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PC Game Piracy: Why Bother With DRM?

May 11, 2009 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

[As the controversy over DRM in PC games continues, Gamasutra talks to 2D Boy and Stardock on their attempts to pioneer less restrictive or even non-existent DRM, as Ubisoft and EA comment on their loosening of protection controls for Prince Of Persia and The Sims 3.]

If 2008 was the year of consumer resistance to digital rights management (DRM), then 2009 seems to be the year that developers are seeking more relaxed, gamer-friendly ways to thwart piracy.

Indeed, some outspoken developers have even suggested that game makers suck it up and accept the piracy, perhaps generating income in alternate ways, like micro-transactions.

Even leading publishers, like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, are softening their DRM efforts. Ubisoft, for instance, shipped its Prince of Persia in December with no DRM whatsoever.

And EA has announced that when The Sims 3 is released next month, no online authentication will be required to play the game, simply a CD key.

"I definitely believe this is all the result of a change in the public perception of DRM, a sort of grass roots uprising," observes Ron Carmel, co-founder of San Francisco-based developer 2D Boy. "Gamers are much more vocal about it than they used to be, perhaps because they are so accustomed to downloading music without too many restrictions."

Carmel believes that the extent to which a game is pirated is approximately the same whether it uses any of the DRM technologies or not. If it is that ineffective, he asks, why use it at all?

Many PC game retail publishers typically use DRM to limit the number of systems on which a game can be installed -- most games allow no more than five. But that hamstrings customers who own more than five computers, or who have to re-install their machine multiple times.

Additionally, the ways that some DRM-based systems hide their copy protection mechanisms and online install checking within Windows often concern gamers who consider them 'spyware' -- with a few examples of behind-the-scenes systems that affect operating system efficiency.

But in general, the concept that a game is installing something unknown on the user's system to check on them is psychologically unsettling, whether or not it's actually disruptive.

It has been claimed -- albeit without any demonstratable proof -- that, last year, a gamer backlash was a significant factor in EA's Spore becoming the most pirated game in 2008. Critics of excessive DRM believe that some gamers simply chose to pirate rather than buy the long-anticipated game whose DRM technology infuriated them.

EA/Maxis' Spore

"Spore was the final straw that broke the camel's back," recalls Brad Wardell, president and CEO of Plymouth, Michigan-based developer Stardock. "Someone who buys software does not want to be made to feel like a chump for buying it. Much of the outcry came from legitimate customers who said that they shouldn't be restricted by DRM, especially since people with pirated versions weren't."

But the Entertainment Software Association believes otherwise."DRM is a reasonable response to high piracy rates," says Ric Hirsch, senior VP for intellectual property enforcement at the ESA. "Just because some users circumvent DRM protections to gain unauthorized access to game software does not mean that the technologies don't serve their intended purpose. No security technology is 100% effective."

"Most people in the United States who play games do not circumvent DRM in their use of game software, a fact sometimes overlooked because of widespread illegal downloading and usage of games. There is little doubt that piracy would be far more widespread without game publishers' use of DRM."

However, 2D Boy's Carmel says that DRM is used not so much to thwart piracy -- since it's not very good at that -- as it is to combat the used game market.

"Publishers aren't stupid. They know that DRM doesn't work against piracy," he explains. "What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets. If DRM permits only a few installs, that minimizes the number of times a game can be resold."

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Maurício Gomes
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Go 2D Boy and Stardock...

Not only becase you do not irritate costumers with DRM that screws their machine, but also because you make good games that are neither sequels (erm... EA and Ubi), neither suck with autoaiming and autowhatever (just Ubi this time...)

Brett Williams
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Many Stardock applications and games use online user authentication for multiplayer or updates. This is considered to be DRM technology. If you are tracking your users usage of software for the purposes of controlling or tracking unauthorized access, you are using DRM technology. The big shift that is going on in the industry is moving away from fixed limits on the usage of the software, but not away from tracking who is and isn't a legitimate customer. By removing the limits and making software personal, as Stardock mentions, making it about the gamer, is what is necessary to get that bad stigma about DRM to go away. Though it may just be easier to use the technology and not call it DRM, whatever angle people take I think the view on it will relax over time as publishers and distributors shift.

Tom Newman
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I want to thank Stardock for recognizing that traditional DRM makes it less convenient for people buying legitimate copies of the game. I think the type of client used by both Stardock and Valve is the way to go, as it does tie in the game with the gamer. DRM can be painful, especially if you upgrade your system often and/or play on multiple machines. I may play on my studio computer, my laptop, or my living room computer, and if it's a multi-player game I want the freedom of showing up at my friend's house with nothing more than a login/password. Also, there are many games I've purchased years ago that I'd like to revisit, but I either can't locate the serial or the install disk itself. Some games, like Diablo, I've purchased more than once. I wish all of the games I have purchased over the years were on one account that would let me re-download if necessary, but I absolutely don't want to be restricted on how many different machines I can play on (as long as it's only one at a time), how many times I can re-install, and I don't want to hear that I'm screwed if I lose the serial#.

Ed Alexander
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Not calling a technology DRM will not relax the user base if it is DRM. The gamer generation has become incredibly technologically savvy. You can't sell snake oil anymore, they're too smart for that. They will figure it out, and it is only a manner of (a short) time before they get past it. I can't think of a piece of software that hasn't been cracked.

In my opinion, the only smart way to handle DRM is to not have DRM. There are many reasons to pirate. And with DRM, there are fewer reasons to actually purchase the product. DRM does punish the legitimate customer.

I personally know people who will pirate DRM supported software for the sole purpose of circumventing the DRM. They will install the game, play it, laugh at the publisher and be done with it. I don't understand the glee they take in it, but I do understand their desire to stick it to The Man.

The whole DRM issue is a lot like the music industry's stance on piracy. The more you fight your consumers, the more they fight back. Gabe Newell is an incredibly intelligent man, he is wise and I wish more would pay attention to his thoughts on the issue. His stance on piracy and price points makes me support Valve even more, if there is such a thing. I'll never pirate a Valve product because I want to give them my money.

There are 2 effective ways to stop piracy, one is to create a product so outstanding your audience wants to give you money and the other is to create a business model where the customer has to in some form or fashion authenticate through one of your servers to get into the game. Valve and Blizzard are 2 great examples of the first and Blizzard also is a great example of the latter.

And that could be why so many studios have sparkles in their eyes and an ear to ear grin on their face when they look at the MMO business model, the subscription model will generate additional revenue and it does a great job combating the issue of piracy. It doesn't stop piracy, nothing ever will, but emulated servers are usually sparsely populated compared to the developer's live servers. Half the fun of an MMO comes from having such a large player base you interact with, so most people opt to pay for experience of the MMO instead of playing on a free emulated server.

Everyone I know has thrown down $60 on a game because of the marketing hype and then got burned. When you spend that much money on a title, and it was bad and you realize you only bought it because of marketing, that permanently weighs into your thought process when you are deciding if you want to buy a game in the future.

I'll admit to having pirated games. I'll admit that I did actually go buy some of them after I pirated them, but I'll also admit I've pirated more games than I've purchased, usually because the game was not worth the price to me. Now that most of my PC gaming is spent in MMOs, I don't pirate any more because I rarely play other PC games (except from Steam, but I've already touched on Valve, their pricing and piracy ideology and my loyalty to them). But I know that I will never blindly purchase a title again.

I'm sorry if my thoughts feel long winded, it's hard when it's a topic I'm passionate about, but I'll wrap it up quickly here. You can't make your consumers your enemies, you have to make them your friend. I don't even understand why the desire to fight pirates supersedes the desire to treat your customers well. It is highly illogical to me, I can't believe it is a business practice still in existence.

Ed Alexander
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Err *matter of time, not manner. How did I not catch that on the proofread? ;)

Brit C
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"I'm convinced that we lost very few customers because of piracy," he says. "People who pirate the game are people who wouldn't have bought it anyway. I don't know anyone who would try to find a cracked version and, if they can't locate one, they say, ‘OK, since I can't find it for free, I'm going to go out and buy it.' I just don't think that happens."

A few years ago, I was talking to an indie game developer. He had started doing some experiments with pirates. He put a fake registration code out on the internet, but prevented the code from actually working. Then, he watched as people tried to run a copy of his game with the fake registration code. He tracked their IP addresses, and then watched those same IP addresses to see how many of them came back to buy. He said that something like 1/3rd of the pirates actually bought a copy after their piracy attempt failed. With World of Goo's 90% piracy rate, then if this indie developer's numbers held true, the 1/3rd of that 90% would've bought, and World of Goo developer would actually have 4x as many sales as they did. I also happen to think that Carmel is wrong about the percentage of pirates who would've bought if they didn't have the piracy option available to them - though, it's probably easier for him to sleep at night if he believes otherwise.

