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Batman dies in cloud of poison gas – unless you actually buy the game
September 13, 2009 9:24 AM   Subscribe

DRM as a cloud of poison gas. Run an illegally-downloaded prerelease version of the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman always dies in a vat of poison gas. Run the legit version once it gets released and (apparently) there won’t even be any poison gas. (Game developers: “[Y]ou have encountered... a hook in the copy protection, to catch out people who try and download cracked versions of the game for free. It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code.”)
posted by joeclark (326 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's really clever, and I still don't understand the nerve of people to complain to developers about games they have stolen.

How long until pirates patch this out? Have they already?
posted by graventy at 9:32 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


No Joker virus? These guys don't know their comics...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 AM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Haha...that is a clever way to fight back.
posted by schyler523 at 9:36 AM on September 13, 2009


Judging by the comments on mininova, this has already been re-cracked/patched.
posted by graventy at 9:37 AM on September 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Graventy - from the first link:



Unfortunately, they still work around this stuff. The pirates put out a glide patch 7 days ago.

posted by deadmessenger at 9:39 AM on September 13, 2009


I like clever DRM like this, even though the pirates patch it out. It's like "the phone number for the secret agent you must contact is on page 34 of the booklet, hurry!" I think game developers should load up a game with YASDs as DRM, then at least the pirates would have to put out some more work to pirate the game.

...well, anyways, how do I get this Playstation 2 emulator working?
posted by fuq at 9:46 AM on September 13, 2009


It's been done before. There have been a couple of attempts to make games unplayable through DRM, and the worst thing about them were the false positives; I vaguely remember one game in particular which wouldn't quickly kill your character but instead slowly increase the number of crashes to the desktop. This was particularly annoying as it became hard to sort out the cases of "crappy game programming" from "crappy copy protection false positive crashing".
posted by PontifexPrimus at 9:46 AM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


"It's the Evil Doctor Row!"

*BIFF* *ZAP* *POW*
posted by Artw at 9:46 AM on September 13, 2009


Earthbound did it better: it lets you play all the way up to the final boss (albeit with a lot more enemies along the way), then deletes your save files and crashes.
posted by shammack at 9:48 AM on September 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


Brazil
posted by nervousfritz at 9:50 AM on September 13, 2009


Jimmini jillickers Radioactive Man Batman! It's the DMCA!
posted by msbutah at 9:51 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Outed as a pirate due to one's own stupidity. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. Oh, what the heck, I'll laugh anyway.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:54 AM on September 13, 2009


Well, to say there's no gas is completely inaccurate. As in, poison gas of various sorts plays a vital role in many levels. So... Um. Yeah. There's that.
posted by Rendus at 10:09 AM on September 13, 2009


Zak McKracken was my favorite example of this. (sorry, the only video I could find was in german).

Basically, if you put in the wrong code from the manual, the game puts you in jail and lectures you about the evils of piracy.
posted by empath at 10:09 AM on September 13, 2009


Meh, just include a decoder wheel.

(And some peril-sensitive sunglasses.)
posted by rokusan at 10:13 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember the good old days when the official release itself was unplayable and you had to hack the thing to get it to work.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:17 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This kind of measure bit the late Iron Lore Entertainment in the ass. According to this post/rant by their creative director, their anti piracy crash "bug" only succeeded in putting the word out that their game was buggy and unstable.

It seems like this particular strategy is risky for the little guys.
posted by Lorc at 10:20 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the most interesting part about this idea—I'm not really sure if I'd call it "DRM" or not—is that it provides a convenient way of outing reviewers who are working with pirated prerelease copies. That would be pretty embarassing: write a review complaining about the game being too hard and your character always dying, only to have that scene not exist in the real version, because you were playing with a cracked one.

