldn't buy a game anyway” fall into the group who'd end up buying some games after all if they lost the ability to go grab them for free.
    I’d take that bet.
    How many people still play D2, WC3, or other such games?
    In spite of a combination of new purchased games, my friends and I are still playing Soulstorm (WH40k:DoW) and DotA (WC3) more than anything else.

    The few who aren’t wouldn’t be the ones in the “wouldn’t buy a game anyway” group, by definition of the group.

    If you don't like their return policy, DON'T BUY IT.
    Except you’re essentially dealing with a monopoly here, where such consumer actions are entirely irrelevant.

    there aren't any to small-scale book copying either, but we don't justify it.
    Talk to 99% of students in post-secondary education.
    For the record, I bought all my textbooks.

    PS. Console games are pirated like heck. Get your system modded cheaply at any number of major malls within 15 minutes driving distance from my home (here in Canada).

    It’s worth noting that regardless of if piracy is right or wrong, it is often no more than a flimsy excuse used as self-justification to cover poor business practices that are contrary to the principles of capitalism.
    RIAA vs Apple in music, for example. Steam or Stardock would be the Apple equivilant for games.
    Rather than adapting to the market, the industry members who are most outspoken about anti-piracy measures are trying to shape the market. Which is futile, and frankly demonstrates ignorance of economics.

  30. Coyote says:

    I’m very anti-piracy. After all, selling games gives my children food to eat, so those rights are pretty important to me. But if breaking the DRM and installing a no-CD crack so I can play my legitimately purchased game unencumbered (as the pirates get to) is piracy – well, lump me in with ’em then.

    And that is the danger of the stupidity of these anti-piracy measures. They make legitimate users into pirates, paints them with the same brush, and makes people like me think, “Well, shoot, if you are gonna make me out to be a pirate anyway, and make me hit these pirate sites just to be able to play the game I paid good money for, I guess I might as well… you know… look around a little bit and try out what I’m getting blamed for.”

  31. Danath says:

    Some people obviously dont understand what piracy is and just lump it up as “Immoral”.

    @ Daosus
    No, piracy is not always immoral, you have just lumped everyone into one group, some people like myself use piracy to test if a game is WORTH buying, when the game does not have an available demo, I myself do not pirate a game unless it is 4+ years old and has no demo that I could try.

    Is it piracy? Yes, is it immoral? Not necessarily.

    @Derek K

    Im sorry? I should spend 1000-2000 dollars on a computer and not have the expectation that a game should run decently without me having to tweak it? Especially considering they do not give me instructions on HOW to tweak it?

    Again your analogies are flawed, books? I ALWAYS read books, at least the first chapter or two before I purchase them, I check the back blurbs, etc, I will not ever blindly purchase a book. And funny enough, people who buy food from a place and dont like it *will not return*, if you did this with video game companies, all youd ever be able to do was play flash games.

    Being able to test a game is nearly essential, if you bought Fable for the PC youd definatly understand what its like to be ripped off for 50 bucks and get a broken unplayable pile of garbage. These kind of ripoffs justify piracy, if you dont want piracy to be justified, stop releasing garbage.

    Expecting a game to work is not a sign that you shouldnt be on computers, if there were available tweaks in the manual or from their site that told you just how you could fix the game, great! (I had to disable bloom in Bioshock cause it glitched up my graphics card, I didnt know this till I started just randomly hitting options). Just because you use a computer you should not expect to have to fix your OWN games… a trend exemplified by Oblivion, a terribly broken terribly boring game unless you crammed it with about 30 user made patches.

  32. Daosus says:

    You missed my point, I think. I have a roundabout way about me, and I will try to be more clear. When you pirate a game because there is no demo, you are sending the message that you don’t care about a demo. Not having a demo did not deter you from buying the game, so why should the manufacturer spend money to make one? If the publisher doesn’t support their game (tech support or patch support, or both), don’t buy it.

    The difference between our views is in the scope. I try to take a very long view of things. Being able to buy any one game doesn’t matter as much as the quality and availability of games in general.

    If I bought Fable for the PC and found it unusable, I would attempt a return. If not, that publisher is simply not going to get any money from me until I hear they have cleaned up their act.

    Understand this: if you pirate to test a game and buy it later, you are rewarding the publishers who happened to make a game compatible with your system. If you do not buy from publishers whose games don’t play on your system, you are rewarding every publisher who works to make their games compatible.

  33. Rick C says:


    “Part of having computers is that sometimes, stuff doesn't work, you need to tweak, or you need to upgrade. Consoles don't have that issue – they work, or you return it.”

    And if you could return a game that didn’t work on your computer, that’d be a perfectly acceptable position.

    Edit: That’s not an endorsement of piracy.

  34. The Lone Duck says:

    @ Deoxy, and anyone else who cares :)
    I admit that at times, bad laws must be broken, to bring about positive change. However, in most cases regarding piracy, people are not breaking them to make a point, but because it’s convinient. I admit a lot of the IP issues are currently undecided and unimplemented, I think there’s no reason why people couldn’t protest it in dozens of legal ways. As for Jim Crow laws, that gap is absurd. Comparing DRM hassles to lynchings and discrimination is frankly absurd. Bad laws should not be broken, but fixed. Judging by how many people speed, most people probably think the speed limits are too low. However, rather than protest it legitimately, they simply speed. They don’t care about having valid laws, they just want to satisfy their own interests. That’s how I see piracy/supporting piracy. If you really want to take a stand against the DRM/IP issues, do so in a legitimate fashion. Otherwise, I see you as a selfish individual who doesn’t care about having sound, valid laws and rulings. I would rather quit videogames, than steal videogames.
    Questions of morality don’t deal with consequences. I believe these forms of piracy to be immoral. Can you get away with it? Almost certainly.
    Heh. What did you do to earn a demo? A DRM-free software? You haven’t earned it. You aren’t entitled to it. The seller has certain rights to set the terms of sale. If you have a legitimate claim, back that up with legitimate protest. If you believe your cause is right, then use righteous means to gain support for it. Don’t use means that are spoken of badly. (The fact that piracy is so badly spoken of, should tell you it’s not an effective means of protest.) But let’s face it. MOst people just want to play free games, and do so because there is no consequence at the moment.

  35. Derek K says:

    “No, piracy is not always immoral, you have just lumped everyone into one group, some people like myself use piracy to test if a game is WORTH buying, when the game does not have an available demo, I myself do not pirate a game unless it is 4+ years old and has no demo that I could try.

    Is it piracy? Yes, is it immoral? Not necessarily.”

    Yes. Do you think the person that made the game 4 years ago no longer needs an income? 4 years old or yesterday, it is a product they made which you have taken without paying. It’s justifications like that that allow people to steal, and yet feel okay about it.

    @the bookstore analogy:

    Reading a book in the store is entirely different than photocopying the book and taking it home. If you wish to sit in the store and read the entirety of the book, then place it back on the shelf, I suppose you could. I would expect the store employees to hassle you after a time with something like “Would you like to purchase that book? If not, we’d ask you to return it, and leave the store.” Reading a part of the book in the store is far different than downloading a full copy that you did not pay for. Yes, I know, everyone promises that they will buy it if they like it. I suspect that falls under the same category as good intentions.

    “Im sorry? I should spend 1000-2000 dollars on a computer and not have the expectation that a game should run decently without me having to tweak it? Especially considering they do not give me instructions on HOW to tweak it?”

    I’m sorry – how does what you spent on a computer someone else made have any bearing on the game I produced? You having a computer is a pre-requisite for buying the game I made, not some sort of argument you make about the game itself…. And how does the amount of money you spent on a computer in any way indicate the quality of the machine, and the correlation of your machine to the required stats?

    Should we accept people making games that don’t run on a normal computer system? Nope. If it doesn’t work well, we complain on the forums, we call and let them know, we stop buying their games. Should a game author be able to anticipate every config out there? Nope. It’s a balance. Those that do it well (Blizzard) should be rewarded. Those that don’t should be punished, by complaints, reviews, and lack of revenue. They should release demos, they should be held accountable. Pirating the game does none of that. That’s the key feature – I agree with all that you have said, except the idea that because of the above, piracy is now okay. If I believed that everyone set aside the money for a game, downloaded a pirated copy, installed it and said “Huh, it works” and immediately walked to the store and bought it, I’d be less cut and dried. But even if a few people here do that, most people just use that as a justification to get the game for free.

    Also, I’m fairly sure they have instructions on how to tweak it if you browse the forums and the tech support forums.

    @Rick C:
    “And if you could return a game that didn't work on your computer, that'd be a perfectly acceptable position.”

    You know why you can’t return a computer game that didn’t work once it’s been opened?

    At least in part, it’s because so many people used that to pirate games, the stores had to stop offering it as an option.

    Also, has anyone attempted to contact the manufacturer of the game when it didn’t work, and ask for a refund? I actually have, and was able to return it for a refund. It was a hassle, but I did, in fact, get my money back.

    @The Lone Duck/Daosus: Hear hear!

  36. Jeff says:

    If I bought Fable for the PC and found it unusable, I would attempt a return. If not, that publisher is simply not going to get any money from me until I hear they have cleaned up their act.
    While you may find yourself comfortable on your horse with your moral position, this in no way affects publishers, nor will they notice what you (actively) did not do.

    if you pirate to test a game and buy it later, you are rewarding the publishers who happened to make a game compatible with your system. If you do not buy from publishers whose games don't play on your system, you are rewarding every publisher who works to make their games compatible.
    This is, once again, patting yourself on the back, with no economic impact, nor will the publishers notice or care.

    As difficult as it may seem with our self-empowerment society, not buying something has zero effect. You/we’re just not that important, individually.

    The bookstore analogy fails, of course. You’re allowed to look at the book first to see it’s in a languge you can read. You’re allowed to return it. You’re allowed to pass it amongst your friends once you’re done (and thus have gained almost 100% use for you). You’re allowed to donate it to a public library for thousands of strangers to read.
    In terms of software, you can’t try it first. You can’t return it. You can’t (or rather, aren’t supposed to) pass it around. And of course you certainly can’t share it with thousands of strangers.
    If anything, using books as an example support the piracy side of the debate, as it brings up things like public libraries and the printing press, and debate against those when they were new.

    Should we accept people making games that don't run on a normal computer system? Nope. If it doesn't work well, we complain on the forums, we call and let them know, we stop buying their games. Should a game author be able to anticipate every config out there? Nope. It's a balance. Those that do it well (Blizzard) should be rewarded. Those that don't should be punished, by complaints, reviews, and lack of revenue. They should release demos, they should be held accountable. Pirating the game does none of that.
    This is in fact outright wrong.
    I can’t recall the specific software, but there was a widespread complaint of a “bug” in a game (this was cited on this very website some time ago) that ’caused the game to fail (as a product, I mean). Except the “bug” was actually a copy-protect feature. So to say that pirates don’t give feedback is to ignore reality.
    They can’t get feedback from owners only unless they only listen to owners, at which point they already have your money.

    Note that I’m not saying piracy is right. It’s wrong like speeding, but I’ve done both. I’m just poking holes. A lot of what I quoted up there is basically from the perspective of “I’m important, they’ll listen to me” when in truth, you’re not, and they won’t. Once again, economics don’t work that way.
    Even if software piracy was as morally wrong as murder, it’s a part of the market.

    So going back to the original topic… it’s pointless. And essentially, from an economist’s view, stupid. It’s a non-issue, it’s just a part of the market. Again, Steam and Stardock have found ways to handle it. Some haven’t.

    There’s only a few sides to this argument.
    Those who are dealing with theory, involving IP-activists on both sides and those who like to have a warm fuzzy feeling thinking they’re right and better than those filthy corsairs.
    Then the practical, involving the greedy producers who are unwilling to move with the times, and the greedy freeloaders who just want free stuff.
    The companies who adapt and thrive tend not to get loud atop soapboxes.
    The RIAA complains, people make speeches… and Apple quietly rakes in massive profits.

  37. Blake says:


    Making a copy of a CD (music) and giving it to a friend is quite obviously wrong from a moral or legal point of view.

    And yet, here in Canada, lending a CD to a friend, giving her a blank CD-R, letting her use your computer, and helping her burn the CD-R which she can keep for her own personal use is completely legal. Go figure, eh?

    See also:

    @Derek K:

    Yes. Do you think the person that made the game 4 years ago no longer needs an income?

    Wait a sec, do you mean that I can stop working now, and be guaranteed an income from work I did 4 years ago?!? Sweet! Where do I get my cheque?

  38. Shamus says:

    I’ve been hanging back and enjoying the threads (both of them now, sorry for re-igniting the thing) but just so I don’t seem aloof I’ll toss my own two cents in:

    Stripping away the analogies, the laws, the stuff on IP, and getting down to my own sense of right and wrong, I believe you have the right to set whatever terms you like for selling goods you’ve produced. If I make something of value I can charge what I like for it and set whatever stupid restrictions on the buyer I see fit. Their choice is to deal with me or go without the thing I made.

    It doesn’t matter if I’m a poor artisan trying to feed his kids or some corporate jerk. It doesn’t matter if what I made is a masterwork or sophomoric crap. I made it, and if you want it you should negotiate with me for it in good faith. If you want the thing but I’m being unreasonable, trying to get the thing without meeting my requirements is still wrong.

    That’s how I come at this. I pay for games not out of respect for the demented IP laws we have, but out of respect for the producer. This is why I didn’t buy BioShock or Mass Effect on the PC. They set terms I couldn’t live with and so I walked away from the deal.

  39. T-Boy says:

    ::reads previous comment thread::

    The exact same argument was made about denying public libraries back in the day. Reading was a luxury and not essential to the common man. Assuming that you disagree with that obsolete notion and believe that reading is essential in today's world…

    Public libraries carry fiction and other non printed media (such as movies and music) that ONLY exists for entertainment value. Why is it acceptable for libraries to loan out copyrighted material for pure entertainment value? Why is it NOT acceptable for video games? Both are for entertainment.