Speaking of which, did you see Brad Wardell's recent outlash against pirates, where he said, "If you’re playing a pirated copy right now, if you’re one of those people on Hamachi or GameRanger playing a pirated copy and have been for more than a few days, then you should either buy it or accept that you’re a thief and quit rationalizing it any other way." I have to admit, sometimes when I'm reading game-website comments, watching pirates justify and brag about pirating, I get the dismal feeling that secure DRM is the only thing that can save the single-player game industry.

Andrew Pellerano
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@Ed Alexander:

If you think a game costs too much money, the appropriate consumer response is to not buy the game at all. Pirating the game is not only a slap to the developer's face (thanks for the content, which I think is worth exactly zero dollars), but you've also helped give momentum to the piracy industry either through ad revenue or torrent seeds.

As for your wrap up, treating your customers well means you get taken advantage of by pirates (1). Stopping the pirates means alienating some percentage of your legitimate customers (2). Your conclusion is akin to saying you don't get why cancer is a problem, just come up with a cure for it and cancer will go away. Or, just buy some building materials and construct Rome already, what's taking so long? If maximizing customer satisfaction and game sales was actually as simple as you say it is then the smart people running businesses would have a solution by now. Or if you have a solution, then you're sitting on a million dollar idea and you should get to work.

(1) The perfect examples are the stars of this article, Stardock and 2d Boy. One had professional reviews irreversibly crippled by zero day piracy, and the other claims a 90% piracy rate. Ignoring their PR spin in articles like this, I'm sure Stardock wanted better reviews and I'm sure 2d Boy wishes for even just a small slice of that 90% pie. DRM would have solved both of those problems (but introduced new ones.)

(2) While online activation is a really good form of DRM, which multiplayer games have been employing for years, there are still people without internet connections who want to play single player games. You could argue that those people are few and far between, but I feel the same way about people who have to install a game on 6 different machines. Which small percentage of players do you want to alienate today? That's the question you have to ask yourself when deciding on a DRM method.

Ed Alexander
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Which is the route I've been going. But there are other ways! It doesn't have to be like this. There are obviously 2 sides to each story, but it feels like DRM only addresses and favors 1 side. And I don't agree with your statement "Which small percentage of players do you want to alienate today?" because I don't feel that any players need to be alienated at all.

From a developer's standpoint, the piracy hurts their livelihood. It's something to take serious offense to. Their time and effort gets ripped off by people who don't want to legitimately purchase the product they need to sale to put food on the table now and in the future. It is a slap in the face.

From a gamer's standpoint, there are multiple things that would cause someone to pirate. Perhaps they want to rebel against the publisher for using DRM, it's not uncommon for people to want to rebel or take action when their ideologies clash. Perhaps they really want the game but don't have the money or don't want to pay for it. Maybe they would buy it if the price point was lower, but it's $50 and that can go a long way elsewhere towards goods or services they can't pirate (which also touches on the tough economy, it doesn't help on the issue of piracy). Perhaps they're giving it a test drive to see if they want to throw down the money for a full price or don't want to buy it at all. Perhaps they just show up to a LAN with friends and someone has a pirated copy and they want to play it together.

I'm not trying to justify piracy, there are adverse effects that come from it. But it is being treated as a black and white issue only, and I think that is where the problem lies. My personal feelings are that developers and publishers need to take a different stance. There are a variety of reasons that people pirate, but in reality the vast majority of piracy boils down to one issue: money.

It sounds crazy, but I have a real scenario here to prove a point. When Unreal Tournament 3 came out, I was at a friend's house and he had pirated the game. I got it from him. We played around, and it was quite a bit of fun, but it wasn't worth the full cost of admission to me, so I didn't buy it. I ended up deleting it and moving on. Some months later it pops up on Steam, I still did not buy it... until along came the Unreal Deal which was every Unreal Tournament game for $50. I opened my wallet right then and there. That deal was too good to pass up. You know what? I told him about the deal and he bought it too. And he told our other friend that was at the LAN that we pirated the game about it, and he bought it as well. 3 pirates purchased legitimate copies because it was a great deal.

Epic allowed Unreal Tournament to be released via Steam, and subsequently allowed Steam to put their games on unbelievable sales, which I'm sure lead to a big spike in sales. I'll back up this point with the '08 holiday sales figures released by Valve at DICE 09. There was a big sale on every title, ranging from 10-75% off. Versus normal price sales, titles made revenue as follows:

10% off - 35% more revenue

25% off - 245% more revenue

50% off - 320% more revenue

75% off - 1470% more revenue

As we can see, the cost of a game has a lot to do with how many people purchase it. I've begun thinking that the multimillion dollar budget games that release and sit at a $50 price point is an archaic practice that is only promoting piracy. If your software cost $0, you would have 0% piracy among users. If your software cost $1,000,000 it is likely you would have 99.9% piracy among users. The more affordable it is to a consumer, the higher the chance they will buy it.

I understand the frustrations and detriment to a developer when their game gets pirated... But there are other ways. The sad truth is piracy isn't going to stop. I still strongly feel that DRM is a bad business model because as long as someone can pirate a piece of software and they don't feel a need to legitimately purchase it, it is highly likely they are going to pirate it.

Andrew Pellerano
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The problem with anecdotes is that they're anecdotes and not trends. LAN parties have never been known as hot spots for legal file sharing. The only reason it's acceptable to show up to a LAN party without having purchased the games list beforehand is because it is understood that burned DVDs will be passed around. If we were talking about physical goods, that assumption wouldn't be made. No one shows up to a bike marathon without a bike.

This is probably something we can't come to agreement on. I don't believe that money, or ideals, or peer pressure are the cause of piracy. The reason people pirate is because they can easily get away with it. Everything else is just a pirate's rationalization.

The most damning aspect to the pirate agenda (political or moral) is their inconsistency in backing up their rationalizations. First we hear that games cost too much money, but the pirate bay and other popular torrent sites are able to run successful donation drives for legal counsel, fines, or bandwidth. Where's all that money coming from? Maybe games only cost too much money when you remember in the back of your head that the same title is available for free online from a torrent. Next DRM is the bad guy, but pirates crucify Stardock and 2d Boy despite those companies avoiding DRM. If the pirates really were driven by an idealogical clash then neither of these things should have happened.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

steve roger
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Ed, I totally agree with your last point. While the DRM issue is big and backlash against it does drive piracy, but the bigger factor is price.

The cost of new releases are outrageous. In fact, price of games without a significant sales price cut are way too high. Your sales figures from Steam prove this. Further, Valve proves this just about every weekend.

For example, take a game that has been out a while and has been pirated for a long while. When that game goes on sale for the weekend deal it will sell phenomally. What is so interesting is that the market hasn't been diluted by piracy at all. There still are huge numbers of people willing to buy that game.

I don't think game developers and publishers want to admit that the price point is the problem. Why would they?

A lot of gamers would call the developers and publishers for setting such ridiculous price points for their games pirates.

What do I think is too much? $49.99 for a Call of Duty 4. That is highway robbery. And how about a game that has been out a while and has dropped to $19.99 like Mass Effect. That is still too high.

If you cut those prices in half you would see huge, astronomical numbers of those games sold.

I am no Steam fanboy, but the discounting of games for a window of time prior to release does drive sales. Look at the top seller lists there. Zeno Clash did it and Killing Floor is doing it now. Both of these games could have easily held their price points at $19.99 but their discounting actually worked and is working.

The thing about piracy is that you can't just look at them as a single unified group. Rather, there are the hardcore pirates that never buy, those that pirate and buy, and those that pirate when they are pissed about something. The last two groups are the ones that are enticed by reasonable price points.

So if you want combat piracy. Sure lighten up on the DRM. But if you want to put a dent in it and drive some real sales drop the prices.

Which brings me to the point about used games and DRM. Gamers aren't stupid. Just like the publishers and developers know that DRM is about preventing re-sale. Gamers know that is what DRM install limits are all about.

Well how do you get around install limits and the inability to buy and sell used games: piracy of course.

So how do the developers get around the fact that gamers are pissed about not being able to buy and sell used games: lower the price of course.

I hate to go on, but I will. Remember when the concept of digital content delivery was first opened up? And everybody talked about how this would reduce the cost of games due to the cost savings? Well, we all know that didn't happen. Gamers aren't stupid. We know that it is cheaper to put a game up on the net rather than on the shelf. So, I think that gamers really believe that games are really over priced right now. Rather, than publishers and developers taking digital content delivery opportunity to pass on saving to consumers they greedily used it as a way to actually give themselves a price increase.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Store front retailers want to be protected. So the keep prices comparable. Poppy cock. This argument is a scam. Pricing has become a racket. What is the answer? Developers and publishers have to drop the prices for both download and brick n' mortar stores. Split the baby if you have to.