I'm not sure if messing with low-budget reviewers would be a good or bad thing from the game producers' perspective, but it seems like it would be amusing to see which reviewers are using legitimate review copies and who's just grabbing it off of Mininova.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:28 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a poor decision. Pirates are very often early adopters, who talk to their less-piratey friends about this new game they just downloaded. If the buzz about your game from early adopters is that it's buggy, that negative word of mouth is going to hurt your sales.
posted by renataskyfire at 10:39 AM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is a fantastic game, by the way, best one this year by quite a margin. What with it being Batman and all, you'd think it would be a crappy tie-in type game, but it's anything but. The voices are fantastic, especially Mark Hamill as the Joker. I've mentioned him before, but he's a verbal chameleon, and has played the Joker for many years in different formats. This flavor of Joker has a subtle menace and craziness to him that wasn't in the animated series; it's amazing how he can shade that much extra batshit insanity into more or less the same voice. (no pun intended, but hey, it works. :) )

I've gotten a little burned out on it near the end of the game, so it hasn't held up quite as well as Bioshock did, but in the midpoint, I was enjoying it way more. I took the time to hunt down every clue and solve every riddle, and I think that's why I got tired of it. I'm sure I'll pick it back up and finish, but even if I don't, I totally got my money's worth.

There's really only one thing about the game that I would criticize, and what's really frustrating is that I can't do it without giving away a major plot point. Spoiler ethics mean I can't be very specific, but I will say that they pull a VERY cheap trick in this game that I really disapprove of. It was nearly a game-wrecker for me until I looked it up on the Net. Once you know what's going on, it's not a problem, but until you do, you can be stuck dead. Very poor design.

As far as the piracy thing goes: I really like Stardock's approach to copy protection. They use a little bit, basically a key to validate online access to their servers (which costs them money to provide), but other than that they completely focus on people who PAY for the game, instead of people who DON'T pay. Their philosophy is that making things really good for the people who are willing to give you money outweighs making things bad on the people who won't. And simply because I feel so well-treated by them, I'm inclined to buy anything they put out. It doesn't hurt, of course, that their most recent release, Demigod, is excellent, now that they've worked out the multiplayer issues.

It strikes me that putting in this poison gas cloud and then making sure that legitimate customers don't get burned by it is a poorer use of development dollars than some of kind of free DLC that you can get with your paid key.

Downside to that, of course, is that the CSRs couldn't nail the pirates with such an awesome zinger. And the zinger translates into laughing people, which means free publicity, so maybe it wasn't such a bad use of money after all.
posted by Malor at 10:39 AM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


I mean this sincerely: I look forward to this type of thing done in a way that doesn't prevent people from playing, but does make them look foolish in front of other people. For instance, your character is always wearing a t-shirt that says "I am a thief" if you use the multiplayer capacity online, but only visible to the other players. Stuff like that.
posted by davejay at 10:45 AM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


When I was 12 I borrowed the floppies for Day of the Tentacle from my friend. He photocopied the relevant page from the manual as well. He's such a lovely friend.
posted by Edwahd at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I mean this sincerely: I look forward to this type of thing done in a way that doesn't prevent people from playing, but does make them look foolish in front of other people. For instance, your character is always wearing a t-shirt that says "I am a thief" if you use the multiplayer capacity online, but only visible to the other players. Stuff like that.

Valve just did something like this with Team Fortress 2, deleting all the bonus items collected by people who used special "unlocker" programs to imitate idling in active games (the items were awarded based on time spent in-game). In addition, they gave every player who was detected to have NOT used the unlocker a special item- a halo that appeared over their head. There are now servers run by angry players that actually say "HALOS=BAN." Honestly, the juvenile sense of entitlement in software pirates is really the part that makes me unable to side with them most of the time.

Pirates are very often early adopters, who talk to their less-piratey friends about this new game they just downloaded.