    Did someone just compare video games to library books?

    You know what? Yeah, fundamentally similar media, with fundamentally similar issues.

    But the reason why books are considered essential and video games are not is because you already get a lot out of books without having to rely on anything else apart from knowledge. Once you give a person a book, that’s all they need to start learning or experiencing what’s in that book. And if they don’t have the knowledge to start reading? You can actually give them a book, or a series of books, that could, with some effort, teach them to read or fill in missing gaps.

    Give a man a DVD or a torrent file, and the man still needs a computer. And even then, it needs to be the right computer, he needs to have a reliable power supply, maybe he needs to get online, and he’ll need to learn how to use the computer itself…

    I mean, there was plenty of pointless arguing in the comment threads, and there were lots of awkward metaphors, but this one just stood out.

  40. The problem with granting concessions to the people who pirate because they don’t want to be faced with major annoyance is that you’re granting recognition to the *principle* that the creator of a product or value does not have the right to determine how/when/where/to whom they wish to sell that product. Principles have to be upheld as absolutes. If you concede that the *right* is with a thief then what recourse do you have when he demands a little more, then a little more, and a little more?

    If you want to open a discussion about the *right* way for producers to protect their intellectual property, start your own company that does it the way you think it should be done and run the bastards out of business. Nothing speaks louder than success–and you’ll have the added assurance that you’ve violated no one’s rights.

  41. yoshi927 says:

    Actually, I have something to contribute for once.

    I own Starcraft and the expansion. Yesterday I couldn’t get on to multiplayer because there was some error or something, so I had to reinstall it from scratch. After I did that, it refused to update Bnet, even after a second reinstall. (meaning I still can’t play multiplayer) I’m not really a technical wizard, so this is the point where I decided to screw it and just pirate the thing and play on icCup.

    What I’m saying is, imagine Oblivion, the game you were complaining about, something to the effect that it needs too many patches. What if the game rejected patches somehow? If you own software that doesn’t do it’s job correctly and doesn’t allow you to fix it, I’d say it’s okay to pirate it so that you can at least get a working product. They already have your money anyway.

  42. Derek K says:

    “If anything, using books as an example support the piracy side of the debate, as it brings up things like public libraries and the printing press, and debate against those when they were new.”

    I don’t see that at all.

    Keep in mind we’re not talking about creating a lending library of games for people who can’t afford them. We’re not talking about whether CD-Rs are a bad thing. We’re talking about taking a copy of a work that was produced with the intent to sell it, and not paying for it. The idea that I can’t give away or sell a game is a different one, and one I feel is pretty dumb. The idea that I can’t give away *copies* of the game I am specifically not authorized to give away/sell is another thing.

    I can buy a book. I can loan it to my friend. He can eat it. All fine. If I buy a book, then copy it out longhand, and give it to my friend, that’s not okay. Because I have created another copy, without permission.

    I’m pretty sure, again, that I can’t use my printing press (or, say, my scanner, and a printer) to make 500 copies of the newest Harry Potter book, and then sell them or give them away. That’s what piracy is. It’s not a library, it’s not a printing press.

    To those who say this argument is irrelevant, and it’s just part of the market, I say humbug. I’ll go all high horse, and say that “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” – the argument that “it’s just the way it is” is used on many many things, and it’s never a good one. It’s basically saying “It’s too hard to change, just ignore it.” Sure, I won’t go crusading to fix it. But someone could, and with the right exposure, it could change. I just don’t care enough to do it, because it’s not that near and dear to my heart. I won’t pretend to compare video games to racism or censorship anything of the sort in terms of significance, but in principle, it’s the same type of thing – “Eh, stuff like that is just the way it is.” And you saying it’s not is a Slap in the Face.

    And Yoshi: Did you attempt to contact Blizzard support about it?

    Because that’s the problem with piracy – it’s in that nebulous realm where “It’s a lot of work” translates to “Eh, I’ll just pirate it.” I’ve done it too – I couldn’t find a CD-Key for my daughter’s Sims 2: Something or other of 200 expansions. So I went online, found one, and installed it. I’d bought the game, just not kept the 300 manuals. And I’m just as complicit in promoting piracy. Because it was easier (and honestly my only option). I tried to find the key on the EAGames site, but I hadn’t registered it, and I couldn’t even reverse engineer it from the PC it was installed on already. So I gave up.

  43. Mythin says:


    If I make something of value I can charge what I like for it and set whatever stupid restrictions on the buyer I see fit. Their choice is to deal with me or go without the thing I made.

    While this is great in theory, it falls apart in practice. Clickwrap agreements coupled with the inability to easily return a product make it so a consumer can’t enter into a reasonable agreement with a producer. I can’t know ahead of time what type of agreement I’m going to enter into, I have to be a lawyer to decipher about half the clickwrap agreements out there and I’m not allowed to return it through normal channels if I disagree. This doesn’t seem to be a good faith agreement on the part of the producer.

    If someone is unwilling to deal with their customers in good faith, why should their customers deal with them is such a way? Sure, if I’m willing to do the research I can find out what limitations are on software before I buy it. I can determine that person A has the same video card as me and has had problems X, Y and Z. None of this helps when I’m sitting at Target and looking at Mass Effect on the shelf thinking it would be great, just to get home and find out I need to install a bunch of software I’m morally opposed to. Target won’t take it back, so I’m now out ~$50 for something I no want.

    You keep trying to make this into a black and white issue of right and wrong, when it isn’t so clear cut. While you may be up on the latest of what will work on your set up, what has Starforce or SecuROM, what the clickwrap agreements are and other such issues, should these be required to be a customer in the PC game world? The answer increasingly seems to be “Yes” which is most likely at least part of the reason for such a drop in PC game sales.

  44. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh by the way: I used to be a pirate. I haven’t been for a while now (my example of No-CD patches for games I’ve bought doesn’t really count), but I can give you the excuses I made at the time:

    1) I can’t buy a copy of [insert item here] any more because it’s not being published any more. This was my biggest excuse for playing NES, SNES, Genesis, etc. ROMs on my PC. Nowadays, most of the ROMs I have are actually retroactively legitimate copies thanks to the availability of classic games collections.

    I played through Chrono Trigger twice on an emulated SNES ROM, then got the Playstation version (it’s way too complicated to explain here, but I couldn’t get a legit copy of the SNES game at the time) as soon as I could and then played that version to death. I’m also probably buying the DS version when it comes out.

    Chrono Trigger is an example of Square eventually making more money off of me in the long run thanks to an initial illegally obtained copy. Pokemon was a similar deal: we didn’t start out with legitimate copies of Red and Blue, but between all the copies I and my brothers have bought of all the versions, Nintendo has made back more than 10 times what we didn’t spend on the original cartridges.

    2) I can’t buy a copy of [insert item here] because a legitimate copy of it in a language I can read does not exist.

    This was the case for a lot of SNES ROMs. I now have two legitimate copies of FF5 for PS and GBA, but originally I had to rely on piracy back in 2000-ish. Now there is only one illegitimately-translated ROM I have that doesn’t have a legitimate analog: Seiken Densetsu 3. Of course, considering how many of-Mana (as it’s known in the English speaking world) games I’ve bought since I first played through SD3, that’s almost been compensated for as well.

    3) I can’t buy a copy of this because the publishers aren’t giving me a means to buy the game. This was my excuse for using RPG Maker 2000, which I used to be obsessed about. The amazing Don Miguel, a Russian who knew just enough English, Japanese, and computer-savvy to produce a… unique translation of RM2k (technically not Engrish, I guess it could be called EngRussianese?) gained infamy for a few years by founding a unique creative community that I still miss in it’s original form.

    Two better, legit versions are available to download for free trial and/or unlimited-activation-for-a-fee. I was very happy when RPG Maker XP came out. Despite Don Miguel’s initial theoretical harm to the publishers of the RPG Maker games, the communities he inspired have been reincarnated in legitimate form and are a fantastic source of support. This has led to more income for the developers than they otherwise would have gotten, because they’re a small Japanese-only company that can’t afford to support official English communities.

    Now all these wonderful stories and examples of how sometimes Piracy actually works out for the best in the long run make it sound like I’m an advocate. But there’s some big reasons I stopped:

    1) There’s so much available now legitimately for free or cheap that there’s just no need to pirate anything. The RM2k situation eventually led to Enterbrain making the smart choice and giving those who wanted to pay for their initially-illegitimately-obtained RPG Maker software a way to buy legit copies has a darker side to it.

    The fact is that Enterbrain weren’t entirely wrong in pointing out in their open (English) letter that those who pirated RM2k were harming the chances of future development. Those who pirated RM2k but still wanted to buy it were a tiny minority and it wasn’t until Don Miguel voluntarily closed his site for good and most of the pirate sites perpetuating the problem vanished that Enterbrain were able to make RMXP available for legitimate purchase. There’s pirate versions of RMXP and RMVX out there, but it’s no longer considered acceptable to use the pirate versions on most English RM* boards.

    2) I don’t want to support the pirates anymore. I know I can rely on me to do the right thing, but to download pirate versions of anything now is to associate myself with idiots who really don’t care about the right thing, don’t have a proper understanding of what they’re doing in the first place, or are actively trying to “bring down the system so that everything can be free”. (*shudder*)

    A lot of pirate sites are on the same level as those who deliberately try to infect peoples’ computers with various flavors of malware (viruses, spyware, adware, spambots, etc.). Because that’s exactly what happens when you go to a lot of those sites.

    3) I was always “ethical”. But I’m a freak who’s always been too savvy to not care about what I’m doing with regards to others. I always thought “I’m going to find a way to get a legit copy of this if it’s good” every time. A lot of times it worked out to the benefit of the developers and publishers sooner or later.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that I was freeloading off of people who have families to feed, taxes to pay, and various other expenses. When I started having to pay my own expenses I finally woke up to this harsh reality. It was like sneaking into a movie theater and then sneaking out to buy a ticket. Yes, I bought the ticket almost every time, but I was still sneaking around just like the idiots who refuse to spend the mental effort to care about buying the ticket post-facto.

    I can’t speak to everyone here, but let me just say that if you’re an “ethical pirate” (==”functional gambler/alchoholic/lecher/smoker”) like I used to be, please trust me: it may seem like the benefits to you and others outweigh the drawbacks, but in the long run, you might as well be justifying a gambling/alcohol/porn/smoking habit. Vices always get you eventually, if you don’t wise up in time.

    Things I personally consider acceptable:

    1) Using whatever hacks or cracks you want on your legit software. This gets a bit iffy with online games like WoW, and I definitely don’t recommend goldfarming or other nonsense, but there’s nothing wrong with using a Diablo 2 character editor for your offline games or installing a no-CD patch for your own personal use.

    2) Trying out a pirate copy for the sole purpose of seeing if your system is compatible is all right if no demo is available. (This situation is highly rare, however. Most games have demos.) There have been too many cases of minimum requirements being utter lies for me to rely on anything but recommended requirements, so in this (RARE) case I think it’s all right. But seriously: don’t play longer than, say, 5-10 minutes, or you’re really risking getting sucked in and engaging in behavior that leads to piracy as a habit.

    3) Using a pirate version of legit software that refuses to work. You paid for it, you didn’t expect to have to resort to piracy, you deserve a working copy. That said, I’m very careful to make sure software will work before I buy it. There’s only one game I’ve ever had to resort to this kind of tactics for.

    Note that 1 & 3 involve you buying the software first, and 2 assumes that there is no demo, which is rare. Other than these cases, and a few other rare hypotheticals, piracy == fail.

    EDIT: HOLY COW this is a long post. I should copy & paste and put this in my own weblog.

  45. Shamus says:

    Mythin: It IS a black and white issue for me.

    The deal the other guy is proposing is this: Give me fifty bucks and I’ll give you a game that might work. Take it or leave it, but pirating the game and buying it later is not something I’ll do, simply because the producer doesn’t want me to and they have the right to set their own terms.

  46. Daemian Lucifer says:


    I have a question for you:Is it ok to swindle someone trying to swindle you?If someone decides to patent something that most people need(lets say a hammer),and manages to do it(using money and power),should everyone pay that guy for using such a simple tool existing for millenia?If yes,then all the slave owners of the past were actually good respectful citizens and everyone trying to free slaves was actually an evil rotten vilain deserving faith worse than death,right?

    Of course,saying that all the developers are evil would be the same generalization that all people owning illegal software were evil pirates,which I oppose.I acknowledge that there are people both amongst developers and amongst customers that just want money/pleasure for no work,but separating them and calling one group immoral without considering the effect of the other group is not objective.Yes,you are raving against the publishers involved in shady practices every now and then,but you still are defending their right to do what they are doing.Why?

  47. Shamus says:

    I should add that in the case of fraud (the claim the game will work and it doesn’t, or they try to alter the deal after the fact via the EULA) I don’t feel any obligation to honor the agreement. If the EULA said, “Now mail us another $10 that we didn’t tell you about before the purchase” I would NOT send them $10, and I would do so with a clear conscience.

    But I always come at a transaction straight and honest.

    Just to be clear: I don’t blame people who do pirate when they’re not sure if a game will work or not. I don’t do it myself, but these are very personal decisions and publishers should be aware how much of their own shenanigans contributes to the problem.

  48. Shamus says:

    Daemian Lucifer: You’re trying to drag me back into the realm of IP law, and I’m not falling for it.

    Claiming to own copyright on a hammer – or actually OBTAINING one through trickery – is completely different from producing content that I want. In the case of the hammer, you have PRODUCED nothing.

    EDIT: When I said “I’m not falling for it” I made it sound like you were trying to “trick” me. I just meant that down that road lies madness and would just muddy things with a bunch of legal cruft. I didn’t mean you were trying to mislead me. :) More pithy: It’s a trap!