Otherwise, enjoy the benefits of DRM and high prices and the piracy that comes along with it. End of rant.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

steve roger
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Dave, while, of course, I can only answer for myself and others that I have discussed prices with, I can tell you that we all agree that games are simply priced too high. Secondly, do we think the prices are arbitrary? Sort of. Arbitrarily high. Third, you ask/state an interesting question when you say that "it is not as if game makers can simply cut their price 75% for a new release and expect to somehow make up the difference in bulk sales. (I do note that you are exaggerating here because I used an example of a 25% discount for new games like Zeno Clash and Killing Floor as a way to cut prices for new releases and drive sales). Well, it does seem like that is exactly what is going on, prices are set and then developers and publishers hope t recoup not only costs and reasonable profit. However, if it sells well, it becomes a lottery and huge buckets of cash are made with little price concessions.

Pricing becomes the developer and publisher's worse enemy. It should be that prices should be set so that sales can be generated enough to pay for costs plus a reasonable profit. Instead games are priced so that they don't sell well. You price yourself right out of my pocket and onto my bit torrent client.

I already conceeded that some pirates will pirate no matter what. But you ignored that aspect. You ignored the fact that fair pricing drives sales. Even of games that have been out a while and have been pirated.

The trouble I see with this business is that every body is trying to catch lightning in a bottle. However, Valve has proven that isn't neceesary.

Prices are just too high. Even marginal games sell well when reasonably priced. We all know this is true.

Gamers open up their wallets for old games that carry a reasonable price tag. But publishers and developers are so set on strangling the used game market that even old games end up with a ridiculous price tag.

Like Valve has shown, cutting prices result in phenomal numbers. Not in just raw sales per unit but gross receipts.

Lastly, publisher and developers need to try some new pricing and promotion efforts. Like subscriptions to a suite of games. More buy one get on free deals. Even allowing the rental of pc games for a set period of time. Otherwise, piracy will destroy your business.

My suggestion is that indies get together and sell their games in a bundle. This will help out those companies that don't have a back catalog.

Sorry, but just lifting DRM is not going to cut it.

Neville Boudreaux
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I wonder if those who are complaining about $60 dollar titles now-a-days, remember the early 90's when SNES games were routinely $70 - $85.

According to a simple inflation calculator, my copy of Mortal Kombat for the SNES would cost $126.86 in today's market. All of a sudden, $60 dollars doesn't look too bad.

Price is not the issue. I've seen pirates steal everything from $0.99 - $4.99 titles to brand new titles released at a $39.99 MSRP (Odin Sphere for example). Price has some bearing, but I don't believe it has as much pull as some people think. As soon as you remove price from the equation it becomes some other asinine justification like "well it doesn't have multiplayer", "it's fun but I don't like feature X", etc.

The problem is there is absolutely no penalty for pirating, it is very easy to do, and, best of all, it's FREE. I completely believe you will see more and more titles heading towards the consoles systems and PC gaming being left in the dust for everything but MMOs.

While consoles aren't immune to piracy, they sure aren't as badly infected as the PC market seems to be. Publishers will go where they can make money.

Neville Boudreaux
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*Also, just to be 100% clear, I abhor piracy. I miss the days of seeing people walking out with 4 - 5 copies of PC games under their arm so they could play with friends at the office. PC games covered large sections of stores and taking home a new title was something cherished and an equally rewarding experience as playing the game itself.

Now a days, one person buys the game (if that), and the others just copy it and play on some VLAN software like Hamachi.

Gustavo De Micheli
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Today DRM is, sadly, the only viable solution that the publishers are seeing. Maybe because is more aggressive than other, more corporative if you like.

I think that the solution lies in another way of handling piracy, another type of strategy.

For instance, World of Warcraft is one of the most, if not the number one, source of income for Vivendi. Where is basically the income from? That is the subscription fee. Vivendi could easily say "Ok guys, piracy the game all you want, give it to your friends, family even to your dog if you want... but if you want to really use it, pay me for using my server (or pay me for franchising my server software, just like McDonnals).

Another thought is using in-game ads, and giving away the game for free, and then the source of income is no longer the purchase of the gamers, but the money from the people that are paying for showing the ads.

The final thought is that, for piracy to burn to the ground, it is required another business model where money comes from another source. Another way to view the business process, for example, Walmart did it, so I think it's still applicable.

But this is just a perspective, many of the ideas I read posted in this article are great, like the discount. I'm from South America, and it's a very hard to buy a game (it ranges from 8-15% of the average salary), so that a really cool idea.

Solding Old Games, I think, is another great idea (especially for the nostalgic)

PS: Sorry for the lame english, it's not my first language

steve roger
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"It puts the lotion on it's skin or else it gets the hose again."

I am the only one complaining. But I didn't say anything about video games. I was speaking strictly about pc games which cannot be bought and sold on the used market. That $60 game and those $70 to $80 games ended up on the used market where those of us who don't pirate could sell them or buy them at a reasonable price. You just can't do that anymore.

This foreclosure of the used PC game market is just the industry selfishly shooting itself in the foot. Instead of whining about victimization of piracy and being cut out of used sales--do something about it.

Also, those of us commenting seem to just be whining about piracy. Which is unproductive since it is a fact that the industry must deal with it. It just isn't an original thought to tell pirating war stories and to make this thread into a pirate confessional.

I used to walk out of gamestop or best buy with 4 o4 5 PC games. But that was one new title, an older discounted one and a couple of used titles.

There is rarely even a bargain bin anymore.

Anyway, PC and video games are so unreasonably priced people don't even buy they as birthday presents for friends.

"According to a simple inflation calculator, my copy of Mortal Kombat for the SNES would cost $126.86 in today's market. All of a sudden, $60 dollars doesn't look too bad."

Looks pretty bad to me.

Trouble is that $60 game you are talking about, if it was a PC game, it can't be re-sold. After you have played it, it becomes and expensive coaster. A lot of gamers just aren't collectors.

I think that if the piracy rate was lower and games were selling better because of it, prices might come down. But publisher and developers just don't want to take that step. I wish there were more visionaries like Gabe. Instead of a bunch of piracy whiners who take it on of loyal paying customers like me.

If you want more of my money, drop your prices. Let me resell my games.

Chad Wagner
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As evidence in the price argument, it's interesting to see how high quality games on XBLA seem to have trouble getting reasonable sales at $1 - $5. Where are all the reasonable pirates interested in good games at good prices? Probably on the PC.

Maurício Gomes
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I am thinking about that now: How much piracy is actually internet based?

I am from Brazil, and here I see MASSIVE amounts of piracy, not only "some" but MASSIVE, EVERYONE (including me), has pirated games...

The thing is: First, here the majority of piracy is not free, if you want the brand new shiny game, the best option still is go to a piracy dealer and buy it, thus defeating the argument that people pirate because it is free (example, for me to buy a copy of Fallout 3 for example, it would take me 3 USD for the bus trip, and more 15 USD for the game itself... usually games with several DVDs are outragelusly high, sometimes on par of non-pirated games, and still people prefer pirated... I explain that later)

Then another intersting fact: Altough I said that EVERYONE had pirated things, the majority of the pirated goods users are students, usually with less than 18 years old, thus proving the point that if they do not got pirated they would not get legal anyway because lack of means to do so.

Another fact: Good part (not majority) of pirated goods buyers are parents, I mean, they buy and gift their kids, usually the kids do not know that this is wrong for a long time (like me... >.< figured how wrong is this practice only when I was 16 yo, thus I had 10 years of pirated game playing without any guilt or knowledge)

Another thing: Piracy is not stealing, stop confusing the things, piracy is counterfeiting, it is making and selling (or giving) fake goods (ie: you burn a game on DVD and sell or give it, you are not stealing it, you are claiming that this product is your invention, when it is not)

Now, for the people wondering, why people in Brazil get pirated games even if they are par on even more expensive to get than legal games?

