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"Piracy" in the 21.1st Century

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  • Piracy
  • Video Games
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February 17, 2010 8:01:07 PM

With all the recent articles on TH about "Piracy Busts" in various countries, it compelled me to weigh in on the subject and I think it's an important dialogue that needs to happen.

"Piracy" is not going anywhere, nor will it be deterred by a couple 'example' prosecutions. These "offenses" should not be policed with federal dollars from any government and it should be up to the content creators to re-evaluate their business practices in order to protect their “property.” Downloading is NOT stealing, it’s reproducing. If you could “reproduce” your television set, and give it to a neighbor, or reproduce fifty of them and leave them on your front lawn for whomever to come by and take one, you would NOT be prosecuted; you would only be in-the-wrong if you sold them. When you download, you’re not taking something from a store shelf; you’re not TAKING them from anywhere. File-sharing is just that, “Sharing.” When you download something, you’re not TAKING it; it’s being GIVEN to you… either directly or indirectly.

I believe we're about 5-10 years away from a Paradigm shift in copyright laws and entertainment business models. Organizations like the RIAA and MPAA (and their international equivalents) are having to resort to law enforcement to retain profit levels they are "used" to. That's never a good thing. When you have to have people continually prosecuted to protect your profit-margin, you need to seriously re-evaluate your business model. You cannot rely on threatening your consumer base in order to maintain your bottom-line; you need to adapt and push forward.

Currently you're seeing gamers being "herded" away from PC to console due to the considerably lower piracy-rates for console games and the console's ability to be "self-policing" with their respective online services being able to "detect" piracy in their titles. This is resulting in an overall lower quality of product (see MW2 and other Console->PC Ports) and changing the shape of the face of PC gaming as a whole.

It seems that direct-distribution by smaller developers and digital distribution overall are causing people to be more apt to opening their wallets; though the only service that seems to have been able to execute this model close-to-properly would be Valve's "Steam" service. I am a Steam member and have purchased games during their famous gangbuster-type sales (some of which I haven't even downloaded and installed yet). Ironically enough, I remember Steam being blasted (no pun intended) in the early days for their business model and the idea of having a background service constantly connected to a game company that could potentially monitor your system for whatever reason... though this back in the days where 1GB of RAM was a lot, and most of the complaining was made by PC-Xenophobic people concerned about anyone knowing anything about anything on their computer. Ironically enough, those same people today have open ports on their routers to allow for open torrent access... but I digress.

"Piracy" I believe is a misnomer... I see it more as, "Entertainment-Socialism." It's not so much "stealing" as it is anti-capitalistic. Though if you want to go down that road, this is really just the ultimate sense of free-market economics in where the consumer has found a method of altering the mechanics of product consumption. I don't think prosecution of consumers is going to do anything other than create a monolithic court case of "Us V. Them" in an all out war of producer and consumer. Adaptation in this world-state is paramount and unless content creators can get... well... creative in the way they interact with their consumer, the market will collapse inward on itself in an implosion of unprecedented consequences. If things go as is, we're going to see a sort of "third-world" of entertainment creation facilitated by the likes of YouTube and Facebook games where the consumers become the creators and every profit margin is micro-transactional or advertising-based.

I personally believe, in the era that we live in, that the role of the "publisher" or "producer" is going to go away soon, and that's going to cause quite a panic. These "creative content middlemen/companies" are the sole reason that instead of changing the business model, they are using law enforcement to preserve their standard of living. They are the "suits," the "fat-cats," and the most adverse to a change in the industry; they consequently are usually the consistently highest paid individuals/organizations in the entertainment food chain. I really think more entertainment is going to go to a "Developer -> Distributor -> Consumer" model rather than the current "Developer -> Producer -> Publisher -> Distributor -> Consumer" model that is currently in place (though that's an admittedly gross simplification of the process).

The fundamental truth of it all is that SOMETHING will change, and soon. The "Pirate Bay's" of the world aren't going anywhere, people will still have their iPhones boot up with Pineapples on their screen, and people will still use their TIVO's to fast-forward through all the commercials.

What do you think will change?

More about : piracy 1st century

February 17, 2010 11:07:56 PM

ryanegeiger said:


Organizations like the RIAA and MPAA (and their international equivalents) are having to resort to law enforcement to retain profit levels they are "used" to. That's never a good thing. When you have to have people continually prosecuted to protect your profit-margin, you need to seriously re-evaluate your business model.