  49. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh, one more thing:

    I do consider most current and past forms of “Digital Rights Management” to be a separate issue to piracy.

    It’s similar to the situation I had with Japanese ROMs translated into English, but not quite the same. The publisher had a product, but I couldn’t use it in the form provided by the publisher. The main difference is that Square was working on eventually providing the English-speaking fans with legit (and even remade/updated) versions of everything, while those who stoop to DRM are deliberately participating in sabotaging the freedom of their customers.

    All DRM is pure arrogance on the part of publishers, plain and simple. But piracy is not the proper response. The proper response is to suck it up and do without. If you buy a product without realizing the DRM is going to bite you and you need the pirate version to use the software at all, then ethically it’s acceptable but you’re still engaging in an activity that can lead to a harmful habit. So instead it’s best to make sure there’s no DRM, but if there is, don’t use it as an excuse to pirate the game first.

    To be clear: shenanigans do not justify shenanigans.

  50. Shamus says:

    Picture the other person standing right in front of you when you propose the hypothetical and these things sort themselves out.

    “Hey. I copyrighted the hammer. Give me a dollar.”

    “Piss off.”

    “Hey, I made this videogame. I want fifty bucks for it. And you’re not allowed to give copies to your friends.”

    “I’ll think about it.”

  51. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And in the case of owning a share of a company,you have produced nothing as well.You can have absolutelly no idea about what the company was doing,but you can still get the money from their product.You dont even have to buy shares with your own money,you could loan money from the bank,buy shares,and later repay the bank and keep the profits that the company has made you.

    Laws are a human made product.And,as such,are imperfect and should be regulary improwed.Accepting them the way they are is either lazy or dumb.

    Of course,breaking them without any consideration is just as bad solution as blindly obeying them.

  52. Daemian Lucifer says:


    “The proper response is to suck it up and do without”

    Actually,it is not.You not buying a product wont show the company that they did wrong.You not buying a product and making sure no one else does(buy spreading the word how bad it is and offering alternatives)will.

  53. Daemian Lucifer says:

    My appologies Shamus for calling you lazy or dumb.After a bit of thinking,Ive realized a third option here:Upbringing.You are obeying the law without questioning it because you were raised in a country where the constitution is almost unchanged for 400 years.Me,I am in a country where we are having a major law change almost every decade,most of which are shoddy,and aimed towards earning money for the rulling class and nothing more.It does make me sceptical towards their usefulness.

  54. method3 says:

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned yet (couldn’t find it via search so here goes), but at your earliest convenience please consider stealing and watching “Steal This Film”.

    More info here:

    In general I believe this to be some of the most clearly stated arguments surrounding the controversy as a whole, and does a rather good job of elevating the discussion. It’s not just about “right”, “wrong”, and/or “morality”. It’s about what’s real now, and why it’s getting to be impossible to define something as “Intellectual Property”, box it up, and sell it. I also like the fact that Part 2 puts some historical perspective on the matter.

    I can’t imagine that I could add something more than hasn’t already been said, I’ll just say this: I buy the games I think are worth playing that span all genres, I crack all of the games I buy for many reasons, chief among them system stability and reliability.

  55. Blackbird71 says:

    @Derek K

    You’ve made quite a few points I agree with, but your stance on returns is completely flawed.

    For your book analogy to hold in this case, the books would have to be sealed shut prior to purchase, making it impossible to view any of the inside of the book without buying it. Now, let’s assume that you are a person who speaks only English, and you find such a sealed book in the store, whose cover is printed entirely in English. You buy the book, take it home, and remove the seal. You then open its pages to discover that the entire text has been printed in German. You’re honestly saying that under such circumstances, it would not be within your rights to return the book for a full refund, just because the author/publisher declares it so? This is in violation of full disclosure and consumer protection laws that exist in the U.S. and many other countries. The book gave no indication that it might not be readable on the inside even if you could read the outside, yet you seem to believe that regardless of the unethical or illegal behavior of the book’s creators, the buyer’s only choices are to eat the cost of the book and write it off as a loss, or to pay for classes to learn to speak German in order to make use of the book he purchased. This is a ludicrous bit of reasoning.

    This is the state of software, as you don’t really know what’s in it until you’ve opened it up and installed it. System specs can give some idea, but you’re not guaranteed a working product just becasue you meet the required or even the recommended specs. If you buy software that does not function properly, you can legally return it. The problem is that the policies of certain retail outlets violates the established law, but because it is more costly to fight it than to accept their policy, little is done about it.

    Now, does this justify piracy? Of course not, two wrongs don’t make a right. However, while I don’t condone such action, I can be somewhat sympathetic to those with serious concerns about investing in software without any assurance that it will work properly or any ability to reclaim their investment if it should fail. Would companies be better off if they made demos? Yes. Are customers entitled to demos? No. Are they entitled to return a non-functional product? Most definitely. In additon, I think you would find that if software companies and retail outlets had more friendly return policies, they would have fewer pirates and more paying customers.

    They would also produce better software out of a need to reduce customer returns, but that’s probably a big reason why they don’t have such policies. If your customers can’t return your procuct, you can sell them whatever crap you want, and they can’t do much about it.

  56. Hawk says:

    This is an interesting discussion, doubly so because we had a similar very detailed discussion about virtually the same topic in the D&D community about 8 weeks ago, when the 4E rulebooks were pirated and released on PDF before the actual hard copies went on sale. All kinds of rationalizations for using the PDFs came out, and like the arguments here, not a single one of them in my opinion was a rational justification for piracy.

    I’ll make one exception: making a backup copy (pdf of a book, cracked or otherwise backup of a video game) provided it is (1) only for your own use, (2) not distributed, (3) done yourself from your own copy … is not piracy. It’s fair use. Otherwise:

    1. I don’t want to pay for it. You’re a thief (legalese of copyright infringement vs theft aside). You should be in jail.

    2. I want to try it, but if I like it I’ll buy it. Right :rolleyes: . Yes, some folks do do this … but, ever hear of a demo? If there isn’t a demo, how about reading reviews online? Trying it at a friend’s? Heck, one of my local cable channels shows two-hour blocks of various video games being played for hours at a time. You still have a copy you didn’t pay for otherwise.

    3. I want to make sure it works first. Again — check demos, reviews, etc. Simply don’t buy items without a return policy that supports you, or without demos. Best way to encourage companies to release demos is only to buy games that are demo’d first! Pirating only discourages the release of a demo — why invest the time & effort if the game just gets pirated? In my opinion (IANAL) you probably have legal recourse if a game you purchased for which your system meets minimum standards doesn’t work.

    4. (Pdfs) I want a spare copy, so I downloaded one. Wrong. You didn’t back up your copy — you took someone else’s.

    I look at it this way: a company needs to spend $XXX to make a product, which they must make back by selling YYY copies at $ZZ each. Some of that is profit, which they are entitled to — they need to build a nest egg for the next product, encourage their folks to do good work, etc, and reward investors for putting their money there (because if investors can’t get a good return, they’ll just invest somewhere else and no gaming products get made). Every copy in use that does not stem from an original sale is one of those YYY copies that has been stolen, that would otherwise be contributing to the development bottom line — because if it were possible to not pirate the product, that item would either be (1) a legitimate sale, or (2) a no sale. If (1) the company has been rewarded for making a product the consumer will by; if (2) the company made a crappy product and should lose the business. Pirating makes it harder to separate good products from bad … making it more likely that you’ll get less of either.

    The fact that it’s easier to reproduce and distribute digital items is irrelevant to this argument, as it’s mostly about development cost and the value of the time and effort put in to creating the product.

    None of that will stop piracy, nor will draconian DRM policies (they exist in pdf publishing, too) that punish legitimate users but not pirates. What will work is good enforcement of good laws, and better, the disapproval and negative peer pressure against piracy. If no one downloaded a pirated copy, pirates would still crack things … but would it matter?

  57. Xellos says:

    Interesting. I saw Shamus on the Penny Arcade game forums decrying DRM, and hadn’t made the connection. ^^;

    I don’t think the situation is quite as black and white as the analogies are.

    I don’t pirate. I also expect the seller to be acting in a reasonable and lawful manner when they attempt to sell me their goods. Increasingly, I’ve seen licenses that are neither reasonable nor lawful. I actually don’t entirely believe that creators “have the right to set whatever terms [they] like for selling goods [they’ve] produced.” In some cases, that works. In others, those “stupid restrictions” are unethical as well as unlawful… There are illegal terms in contracts and illegal actions in sales, and I’ve found that most of those terms are not allowed for good reasons.

    Essentially, the creator does not get to set all of the terms associated with the sale of the created work, for the right to be able to sell the created work in the first place as well as other rights associated with the work. This is true for any type of good.

    I don’t think that means that a consumer can do whatever he or she wants… In practice, I’m not that different from Shamus. I just try not to purchase items with those restrictions. I didn’t buy BioShock or Mass Effect, either.

    Also, as far as the legality of copying a CD for a friend, I would not at all be so certain that such an action is unethical or immoral. Both historically and in case law, it’s not so clear. Check out Professor Jessica Litman’s paper on Lawful Personal Use.

    Derek, I’m kind of confused about your mention of a lending library for people who can’t afford them. Care to clarify that here or elsewhere? ^_-

  58. DaveMc says:

    Quoth Shamus: Picture the other person standing right in front of you when you propose the hypothetical and these things sort themselves out.

    “Hey, I made this videogame. I want fifty bucks for it. And you're not allowed to give copies to your friends.”

    “I'll think about it.”

    Heh, nice. It might even help to take it a bit further:

    “…. and you’re not allowed to give copies to your friends.”

    “I find that unacceptable, so instead I’m just going to mug you and take the game. This is totally justified by your unreasonable stance on copying and your outmoded business model. Also, it might not even work on my system, and you didn’t offer me a demo, the nerve! If I like it enough I’ll give you fifty bucks later.”

    “What the frack? Ow! Hey, come back here . . . ”

    (Yeah, OK, game piracy isn’t the same as a mugging, but it’s also not the same as crusading for modified IP rights, so I’ll put down my copy of Free Culture when you put down yours, all right? Also: really, people, do we seriously believe that a majority of people torrenting games right now are doing it over EULA disagreements? It strains credulity. In any case, those people aren’t ones I would have any problem with: they’ve already bought the game. That’s the step people keep skipping over, the *buying* step. You can’t be an irate customer if you haven’t bought anything.)

  59. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Just for amusement,heres one reason that can work:
    The books arent available in your country(no shipping,no credit cards,nothing).Of course,you could go to some neighbouring country and buy it there,but a company that expects their customers to cross bourders just in order to buy their product doesnt deserve your money.

  60. Hawk says:

    @Lucifer: Sorry, I don’t buy it. In my opinion, just because a product is commercially available in another country doesn’t give you a right to take it when the creator/distributor has chosen (even through omission) not to distribute it to your country. It may specifically be because your country (hypothetically) does not protect that creator’s rights to the work. You’re simply out of luck … just as if you’re a non-German speaker who wants to appreciate a book only written in German. You either learn German (travel to the other country, etc), or wait for it to be translated. You’re still depriving the creator of the reasonable value of the work.

    This happens all the time with physical products (try and buy a right-hand drive car in the US, for example … Evo VII anyone? Skyline?). Why should the fact that the product is digital and thus easier to transport across national boundaries make it any different?

    @Xellos: Thanks for the reference to Professor Litman’s article … interesting reading.

  61. Mark says:

    I pirated games when I was younger. I was a kid, I didn’t know better. Just a few, which a few years later I decided to buy. After the price had dropped. These days I’ll pirate a game only if there’s nobody to buy it from – as if somebody dropped it on the sidewalk and nobody claimed it, despite a good-faith effort to find the owner.

    It’s largely a non-issue to me nowadays as I primarily play console games, and console DRM works. That’s the big benefit of playing games on an appliance: you don’t have to waste time proving you didn’t steal the game, developers don’t have to waste time trying to invent a way to prove that people didn’t steal the game, and pirates are left with a task so technically difficult, even requiring special hardware, that they’re few enough to safely ignore.

    The PC is a difficult platform to make money on, but it can be done. However, I think the cost of making money on PC is too high to support a market as small as gamers, especially given costs of development.

    The simple mathematical economics of information-based products in an environment where copying is trivial present a bleak conclusion: the value of any particular piece of information will drop to zero. A solution will be found, I’m sure, but there isn’t really a historical precedent to that kind of problem. The price of copying has been getting cheaper, but it’s never hit zero until now.

    (Actually, that’s not strictly true. There are many cases of things becoming worthless. We can ignore, for the moment, those cases where this was a result of total economic collapse (i.e. the devaluation of currency). For the rest of them, it was because demand decreased to zero, due to changing fashions, obsolescence, or even market saturation. But those all approach it from the demand side of the equation – there’s never been a case of infinite supply.)

    Anyway, they’ve approached it from a legal manner with copyright law, but when law and economics are too much at odds it begins to feel a bit oppressive, which is bad. Now they’re trying to combat it from a moral perspective, by trying to create a cultural perspective that regards it as wrong to use information not paid for. But so many people have listened to the radio, or read somebody’s newspaper, or checked out a book from the library, that it’s going to be difficult to get that to stick. In fact, the pirates with obvious or thinly-veiled entitlement complexes are sort of a manifestation of the resistance to this notion.

    The upshot of it is that, before long, it will be impossible to sell information (except in the rare case where everybody who possesses it has a vested interest in not disseminating it – that is, if the information is a secret). It would be ridiculous and foolhardy to try. The thing is, while the value of any particular information might be zero, the value of the existence of information is not. Unfortunately, the cost of creating information is also not zero. So the problem becomes: how do you use the value of information-in-general to finance the creation of information-in-particular, without resorting to (controlled or total) socialism? (Assuming that’s even a bad thing; Canada’s CD-copying statute suggest they didn’t think it was in that case. But it should be applied cautiously.)