First: Localization... Portuguese is the seventh most spoken language in the world, massacring german, french and some other european languages, and still I've seen here more games in german than in portuguese... To do not say about english (majority of the games sold here) or japanese (only some games are japanese, but japanese knowledge here is a arcane thing, more than english already is)

Second: Games are not sold here legally, this is fairly common, and force us to import games if we want them legal, this do not work well because some companies refuse to export to here because our importation laws (there are a HUGE tax on importation, but when the person is requested to pay, usually they figure out that they do not have money to pay, and refuse to pay, the person that sold the game to here lose the game AND the money, thus several refuse to sell). Also, counter-strike got hugely popular here while being pirated, when it got legally published here (by EA! ) it sold like mad, until the government banned it (creating not only a new surge of playing the game, because of the free publicity, but also creating a surge in its piracy, since even importing it is against the law now)

Third: Means to pay... Several ways to buy a game, and circunvent the alrteady listed problems, is buying online (importing and hoping that the game slips and do not get taxed or using digital distribution), but the only way to pay is using paypal or international credit cards, this is really rare here, and few people can even prove to a credit card company that they can pay (this is required by law here, a company can not do too risky things... like those subprime houses that wrecked the economy...)

Fouth: Means to get the good... Usually a pirated good dealer is in a popular location near several subway and bus stations, some even deliver in your house, and most importantly: only 20% of our computers is in internet, and only 20% of our internet is broadband, thus making digital distribution (and online piracy) impratical.

Fifth: The most bizarre one, because this one the dealers should not beat publishers, but they do: Better support... Piracy dealers here deliver already patched games, sometimes creating themselves patches because the game is buggy and the original developer do not fixed the bugs, they accept returns (this one is a GREAT, GREAT, GREAT advantage in relation to legal game retailers) and they actually give technical support, even supplying a phone number and a e-mail that you can call/write and ask questions...

From what I saw, this is how piracy work not only in Brazil, but several other "third world" countries, and the majority of the world population is on those countries, but I believe that these discussions of piracy centered only in US piracy is not much relevant if what you are discussing is how to sell more...

Sean Parton
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@Hélder Gomes Filho: As you've stated, Brazil is a whole different ball game from North America, Europe, et al. due to many of the unique... "things" that Brazil has going for it (dealers accepting returns, giving patched games, convenient location) and against it (localization, banned games, means of legal consumption). Sadly, most of these articles (and related commentators) only think of the case of piracy and DRM in the US, so cases like your geographical residence are not even touched on, due to the completely different reasons as to why piracy would occur.

Though many companies no doubt pad their piracy counts from areas like Brazil, despite the fairly reasonable reasons as to why people would indeed purchase illicit goods there...

You do bring a good point about the price issue though, Hélder. In Brazil, the matter of getting it for free is certainly removed, and shows that even then piracy occurs (and in high volumes), but in this case it could be argued that it's for slightly different reasons that don't normally occur in the US (going by the inhibiting factors you've outlined).

Frank Lenk
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"The problem is there is absolutely no penalty for pirating, it is very easy to do, and, best of all, it's FREE."

What you are describing is not a crime, it's a natural condition. Game developers need to get used to the plain fact that what is pejoratively referred to as 'piracy' is *not* in any way a moral issue. Thinking of every single digital copy of a game as your own personal property is not only totally out of touch with 21st-Century reality, it's intensely counterproductive. Draconian penalties won't help; they'll just alienate your customer base. Expecting that you can control copying in some technological way ('DRM') is a pipe dream. Even if you lock down every operating system *and* the entire Internet, copying will continue. (And, by the way... you'll be living in a world you won't like very much.)

I once worked as a store detective. Retailers are accustomed to amazingly high rates of 'shrinkage.' It was an adage then (and probably still is) that one person in ten leaves a store with something they didn't pay for. Yet the retail business somehow soldiers on. Retailers could take all this theft personally, and start thinking: "Why should I do business with a bunch of lousy CROOKS?" But this would not help the situation. (Store detectives, by the way, don't help much either.) Instead, retailers smile and say: "How may I help you?"

The term 'intellectual property' is a curse - and one of the most successful bits of propaganda of all time. The games industry needs to stop thinking of digital goods as 'property' in some medieval sense. And of 'pirates' as 'thieves.' (As someone pointed out earlier, digital copying is simply *not* 'theft' by any accepted definition.) Scream and wail about 'piracy' all you like; the clock will not turn back, and history will merely laugh at you. Instead of obsessing about the number of non-paying copies, start looking for new business models, and new ways of bringing your customers on-side. Like it or lump it, that's the only way forward.

Stephen Ryan
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There are hundreds of different ways of looking at the problem of game piracy.

Firstly you can say it is good for business because it gives your title exposure and from people who are unlikely to purchase your game anyway. Another way is to look at how you leverage the piracy channel to derive additional revenue. Another way is to say that in order to maximise the window of market opportunity and stay ahead of the piracy curve that you MUST MAKE MORE GAMES FASTER. Another way is to use PR and technical strategies to destroy the resolve of pirates. There are many more ways than advanced DRM techniques. But i guess that would require some kind of creative out of the box thinking and stuff.




Brit C
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Ed Alexander-


10% off - 35% more revenue

25% off - 245% more revenue

50% off - 320% more revenue

75% off - 1470% more revenue

As we can see, the cost of a game has a lot to do with how many people purchase it. I've begun thinking that the multimillion dollar budget games that release and sit at a $50 price point is an archaic practice that is only promoting piracy. If your software cost $0, you would have 0% piracy among users. If your software cost $1,000,000 it is likely you would have 99.9% piracy among users. The more affordable it is to a consumer, the higher the chance they will buy it.

Brit C
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Ed Alexander-


10% off - 35% more revenue

25% off - 245% more revenue

50% off - 320% more revenue

75% off - 1470% more revenue

As we can see, the cost of a game has a lot to do with how many people purchase it. I've begun thinking that the multimillion dollar budget games that release and sit at a $50 price point is an archaic practice that is only promoting piracy. If your software cost $0, you would have 0% piracy among users. If your software cost $1,000,000 it is likely you would have 99.9% piracy among users. The more affordable it is to a consumer, the higher the chance they will buy it. >>>

Valve's sales numbers actually don't prove much of anything. There's a variety of things to note about them. First, the increase in revenue is the increase in revenue compared to revenue of the days/weeks before the sale. These numbers are well after the release of the game. Here's an example. Let's say that in the first 30 days of a game's release, it sells 1,000 copies a day. Then, sales drop to 100 copies per day. The "revenue increase" that Valve is talking about isn't the *total* revenue increase. It's the increase relative to sales immediately before the sale. So, if you're selling 100 copies/day, then a 1470% increase means sales of 1470 copies in a single day. That's nice, but it's just a small fraction of the total sales. (In my example, 1470 additional sales should be compared against 30,000 sales in the first month.) All this proves is that sales can spike lagging sales. You should also notice that Valve isn't permanently lowering the cost of these games - which proves that even they admit that permanently lowering game prices isn't a good strategy. There are a couple other things: (1) the sale builds lots of free publicity - including free advertising on gaming blogs because they talked about this stunt, (2) by making it a "limited time offer" they get a lot of people to jump on board. Gamers who were on-the-fence about buying the game suddenly decide to jump on-board. Have you ever noticed that infomercials always do "limited time offers"? That's to push people to buying it immediately. Salesmen know that if you give people time to think about it, they'll most likely not buy. All of these points go to show that selling all games at (permanently) lower prices is not necessarily a good way to increase overall revenue.

Filho -

>>> "Another thing: Piracy is not stealing, stop confusing the things, piracy is counterfeiting, it is making and selling (or giving) fake goods" >>>

No, it is stealing. By using the definition that piracy is "counterfeiting", you're implying that piracy is simply about selling the consumer something other than "the real thing". (Whatever that means - since a pirated copy of something digital could be identical to the actual purchased copy.) Funny, here in the US, most pirates find it unacceptable to sell pirated goods because that salesmen is profiting from something he never created. He is a parasite living off of the hard-work of other people, and preventing those people from getting paid at the same time. That pirate didn't have any overhead costs. The creator of digital media might've invested hundreds of millions of dollars in creating it - that's debt they have to pay back with actual sales. This puts the pirate-seller at an inherent advantage over the actual creator - they can always charge lower prices because they've got zero debt to pay-down.

I understand that Filho will have a very hard time accepting that view of things - because he's not prepared to pay for things at their actual sales price, but he shouldn't try to convince us of something that is clearly wrong.

Frank Lenk-

"What you are describing is not a crime, it's a natural condition."

No, it is a crime.

"Game developers need to get used to the plain fact that what is pejoratively referred to as 'piracy' is *not* in any way a moral issue."

Yes, it is. In fact, when everyone thinks of piracy as "not a moral issue", that's the day the game industry dies. (Just like the day that everyone thinks of stealing from stores is not a moral issue, that society will run all the stores out of their communities.)

"Thinking of every single digital copy of a game as your own personal property..."

Strawman argument. We don't think of "every single digital copy of a game as your own personal property". Rather, we think people should be restricted from making a million copies of it (either for free or profit) and undermining us. We think that's totally fair thing to ask. Besides, if we take your argument seriously, then people and corporations should be allowed to take our work and sell it. Do you really want to advocate the idea that Walmart should be allowed to create copies of CDs and books without paying the author a dime? Because that's really the outcome of your argument.

