In today's main Gamasutra feature and his latest column, game designer and lecturer Ernest Adams suggests that "the age of copyright is drawing to a close", looking at how technological changes are affecting games, and arguing that selling individual physical copies of games and preventing their duplication "is awkward, wasteful, and theft-prone."
In fact, Adams suggests, referencing Johann Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press as the start of it all:
"There's no intrinsic reason why someone should continue to get paid for something long, long after the labor they expended on it is complete. Architects don't get paid every time someone steps into one of their buildings. They're paid to design the building, and that's that. The ostensible reason we have patent and copyright law is, as the US Constitution says, "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." But travesties like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act don't promote the progress of science; they actively discourage it. So do software and biotechnology patents. The patent system was intended to allow inventors to profit for a limited time on particular inventions, not to allow huge technology companies to put a stranglehold on innovation by patenting every tiny advance they make.
Right now, the music and movie industries are howling and beating their breasts and doing their best to go after anybody who violates their copyrights on a large scale. The fury with which they're doing it is a measure of their desperation. The Sony rootkit debacle is a perfect example: in an effort to prevent piracy, they secretly installed dangerous spyware into people's PCs, which itself may have been a criminal act. This was about the dumbest public-relations move since Take-Two lied about the Hot Coffee content, and as with Take-Two, it will cost them vastly more than they could hope to gain from it. Did they really think nobody would find out?
The lawsuits, the spyware, the DMCA: these are the death struggles of an outdated business model. It's the modern-day equivalent of throwing the Christians to the lions in an effort to discourage Christianity. It didn't work for the ancient Romans and it won't work now."
You can now read the full Gamasutra article on the subject
, including Adams' suggestions on how the game industry can hope to profit in this climate (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).