    The obvious answer is: make the information less useful until it is combined with something that cannot be duplicated endlessly, like a hardware lock (as in a game console), approval from a particular server (as in a multiplayer game), or something else. The most widespread solution has been to create a cost for the acquisition or use of information. The legal fiction of a “license” has been successful elsewhere, but it’s notoriously difficult to enforce. Protecting the information using a unique key has worked, too, but has a few unique problems: it’s easy to fake a key, and some people feel insulted when they have to duplicate it (but, of course, that’s an issue that the consumer must deal with).

    Until you get to the point where people discover how to make equivalent information that requires nothing from the original source, nothing of finite quantity and nonzero cost, but just more information: a crack, in other words. This is just a technical issue; the original producer assumes the additional cost of making cracked versions difficult to make or use, sort of how a retail store assumes the additional cost of salesmen and a cash register. (I think that current solutions to this are addressing the wrong problem; they’re trying to make it difficult to make a copy, when they should be making it difficult to use a copy, i.e. circumventing the operating system rather than just having the game re-transmit the key every time it connects, and until the server verifies the key, no information is sent.)

    And what about information whose utility is not connected to information that must be pulled from a particular server? Well, for one thing, you might try to come up with reasons why users should connect anyway – convenience, for example. That’s what Valve and Stardock have done, to great success. But this isn’t applicable to all situations, but it’s not difficult to imagine similar policies. In some cases you can just ask for the money, and rely on users’ gratitude, but people will only put up with so much begging. Formal distributed patronage systems are beginning to emerge, and we’ll see if those are successful. A certain moral impulse does exist now, or at least a habit towards paying for physical copies, and book writers in particular take tremendous advantage of it (“piracy” (which in that case is more like “sharing”) has been shown, in general and anecdotally, to increase book sales), because when people want to possess the text of a novel they buy a printed copy rather than seek out an electronic facsimile.

    Piracy doesn’t help new systems to emerge, except by providing a general pressure to all content makers; in other ways it’s unintentionally harmful, such as causing the idea that making demos are unnecessary because the cracked copy is the demo; but it’s all just a natural consequence of the inadequacy of current attempted solutions. It’s not going to go away but it may be reduced to a level where it is negligible – content makers won’t have to give much thought to piracy the way modern retailers don’t have to give much thought to arson.

    Damn, that was a long post. I’ll try to be terser next time.

  62. Daemian Lucifer says:


    So what you are saying is that breaking a copyright law is not ok but discrimination is?A person cannot choose where they are born,so what happened with the “equality for all”?Furthermore,you are saying that the wheel shouldve never left its country of origin,and every neighbouring country making wheels of its own was a pirating one.

    See,if you are unable to let every single person in the world to buy your product legaly,you are also not to be allowed to protect your idea by law in those countries you are unable to distribute it to.The person that is able to distribute your product to said country isnt breaking any laws then since he is providing a different service,similar to yours,but with a difference that it is obtainable in the country you are unable to service.

    Imagine if newton didnt want his work to ever be translated from english.Should the whole non english speaking world then be forbidden to know about gravity?

    And if you say that this is different from copying games because games are pure enjoyment,where do you draw the line then?Flight simulators,for example,can be used as an extremelly beneficial tool for pilots,but can also be pure enjoyment.

    Actually,where is the line anyway?What ideas and what work are you allowed to prohibit others from copying without your permission?Is a heart surgeon allowed to prohibit other surgeons from copying his new technic that can save numerous lives just because they cannot pay him enough?If not,then are the producers of an educational software teaching that technic allowed to prohibit people from using it if they cannot pay enough?If yes,whats the difference between the two?Both are saving numerous lives,and the only fundemantal law I think we all agree about is that you are not allowed to harm someone,and not allowing someone adequate treatment is,essentially,equal to harming that person.



    “It's largely a non-issue to me nowadays as I primarily play console games, and console DRM works. That's the big benefit of playing games on an appliance: you don't have to waste time proving you didn't steal the game, developers don't have to waste time trying to invent a way to prove that people didn't steal the game, and pirates are left with a task so technically difficult, even requiring special hardware, that they're few enough to safely ignore.”

    Really?In one other piracy discussion here,a few months back,someone mentioned that in china you are able to buy pirated console games as well as pirated consoles and add ons for consoles that make them safelly play these CDs in any mall.Id hardly call malls in china a small market.

  63. Robert says:

    I don't know if I'll enjoy a book when I buy it. Should I be able to photocopy the entire thing first, then read it, then decide? I don't know if I'll enjoy a meal when I order it – should I get to eat it first, then decide if I'll pay for it?

    I can browse the book in a bookshop before I buy it. If it falls apart, or is missing pages, I can return it for a refund. I don’t have to worry that I’ll get new glasses and suddenly I can’t read the book. And once I’ve bought the book, I can photocopy it if I want to, so I can read it in the bathtub without worrying about damaging my only copy.

    And if I go to a restaurant and the food is unacceptable, I don’t have to pay.I can’t eat the meal and complain, but if I have a bite or two and don’t like it, I don’t have to pay. The “shrink wrap” license doesn’t apply, even to shrink wrapped foods!

  64. Robert says:

    Blake@37: If Bill C-61 passes, not only will that be illegal, but you won’t even be able to rip the CD you just bought to your iPod without leaving yourself open to prosecution. (They probably won’t prosecute you for that, but by the text of the law they could).

    I also expect, if C-61 passes, that the blank media levy with remain. It will either be a hidden tax, or if the government lifts it a bit of extra profit for retailers.

  65. Daemian Lucifer says:


    The best solution I can see is to make your internet and electricity bills pay for any information you can get online.So,internet providers would pay the software developers to do their work,and in return,software developers would provide their software to anyone having an internet connection.Of course,this would require a trully unified global market,or a global goverment.

    Well,actually,the best solution I can see would be removing the money as a media alltogether,but I dont want to mention the C word here:D

  66. StingRay says:


    I was about to write out a long, hopefully more appropriate analogy. I’ve decided it’s not worth the time.

    Ultimately, the trick is, there are legitimately irate customers. There are people who have bought the games and paid for their licenses and put up with all of the B.S. that surrounds gaming, and they’re pissed. They’ve tolerated the public beta tests that are the first couple months following a game’s release. They’ve tolerated deceptive system requirements on packaging. They’ve tolerated key codes and disc requirements and dense EULAs. They’ve continued to pay, but through all of that, developers have refused to listen to them.

    I work in Electronics at Wal-Mart. I can’t fathom the amount of product I’ve had stolen from my department. I cannot, though, treat every customer as if they’re a criminal. I can’t follow every one around my department, tracking their every move. I can’t let my other duties suffer because I’m stalking potential criminals. The best thing I can hope for is to counteract the effect of the thieves. My job is to make every customer welcome, provide them as best I can with what they’re looking for, and hope that they shop at my store more often, and with their friends.

    If I treat every customer like a criminal, if I lock down my department, then they’ll shop elsewhere. The criminals will likely continue to steal from me, though. I can’t lock everything down, and there are simple ways around a lot of the locks I can install. They’ll keep stealing from me, but I’ll have fewer customers, and the effects of that theft will be more and more noticeable. I get more and more paranoid. More and more customers leave. Eventually, the theft stops, but only because my store is now closed.

    The games industry has gone into lockdown mode. They’re treating their customers like criminals and their customers are responding by leaving. The ethical and legal concerns of piracy don’t matter. Pirates will be pirates no matter what. It falls on the games industry to bring in more paying gamers in order to lessen the impact that pirates have on their bottom line.

    They clearly aren’t going to do that, and so, I’ve decided my opinion is let them die. The PC gaming scene won’t go away. It’ll evolve, but it won’t go away. Successful business models, like StarDock’s, will take hold. I don’t even think the evolved form of the PC scene will be all that different, on our end. There’ll be a little while where things will seem bleak, as the big players exit the scene. Once they’re gone, though, someone will step up to fill the void. StarDock’s taken the largely empty role of SciFi space strategy games. When no one is producing military shooters, someone will produce them.

    So, I think my position on this has finally solidified. Support the companies that do right by you. As much as humanly possible (I’ve admitted to being weak-willed already), do not support the companies that are screwing it all up. If you’re morally opposed to piracy, don’t do it. If you’re not, go ahead, because the more companies treat their customers like criminals, the quicker they’ll be gone, and the quicker there’ll be a hole to fill by someone who understands how to behave. Because I’m pretty sure that gaming, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

    (Sheesh. Not only did I end up laying out an analogy, but that’s practically a freaking essay. Damn you Shamus for making me think!)

  67. Hawk says:

    Discrimination in commerce is not discrimination. A merchant or vendor is well within his rights to refuse to sell a product in a particular market. Perhaps transportation it too expensive, or marketing or regulatory costs are too high, for example. The fact that he chooses not to sell th product does not give you the right to take it.

    You go to a merchant’s shop … but he refuses to sell to you today because he’s closed. You’re only in town that day, so you can’t obtain his goods any other way. Would that give you the right to take them?

    Obviously, some countries disagree, which is why China, for example, has extremely loose laws on the protection of intellectual property, and why piracy florishes in such places. But laws or lack thereof do not make the situation right.

  68. Den Store Frelser says:

    Why are some of the commenters here repeatedly saying that software piracy is stealing, when it’s a different crime entirely? You copy something, you don’t take it. It’s still illegal, whether or not it’s as wrong as theft is up for discussion, but it’s NOT the same thing. Honestly, you people seem just as bad as the ones comparing their opponents to Hitler (Comparing people to people who compare people to Hitler is almost as bad as comparing people to Hitler, isn’t it?). Yelling “piraetz r pure evil !” repeatedly doesn’t strengthen your case. You add nothing to the discussion. See posts like #40 for how to contribute to your side of the argument without looking like Random Internet People (tm?).

    I myself have pirated games after pre-ordering them. Downloading it is simply quicker than waiting for the game to arrive, and fond memories of the first Diablo manual means that leaving the box unopened isn’t even a possibility. I’ve pirated games I already own after losing or breaking the game disks. I haven’t bypassed the DRM and cracked any games after I’ve bought them, but if I were to do so I would not feel a hint of guilt.
    If you find these things to be morally wrong, our views differ and will continue to do so.

    I’ve also pirated games to see if I would like them and that they would work on my computer. Demos are only good for the first part, except they might not come with the same DRM as the actual game. Dark Messiah has convinced me that demos lie about the quality of the game.
    While I have bought some of the games I’ve downloaded, I’ve played through many mediocre games without buying them. I live on a student loan, and I can’t afford to buy all the games that catch my eye and turn out to be good. This means I don’t always buy even the games I like, and this is not something I’m proud of. I understand how people can see this kind of piracy as wrong, and I agree that it is. There is however no way I’d buy these games even if piracy wasn’t an option. Working next to my studies is a possibility, but that would outweigh the fun of the games. Chalk it up to greed and laziness, if you’d like.

    You might say that I could do without the games I don’t buy. This is true, but I could also pirate them, harming no one in the process. It could lead to me not buying a game years later that I would otherwise have bought, but that is an issue I can live with for now. I can’t deny that I’ll feel better once I can afford to buy all of the games I’ve truly enjoyed, but I’ll never regret pirating games that go off the disk the moment I’ve seen how bad they really are.

    By the way, even the groups who crack the games encourage buying the games you pirate and enjoy. The pirates who never pay for their games have only themselves for ideological company.

  69. Jeffrey says:

    StingRay has the right analogy. People are not required to buy from Walmart (i.e. any particular publisher) and do not even need to buy retail at all (i.e. people can quit video gaming). I also work in retail and I have a feeling that all serious employees in retail know and appreciate the lockdown/customer inverse correlation.

    It is a truism that when you do good, silence is the reward and when you do bad, complaints are loud. Customers can tolerate some light lockdown (like serial numbers for games), but heavier measures change the sales environment, to where it becomes easy for “bad cases” to spiral into PR problems and loss of good faith. Customer good will may be hard to calculate on a balance sheet but its value definitely exists.

    Regardless of piracy, service and convenience keep their value over the effort of stealing; cracking, torrents and forum hunting still take time and effort, along with the malware and legal risks. It is in filling this demand where money can still be made; give money, get product, no tricky bull****, happy customer. And it is appallingly clear this is where the publishers have dropped the ball.

  70. K says:

    This is very true. You forgot one more demography:

    The group that downloads games but would just not play them if they had to pay. I belong to that group from time to time. For example, I usually don’t like Civ games. I never did, they just don’t work for me somehow. Still, from time to time, I read a dozen articles saying how great GalCiv2 is (guess where) and I feel like I have to give the genre another chance. But since my money is fairly limited and I am nearly absolutely sure that I won’t like the game, I don’t really feel like I should buy it. So yeah, I downloaded that. And played it for two afternoons or so. I never even finished the first game I started (well, I started a second one but did not progress farther than 3 hours). Basically, I played an extended demo. Yes, I know it’s mean to the developper, but honestly, if I could not have downloaded it, I just would not have tried it, because I was convinced to begin with that that game won’t be my thing. If I ever have more money, I might stop doing that and just buy the damn thing if I want a demo. If a demo had been available, I would have played that. But then, demos nowadays are usually incredibly limited (as in: not the same game by far) getting a “full demo” torrent is easier. Also, it downloads faster than fileplanet.

    Now either I am not a customer, or I am not a customer who pirates the game and then decides that it’s actually pretty good. I might just buy *the next one* (no, I am rarely strong enough to always buy a game I already downloaded, altough it happened twice). But then, on the other hand, I really rarely felt a downloaded game to be good enough (means: I bothered to finish it, and I do finish many games). So in my case, it’s really not a question of money. If I pirate, I wasn’t going to buy it to begin with. If I buy, I wasn’t going to pirate to begin with either. Makes me a weird customer, doesn’t it?