" not only totally out of touch with 21st-Century reality, it's intensely counterproductive."

I think advocating complete copyright anarchy is being out of touch with basic economics and undermining the ability of creators to earn a living by contributing to society through digital works.

"Even if you lock down every operating system *and* the entire Internet, copying will continue. (And, by the way... you'll be living in a world you won't like very much.)"

This is the old "either there is piracy or there isn't piracy" false dichotomy. No, we don't buy the argument that we must either fully allow all piracy, or we have to lock-down every operating system and the entire internet. That's a clever trick. The problem with it is this: we don't have to eliminate 100% of piracy. A society where 90% of everything is pirated is very different from a society where only 10% of everything is pirated. Guess what? Both worlds are worlds where piracy exists. We don't have to eliminate every instance of piracy. We have to keep piracy insignificant enough that the creators aren't going bankrupt. 90% piracy rates bankrupt creators.

"I once worked as a store detective. Retailers are accustomed to amazingly high rates of 'shrinkage.'"

Funny that you bring that up immediately after you say we can't stop piracy. Yet, here you are attempting to stop shoplifting. You are actually admitting that stores can survive with some level of shoplifting. I have to expect that you also agree that some level of shoplifting will bankrupt those same stores.

"Yet the retail business somehow soldiers on. Retailers could take all this theft personally, and start thinking: "Why should I do business with a bunch of lousy CROOKS?" But this would not help the situation."

And, what is the point of you saying this? Are you accusing game companies of saying "Why should I do business with a bunch of lousy CROOKS?" We aren't. We make a distinction between customers and crooks - and, I'm sure the stores you worked for made the same distinction. Yet, that didn't stop them from trying to stop the crooks, did it?

"The term 'intellectual property' is a curse - and one of the most successful bits of propaganda of all time."

The idea that 'intellectual property does not exist' is a curse, and is propaganda. If you want people to do intellectual work, you have to create a system to support them. I have never heard of any system which supports the creation of intellectual works as well as intellectual property does. (And the ideas about using taxes to support creators of intellectual works is very bad - since it doesn't reward people for making GOOD intellectual works as opposed to bad ones.) Suggestions that copyright should be scrapped and creators should live on donations is also a poor system. How would you like to do $100 worth of work and get paid a few dollars? You wouldn't do it. Donation systems don't work, and it will put 95% of creators into bankruptcy - not because they're bad, but because their contributions to society are so badly rewarded.

"The games industry needs to stop thinking of digital goods as 'property' in some medieval sense. And of 'pirates' as 'thieves.'"

No, society needs to learn that intellectual and creative works are supported by intellectual property laws. Without these laws or without respect for these laws, society's creators will go and do manual labor or some other less-beneficial work which under-uses their brains - because brain-based work simply doesn't pay the bills. (Yey. We can all go back to a premodern way of life.)

"As someone pointed out earlier, digital copying is simply *not* 'theft' by any accepted definition."

It is theft. And, it's not that hard to show that. People like to throw out the "I don't deprive you of anything" as a definition of theft. But, theft is mainly about taking something that doesn't belong to you. (Besides, based on your argument, I have to wonder if you'd also accept the idea of Walmart printing their own copies of music CDs, software, and books without paying the author. Since digital copying "is not theft", then I guess you'll agree that it's totally acceptable and legitimate for Walmart to do that.)

"Scream and wail about 'piracy' all you like; the clock will not turn back, and history will merely laugh at you."

Stop pretending that's all we're doing.

Sander van Rossen
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For the record: I make it a point to pay for the games i play.

I think the biggest problem with DRM is that it doesn't actually stop people from pirating it; games show up quickly enough on torrent sites for it to be essentially useless.

The irony is that publishers and developers are actually punishing their paying customers with DRM and limitations, while people who pirate the games essentially get a better deal..

And better service; you pick the game you want to play, download it, and then start playing it!

That's why i used to loved Steam (too bad the prices are insane for europeans these days)

Robert Farr
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Question is, at what price point do games become an impulse buy, instead of requiring a massive advertising campaign and hype buildup? Does this price point depend on the type of game (Say, an 8 hour FPS experience or a 50 hour roleplay experience)?

Also, I get the impression that many europeans are feeling a bit price gouged as well as far as euro exchange/price rates are concerned.

Maurício Gomes
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@Brit C

Mind you, that I do not defended piracy or said that it is right (neither I said it is wrong...), I just said some facts and reasons of piracy on Brazil.

Thus, you impliying that I will not understand anything because I am defending myself, is pointless, I never defended myself (I said that I pirated things, and that now I know that it is a crime)

And stealing, is taking something from someone else, when you are copying you are not doing that, the game creator still has the game, if you for example stole the source-code, or the assets, and left the author with nothing, then you are stealing.

Piracy still is counterfeiting, even if you are not selling (as I already stated) on the side of the person that create the cracked copy and uploads around.

For the side of the costumer, in fact piracy is morally wrong, but is not a crime in any way, he is only getting a fake good, even if it is a perfect copy, and I do not know any law that is not specific to piracy that say that this is a crime. Of course, there are the DCMA and copyright laws of the US, but those only apply to the US, not everywhere else, and even then I dunno of the DCMA and copyright laws state that getting a copy is illegal.

The only way that companies have to actually be able to sue costumers, is saying that they are not obeying the EULA, but I think that in several countries the EULA is not actually legally binding unless physically signed and registered with the government (here in Brazil any agreement work this way, thus EULA here is not legally binding, thus here getting a pirated thing is not even possible to punish legally, if punishment is a desire of the developer, that is...)

Robert Farr
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I think there might also be far more emphasis on laws and rules than is healthy for society in general. The recent MP expenses claim scandal in the UK demonstrates how 'staying within the rules' isn't necessarily enough. Ask yourself not if what you're doing is legal, or justified... Ask yourself if what you are doing is wrong. (Similarly, this whole debate that goes on regarding the definition of theft and whether it applies to games piracy or not seems daft frankly, its still wrong no matter which direction you send the light through the prism from.)

David Reeves
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Personally I'm sick of the DRM bullshit spin by companies milking people of $, use piracy as an excuse for putting the prices up, and in the end their quality of the game is shit.

If I cannot dowload a game and try it, I don't buy it, delete it and move on.

I like the method of Stardock, they are usually cheaper, easier to install/uninstall, and makes life so much easier.

With retail you pay for a huge box, pay some blonde/kid behind the counter to be even more of an idiot, and get a crap manual.

In the past few years I started downloading pirate copies to see how a game is. If I like it I DO puchase. And admit that 90% of the games out there, I wouldn't pay $0.02 for it.

Another thing I get sick of is being forced by the local store on what I can puchase, on what (usually consoles) these days. Consoles are shit, outdate in 6 months anyway. So I prefer to stick with PC based gaming.

Ontop of all that, these big companies (Atari, EA, Ubisoft) waste so much money on their staff that drives the cost up on the games we want to buy. In melbourne Atari has a building across the road from Uni that has staff so bored, they don't even know why they're there. If they get a paycheck the turnup.

So let me ask, why the fuck do I pay $100+ a title for this shit?

The majority of my bought games have come from overseas, created by small indie companies and I still get them cheaper than buying local. Figure that one out.

Frank Lenk
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"Funny that you bring that up immediately after you say we can't stop piracy. Yet, here you are attempting to stop shoplifting."

You seem determined to miss my point. Stores have been putting up with shoplifting since the beginning of time. It's a natural condition. Store detectives make (some) owners feel better, but really don't make a dent in it. Retail as a whole knows that it's not something that can be eliminated. Life goes on.

"No, it is a crime."

Thanks for so perfectly illustrating the attitude I'm talking about. 'Crime' is a slippery concept at best - and defining as a 'crime' something that happens effortlessly and continually is clearly futile. Copying is not going away. Period. Regardless of what you or anyone else thinks is 'RIGHT.' Digital goods simply *cannot* be managed like physical goods - and even physical goods do evaporate over time.

"Stop pretending that's all we're doing."

Stop putting words in my mouth. I never said that was ALL that was going on. I DID say that moralizing - such as you so perfectly illustrate - is futile and out of touch with reality. That's an observable fact, deny it all you like. The games industry - like all other IP businesses (including my own) - needs to realize that the idea of 'one product == one sale' is as dead as the pharaohs. (And was largely an illusion to begin with.) It's guaranteed by no natural law.

In fact, the whole idea that you can make a product once - say, a game - and expect to sell it a million times is not graven in stone anywhere. Boy, are you going to be screaming when the audience wakes up to that one.