There is a law here that fines residential owners for graffiti clean up if they do not remove it themselves within a week. Imagine you are the owner. I don't think you would so be so quick to put all the burden on the victim if you were. Bottom line is some people will always take from you and when they make a big enough impact you have to get tough - you need recourse.

and p.s. Unfortunately for us they HAVE re-evaluated their business model...they got the f*** out . As you said yourself, there will always be Pirate Bays. But hey if you have discovered a tried and true business model i'm sure they are all ears.



ryanegeiger said:
Currently you're seeing gamers being "herded" away from PC to console. This is resulting in an overall lower quality of product (see MW2 and other Console->PC Ports) and changing the shape of the face of PC gaming as a whole.


True that.


ryanegeiger said:
"Piracy" I believe is a misnomer... I see it more as, "Entertainment-Socialism." It's not so much "stealing" as it is anti-capitalistic. Though if you want to go down that road, this is really just the ultimate sense of free-market economics in where the consumer has found a method of altering the mechanics of product consumption.



So let me get this straight. You want me and my buddies (say game developers) to pay 2 yrs rent, food and living expenses while i make this great free game for you without so much as monopoly money. I think you delude yourself. this is so far beyond "capitalistic", its not even practical. developers have migrated to console partly due to piracy so your idea doesn't work. i'd ask you once again to imagine yourself making a living in their shoes. Does your opinion change?

But i love this!....Stealing is now "altering the mechanics of product consumption"? - you've got to be kidding. but i gotta hand it to you because this self deluded SPIN is good ;) 

February 21, 2010 6:26:01 AM

Self-delusion is my specialty...

... that aside, one needs to look at the facts surrounding the world in which we live:

If there existed a box with a button on it that said "Press This Button to Get What You Want For Free," (or as I like to call it, the PTBTGWYWFF... err... button) you can be rest assured that we'd all develop blisters on our preferred fingers from pressing that button more times per day than we think about sex... unless what we want is sex, then the amount of times we press the button would pretty much be equal I suppose... but that's neither here nor there.

So now mankind has figured out a way to make a semblance of this “magic button,” at least in the digital world, and now all the creators of the products it can replicate for free were hoping that no one would press it and give them continually rising amounts of money for their products instead. Then, much to everyone’s surprise, the reliable, decidedly human-nature-based world couldn’t hear the creators over the sound of their incessant PTBTGWTWFF button pressing.

Shocking I know.

The point being is that complaining about it and trying to prosecute everyone (or a few select people who will serve as martyrs for their cause) isn’t going to change anything. The only difference between now and yesteryear is now people who create things that they want us to pay them money to enjoy, have to be… well… umm… what’s the word… oh yeah:

Creative.

See back in the middle ages, if a jester or minstrel walked into the court of a king to put on a little show and the king liked his performance, he would be showered with riches and food, women, and kept on the kingdom’s payroll. If he didn’t like his performance, the king would be equally entertained by watching whoever was closest with a blade and wasn’t busy stuffing their face with potentially plague-ridden food run the poor little (expletive deleted) through.

Now however, we’re required to pay up-front, with good faith that we’re going to enjoy what we experience. I cannot count the hundreds of thousands of dollars I’ve given up over the years with the simple (albeit failed) promise that I was going to enjoy the experience I was paying for… and no, it’s not what you’re thinking of… I’m talking about music, movies and video games. Stay focused.

The problem with this is that creators, be they musicians, directors, actors, game developers… have a set “return on investment” in mind when they set out to create something that was based off a status-quo nearly a century old. If a movie costs $10 million to make, and it grosses only $16 million in box office sales, it’s a failure. Let’s ignore the fact that it made $6 MILLION dollars (which is probably more money than I’ll ever see in a personal bank account in my lifetime), because the industry has become so bloated from the middle that hundreds of people who barely had anything to do with the creation of the product are making a ton of money from it. There was recently a credit in a movie that said: “Assistant to the assistant of so n’ so.” I mean really? With things like that in existence, we’re supposed to feel bad that we didn’t pay $12 for a movie ticket? (Avatar was $18 per person in 3-D).

If creative industries GTFO’d away from alternate business models, perhaps they need to restructure their development models instead. Arresting and fining everyone won’t make a difference; not to mention that people make it their personal crusades (in their spare time without money being made) to circumvent any sort of DRM that the industry can come up with.