    Which brings me to another point: Why are games so ludicrously expensive? If they were 20 bucks, I’m sure I would pirate less (I would buy more games, spending the same amount of money in the process). Guess I answered my question: I would not spend more, because I can’t. So it does not make sense to lower prices, it would only reduce margins.

    I remember the days when I *could* have bought a game and did not (hey, I was young! I know it was wrong). And it annoyed the hell out of me if a game proved hard to get to run (annoying download, difficult to find crack, viruses in the zip file, copy protection still bugging me, important patches not working etc) and I honestly considered buying it instead. Nowadays, buying is more complicated. First, it take me more personal time (finding a torrent file and starting the download: 5 Minutes tops, going to the store: 1 hour). Applying cracks is incredibly sophisticated and easy to do in nearly all cases. But installing a DRM game? Hell, Steam bugs me to no end with it’s “oh sorry, I’m updating myself now, you cannot play OFFLINE portal” bullshit.

    Publishers: Give me convenience and good games, and I will pay for them.

  71. MaxEd says:

    On a slightly offtopic note, did you ever notice, that economy sometimes booms in countries that ignore international IP laws? Like USA in the beginning of XX century or China in the second half…

    My POV is that my country (Russia) should stay away from any international IP agreements like ACTA.

  72. Avilan the Grey says:

    I’m from “Pirate heaven” (at least in Europe) Sweden. (Pirate Bay, anyone?).

    I agree that pirating is illegal. I agree that it is *similar* to stealing since it *potentially* lessens the income of the stores and makers of the software (not only games; Photoshop in it’s various incarnations must be one of the world’s most copied programs, as is Windows itself and the Office suite). But it isn’t stealing. I think for now Pirating is the word we should use. It is bad, and should stop, but not by pissing consumers off.

    Now, there are things to remember: Different laws in different countries, and for different media.

    In Sweden, for some reason (which I think is good) you are allowed to share your LP / Audio CD to *Close Family and Friends* (meaning as a teenager you could legally have not only your sister, but your 2-3 best friends and your grandmother tape your new LP legally). This law was part of the Cassette Tape Battle (several record companies wanted to outlaw the sales of recordable cassette tapes back then). The law compromised by adding a special tax on cassette tapes (and later writable CDs and DVDs) that went straight to the artists, companies and composers and also specified how far your “right to copy” went. Back then the authorities realized what a revolution the cassette tape was, and that it was impossible to stop. They also didn’t sit in the lap of lobbyists.

    As we all know the companies has just moved their battles elsewere, costing themselves bad PR and p****ng of customers more and more over the years. They never learned, and finally there is now a stage where there is a media that might actually be possible to protect *despite what the law actually says* (in some cases), see below.
    After the Cassette Tape Battle, there was the Video Tape Battle (which settled fairly early, and I don’t know anyone that argues that recording Days of Our Lives on tape in your living room is Immoral anymore).
    Then there was the CD Copying battle, but that too was settled fairly quickly since the special tax above already covered burnable CDs. It helped that Philips, that has the patent on CDs, fought the (music) CD copy protection, stating that a copy-protected audio CD was not following the Audio CD standard, and that Philips had the right to sue, or revoke the right for the company using that kind of protection to print the Compact Disc logo on their discs, basically telling the Record industry that if they wanted to use CDs as their medium, they had to remove the Copy Protection. Their final statement was that if the copy protection of audio CDs did not stop, they would make, and market, a CD burner for computers that specifically could cope with any audio CD copy protection.

    Problem arrived when you started converting the CDs to different formats, such as Mp3s… Now you were suddenly Satan Incarnate, according to the record companies, for putting the music on your Mp3 player instead of just burning a copy of the actual CD to your sister. The suggestion from some to expand the Tax to cover hard drive space too (adding 10% to the price of hard drives) was shot down by the Record companies who finally saw a chance of getting their voice heard. Instead they stubbornly lobbied for declaring of digital music (other than CDs) as illegal. We all know what happened after that… 10 years after people started sending songs to each other over the internet, the record companies had been dragged kicking and screaming far enough that they actually admitted that maybe Mp3s could be used, or even sold. Never mind that the price they wanted (in Sweden) for their online services was exactly the same as for a bought CD, despite not having to print it, package it, transport it, etc. Needless to say people ignored the online Mp3 stores until the prices went down. By then the Torrent networks had grown to such an extent that it was a sea, not a river, that flowed by every day… Happily, the Record companies failed to make copying your own CDs to Mp3 players illegal.
    A lot of the companies still don’t get it though: There was a new online music store that opened recently and they still d***ed around with the “You can only use it on the computer you downloaded it to and one other device then the file will delet itself” crap. Don’t they remember the collectors? I mean this works with the 14 year olds that happily pays $1 for a song to put on the Music-playing cellphone, and will delete it in a week when they are bored with it. But the normal music consumer, who slowly builds a collection of songs and albums over the years…

    Now, enter the movie industry: For some reason, they have managed to lobby for a much stronger protection of their creative property (except for VHS / TiVO / DVD-R taping from your TV). Despite the Tax covering burnable DVDs, it is fully illegal to make any kind of copy of a DVD movie disc. Why, I don’t know.

    The Software industry is a special case in many ways because of their habit of trying to enforce of laws-that-are-not. the EULA for example, isn’t worth the bytes it uses as a legal text. You can happily agree to it and then ignore it, since that form of agreement *has no standing in Swedish law*.
    This means, among other things, that according to Swedish law the Game Store has to accept returns not only if the disc is faulty, but if it doesn’t work on your machine. Just like you have the right to return a shirt that is too small. As long as the buyer’s computer meets the minimum requirements, of course. The argument “Software is sold as-is” is not valid.

    Funny enough, the compromise the law makes on copying software in this country is:
    Copying from others are *not* permitted.
    Copying your own media (backups) are legal but (according to a proposed law that I do not remember if it has passed Parliament or not) *it is illegal to break any copy protection*. Explain that one… What it means is that you are not breaking the law if you make a backup copy of your windows 2000 CD, but you *breaking* the law if you use a Non-CD patch on a bought game.
    DOWNloading is not illegal.
    UPloading (on a P2P network) is highly illegal.
    Sharing a Torrent is a gray area (1), as you know Pirate Bay is currently in court, but so far no-one has been found guilty of a felony, which means copyright crimes are not pursued by the police. I would be surprised if they manage to nail Pirate Bay for anything serious.

    1) There is two loopholes in Swedish law: A torrent Server does not contain any files, and therefore has not been considered more criminal than say Google, since all it does is point to links. This is also Pirate Bay’s main defense.
    The other loophole is that the torrent itself is not a complete file. It is small parts of the final file, and since it’s only illegal to upload complete files… You get the picture.

    …Now all this was just to show that this discussion has been going on for ages, and that different laws applies in different parts of the world.

    [/Rant off]

  73. DaveMc says:

    Den Store Fresler (comment 68) wrote “Yelling “piraetz r pure evil !” repeatedly doesn't strengthen your case.”

    I don’t think anyone’s been yelling that, and it’s interesting how anything less than “piracy is pure good” so often gets characterized as “piracy is pure evil”. Quite a few people have been supportive of the idea of downloading copies of games you legitimately own, to get them to work, to replace a defective disk, etc. Any scorn, when it appears, tends to be reserved for the “we shouldn’t ever have to pay for anything” crowd, but even so, I wouldn’t go as far as “evil”, just “misguided”.

  74. A different Dan says:


    No one yelling that, huh?

    StingRay: The argument that an unquantifiable loss justifies an otherwise immoral action is deeply flawed. Making a copy of a CD (music) and giving it to a friend is quite obviously wrong from a moral or legal point of view.

    1. I don't want to pay for it. You're a thief (legalese of copyright infringement vs theft aside). You should be in jail.

    so instead I'm just going to mug you and take the game.

    I do find it interesting that people can’t seem to be able to think back far enough to mention the Great Tape Debate. It took 72 comments for anyone to do so, and the first (and until now, only) person to do so wasn’t from the Anglophone world. Is it that the US didn’t have the same legal wrangling?

    This entire conversation is suffering from a semantic problem: We don’t have conceptual vocabulary to discuss virtual products without falling back on physical metaphors and analogies. And if you want examples of where that path leads, I direct you to the brilliance that is Windows Recycle Bin and Desktop.

    Until we recognize that virtual products must operate under, and be governed by, a different set of rules, we’ll continue to have run-ins where the old rules are being disregarded and (validly) dismissed as pointless or misguided, and where the “moral majority” has no clear default stance.

  75. Den Store Frelser says:

    DaveMC (#73): You’re not saying that “piracy is anything less than pure good”, you’re saying that it’s as immoral as theft without backing it up with arguments, only flawed comparisons. You do not explain what part of the term piracy you’re talking about, so anyone reading is left to assume you mean anything currently labeled as piracy. Your comments on this and the previous post on the subject were what made me write what you’ve quoted.

    Others present reasons why they see piracy in one form or another as harmful (If you’ve done so, I’m afraid I missed that one.). While I do not agree with all of these, I know that I might be wrong, and I both respect and value their contributions.

    I am not a fanatic. I accept the possibility that I might be wrong, in this and in most other matters. I don’t mind when people attempt to convince me that I’m wrong, only when they do so poorly.

  76. Meta says:

    To take it from the top:

    Do I think piracy is bad for the industry?

    Yes, definitely. It’s not all, but without any certain numbers, I do believe that a good part of piracy translates to lost sales and that those clearly outweighs increased sales from things such as word of mouth, and I don’t particularly agree with the ideology of some pirates.

    Even then, I am a pirate. I would, of course, claim I am not part of the segment that seriously hurt the industry.

    Now, there seems to be a consensus in these comments that fixing games you have bought with things such as No-CD cracks, downloading games to see if they will work on your computer, and downloading games you have bought if you can’t get the bought form to work, is acceptable. Not everyone does so, but it’s not immoral to do so.

    The two things I would add to that that makes me a pirate would be:
    1. Downloading a game is fair if you are a 100% sure you ARE going to buy it.
    2. Downloading a game is fair if you are a 100% sure you AREN’T going to buy it.

    If you remove the “100%” from both cases, it does become shallow excuses. Anyone can claim they are going to buy a game if it’s good, play through it’s entirety, and then somehow rationalize that it’s not worth their money. But when are you sure?

    1. One way is to simply decide that you are going to buy something no matter what. Perhaps the game isn’t out yet and you can’t wait or something, but if you tell yourself you’re going to buy it even if it turns out to be shit, you know you’re immoral if you don’t follow up. I did this with the 4th edition books of DnD. I had read the previews and were excited about it. Then I heard about the leaked PDFs. I told myself “if I’m sure I’m going to buy the books, then it can’t hurt to take a sneak peek at the final product”. So, I downloaded them. My excitement for the game even managed to drop in the time frame between when I downloaded them and when I bought them, but I still did. No babies were eaten, and the publisher still got their money.

    Another case would be where you actually have bought the product, but haven’t received it yet, and, once again, can’t wait. Can’t see how that can hurt anyone, either.

    2. The only time you can be sure you won’t buy a game is if it’s for principal reasons. I have seen people actually stating they do this in regards to DRMs. You have to be sure you’re actually doing that and not just using it as an excuse. I feel fairly confident on this one, because I’ve played through Mass Effect, and I’ve REALLY wanted to buy it, but I knew I would be supporting their DRM schemes as well as the developer. If I could just donate money directly to bioware, I would (I’m in general very fond of the idea of donations running the industry, but that’s another discussion entirely).

    There can be other reasons why you won’t buy a game *right now* namely lack of money or localizations issues. Are these okay? Sorta. If a game you really want isn’t available in your country, I think it’s okay to download it if you pledge to buy it if it becomes available. If you import it, half the money goes to the import shop anyways, money that could have been used to support other developers. I generally believe that now we have a nice distribution channel like the internet, we’re wasting money on physical shops.

    On the brokeness issue, it gets sorta fuzzy. See, if you download something because you can’t afford it, and then later on get the money, there’s a good chance you’re not going to buy it because something else have caught your fancy. But depending on the timeframes we’re talking about, a later buy may be irrelevant. I know Shamus often do this, so I’m probably the vast minority here, but I don’t consider buying games from the bargain bin years after release supporting the developer. Those games are just there for the shop to make up the profit they lost by not selling every single unit. If you buy a game at 3$, how much of that do think actually goes to the developer (or producer)? I realise it’s not as if retailers send a specific percentage of every sale back, but in the bigger scheme, that is sorta the effect. Because of how fast the industry moves, games rely a lot on their initial sales. If sales breaks records the first week, then the developers often begin making the sequel right away. If there hasn’t been a lot of sales a whole half year after release, there probably isn’t gonna be a sequel. Even if sales perk up a little when the price falls, nobody is making much of a profit when that happens. A retailer that runs out of a bargain bin game is either not going to order more copies, or do so, but will buy it at a reduced cost to match the new price tag.

    So, if you’re in a situation where you can’t buy a game, but won’t be able to for a long while (like, say, while studying), I find it somewhat acceptable to pirate the game. It may translate to a lost sale, but not a lost sale that matters.

  77. J SMith says:

    I personally know more console pirates than PC pirates so since console games cost anything between 20 to 30 quid more than PC games how come console games dont come with

    limited installs
    online purchase only


    Surly if these companies say they lose x amount to pc piracy then there are losing more to console piracy since I’ve found it to be a lot more widespread and the games cost more anyway.

  78. Rev-Rend says:

    Wonder how EA’s subscribe-to-play business-model is going to affect peoples views about “fan-made patches”.