Okay, seriously, this is what I'm talking about. This is just a ridiculous argument and another lowering of the bar for the debate. Now it's necessary for pirates to have bootlegs of the game to tell people if the game's good or not? Because there's no such things as demos and game magazine reviews? Really? I sympathize with the problems with DRM and privacy protection but come on. I'm going to trust what Kotaku or the Penny Arcade guys said about a legitimate demo, and for that matter some play time with an actual demo itself, long before anything nyte_$hadow420 said on a Russian warez forum.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:05 AM on September 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


I think Batman should have been eaten by a Grue. Stick to the classics if you're going to go back to the days of the copy protection arms race.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 11:07 AM on September 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR, I don't think the "early adopters/word of mouth" argument is a "and that's why this is morally wrong". It's an "and that's why this is a little stupid."
posted by Lorc at 11:07 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why so serious?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:11 AM on September 13, 2009


Why so thieving?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:12 AM on September 13, 2009


I wouldn't download the torrent for this game even if they did fix it, because Batman is the world's most boring superhero.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:16 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hardcore Poser, I don't think Adventure ever said exactly what a Grue looked like. Maybe it was a cloud of poison gas...
posted by localroger at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a poor decision. Pirates are very often early adopters, who talk to their less-piratey friends about this new game they just downloaded. If the buzz about your game from early adopters is that it's buggy, that negative word of mouth is going to hurt your sales.

I think there's going to be a lot more buzz about the fact that this is on purpose, which will easily cancel out the percentage of pirates who don't catch on that this isn't a bug.
posted by kylej at 11:24 AM on September 13, 2009


This has nothing on some of the truly devious copy protection I've seen in the past.

Earthbound, an RPG on the SNES, had some very interesting copy protection. You could play the game just fine, but there were checks in the game's code at certain points. Get to certain points, the game sees it's not legit, game acts weird in many ways. If it detects at first, it admonishes you with a warning about game copying being a crime. If it catches mid-game, you'll get enemy spawn that's beyond tedious to handle.

Still, that's nothing compared to the worst part. As you reach the final boss, one creepy customer indeed, the game does one last check. If your game is copied, the game will simply freeze at that point, requiring a reset of the system.

Except it just deleted all your saved games.

That's right, everything you've done ends up for naught, you got all the way to the nightmare inducing final boss, and there's no closure. No closure, no escape, just complete, abject failure.

Mixing in game code to make the game impossible to win is a clever tactic, but this is just the crowning moment in devious in what I've seen. Of course, that was a risky move in the highly controlled environment of an old console, trying it on today's systems would just be asking for mass alienation of the fan base. If it hits all the pirates and just a few false positives, you're writing off your entire PC gamer branch, not even worth releasing there.

Good to see that if game devs insist on sticking with flawed DRM, they're going to do so with a sense of humor.
posted by Saydur at 11:34 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Batman is the world's most boring superhero.

Surely that distinction belongs to Superman, not Batman. Batman is a ninja with all kind of cool gadgets who relies on stealth and his wits rather than physical strength (although he will punch you hard in the face if you get in his way).

Superman is infinitely strong and fast, can fly, can shoot lasers out of his eyes, and is bulletproof. Every story that puts him in peril relies on kryptonite, which means that virtually every story is the same: Superman swoops in, moves the heavy object/punches the bad guy, is paralyzed by the magic rock, gets far enough away from the magic rock to instantly recover, and finishes the job. It's as scripted as House, but less witty.
posted by JDHarper at 11:34 AM on September 13, 2009 [12 favorites]


Gotta agree with MSTPT. My PARENTS are DEAD!
posted by lazaruslong at 11:42 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, Superman's near invincibility might severely limit what you can do with any opponent he faces, but a good writer can employ kryptonite in a myriad of ways. Granted, Batman is mortal, but while Superman might be a flying bulletproof alien, Batman seems to have a gadget to protect him from any weapon or foe, pretty much rendering him just as invincible as Superman, if not more so, as he lacks an Achille's Hell like kryptonite. What I find profoundly boring about Batman is all the damned brooding. He's always solidly, rationally combatting evil with a grim determination most people use to shovel the snow off the driveway. Fighting crime is a chore to him. I have a hard time caring about his conflicts because they seem like drudgery to him.

I say all this without being much of a superhero fanboy to begin with, though, and admittedly I like Spiderman probably most of all of them because he's a smart ass.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:48 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have no problem with thoughtful anti-piracy measures like this or similar, like nagware, level lock, timeout, no save, etc. For most people it gets the message out, but doesn't diminish the promotional potential of the pirated game.