Unless we go back to the middle-ages model; where we’re allowed to view any movie, listen to any song, play any game without paying a dime upfront. If we enjoy ourselves, we give the creative teams money… if we don’t… we shoot them.
February 21, 2010 7:26:54 PM

Your right, complaining is probably pointless and the effectiveness of prosecution is questionable (we'll see though; perception is everything). Your defense of piracy is what i'll argue here as its weak, naive and based on Non-Economics. What's more, defending piracy after the recent turn of events in PC gaming indicates to me we are not going to learn very well from past mistakes.


ryanegeiger said:
Now however, we’re required to pay up-front, with good faith that we’re going to enjoy what we experience. I cannot count the hundreds of thousands of dollars I’ve given up over the years with the simple (albeit failed) promise that I was going to enjoy the experience I was paying for


Betas, Demos much? OK forget them for the moment. Do you know why stores won't accept game returns? You guessed it..Piracy. like the bogus DRM argument this is another "corperate injustice" created by pirates because of pirates. See the irony? (piracy happens, just pointing out the flaws remember). And btw, nothing comes with an enjoyment guarantee. What economic system could survive if everything were "free if not completely satisfied". Won't happen. You watch to many infomercials (p.s. they're lying).

ryanegeiger said:
the industry has become so bloated from the middle that hundreds of people who barely had anything to do with the creation of the product are making a ton of money from it.


who cares. are prices bloated? I paid $50 for Quake1 in 1998. I'll pay $50 for mass effect in BestBuy next week. Why they haven't risen is what you should be asking. So if price isn't the issue then piracy is a conscientious objector...objecting to what?

ryanegeiger said:
now people who create things that they want us to pay them money to enjoy, have to be… well… umm… what’s the word… oh yeah: Creative. If creative industries GTFO’d away from alternate business models, perhaps they need to restructure their development models instead.


Ill ask again what would you have them do if your so smart. Hmm... they could forget DRM and let piracy eat them alive or move to greener pastures. Its economics man. You don't get something for nothing.



February 21, 2010 7:54:21 PM

If I could come up with the be-all-end-all solution I wouldn't be posting this from behind my desk at my day-job.

You hit the nail on the head though, traditional economics cannot explain what will happen next. If you think DRM is even slowing piracy then really, who's the naive one?

Plus, I'm not so much "defending" piracy as trying to live in a world where it exists and not wasting time trying to stop it. This isn't some grandiose campaign for the little guy where I think that piracy should be allowed or legal, I just think that fighting it in these traditional manners (DRM, legal battles, etc.) is counter-productive.

Ubisoft just released the DRM for Assassin's Creed 2, in that it will REQUIRE a CONSTANT connection to the internet in order to even play the game (which is a single player game and has no internet elements period). Please tell me, economically, how this makes sense? All you are doing is preventing your customers from purchasing your game... Pirates will be unaffected. You're spending MORE money, to sell the game to LESS people, and pirates will have that DRM circumvented in less than a week after launch, guaranteed.

DRM is useless, and is not preventing piracy, it's preventing purchases. I do not know ANYONE, not a single person, and I challenge you to scour the internet and find me ONE person who said... "I was going to pirate the game, but since the DRM is in place, I bought it instead."

Quote:
Ill ask again what would you have them do if your so smart.


... It's "you're" by the way; but again, I don't know the answer and never claimed to. All I wish is that the industry would turn its spyglass inward to figure out how to maximize the production efficiency rather than using it to burn the ants that are its consumers.

Also, what do you say to statistics that pirates actually purchase more? It's already been proven in music and I'd wager to say based on the amount of money that one of my friends (who happens to be THE most skilled pirate I know) has spent on games, that the same would carry over to games as well.

The biggest economic blunder in the anti-piracy argument is the assumption that a product pirated = a product not sold. That's a fictitious statistical analysis and any statistics major will point that out before you even begin the debate. It would be more accurate to infer that a game pirated = a game X% more likely to be sold if you compare piracy and sales figures. The biggest sellers are always the most highly pirated games. So basic syllogism suggests that piracy is good for game sales if you analyze it that way. Not saying I personally agree with that argument, but statistically, it's more sound.

Again, not defending piracy, but I don't see it as this "ultimate evil" that must be thwarted or else we're all going to lose entertainment forever. It's something new. Never before in history could you reproduce a tangible product for absolutely zero cost. Now the industries affect have to adjust, not beat their consumers about the head trying to make them adhere to an antiquated method of doing business.
February 21, 2010 9:01:19 PM

ryanegeiger said:
If you think DRM is even slowing piracy then really, who's the naive one?


my argument is not whether DRM is effecive or not (i can't say and neither you). i was pointing out the irony of using it as a defense for piracy.


ryanegeiger said:
Now the industries affect have to adjust, not beat their consumers about the head trying to make them adhere to an antiquated method of doing business.