    Quote: by John Riccitiello

    There is a longer-term transition from a disk-based model for retail sales to an “average revenue per user” model. Five to seven years from now, investors will look at EA as how we have 100 million customers where we have an ARPU relationship that amounts to so many dollars a month. It's different from selling so many disks a month at wholesale prices. It's a gradual evolution. But we need the tools to be able to do that. The ARPU model is a better margin business for us. It's less cyclical. It's a better business. Some of our businesses have characteristics like that: EA Mobile,, and The Sims. We want to move in that direction. People predicted the demise of the DVD rental model for Blockbuster a long time ago. I don't want to be the guy with a retail store renting DVDs in a world that has moved to Netflix and pay-per-view.

    Link cheerfully copied from craigdolphin’s original post in Biowares off topic forum.

  79. DaveMc says:

    Dan and Den (74 and 75): I knew the mugging thing was going to get me into trouble, and you’re right, it’s a flawed comparison. Still, I think you’re being a bit unfair in saying that I’m only shouting “pure evil” while adding nothing more than that.

    The part of the term “piracy” I object to (and I could have sworn I’ve said this) is the part where people download games, play them, and never pay for them. This does strike me as the equivalent of theft: someone has produced something that you value, they want to charge money for it, and you refuse to pay, instead simply taking it. All the other variants on piracy, where people are gaining access to something they’ve already bought, I’ve got no problem with, despite the fact that they are technically illegal in many places. The “try before you buy” position is a bit of grey area: if people really did just download games, try them out briefly, then either delete or buy them, I can see that being legitimate. But surely it must be awfully tempting to end up not paying for them? (Perhaps, as Meta suggests above, by convincing yourself that it wasn’t that great after all and thus doesn’t deserve your support.) I guess if you could pull it off, it would be effectively the equivalent of trying demos.

    I can certainly understand the argument that it’s really nothing like theft, because nobody is deprived of anything: you make a copy, but the original still exists, and you can do this as much as you like, unlike with physical objects (so far). This does make it seem like there’s no harm in it. I’ve been trying to argue that the harm is in benefiting from someone else’s hard work without compensating them for it. I’ve also tried to make the pragmatic argument that if it’s considered completely socially acceptable for people to just play games without supporting the development of those games with their dollars, by purchasing those games, this is going to have a significant impact on the ability of those developers to continue to make those types of games. This is not saying that anywhere near every downloaded copy of a game represents a lost sale, just that the more people who buy rather than convincing themselves that they don’t need to buy, the more games will get made.

    So no, I don’t think all pirates are evil. I wouldn’t imprison them, or impose enormous fines, or be in favour of crazy RIAA-style lawsuits. But I think Shamus is right: the game’s creators made a product, at considerable expense, and they should get to sell it if they want. I just can’t see how it’s fair for you to benefit from their hard work and creativity, which you clearly value if you play the full game, without compensating them for it.

    P.S. Dan also wrote “This entire conversation is suffering from a semantic problem: We don't have conceptual vocabulary to discuss virtual products without falling back on physical metaphors and analogies.” That’s a good point. This is clearly a complex issue, as all IP-related discussions tend to be. I happen to think that the issue is much more clear-cut on the specific point of not-paying for games, but it’s something people have to contemplate for themselves. This isn’t a type of activity we’ve been able to engage in before, so I guess it’s not surprising that opinion is strongly divided on what constitutes right and wrong in this context.

  80. RPharazon says:

    There is a solution that blocks most if not all PC piracy, and is beneficial to both the developer and the consumer.

    Release it only through Steam.

    Valve has created this enormously successful digital-content delivery system, that doesn’t require the usage of hefty discs and CD-keys and whatnot. You simply buy it off Steam, download the game content, and play. Steam updates the game for you, you don’t have to worry about DRM.

    Of course, the downside is that you have to buy things through the internet, in case you’re paranoid about those things, and in places without internet (or with slow internet), it’s just unfeasible. Offline support is one thing that Valve needs to sort out about that.

    But Steam is really quite a good way to get games. I can’t find a single copy of Stronghold Crusader Extreme in the city, and other online stores have it on sale for >$30. Steam has it at $20. It’ll be mine until the internet shuts down or Steam has a serious system failure.

    It’s beneficial to developers because they get the money directly from the consumer without having to go through hefty publishing fees, and they don’t have to waste time on making DRM schemes when Steam is doing that for them.

    The consumers don’t have to waste time jumping through hoops to justify that they bought their game, since they can simply have a single account that’s valid on all computers as long as they have an internet connection.

    It’s the best software system we have so far without putting in DRM hardware like in consoles.

    PC gaming is not dead, but the publisher/pirate wars sure make it seem so.

  81. Daemian Lucifer says:


    “Discrimination in commerce is not discrimination. A merchant or vendor is well within his rights to refuse to sell a product in a particular market. Perhaps transportation it too expensive, or marketing or regulatory costs are too high, for example. The fact that he chooses not to sell th product does not give you the right to take it.”

    But you arent taking anything from the merchant,you are taking a copy of his product made by someone else.And the fact that said merchant refused to sell his goods to you denies him the right to sue the one that copied his product.

    “You go to a merchant's shop … but he refuses to sell to you today because he's closed. You're only in town that day, so you can't obtain his goods any other way. Would that give you the right to take them?”

    Bad analogy.Better one is:You go to a merchant,but he refuses to sell you today because hes closed.So you go to a nearby street merchant selling a copied product of worse quality but at a smaller price.The merchant lost his sale not because the copier stole something from him(which he didnt,since all of the merchants things are still there),but because he didnt have as flexible working hours as the copier.

    Reread my wheel analogy and answer me:Are the countries that copied the wheel pirates?They stole the idea,but they used their own resources and their own workforce to make their own wheels.The country that originally figured out the idea couldve sold wheels to its neighbours,but they didnt.Does that make its neighbours pirates?


    “Which brings me to another point: Why are games so ludicrously expensive? If they were 20 bucks, I'm sure I would pirate less (I would buy more games, spending the same amount of money in the process). Guess I answered my question: I would not spend more, because I can't. So it does not make sense to lower prices, it would only reduce margins.”

    Actually,that is a good question,and the one Ive asked myself numerous times.One of the rare legal softwares I have cost me 5 euros.It has extensive internet support,I use it almost every day for the past two years,and its almost bug free.So it beats almost every game Ive ever played in usefulness,quallity,support and price.And soon,therell be a new version,which Ill buy as soon as it comes out.For measly 5 euros.

    So why do games cost so much?The software mentioned isnt very widespread(100000 copies sold over the peariod of two years at most),yet the price of 5 euros per disc covers both the development of it and the support.While a price of 50 euros per disc for over a million copies sold in just a single month isnt enough to cover the 2 years development of a single game?Thats some wonky math there.

  82. Derek K says:

    @blackbird: “You're honestly saying that under such circumstances, it would not be within your rights to return the book for a full refund, just because the author/publisher declares it so?”

    Nope. It would be. I’m saying that, if the situation is such that you cannot return it, the proper choice is not to steal it. It’s the two wrongs don’t make a right thing, but I prefer “shenanigans do not justify shenanigans” from above. ;) There are a number of places where I agree with those promoting piracy, I simply disagree with the end result of “So I pirated it.”

    @Xellos: Glad you’re over here – this will explain my questions on the other forums, eh? ;) Xellos is somehow intimately involved in copyright law in ways I don’t really understand, but ….

    The lending library for games was just an attempt to draw parallels to the library analogy. All the analogies get muddied by the fact that pirating a game doesn’t remove the original from anyone’s possession.

    @k and meta: Your arguments are eloquent, but still comes down to “I don’t want to pay for that, so I didn’t.” I hate to be an ass, but if you wouldn’t have bought the game, then YOU SHOULD NOT PLAY IT. Saying “Well, I would never have bought it, so it’s okay that I pirated it, because no one lost money” is not okay. You, for lack of a better word, do not deserve to play it. You did not invest the amount of money required to get the game. You did not earn the right to play it. That the game exists does not grant you a right to play it. That’s you paying for it.

    Don’t get me wrong – my high horse is on clay feet. I pirated games from time to time for a while. Hell, back when I was very young, we had a store called “Floppy Joe’s” that rented computer games. I would rent them, make copies, and return them. I didn’t get my money back, but I did keep the game. I had folders full of copies of the spinny wheels for the gold box games that I had made myself. And until not so many years ago, I would torrent games as well. Then I had that “Yeah, what I’m doing is still, actually, wrong. Even with justification, this isn’t a good thing, and it’s not a good thing to teach my kids to do, and it’s not a good thing for the people that make the software.” So I came to my high horse organically, or something like that. And there’s nothing worse than a reformed sinner, eh? ;)

  83. Illiterate says:

    DL — when teenagers in their basements make copies of others’ work, it’s piracy.

    When nations do this, it’s espionage.

    When corporations do this, it’s research.

  84. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Damn!Missed my edit window:

    EDIT of #81:
    Not to mention the fact that those same discs are being sold in bargaining bins for under 10 euros after the hype is over,meaning that the developers never even sold them for more than 10 euros a piece to the retailers.

    Yeah,I guess thats true.

  85. DaveMc says:

    K and Daemian: “Which brings me to another point: Why are games so ludicrously expensive? If they were 20 bucks, I'm sure I would pirate less …”

    I don’t have an answer for you, but I thought you might be interested in this article over at, called “Why Gears of War Costs $60”. It breaks down the percentages of the sale price into categories like art design, programming, license fee (to the console maker, not applicable to a PC game), etc. According to this, about 45% of the sale price comes back to the developer, assuming they do both programming and art asset design.

    Companies don’t seem to routinely release details of their development costs, unless someone else can find them and I’m just missing it (quite possible!). It’s certainly in the millions of dollars for high-end games: consider that if you pay your programmers/artists an average of $50,000/year, you only need 20 people to bring you up to a cost of $1 million per year, and games are taking two and three years to develop, these days. And the number of people involved can go way above 20: this guy cites a report claiming costs in the $15 to $20 million range for Xbox 360 and PS3 games, and mentions that Sony has something like 140 people per studio working on their games.

    Those numbers must vary all over the place, from near-zero for a small indie project to the low tens of millions for a big-budget game. For those more expensive ones, a $50 price tag means that they need to sell something like half a million copies before they start breaking even. The most popular games sell far more than that, but the flops sell far less.

    No point to make, here, just thought this might be of interest to some of you.

  86. Den Store Frelser says:

    #79: Now that I know what you actually mean, I agree with you on most of this. The creators of books, games, movies and similar forms of property should not be forced to release their work for free. The customers should have the right to know what they buy, which is often not the case concerning intrusive DRM and false advertising (Revolutionary gameplay is surprisingly often just another way of saying grinding.), so I feel that testing games through piracy is not morally wrong IF you’re honest enough not to make up excuses for not buying what you enjoy.

    It’s not fair to the people who’ve made the game if I enjoy it without buying it, but it doesn’t help them if I never play the game at all. I doubt I’ll ever get around to buying all the games I really should have paid for, both as a child and now as a student, and while I’m not very happy about this I can live with it. I would have a lot more trouble dealing with it if I were to go on like this once I have the income to support my gaming habit.

    #80: Steam is not perfectly pirate-proof. The installed versions of (at least some of) the games are out on torrents, with workarounds that bypass Steam.

    Steam really is a great service, even if there are things about it that can keep people away. It allows you to download the games you’ve bought onto as many machines as you want, the download speed is good, and the integrated DRM protects both the company’s property and the customer’s account.

  87. william says:

    This is completely off topic, but what does the DRM and Securom in videogames actually do? The reason is I really want to play spore very much, and I want to know if it will cripple my PC. Sorry to go off-topic

  88. Alan De Smet says:

    K (70): Games cost so much because of increasing development costs. More realistic looking 3d games require more complex models, higher quality textures, and more careful level design. Especially at the AAA level, you’re talking teams of 50, 70, 100 developers working for years. A 20 years ago you could ship a AAA title with 5 or 10 developers. Add in inflation and it’s impressive that the price of games has been as stable as it has.

    RPharazon (80): “It'll be mine until the internet shuts down or Steam has a serious system failure.” Or Valve gets bought out by a company who decides it’s not worth their time to continue supporting. Google has taken paid for video away. (Customers got their money back, but they didn’t want the money, they wanted the video.) Major League Baseball took purchased videos away. Microsoft is doing it for “PlaysForSure” music. (It got a stay of execution through 2011, but it will eventually go away.) Trusting a company to continue giving you access is a fool’s game.

    Daemian Lucifer (84): “Not to mention the fact that those same discs are being sold in bargaining bins for under 10 euros after the hype is over,meaning that the developers never even sold them for more than 10 euros a piece to the retailers.” I see that you’re unfamiliar with retail marketing, especially of copyright protected works. If the wholesale price was only 10 euros, couldn’t you make a bucket of money buying games at that price and undercutting all of the stores which are apparently gouging? Surely someone else would have noticed this opportunity and gotten rich while we got cheap games. And publishers have no incentive to support retail gouging, since it means fewer games are sold and they make less money. SO obviously that’s not how it works.

    Here’s how the market actually works: Retailers “purchase” games with a right to return them if they don’t see for a full refund. After, say, 8 months, if they have a backstock they’re going to return them at the publisher’s expense. This means the publisher has to return all of the money they got, pay shipping, and is stuck with a bunch of games that aren’t selling. So instead the publisher retroactively cuts the price, refunds only part of the money, and the games end up in the bargain bin. For retailers, this is a total win; they have nearly zero risk. It’s a loss for the publisher but it’s less of a loss, which is why they accept it. (This mess is also why some books claim, “If the cover is missing, this book was stolen.” What actually happens is that a bookstore decided to return the book and get their money back. The publisher is already weeping over the money they have to return, they don’t want to pay even more to get books that aren’t selling back. So they tell the bookstore to tear the covers off an pitch them in the garbage. Sad, huh?