I'm not in favour of DRM measures that are harmful, like deliberate crashers, or things that phone home with personal data.
posted by Artful Codger at 11:54 AM on September 13, 2009


Valve just did something like this with Team Fortress 2, deleting all the bonus items collected by people who used special "unlocker" programs to imitate idling in active games (the items were awarded based on time spent in-game). In addition, they gave every player who was detected to have NOT used the unlocker a special item- a halo that appeared over their head. There are now servers run by angry players that actually say "HALOS=BAN." Honestly, the juvenile sense of entitlement in software pirates is really the part that makes me unable to side with them most of the time.

Can you tell me exactly how using a "unlocker" program on your legally purchased game copy is in any way related to piracy?
posted by ymgve at 12:01 PM on September 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


MSTPT: I see what you're saying. Maybe after the next movie they can reboot Batman into the 1960's Adam West campy fun style of Batman.
posted by JDHarper at 12:02 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd welcome that. Adam West Batman was great fun. Bring on the Bat-tutsi!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2009


It's simple, ymgve. If you buy this game, and wanted to play with the randomly-granted unlockable weapons, then you're supposed to spend hundreds of hours playing in random games and accumulating drops and discarding the duplicates or things you aren't interested in until the gods of chance finally grant you that Dead Ringer you've been waiting to get. If you try to circumvent that, you're EVIL.

Of course, logging into an idle server and alt-tabbing out for a weekend, that's perfectly kosher. Just so long as you've got the actual program eating up CPU and memory, and not something less onerous.
posted by kafziel at 12:06 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's silly. The game rewards you for showing up, whether or not you actually play. So some people did what you DO with computers, and automated away tedium. Valve was asked if this was okay, and at least once specifically said it was all right. So the idler people all loaded up on a few idle-specific servers, meaning that they didn't take up slots on real servers where real people are playing.

It's a stupid design. It's just really dumb. Giving you rewards purely for play hours is one of the lamest ideas ever. It turns a normal game into grinding. Grinding is stupid. And then RETROACTIVELY punishing people who refused to grind is bullshit even bigger than the original grinding idea.

I have a halo, and I'll never wear it.
posted by Malor at 12:14 PM on September 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


JDHarper, I will execute a brief nerd derail to mention Darkseid. That is all.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:30 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It strikes me that putting in this poison gas cloud and then making sure that legitimate customers don't get burned by it is a poorer use of development dollars than some of kind of free DLC that you can get with your paid key.

That's pretty much the crux of this issue. There's a developer theory going around that posits that a significant chunk of piracy is early adoption, and by somehow circumventing that you cut off a significant chunk of your product stealers. I don't think that's in any way accurate, but I do think a lot of DRM these days is designed solely to delay piracy rather than prevent it.

Why waste development time on something designed to shame a few non-buyers of your game?
posted by graventy at 12:31 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the juvenile sense of entitlement in software pirates is really the part that makes me unable to side with them most of the time.

This.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:36 PM on September 13, 2009


I have to say I find the "It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code" statement to be infuriating. Right, like a public spokesman for a mechanism for extracting value from the culture and transforming it into wealth for stockholders has a right to be an arbitrator of morality.
posted by JHarris at 12:39 PM on September 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


People have the moral right to get paid for the work they do, should they wish to get paid. People do not have a moral right to steal the product of such work, when the producers wish to receive money for it.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:45 PM on September 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm still waiting for VCRs to destroy Hollywood. Any day now, all those copies of the same movies people made and shared with friends are going to financially ruin the industry.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:53 PM on September 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


Can anyone explain the general process to getting around DRM? This has always been a black box to me. I figure it cannot be too hard as you always see a crack pop up relatively soon. Is there a general process you would go through in trying to crack a game?
posted by geoff. at 12:54 PM on September 13, 2009


I have to say I find the "It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code" statement to be infuriating. Right, like a public spokesman for a mechanism for extracting value from the culture and transforming it into wealth for stockholders has a right to be an arbitrator of morality.