Urs Schaub
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Publishers should re-think their fighting against piracy, it's like physics, you can work with physics(and use it), but you cant break the rules of physics.

There are some companies out there which seem to know that, but it's a minority.

But the big chunk of it does not, you need to understand the physics first before you can use them to your benefit.(but still you cant break the rules of it. ;) )

One example is the piracy itself, i don't want to know how many 3d artists grew with max up non legally... AD somewhat a market leader instead, hmm shouldn't it be the opposite because it's Software ist the most pirated(at least in context to the market size.)

Whining doesn't help here and DRM doesn't help neither. Which is the first rule to learn, basically you throw your money out of the window for psychological "helpers" but yeah the DRM licensor as a big smile on his face.

Don't think that gamers are idiots*, because these idiots can fu.. you pretty hard in the a.. (Especially in the digital world.)

*Yeah some are idiots why is it, that some of the dumbest games are bigsellers? And people who have the money to buy legally Games but instead pirate it, want in the future no more Games from the same Developer, at least it seems so to me. (go figure...)

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steve roger
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Hélder Gomes Filho, Another thing: Piracy is not stealing, stop confusing the things, piracy is counterfeiting, it is making and selling (or giving) fake goods (ie: you burn a game on DVD and sell or give it, you are not stealing it, you are claiming that this product is your invention, when it is not)

Sorry, but theft is defined as acting with the intent to permanently deprive another person of something of value. So piracy can be both theft and counterfeiting.

steve roger
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I see a lot of resistance about the discussion about price. Sales are good business. It draws atention to your game. It moves units of games that are lagging at a high price point. I think that is what Valve proved. I don't see how you can quarrel with that. No one is saying give your game away.

Also, I think a big problem is that games are often sold at the same price point even though the developers and publishers know that the quality and quantity of game play is sorely lacking. For example, $50 for Wanted is highway robbery. If you buy a couple of those games you feel burned. Wanted is a feeder program for piracy. But if it cost $20 bucks out the gate perhaps gamers would feel different.

Maurício Gomes
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When you are pirating you are not depriving money of someone, you are preventing them of getting money...

It is like not allowing someone to buy goods in a store offering your products (that are equal to that store) or actively preventing the person from entering the store (standing at the door for example), you are just preventing the person to get your own money, because you are not giving your money to them, but you are not stealing anything, even if it is getting without paying (like when you shoplift), you are not preventing the software to be sold to someone else (ie: if you steal a game from a store, noone would buy that particular copy, but if you copy it, this copy can still be bought by someone else...)

steve roger
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I have been an attorney practicing law for 18 years. It is a fact that piracy, even how you have chosen to describe it is theft. It fits the statutory and common law definitions of theft all over the world. It is the subject of many international agreements and treaties and is described as theft. Software piracy is the criminal act of theft.

If you purchase pirated software from anyone and you know that the software you are buying is an illegal copy of someone else's work you are engaging in a theft. You have deprived the original copyright owner of the value of that software. You could try to argue otherwise but you would lose.

This has been argued to death on the net:

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steve roger
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You are a bit off track. You bring up an interesting discussion. Perhaps you might enjoy this Law Review article:

Plagiarism, Norms, and the Limits of Theft Law: Some Observations on the Use of Criminal Sanctions in Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights

Stuart P. Green

Rutgers Law School-Newark

Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 54, No. 1, 2002

Your posts are very disorganized. Some of the time you are talkikng about plagarism which is different than what Hélder Gomes Filho was discussing in his posts about piracy of video games in his country. Other parts of your post does concern straight forward theft and some about piracy of games.

When I referred to piracy I was responding to piracy of game software. Further, I included a paragraph that stated that in order for such piracy to qualify as a theft the pirate has to have the intent to permanently deprive another person of a thing of value. If you misunderstood that so be it and I clarify now.

If you want to discuss plagarism I refer you that above referenced Law Review article.

Your points about non-scarce goods and the differences between physical and digital goods (due to the encomic chain of command between the proletariat and bourgeoisie (capitalist class)) are merely efforts to show that software has no value.

Certainly, if you were successful in a court of law to show that an object that has been pirated had no value there would be no theft. Essentially, you are describing a sort of defense (no matter how unpersuasive it really is) to the crime of theft found within the act of piracy.

However, I doubt most of the developers here on this forum are ever going to agree with you that their games and game code have no value.

Fortunately, value is not not necessarily determined by political rumination. Rather, value is determined by the demonstration of market value. Whether you like it or not even communist and socialistic countries recognize that software has value and are parites to treaties that regulate and foster criminal penalties related to the theft of software by the act of piracy.

Certainly, there are countries that do not recognize piracy as a crime and therby the act of piracy would not be classified as theft. But that woud an exception but not the rule.

In any event, your second post is laughable. Piracy when done with the intent to deprive another person of value is a crime and can be classified as theft. That intent can be proven by circumstantial evidence. Intent is often inferred by the facts present in the act of piracy. For example, if you performed an unauthorized download of a book that Amazon had for it's Kindle platform and you read it on your Kindle it can be inferred that you had the intent to permanently deprive Amazon of the value of that book. Why? Because the book has value as demonstrated by the market price of Kindle books on Amazon. Your intent to permanently deprive is easy to see because you knew that it was a Kindle book to be used on Kindle reader. The fact that you bypassed the payment aspect of the download process shows that you had no intention of paying for this digital content. Lastly, it is not a stretch to apply the same logic to a movie you fail to pay for that you download, a book or a game, regardless if a Kindle or a DVD/Blu-ray player is involved.

Your second post is so silly it leads me to believe that you are just playing around. Your name leads me to a similar conclusion. But it was fun to consider the plagarism issue. Cheers.

Mark van Dijk
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@Austin Greene,

As I see it, most of the post in this thread offer some thoughts/ideas on how to make things work for the majority in the future. These post are therefore contributing something to the community at large. Stigmatizing people as 'pirates', is counterproductive even if it is only for the fact that it is a term used to label many different groups with as many different views/reasoning why they are in fact doing what they are doing. Furthermore it is a international discussion, so slamming around with US laws is pointless. In fact slamming around with any law in this discussion is pointless, if only for the fact that they are at the root of the problems discussed here.

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steve roger
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Mark, give me a break. I am not stigmatizing a group of people as pirates. I am just stating the facts. I didn't come up with the term. I am talking about piracy, the term that describes an act of copying copyrighted material and whether that act can be described as theft.

Secondly, I actually pointed out that there is a way to discuss the issue differently. That would be from the point of plagarism as I cited with the article. That is an act of mine augmenting the discussion.

I have no comment on the label pirate or piracy. I am merely stating the truth. Copying copyrighted material such as a game, which is what I am specifically talking about. This is a game centrict website.

The regulation of copyrighted material is a world wide effort. My comments were not limited to the laws of the U.S. I spoke in far wider terms. I discussed the fact that most countries are members of regulatory bodies and have signed treatries criminalizing and agreeing to aggressive enforcement and prosecution of those who copy copyrighted material.

The question I also answered was specifically whether or not the act of copying copyrighted material was theft. The answer is YES. Not just because of US laws but because of international agreements that define such an act as theft. Wherein theft is described as the intent to permanently deprive someone of something of value.

I fail to see how my pointing out that fact that copying copyrighted material is defined as a crime is somehow squelching the discussion. That was just one aspect of what I posted in this thread.

I started out with posts suggesting that the copying of copyrighted material be countered by using different types of discounts.

I did not just take a law and order stance.

Sure we can discuss whether or existing laws should be changed. However, I am not going to go along and pretend like Bob that piracy (or the copying of copyrighted material) is not a crime.

Lastly, Mark unlike a lot of things being discussed on the boards this is an issue I actually have some expertise in. It is not reasonable of you to attack me for simply applying what I know. You ought read this thread again and you will see I actually gave a pretty balanced discussion of piracy and did not stigmatize or squelch the discussion.

And Bob, you didn't read that law review article. It actually supports a lot of things your discussiong about. However, you are just laying into me for being an attorney. When I said you were off track I was saying that the copying of copyrighted material can be discussed as either an act of piracy (an illegal criminal act) or plagarism (a civil offense).

Further, I made no judgment about the morality of laws related to piracy. That is your gig. I just pointed out what the law is related to the act of piracy. You are free to say that you disagree with the law. I just am not going to go along with your claim that the laws don't exist.

Lastly, both of you apply this litmus test everything I say. I didn't say that every single act of copying material is piracy or a crime. There are defenses to the crime of piracy. I'm an attorney, of course, I recognize the arguments made in one's defense.

Maurício Gomes
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OK, you are a lawyer, then what?