  89. Blackbird71 says:

    Holy entitlement complex Batman! I think most rational human beings can agree that computer games are not basic human rights, and level of access to such games is not an issue of “equality.” That’s the worst strawman of a justification argument I’ve seen yet. Oh, and whether you are stealing something yourself, or getting a copy from someone else who stole it, you are still supporting the theft.

    @Den Store Fresler (68)
    “You might say that I could do without the games I don't buy. This is true, but I could also pirate them, harming no one in the process.

    Oooh, the old “it’s not hurting anyone” argument, can we please put this one to rest with the other falsehoods? How about this: if nothing else, pirating hurts all the rest of us gamers, as you are giving the game companies an excuse to package intrusive DRM and malware in their products which keeps us from making legitimate back-up copies or reselling our old software, practices which are supposed to be legally protected in the U.S. (and other countries I assume). Please stop deluding yourself and justifying your behavior in this manner. I can udnerstand if not condone some forms and reasons for piracy, but most of them are in response to the problem caused by those like you.

    As to those claiming that “DRM works on consoles,” you couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve mentioned my experiences on this subject in comments responding to other posts on the subject in Shamus’ blog. I’ll elaborate a little on the specifics relating to consoles.

    A few years ago, I spent some time in a particular island country in the South Pacific. In a large city in that country was a mall. Inside that mall was a video game store. In that game store, on the shelves and racks, in the glass display cases, there were console games. These games were on copied CDs and sold for the equivalent of about $1 U.S. per disc. These games would not run on a standard console, but that was no problem because the same store also sold modified consoles, or for a small fee, they would add a chip to your existing console, allowing it to play all these games.

    This was not some shady back-room deal, this was a store operating in the open in a legitimate place of business, selling illegally copied software for consoles. The one exception to the merchandise this store sold was games that were on cartridge instead of disc. Unlike the CD-based games which could be cheaply replicated, the cartridges were originals, and sold for the equivalent of their typical U.S. price. With this in mind, if software companies want to protect their IP, particularly in the international market, maybe we’ll see a shift back towards cartridge-based consoles. Having the game rooted in physical hardware instead of purely digital media makes it a little more difficult to copy. Sure, there would be ROM images and the like to be run on computer emulators, but so far as consoles go, cartridges would provide a fairly solid lockdown on piracy. Unfortunately, it would be a step backward for technology, but that just may be the direction in which consoles get pushed.

  90. Jeff says:

    console DRM works
    No it didn’t. The current ones do only because of online content, which makes it no different from things like Steam.
    Id hardly call malls in china a small market.
    I’ve also pointed out malls in Canada.

    Stingray brings up something interesting…

    In my debates in Peace Studies, I often ended up taking the practical side (independant of the two morals sides that the rest of the class were on). I’d call it the economist side.

    With regards to if piracy is right or wrong, I don’t really care. It may appear that I’m saying it’s right, but I’m just taking the practical side. Much as Stringray pointed out, you just deal with the reality of the situation. Moral debates are… uninteresting, to me. The article that prompted this discussion isn’t just about if piracy is right or wrong (he obviously say it’s wrong), but the practical side (that is, what he proposes) is akin to sticking your head in the sand when the lion’s coming.

    That’s also covered in economics, actually. If you can’t make it available legally, then a black market will spring up. Not “might”, but will. Regardless of anything short of stopping production entirely, legal or otherwise, everywhere.
    I just realized again I’m not really commenting on the morals of it, so I’ll just direct your attention to the Prohibition and the illegal purchasing of alcohol from the smugglers.

    Seriously though, the best way to combat pirating?
    Tip the cost-benefit ratio in your favor.
    If the cost of buying it legally is less than the effort required to get it illegally, then you’ll reclaim all possible lost sales.
    As it is, right now the cost is high and the inconvenience is even higher. Calling them names didn’t work with the Muslims in the Crusades, and it won’t work here when they’re your potential customers.

    On a slightly offtopic note, did you ever notice, that economy sometimes booms in countries that ignore international IP laws? Like USA in the beginning of XX century or China in the second half…
    It’s the real free market, before the laws get twisted to serve the rich, and anyone can make big bucks. And where people die from lack of regulations.

    I downloaded an played STALKER for a few hours before never touching it again. Didn’t get very far, either. How’s that with regards to piracy in terms of morals? If I was playing a demo, I woulda thought it was great. As it was the whole thing, I saw my interest dwindle quickly. So does that mean I used the piracy as demo stance? A friend came over and played for a few days though, I had it installed for a week purely so he could play. What’s that do to the moral position, then?

    This is completely off topic, but what does the DRM and Securom in videogames actually do? The reason is I really want to play spore very much, and I want to know if it will cripple my PC.
    Nothing if you’re not a dirty dirty pirate, yar!
    It installs things that more or less violate your privacy and fiddles with your computer. Imagine if every car had a monitoring/control device on it. If it doesn’t like your fuzzy dice, your car won’t start.
    And occasionally it’ll muck up your steering if you’re trying to lane change while signaling and going at 60mph.

  91. Daemian Lucifer says:


    “According to this, about 45% of the sale price comes back to the developer, assuming they do both programming and art asset design.”

    That means that the retailers are making a 100% proffit!Even when you remove the taxes and advertisment(which we shouldnt,because its usually the developers that do the advertising),we still have over 50% proffit for the retailers.

    But while were talking costs here,does anyone else think that improving procedural graphics instead of moddeling would cut the cost down?I know spore will have this,but did it affect the cost of its engine in any way?

  92. Daosus says:

    Just so you know, it’s pretty standard in the three tier distribution model for the price to double at each tier. That means everyone is getting “100% profit.” It’s not really that way, since they still have to, you know, pay people.

  93. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well you dont get so much proffit from coca cola for example.Except in caffes and clubs.

    And sure,they have to pay for their workers,but selling games isnt their only income.In most cases,even selling software isnt their only income.

  94. Mark says:

    I suppose I should explain that in the context of DRM, I use a different definition for “work” than might be expected. I know that perfect DRM is provably impossible. However, console DRM “works” in the sense that playing an inauthentic console game usually requires significantly more effort and knowledge than playing the real one, sometimes even requiring special hardware or modifications. It doesn’t matter that they are cheap; unlike on the PC, console piracy incurs an additional cost beyond the acquisition of the material.

    Of course, there are exceptions, like the relative triviality of installing custom firmware on a PSP, but by and large, DRM on consoles works the way that copy protection ideally should: it is invisible to the legitimate user, a significant obstacle to the pirate (if you don’t think it is “significant” to modify the hardware of a console then you’re not thinking like a normal console owner), and, ultimately, makes it more convenient to execute legitimate software.

  95. Factoid says:

    I’m more or less in Shamus’ boat. As a student of business and technology, I unequivocally believe that a producer of software has the right to protect their investment by whatever means they see fit. I have the right to accept their terms or not, and maybe sometimes I have enough clout to negotiate better terms.

    if it’s defined by the law as stealing, then it’s unethical to steal it, whether you agree with the law or not. I disagree with a lot of how copyright and IP laws are written in the US, but they’re still the law.

    That said, I also do occassionally pirate a game I’ve already bought. I accept that what I’m doing is wrong or at the very least ethically grey…but I do it anyway because sometimes I like to stick it to the man.

    simply stated: Stealing something I already own is still stealing and hence wrong, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.

    @Mark: Well said.

  96. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Average pc users arent the ones cracking the games either.All they have to do is dowloand/buy software that someone else has already cracked.Same goes for consoles:Average console users arent the ones doing the tweaking.And it is even worse when even the hardware is being cracked,since then users are giving their money to crackers for both software and hardwarwe,which is not the case with a pc.

    And it is much easier to put a pirated cd into a pirated console than it is to download a game and unpack it,mount it,and apply(sometimes a very convulted)crack.

  97. Deoxy says:

    Wow, this is getting crazy long. There are a few things I want to say and respond to, but I’m simply not up to reading all of that today… and responding when you haven’t read everything, especially on such a complex and involved thread, is generally not that helpful.

    Wow. Way too much text here, and most of it rehashes of so many other such conversations on this very blog.

  98. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Derek K (re: comment #20):
    I don't know if I'll enjoy a book when I buy it. Should I be able to photocopy the entire thing first, then read it, then decide?
    – This is silly, of course. The difference being, I could return the book, or sell it second-hand knowing that the purchaser will have no trouble having to prove the copy is now his.

    I don't know if I'll enjoy a meal when I order it – should I get to eat it first, then decide if I'll pay for it?
    – And here, if I get a meal which is made incorrectly/poorly (read: buggy), I can return it and get a replacement or refund. As many have mentioned, if you buy a game and it doesn’t work (whether for you or for everyone), you are more often than not completely pooched as far as getting your money back.

    There are, of course, things you can do to minimize the likelyhood of getting a digital brick. Game reviews, for example. Of course, as Shamus has referred to in previous blogs, mainstream game journalism amounts to, at best, literary masturbation over twidget-shaders, uber-mega-polygons, and other ephemera, or, at worst, paid advertising in disguise.
    The other side of the coin when comparing books/movies/dinners to gaming, is one of cost. A brand new game will most often run in excess of $50. A book is quite often about $10 (paperback), a movie $20 (plus snacks, admittedly, but you will likely snack while gaming, too) and expect a decent dinner to run approximately $20 (for one person, possibly including drinks), as well. Now, gaming is intended to provide enjoyment for more than one sitting and IMHO is worth the money when it provides said enjoyment. But what if it does not?
    All this is not to say that I agree that one should be allowed to pirate a game to test it. Like you, I believe that it is a publisher’s responsibility to provide a demo which will allow me to test it. Personally, if I cannot test a game and there is a question that it may not work, I simply don’t play it. Or, I wait for the price to come down and take my chances then.
    I’m posting this before reading the rest of the comments (#21 onwards), so please forgive me if I am rehashing what someone else has said.

  99. AndrewNZachsDad says:


    You later referred to getting a refund from the publisher for a bad/defective product. This is obviously the way to go, and I apologize if my previous post seemed like I was coming down on you. Further reading revealed that we are actually in agreement on this.

  100. Factoid says:

    Damien Lucifer:

    I agree that the people downloading and installing cracks of games on PC are usually semi-sophisticated users…but honestly that’s pretty much the entire PC gaming world these days. You have to be a pseudo expert just to get a RETAIL copy working correctly in a lot of cases.

    I’ve seen convoluted game cracks before…and they’re pretty much on par with convoluted driver issues that plague PC games.

    Also with console gaming I think Mark’s point was that you have to take a significant effort to get cracks to work, and it bears a lot more risk. e.g. “Will this chip brick my 400 dollar console?” or “Will this void my warranty?” or “I know I can crack my console, but then will I be unable to play my legitimate games online”

    It also requires a purchase in most cases. Sometimes it’s pretty steep because not only do you pay for the mod chip, but most people would pay someone who knows what they’re doing to install it (if it requires soldering and the like).

    Also you still have to know a thing or two about torrents and DVD burning, so there are some significant deterrents in place for console hacking, not the least of which I haven’t even mentioned…usually you can’t play those games online, which is the whole point of most FPS games these days, and FPS games are among the most heavily pirated.

  101. Naivul says:

    I get pirated copies of every games that comes with forced online activation, starforce, or any such disruptive copy protection. I don’t actually play or care about those games, I do it just to show that the protection doesn’t work and I will not stand for the trouble DRM causes.

    Why just vote with your money when you can vote AND tell them where to stick their DRM?

  102. Alleyoop says:

    @ Alan de Smet: bookstores do cull and strip covers from paperbacks (after logging barcodes), but they don’t get trashed, they get sent back to the publisher (or some other entity) to be pulped and recycled. The covers are sent back to the publisher…maybe they do decoupage with them or something. ;)

    It feels really wrong to rip a cover off a book, btw.

    Anyway, I’m all for companies selling things however they like, but if we’re expected to pay for something that includes DRM technology, the seller needs to be completely up front about what it actually does and what conflicts can occur PRIOR TO PURCHASE, and this isn’t happening at all. Making vague references to ‘copy protection’ in some mile-long EULA doesn’t cut it either. By then it’s too late and that’s not being business-savvy or clever, that’s being outright deceptive.

    Should pirates be included in the discussion? Of course they should, it’s about them – know thy enemy and all that. But a paying customer’s voice should be heard above all else and that’s not happening in any constructive way. The pirates shouldn’t be the focus, the people who actually pay you should be. Corporate officers and shareholders should have their eyes on their product forums and fansites, not on torrent download numbers. They should be making it easier for the customer, not harder because the customer bought into their scheme. They should be removing the impetus for those about to hop the fence about pirating by easing DRM and taking prices down a tick or two and supplying proper support. A short view would produce whining about immediate loss. A long view would produce a more loyal and numerous fan base. They might even get back those they’ve lost by ignoring them as they currently do. All that’s done is breed resentment, antagonism and spite. Hardly anything to be proud of.

    If anything, game companies should be figuring out how to use pirating to their advantage and their customers’ advantage, because it’s not going away. Tougher DRM just invites tougher pirates…and expands a naive user’s knowledge of pirating as well.

    I don’t have any concrete ideas for that, but if you can’t beat ’em, use ’em.

  103. Mixmastermind says:

    For those who might pirate a game because they don’t know if they can run it, there’s a wonderful site called the System Requirements Lab. It works extremely well in determining whether you can play a game or not on your system.

  104. Eric says:

    Piracy is always going to be an issue. Now do I really care if you pirate a game… no not really. piracy is not destroying the pc gaming clientele, console gaming as a whole is just bigger than the latter. Pc software developers can “dumb down” the games for consoles, because the pc’s are more sophisticated in their demands for their games. Now before anyone jumps on me, I’m primarily a console gamer. I notice the difference between console’s and pc’s greatly in all genre’s, especially in FPS, strategy, and RPG. Now i’m getting of topic. I’ve only dl 1 pirated game, in which I already owned. I will admit I pirate music occasionally, and the song’s are all what I’ve heard from the radio, not the cd. I don’t feel guilty about this for one reason, these are the “demo” tracks from the cd. In retrospect, pc gaming will never die, but nor will it ever be as big as it was in the last decade and a half.