What? That is so ridiculous. Of course someone who makes a product is allowed to criticize the morality of people who steal that product from them. I don't think they're claiming to be the arbitrator of all morality.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:03 PM on September 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Such DRM shenanigans are really cute...until you're the guy who purchases a legitimate copy of a game (C&C Red Alert 2), attempts to run it under WINE (a tool that allows you to run MS Windows programs on other OSes), enters the silly copy protection codes from the CD case, and then all your units blow up anyway after a minute because some snippit of game code decided that it had been tampered with or something.

Oddly enough, since I had a legitimate copy, the copy I then downloaded off of the Pirate Bay worked just fine under wine.

So yes...DRM totally prevents illegitimate use and never affects paying customers negatively. [/snark]
posted by cleancut at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2009 [13 favorites]


Like all DRM, the problem here isn't when it works correctly and only affects non-purchasers of the game. The only difference between this and regular DRM is that it is harder to distinguish from regular buggy behavior (and thus troubleshoot) when all of the clever tricks used by the publisher fail miserably, as they always do, and it starts to go off on your legitimately purchased copy.

It took me 4 hours to get Mass Effect working on my machine because a program I had running in the background (one related to playing DVDs, nothing to do with piracy) was interfering with the copy protection. I would have probably had a better game experience had I pirated it, since that shit would have been patched out of the torrent copy when I got it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yes, JHarris, me Tarzan, corporations bad.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:24 PM on September 13, 2009


geoff: at the simplest level, for copy protected games at least, very smart people running the code in a debugger, stepping through it, trying to understand the overall construction of the program, figuring out where and when the copy protection is checked, and patching that check to always succeed. It can be extremely painstaking and difficult work, often requiring disassembling and analyzing the compiled code byte by byte.

Many of the more advanced forms of copy protection used to use self-modifying code -- that is, one part of the program would change another part of the program. By doing it a little bit at a time, from a bunch of different functions, it would build a copy-protection check on the fly in RAM, when it wasn't clearly present on disk to begin with. So the cracker had to realize what was going on, know what section of memory to watch, and then figure out if and when the copy protection code was complete. Then he had to either directly modify the code before it ran for the first time, or else adjust the construction code to build what he wanted instead.

I have no bloody idea what they're doing these days. I know they typically buy copy protection from third-party companies. I have a vague memory of hearing that they came up with some way of failing to run those routines correctly when under a software debugger, but I don't remember any more than that. I assume cracking is a similar process, but I don't know that for sure.

For the more general case of DRMed music and movies, they generally have to break the encryption on a file. This is hard to do, but there's a fair bit of success at it. Everything needed to decrypt the file has to be in RAM, so often they can come up with ways of peeking to try to either extract the decryption key or the decrypted file data. This was how, for instance, they broke the first generation of HD-DVDs -- they stole the key from a software player.
posted by Malor at 1:25 PM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


geoff, at some point the game has to go to the operating system to collect the data that ensures the game is legit -- it goes to the CD drive to see if its CD is there, or asks you to enter the unlock code, etc. Using a debugger you trace program execution from that point; the game needs to validate what it finds, and generally it ends up setting a switch that other game code will use to check for "I'm unlocked." To crack the game, you create a version of the executable with that switch pre-set and a bypass around the code that goes through the hoops to see if it should be set.

There are more secure methods, using the auth code to decrypt some critical piece of info, but the thing is the game usually ends up in a state where its unlocked status has been validated; if you can create an image of the game at that point and run it from scratch, you have a cracked version.

The most secure schemes combine encryption with a key that includes information gleaned from the user's computer system, such as mainboard chipset, processor, and so on, which is passed to the manufacturer to create an unlock code that works only on that machine, which is checked at regular intervals to decode necessary information that isn't decrypted all at once when the original validation is done. This is what the latest versions of Windows and Office do, and it's much harder to crack, but it's much more complicated and prone to false positives too.
posted by localroger at 1:28 PM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


If your business model depends upon bits not being copied, you're screwed.
If your business model depends upon breaking your own product, you're screwed.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:31 PM on September 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


This is what the latest versions of Windows and Office do, and it's much harder to crack, but it's much more complicated and prone to false positives too.