I know a Judge that ordered a 14 yo girl to be left in the same prison cell with 30 men above 18 yo...

So, you know the US laws, I am not on the US, neither the chinese with their R4 card for DS, neither the russians, neither everyone else that is not on the US... Not even several game manufacturers are on US, the Winning Eleven game widely pirated here came from Japan...

Now, without considering the scarcity and whatnot, I say this:

Stealing is taking somethign from someone else, something that this someone else lost permanently unless they actively do something to recover. When you copy something, this someone else still has what he created, if the thing has a value, this value still exists, and he can do whatever he wants, if you copy a game for example, the game still exists, and the IP can still be sold to someone else for money, if the owner want to do so.

steve roger
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Hélder, I actually don't exactly know what you are trying say. No offense, I just don't really understand. But if you are saying the law is corrupt. I would say that is sometimes true. As a lawyer I would try and get that 14 year old girl out of that prison with men. Lawyers often work very hard against corruption.

Yes, I do know U.S. laws. But often legal questions in the involve many jurisdictions from many countries. Just because you are a lawyer in the US doesn't mean you are ignorant. The first thing you do in any case is determine choice of law and/or jurisdiction. The game business is often an international affair. You have to be prepared to deal with the laws and regulations of many countries to help your clients.

I understand what you are saying about the concept of stealing. You are merely stating that the act of copying something does not involve a taking. Because the original still exists. If you don't take the original then you have not deprived the owner of anything.

Well, then I ask you. Let's say you made a game. And you began selling your game on the internet. Then, I took your game and copied it without paying for it. Are you telling me you feel that I have done nothing wrong?

Take it further, if I then took your game and put it up on a torrent site and thousands of people downloaded it. Wouldn't you feel like I deprived you of sales of that game?

The laws related to the prevention of piracy are not just intended to prevent the direct loss of value that occurs. But actually extend to the consequential losses.

I know you don't want to believe that the act of copying is stealing. I don't think I can convince you. But if you were charged with a violation of copyright you would definately want some one to defend you who understands what the law is and how it works.

One aspect of your defense coud be nullification. But that should only be a last resort as defenses such as nullification as typically the least effective. However, sometimes that is all you got.

I don't have a disgreement with your philosophical viewpoint. You are saying that by defacto analysis there is no theft (or stealing) in the act of piracy. However, by a dejure analysis piracy (as you have described it) is theft (or stealing).

Do you understand the distinction of defacto and dejure? By defacto, I mean by the facts you present there is no theft (or stealing) in the act of copying copyrighted material (piracy). By dejure, I mean by the law the the act of copying copyrighted material (piracy) results in a theft (or stealing).

Lastly, do understand that what you are arguing is that copying copyrighted material is not theft is because you claim that a "copy" of copyrighted material holds no value. Because the original still remains with the owner and he is free to do with that orginal as he sees fit.

But your analysis falls apart when you realize that the copy does affect the value of the original. It is not reasonable to remove the concept of scarcity frm the analysis. By removing scarcity all your are doing is claiming that no market exists for game rendering it without value. However, if the game had no value why would a person bother to steal it in the first place. This entire discussion is rendered pointless.

Looking at this question in the real world, scarcity is relevant only to the point that scarcity determines the actual value of the game. If an item is scarce it may have a higher value if there is demand for it. If the item is prevalent and there is demand for it it maintains a certain value. If there are millions and millions of copies of available there is no scarcity you would argue and therefore, there is no value. However, that is hypothetical. You have to accept that no matter what the scarcity is of the illegal copy is, the legal copies have value. Because there is a market for the legal copies. Further, copyright laws impose scarcity upon the market for copies of games. Therefore, no matter how you look at it copyrighted games have value (no matter how small it may be in your opinion).

Ultimately, the existence of unauthorized copies of games affect the value of the legal copies which is how taking occurs against the original owner via the act of piracy.

I am certian you are not going to argue that if you made a game that you intended to sell and some one made an unauthorized copy and flooded the internet with said unautorized copies that your original game would not be reduced in value.

Meredith Katz
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A followup on the reduction of value of the original via copies can be seen practically through a story like this, not uncommon in the industry, especially recently to judge by news reports:


A company you work for produces a game. Making a game takes money. The intent of making the game is to entertain (although the discussion of game sales is practically related to goods, it can also be connected to providing an "entertainment service" as well).

In order to make games, the company needs enough money to pay for the livelihoods of the employees who make the game, as well as enough to invest in creating more games (entertainment provided as a service via goods) for people. In order to get this, they charge a fee for their games -- a fee made primarily to cover a) the cost of the physical media that must be used to produce the game/enough copies of the game for the people who might be interested in it. b) to pay the employees who must pay food, rent, support families etc, while creating this game for you. c) Investment towards future projects (which provides future entertaiment for others, and looks towards the company not falling apart when they must continue to pay b without getting revenue).

Again, you work for a company that makes the game. The game is released, and instead of people paying that initial fee, people pirate your game. They do not take the physical copies of the game, no, so the value of a) isn't lost to the public at large, but they get the service provided which was designed to be supported by a, b, and c. The company you work for makes some money, but not enough to cover all of a, b, or c. As a company, c -- the continuation of the company itself -- must come first. They cannot cut costs on a, as the physical media was already used. Therefore, to cover c, they must cut funds from b. In order to get money that would be normally spent on employees, they must engage in layoffs to reduce the money they are currently spending on employees salaries. You lose your job.

Has something of value been taken from you, as a game designer, due to piracy?


Obviously, this is somewhat hyperbolising the chain of cause and effect, but in its base core, this is part of why game designers do feel that piracy without intent to buy is theft. For all pirates who would not buy anyway, perhaps it feels like it's irrelevant to you.

Maurício Gomes
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I see, that you understood what I meant, I was saying the defacto thing, not legally, I mean, I believe that piracy is not stealing, it is something else, but not stealing, so it should not be treated as stealing if you want to solve, or work with it, or something along these lines.

Even if piracy legally speaking is stealing, this is nowhere usefull, sueing large scale pirates (ie: the people that sell games here in brazil for example) for stealing will not work decently, even if they are condenmed the punishment is like the punishment for stealing something from a store...

I am discussing this because a lot of people like to discuss piracy like if people are stealing, or make a analogy (here in Brazil lots of movies show a piece where it claims that pirating is the same as going to the store and getting and shoplifting a DVD, with cheesy images showing this and showing someone shoplifing a cellphone...), this does not help solving the problem, and sometimes makes it worse, sueing costumers are thiefs is something that can backfire, like the "educational" pieces showing the similarity between the two only irritate costumers (I saw people here that instead of renting for 2 USD a movie, prefers to buy one for 4 USD, just because the one rented for two has those non-skippable annoying anti-piracy sequences that claim that piracy is stealing...)

In fact, I say that if someone flood the internet with copies of my game, the value may be reduced, but it may increase too, or stay the same, the results of piracy are unknown and variable, probably counter-strike would never sell like it sold here if it was not widely pirated in first place, like otherwise it would never be banned here if it do not got popular because of the piracy (altough everquest ban, a game that never got sold here neither got popular, counters that)

My idea is that the law right now does not matter much, at least not the criminal law, piracy is a problem related to how developers behave and how the laws dictate the rules of selling things, here in Brazil one of the biggest piracy motivators is our laws against imports (like all countries that has some bizarre laws trying to protect the internal industry, we have such for games, but it badly backfired), where in the total (a congressman made these calculations) a imported console machine or game (thus this does not apply to PC) is taxed like a imported toy, and the result is a 273% tax on the imported product (all taxes already added), with the profit of the distributor and the store, and the transportation costs, (no localization costs, because companies insists in selling things only in english, language that only 1% of the population know), results in a bizarre price (seriously, a PS3 here costs 1800USD... Super Mario Galaxy I already saw selling for 400USD, WiiFit for 800USD...), the result for example is that only the intersection of the 1% richest of our population and the 1% english readers (not all rich people know english, neither all english knowing people, like me, are rich) can buy legal games. The rest of the population needs to resort to pirated games translated in portuguese, copycat consoles (there are at least 6 diffrent NES clones around here) and smuggled goods (in fact here the line between piracy and non-piracy but still illegal is already gone, the same people that sell copy-cat hardware and pirated games, sell smuggled hardware and games, we are in a point that if you buy a Guitar Hero III you do not know if the game and controller are a pirated copy and a copy-cat hardware or if it is a original but smuggled thing, specially because sometimes the price is similar, specially "best seller" type releases that sell on prices on part of pirated games)

steve roger
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I understand the argument to de-crimininalize game piracy, just like the argument to de-criminalize possession of marijuana. Sure we can pick apart the differences between the two but the philosophical issues are the same. If the act of criminalization cost more than the act we are trying to prevent it makes no sense to pursue prosecution of the act.