    EDIT: I have a problem with people who pirate everything from games to books. Those people are complete crooks and don’t even consider the possibility of remorse, let alone reimbursement.

  105. Steve C says:

    Nathon (post 21):

    Making a copy of a CD (music) and giving it to a friend is quite obviously wrong from a moral or legal point of view.

    That point can be argued. Turn your example around so that you give a music CD to a friend and he copies it and gives back the original. That is 100% legal in Canada. Canadian law specifically allows it, but the reverse (your example) is not lawful. As for it’s morality, you have to come with real reasons why it is immoral beyond “obviously wrong.”

    As for keeping your conscious clear at your party with music, you should know your public performance of that CD is an infringing act and you are in fact in violation of US and Canadian copyright laws.

    Just pointing out a legal act you find immoral, and an illegal act that you have no problems with.

  106. Steve C says:

    Shamus (post 38):

    If I make something of value I can charge what I like for it and set whatever stupid restrictions on the buyer I see fit. If you want the thing but I'm being unreasonable, trying to get the thing without meeting my requirements is still wrong.

    Does that extend forever? What are your feelings on the duration of copyright? Does the public domain come into play? (I would bet that Hans Christian Andersen would be rolling in his grave for what Disney did to “The Little Mermaid” but copyright had expired by then.)

    What about legal copying done contrary to right holder’s wishes? There’s fair use, but there are also copyright collectives (such as Access Copyright) that it’s not possible to opt out of. They can (and do) override living authors’ wishes, making totally legal but unauthorized copies. (USA has some collectives, I forget their names.)

    I agree with you Shamus to a certain extent. The extent is where all the discussion lies. I’ve singled you out not only because this is your blog, but because of “DM of the Rings” is right on the grey line between parody (fair use) and derivative work (infringement, aka piracy). But either way, against the wishes of the rights’ holders.

    I can accept that software piracy is not ethically justifiable, but I do not really know why. Part of me agrees with you “payment for services rendered…” seems fair and reasonable. Another part says IP protectionists been wrong for 100s of years, why are they correct now when they’ve been crying wolf for so long “VCR is the Boston Strangler…”?

    I’m curious if to you it’s about the compensation to authors, or more about the author’s wishes. (BTW historically this is the divide between the Anglo-Saxon concept of “copyright” which only dealt with economic concerns, and the the French “droit d’auteur” [right of the author].)

  107. Steve C says:

    T-Boy (post 39):

    Did someone just compare video games to library books? I mean, there was plenty of pointless arguing in the comment threads, and there were lots of awkward metaphors, but this one just stood out.

    Yes. That was me originally. Someone else raised the point that nobody needs a video game because it’s a luxury. Literary fiction is also a luxury. Art as a unnecessary luxury is an old old argument that I think is pretty much settled. However I don’t really understand your point about needing a computer. I need eye glasses to enjoy a book. I don’t understand how tool use (computer) is relevant. The history of intellectual property is relevant, because the IP protectionists have repeatedly NOT gotten what they want, but always made MORE money as a result. Avilan the Grey’s (post 72) is a great summary of recent history.

    I brought up library books because in both Canada and the US (DMCA excluded), computer software is exactly the same as any written work under the law. All software is defined as literary work, just as is all books and magazines etc. “Lord of the Rings” the novel by JRR Tolkien is treated exactly the same as EA’s game “Lord of the Rings” without “technical protection measures”. Find a digital copy of the novel protected by DRM and it’s EXACTLY the same as the game in the law’s eyes. It’s not an analogy, it has EXACTLY the same legal status.

    There was some study I remember hearing a study that a book is typically read 7 times for each legal copy. That is, the author/rightsholder gets his cut once out of every 7 “consumptions” of his work due to libraries, sharing, and buying/selling of used books. All of which are totally legal and morally defensible.

    Why is it that it’s perfectly ok for a book to be used many times and the author get paid only for the very first use and everyone free riding afterwards? How is one person paying for a game and many people afterwards getting it for nothing is somehow much worse? The fact that it was copied doesn’t seem to be more than legal semantics to me. No money is changing hands and the end result is the same in both cases; the author doesn’t get compensated for use past the first user. Compensating the creator is the big ethical issue… and the only ethical one I see. If creators can be compensated fairly, isn’t the ethical issue solved?

    T-Boy, you appear to value art based on the medium used to present it. I do not. To me a sculpture, a movie, a painting, a book, or a video game all have equal merit. They are all a form of culture to enrich society.

    *And I bet most other countries too.

  108. Steve C says:

    To take the discussion in a new direction, how about this as a possible solution:
    I’m for a system that provides an incentive for creators to create. I’m for a system that provides compensation to creators based on merit. How that is accomplished, I don’t care as long as it’s fair. Mark (post 61) hits the nail on the head, law and economics are at odds. The strategy so far has been a massive PR campaign that copying = stealing to make it an ethical issue. But at it’s root it’s still an economic issue, and everything ALWAYS bows eventually to economic market forces.

    Other people have mentioned Gamefly. I’ve mentioned public libraries and copyright collectives. Throw something like Napster into the mix, could the combination of the 4 be a solution to piracy? Trying to come up with a legal and economic framework that isn’t at odds…

    What I’m trying to describe is a legal copying scheme in the same niche as copyright collectives. Collectives don’t copy for you, but they do allow others to make copies and remit fees to rights holders.

    It could either be financed like public libraries by governments, (aka taxes) or by micro transactions or by subscription fee… whatever. It would track downloading, and remit fees to copyright owners based on some arcane formula. Forget about the difficulties in convincing politicians and business groups to go along with it, or what the arcane formula actually is.* If worried about crossing country borders, a system like how countries deal with telephone fees or postage stamps could be set up. Assume that’s all figured out and rights holders are given similar profits to what they make under the current market forces.

    Would this stop piracy? Since the root of all this talk is the ethics of piracy are there any moral or ethical objections to such a system?

    *Complex mathematical algorithms work for insurance, stockmarkets, google searches etc. I’m sure a formula could be developed somehow.

    BTW this is possible on a technical level now. Only thing stopping it today are legal and social issues.

  109. Jeff says:

    However, console DRM “works” in the sense that playing an inauthentic console game usually requires significantly more effort and knowledge than playing the real one, sometimes even requiring special hardware or modifications.
    It require you to bring your console in for something like 15 bucks, after which your games are like $5 each or the cost of the CD/DVD if you burn it yourself.

    If you consider PSPs and NDSes as consoles, then all those need is a download or a special cart.

    (if you don't think it is “significant” to modify the hardware of a console then you're not thinking like a normal console owner)
    Very subtle there.
    The fact that the mods are so prevalent and so easily accessable implies a signifigant market. Saving 50 bucks per game generally is incentive enough.
    This is prevalent, not a minor thing. Heck, for the PS2 they sold/installed kits so you could just plug your HD into a computer/PS2 and play games without using DVDs at all. To think this is rare because you haven’t heard of it is just ignorance.

    if it's defined by the law as stealing, then it's unethical to steal it, whether you agree with the law or not. I disagree with a lot of how copyright and IP laws are written in the US, but they're still the law.
    Laws are independant of ethics.
    Unless it was ethical to keep slaves.
    Not that I’m saying it’s ethical to steal, however statements like that sound like the recent period of American stupidty where patrioism (loving your country) somehow means blindly obeying the idiots in office, contrary to the founding principles of that nation. (America was formed by violent revolution, overthrowing the government. The whole POINT of the right to bear arms is to be able to overthrow your government, not so you can keep those dame kids off your lawn.)

    Why is it that it's perfectly ok for a book to be used many times and the author get paid only for the very first use and everyone free riding afterwards? How is one person paying for a game and many people afterwards getting it for nothing is somehow much worse?
    For some reason, this reminds me of the stock market (probably because I’m studying for yet another license right now). After the IPO, the company doesn’t get anything from their stocks.

    The strategy so far has been a massive PR campaign that copying = stealing to make it an ethical issue. But at it's root it's still an economic issue, and everything ALWAYS bows eventually to economic market forces.
    Indeed. This is because they look at piracy, something which they can complain about without having to do anything (DRMs are almost all third party), rather than asking “How can we make more money?” People always like scapegoats, after all.
    Rather than discussing “How can we make piracy not a problem?” they’ve got people talking about if piracy is right or wrong. Which, other than for legal discussions about IP, is utterly irrelevant.

  110. Derek K says:

    @AnZDad: “This is obviously the way to go, and I apologize if my previous post seemed like I was coming down on you.”

    Death squads recalled. I think. I never remember if I should pick “Recall and Resend” or just “Recall”

  111. Alan De Smet says:

    Factoid (95): “if it's defined by the law as stealing, then it's unethical to steal it, whether you agree with the law or not.”

    Law and ethics don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. It is absolutely possible to break the law without being unethical. Am I really being unethical when I apply a no-CD crack to a game I purchased just so it runs faster? (It absolutely is illegal under the DMCA.) If the road is absolutely clear for a long distance in either way, is it really unethical to jaywalk?

    While rare, there even cases where breaking the law is more ethical than obeying the law. Stealing someone’s goods and destroying them was against the law. Stealing someone’s slaves and sneaking them to places with no slavery was against the law. Hiding Jews from the authorities in Nazi Germany was against the law. Marrying someone of a different skin color was against the law. Leaking government secrets, or publishing them is against the law. Refusing to yield your seat because you’re the wrong skin color was against the law.

    This is not to say that copyright infringement is ethical. But you’ll need to argue the ethics on it’s own merits, not hold the law forth like it’s the final arbitrar of ethics.

  112. Eric says:

    Completely true.

  113. DaveMc says:

    Steve C (comment 108) wrote:

    It could either be financed like public libraries by governments, (aka taxes) or by micro transactions or by subscription fee… whatever. It would track downloading, and remit fees to copyright owners based on some arcane formula. […] Assume that's all figured out and rights holders are given similar profits to what they make under the current market forces.

    Would this stop piracy? Since the root of all this talk is the ethics of piracy are there any moral or ethical objections to such a system?

    Sorry to reply to a long-past (in Internet time) post, but what the heck. No, I’d have no objections to such a system, in fact it sounds pretty appealing, though of course as you acknowledged, the “assume that’s all figured out” part takes some pretty big assuming. Maybe the government would have to impose some sort of bandwidth tax, the proceeds from which would be divided up based on download statistics? [*]

    I have no problem with almost any fairly-constructed system, as long as all the participants know what it is in advance. Under your proposal, potential creators would be able to look at the algorithm and figure out how much they stood to make if their game (or movie, song, etc) was downloaded 100,000 times, or a million, or ten million — and then decide if that seemed like a worthwhile risk to them. What I don’t like is people creating things under one set of assumptions (“We get to sell this to people and they aren’t allowed to just download it without paying”), while another group tries to impose a different set of assumptions (“No, we’re just going to download it without paying, thank you very much”).

    I think it’s quite possible that our whole system of handling intellectual property may change in the future. And sure, I’d definitely welcome a system that stopped trying to fight the distribution of data and started trying to channel money to its creators. In the meantime, and in the absence of any other mechanism for reimbursing creators for their efforts, I think it’s only common decency to pay for your games.

    [*] Right now, here in Canada, there’s a levy on writeable CDs that is supposed to be used to reimburse musicians and record labels for hypothetically downloaded music. This particular implementation is maddening, because it’s not linked to any actual downloading, just to the assumption that if you buy CDs, you’re going to store copyrighted material on them. Foolishness. Even more foolish: as far as I can tell, DVDs don’t have such a levy (thank goodness!). And there’s no clear algorithm for handing out the money. On the other hand, there are those who claim, apparently with some justification, that this levy has the effect of making the peer-to-peer downloading of music legal in Canada. But I digress.

  114. DaveMc says:

    I wrote: “Right now, here in Canada, there's a levy on writeable CDs that is supposed to be used to reimburse musicians and record labels for hypothetically downloaded music…”

    Oops, turns out this levy isn’t actually about downloads, it’s about private copying (of things you bought, for your own private use, like making yourself a mix CD back in the dark ages when people still did that rather than creating playlists). This is technically illegal under the currently insane copyright laws and thus someone felt that music companies should be compensated by imposing this levy. This is even more ridiculous than I thought.

  115. blah blah blah says:

    1) The argument that people who can’t pirate games at all will at least buy SOME games is bogus, there are plenty of free/open source games available (FreeDoom is a top example). There are a LOT of people who enjoy making games for fun, and even more who enjoy sharing them (these are the ones who make crackz).

    2) IP protection is not part of the basis of our system of governance, it’s something that the Constitution says Congress is ALLOWED to do, not that they have to do. There would be no Constitutional violation in repealing all copyright, trademark, and patent law. In itself that’s not a good reason to do so, but it can be done just fine.

    3) Illegally copying something isn’t theft, it’s copyright/trademark/patent infringement. It’s not a crime, it’s a tort. If you don’t know the difference, you shouldn’t be publicly commenting on the legal status of content piracy.

    4) MS has even admitted that copyright infringement of their software is better for them than people choosing free alternatives. If game companies found a way to let people pirate their games, but demand credentials of legitimate purchase for upgrades, they could turn piracy into a net benefit for them.

    5) The Pirates will always win because they have better, faster, more resilient, efficient means of distribution. Shut down BBSs and FTP and Napster take their place. Shut down Napster and ED2K, Limewire, and Kazaa will take its place. BitTorrent. Rapidshare. FreeNet. Tor. The only way the content industries can defeat piracy is by rivaling their networks’ effectiveness in distribution.

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