You say they should have found new alternatives. I say they tried and found none that were viable. In the end i believe economics will predict this outcome every time. No comment on punitive stuff.
February 25, 2010 12:47:07 AM

and what happens when they shut the servers down, ask all the people that bought tunes from MSFT, DRM is not the answer, but the heavy handed approach by game companies is not helping their bottom line, and alienating their customers, and how many times does a game get a bunch of hyperbole and then you get the game and it won't play because of bugs, or it really sucks, you can't return it, ID software produced a long list of games that were pirated but the games were good, real good, people were happy to buy the games and expansions, and they sold a lot of them, but in reality, most games are pirated because they are over priced, greed and the corporate mindset, when they say that pirating killed a company, how do they support that statement, most game companies that failed did so because they produced a POS game with tons of bugs, and no suppport, X2 and X3 REMOVED the DRM and still sold millions of copies because it was a great game, something needs to be done alright, something to protect the customer from game mfgr's producing POS games, and shafting people
March 10, 2010 11:04:32 AM

Heres the deal.

What is the difference between walking into a store and lifting a game and downloading it from a user that cracked it for free?

you are far less likely to get caught doing one than the other. They are both stealing. people will even justify buying stolen products on the cheap because they didnt steal it.

Word it reword it how ever you want. Paying for parts and rebuilding a tv just like the one you have is hardly comparable to game piracy. In that sense with the tv thing, you BUILT IT YOURSELF, whether you used soemone elses design or not.

when someone pirates a game, they didnt program the game from scratch using the design from the original, paying for their own dev tools.

They simply cracked and CLONED it, it isnt some rebuilt consruct similar to the original, it is the original.


its stealing plain and simple, people worked hard to create the game, and they are being deprived of profiting from it.



Also, I doubt getting rid of DRM is going to stop piracy. I know people live in this fantasy world that drm is the root cause of piracy, its not. i.e. they are doing it to stick it to the man for drm.

The fact of the matter is the people that download torrents or whatever, simply dont have the liquid income to buy any game they want. these mostly consist of teenagers and college students.

I am 28, I would be lying if I said when I was younger I never pirated a game. Hell, I had a mod chip in my PSone, and rented/burned my PS games in the late 90's. Through college I have pirated computer games here and there.

Was it because I had hatred for a corporate construct and DRM? No.

Was it because I didnt have the money to buy every game I wanted, and I couldnt resist the temptation to pirate online? YES.

I buy all my games now, why? because I have a good job(as a software developer, go figure) and I have the spending money to buy whatever I want.

I am not trying to be holier than thou, I am sure everybody has pirated something be it music or otherwise at least once.

But I dont put some righteous face on it that others try to, as if theres some underground movement against the man, sure maybe a few people feel that way, the rest? They just want to get something for nothing.


@ryanegeiger

"I was going to pirate the game, but since the DRM is in place, I bought it instead."

I can turn this quote around to:

"I was going to pirate the game, but since theres no DRM, I bought it instead."

the second quote makes less sense than yours. which is exactly what people are arguing, killing drm = increased sales less pirating. I dont deny that DRM probably doesnt really help, but your nuts if you think removing drm is going to make people stop pirating.

There are a ton of anti-DRM gamers, that inflate the sales of drm free games, because they bought it primarily to support a game with no drm, its a cause, a localized cause they can support. What happens when they get what they want and all games are drm free? there is no cause anymore. They pirates are still there, the pirates are still pirating games, and drm-free games are the standard, so developers arent able to use the term "drm-free" as a sales gimmick, because thats what it is. It is a gimmick, they know there are a legion of legit pc gamers out there, that will buy a drm-free game just because its drm free, I mean of course it has to be an adequate game, but still, they market the hell out of it being drm free. its a sales gimmick plain and simple.

Once all games became drm free, no longer would these individual developers generate huge sales based on it being drm free.

Again I am not saying people will buy a *** game just because its drm free, but they may buy a solid game, that may not be a genre fan of, but do it and play it to support the drm free movement, when in the situation all games are drm free, its a game they would probably pass up. Its like people buying organic food, if every company produced all organic food, You bet your ass the current organic producing companies would lose sales due to increased competition.

March 10, 2010 4:09:57 PM

I'll just make one simple comment...

The penalty for stealing from the good 'ol middle ages should be re-instituted. Anyone caught stealing should have a hand chopped off.

Makes playing games a little more difficult, right?

!