The prices you have described certainly would drive piracy. That plus the problem of access to legal gaming software as you described before. If you have to pay a significant amount of money plus give a lot of your time to legally get a copy of a game, sure you are going to buy a bootleg or just download it.

It is hard to accept that piracy is a criminal act when the real pirates are the ones who are trying to get you to buy that over priced game.

But you can't blame that developer in another country whose game was downloaded for the 1000th time in a country with a strangled like Brazil.

It sucks all around.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

seven dash
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@Bob dillan - this is a nonsense argument. There is scarcity all around us, and property laws exist as much to create incentive to work and prosper as they are some 'arbitrary rules' that people thought up. Most of the laws we live by - whether formal or informal - came about through generations of experience and trial and error, and all of them have a basis in practical need.

Computer games and software may be composed of electrons and energy which can effectively be replicated infinitely, but the people who create these games are human beings who are most certainly finite, and the time and effort they put into writing this software is also definitely finite. They have finite amounts of time, they require finite resources like food, clothing and shelter. Who will pay for these? Who will compensate a talented programmer for their time - time that could otherwise be spent on other pursuits in the absence of enforced property rights and income from games?

It's one thing to live in a fantasy world where you justify your piracy as somehow being a revolution or some new model of software distribution, it's another thing to face the reality that human beings are involved in the creation of this software and they deserve to be justly rewarded. More importantly, the human beings involved in the *consumption* of said software need to pay their fair share of the development costs, not just shirk it through piracy and expect someone else to foot the bill.

All this nonsense about piracy being part of a 'new model' in the age of the Internet seems firmly grounded in a resolute commitment to ignore practical reality. Obviously this is because the self-serving nature of software pirates is such that they would make up any and every excuse to justify their greed.

I do not applaud Brad Wardell and Stardock, I deride them for making light of the piracy issue and continually finding ways to effectively be the public apologists for piracy. Yes Brad, we get the fact that you've stuck your head in the sand and believe the problem will go away, even though Demigod was effectively crippled through piracy during its launch period. Don't expect other software houses who invest far more into their games to do the same. Being popular with the consumers at all costs is not a practical nor long term model for success. Piracy can't just be ignored, it's a problem which needs to be dealt with.

Terje Barth
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@Brit C: Was not the out lash caused by the unlicensed copies being used to play on the retail servers, causing a disruption of service for the legitimate customers?

In other words: It was a lash out against the players who did not purchase the game causing a Denial of Service attack (unintentionally) on the services made available for the 18.000~ people who purchased Demigod.

Which means; Had all those unlicensed copies been legitimate and the game riddled with copyrestriction technologies (DRM) that many publishers unfortunately subscribe to, the same problems would have occurred.


Interesting article.

It would be beneficial to customers, interested parties and publishers if the publishers adhered to the NRK Beta Doctrine - - "The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it."

Being used to having a lot of cultural content for free through other medias such as TV, Radio and on the Web. Content that is only supported by ad-revenues or even through hidden sales tax on CDs/MCs/TVs or semi-funded through government grants it is hard to see why a customer should pick the physical product with restrictions when the electronic copy is much easier to obtain and use.

(And we have not even begun to consider games with in game advertisements costing full price.. Perhaps this is the model for the future: Ad supported free games.)

So yes; There are a lot of problems with the current way "we" do things, but forcing a habit on customers through digital and legal restrictions as well as threats is not going to be the solution.

I only fear that a lot of time has been lost already, since the industry, much like the music and movie business have attempted to 'control' for too long, versus making 'available'.

seven dash
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@Terje - "Which means; Had all those unlicensed copies been legitimate and the game riddled with copyrestriction technologies (DRM) that many publishers unfortunately subscribe to, the same problems would have occurred."

Incorrect. Had Demigod actually sold those many extra copies, Stardock would have the funds to quickly increase server infrastructure. Furthermore had Stardock been able to rely on selling the game at its true level of demand, they could have invested more into the server infrastructure. Yet because they were keenly aware - as everyone in this industry is - that sales on PC are far lower than they have been, they invested the minimal amount in anticipation of relatively low sales.

When was the last time you saw a major online game like UT3, Quake 4 or TF2 become unplayable at launch? These games all use DRM, and all had higher launch sales because of it. The developer or publisher could also invest more in the infrastructure from the get-go knowing that legitimate sales would be higher, and that the DRM would also encourage illegitimate players from purchasing the game.

seven dash
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Forgot to add - the "NRK Beta Doctrine" seems like rubbish. To suggest that in every industry you must be a Beethoven or an Einstein (i.e. the absolute best of the best) to succeed rules out the many important "normal" companies and products which make up the bulk of what people play and use. How many companies started with slightly flawed or mediocre products and have been able to parlay that into something better? Look at Valve and Steam - it had a rocky start and was quite unpopular, but through their proprietary DRM they had the funds to make it better eventually until it's an industry leader now.

However with intense piracy many small and medium-sized firms will never have the chance to grow or gather the funds to improve.

Bob McIntyre
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Bob Dillan, your points are straight-up idiotic. I'm note even going to put a qualifier on that. The things you wrote, at face value, are things that only an idiot would actually believe.

You wrote: "This isn't an argument about morality, it's about capitalism and propertarianism, property rights don't really exist we just pretend they do. The electrons and matter and energy no one created, technically no one owns anything really they just borrow it from nature."

What the hell are you talking about? Try paying your rent with that explanation. Tell your landlord that the apartment is just electrons and protons and stuff and that nobody can truly own anything. That's gonna go over well. Or, better yet, explain to the electric company that you gave them all their electrons back, so it's cool and they don't, like, need any money, man. Try telling a construction worker that the building or road that he just worked on all day doesn't justify a paycheck because no new physical matter was actually created, it was just rearranged. Tell the farmer that the food is just sun-energy converted by the communal earth into edible plant matter, and therefore these potatoes should be free.

Do you have a job? I think you'd find yourself pretty displeased if you worked all day to create something and then didn't get paid. Game developers create works of art, which are inherently valuable. These things warrant money. If you think it's worth nothing, then don't play it. If you do play it, you are admitting that it is of value to you, and therefore it's completely fair to expect payment.

Andrew Heywood
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LOL such a standard comments thread:

Pirate: I download games. I wouldn't buy them anyway. It doesn't hurt anyone.

Non-Pirate: Uh yeah... it hurts developers, because you're enjoying their hard work for free. Plus it's theft.

Pirate: It's not theft. I'm not *taking* something.

NP: Uh yaha... It is theft - *cites established international laws under which software piracy is theft*

Pirate: Meh... well I'm sick of buggy games and sequels. I shouldn't have to pay for buggy games and sequels.

NP: But that's both an extreme and quite a subjective viewpoint. You're still pirating something of value, and therefore stealing.

Pirate: OK fair enough. Listen buddy - I like downloading and playing games for free. If that makes me a criminal, I don't really care.

NP: Oh good.

Andrew Heywood
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> To suggest that in every industry you must be a Beethoven or an Einstein

> (i.e. the absolute best of the best) to succeed rules out the many

> important "normal" companies and products which make up the bulk

> of what people play and use.

You've misunderstood the doctrine. It does't state that you have to be the best, it simply states that the manner in which you release your content should be the best (read: most appropriate and convenient) manner available.

So for example if you release a video via your site, and people have to sign up and download a client app to play it or something, they aren't going to do that if they can just watch it on YouTube. Whereas if you make a whole series of shows available, in high quality, with little or no sign up, then people will go to your site to watch them. It's exactly the principle that BBC iPlayer and Channel4's 4OD services are working with.

seven dash
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I'm not sure what your point is Andrew Heywood. Consumer convenience is not the number one priority in selling PC games because it's been proven not to work. Consumers will always claim that a game must have absolutely no real protection for it to be the most convenient for them to play. The latest Prince of Persia and Demigod showed quite clearly that this approach does not work. In fact Demigod demonstrated that not only did the lack of protection not result in a reduction in piracy, it actually impacted on legitimate players, ruining their gameplay experience for quite some time. So the argument that user convenience should be paramount is incorrect. I don't find Steam to always be convenient or the best method for getting a game, but Steam works and is earning Valve a very large sum of money.

The most appropriate method for delivering a game is to protect it in such a way that it cannot be easily illegally copied and distributed, while at the same time being playable by legitimate players. Stardock's method has failed that test. Games with no DRM also fail that test. The closest system at the moment is Steam, but it is still resulting in overpriced games in my opinion. Therefore a better protection method needs to be found. If you have any suggestions let me know.

Andrew Heywood
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I had no point - I was simply clarifying the doctrine.