This is such a fucking pain in the ass, too, because GOD FORBID I decide to upgrade a few pieces of hardware in this old piece of junk and now suddenly Windows decides I'm not the guy who purchased this license and makes me jump through hoops to use my fucking computer again.
posted by graventy at 1:43 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


OpenOffice.org is your friend.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:44 PM on September 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have to say I find the "It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code" statement to be infuriating. Right, like a public spokesman for a mechanism for extracting value from the culture and transforming it into wealth for stockholders has a right to be an arbitrator of morality.

Culture isn't like oil. There isn't some vast reservoir of culture that exists out in the ether1 that the developers have just lucked finding. They created this culture. They definitely have the right to arbitrate how it is used (with minor exceptions that aren't relevant here).

And more to the point, it's funny. That is a quality response to someone complaining about a perceived bug in the game.

Paul Erdos' viewpoints notwithstanding.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:56 PM on September 13, 2009


Found out the other day that The Man has done an update version of Don't Copy That Floppy.... and in all it's nudge nudge hipness looks even more moronic than the original does now.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2009


People have the moral right to get paid for the work they do, should they wish to get paid.

I will be expecting your paypal payment for the following work of mine directly:

Roses are Red,
Metafilter is Blue;
Copyright Infringement != Theft,
This poem is $500 a pageview.
posted by Jairus at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


Hardcore Poser, I don't think Adventure ever said exactly what a Grue looked like.

Infocom adventures after Zork however do describe them according to the Wikipedia entry for grue.

* * *

often referred to with the stock phrases of "slavering fangs", "razor-sharp claws" and "horrible gurgling noises".

The game Sorcerer ... allowed the player to cast the Frotz spell on a grue, causing a "horrible, multi-fanged creature" from just outside the range of vision to run through the room "gurgling in agony and tearing at its fur".

Wishbringer allows the player to stumble upon a baby grue and get a good look at it ... described as a "horrid little beast with red eyes and slavering fangs"

Zork Grand Inquisitor ... was the first to give a detailed description of how grues looked, having the player disguise himself as a grue after seeing one and noting that it had a "fish-mouthed head, razor-sharp claws and glowing fur all over".
posted by zippy at 2:40 PM on September 13, 2009


Yeah zippy, but those other grues aren't the Adventure grue. In particular that last description -- glowing fur? Grues don't glow, you're likely to be eaten by one because it is dark, and the game designer is worried you will wander out of the bits he's bothered to code.
posted by localroger at 3:02 PM on September 13, 2009


Roses are Red,
Metafilter is Blue;
Copyright Infringement != Theft,
This poem is $500 a pageview.


Well, if you want to get clever, you posted it to a site under the Creative Commons license.... But nice try. It is also a derivative work.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:03 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


graventy -- what Marisa said. Plus, while I still use XP for lots of stuff and it's similarly validated, I know lots of people who are more open to moving to Ubuntu than to Vista or Vita Part Deux when the shoe finally drops.

I don't play games myself, but I've done my share of sniffing around with debuggers, more to get things working than to steal them. Really. Promise.
posted by localroger at 3:05 PM on September 13, 2009


I've long refused to play PC games that use certain brands of copy protection because they mess up my computer. Sad for them. I'll either play them on my PS3 (if possible) or do without.

I have, on a couple of occasions bought a game before finding out if its copy protection was likely to break my Windows installation, and upon finding out that it is, downloaded a crack to remove said protection.

As far as I'm concerned the illicit copiers just make my life as a game purchaser better.
posted by wierdo at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The funny thing is that if I wanted to screw with this company, seeding a torrent with a broken version of their game would be a pretty obvious way to do it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:24 PM on September 13, 2009


Well, if you want to get clever, you posted it to a site under the Creative Commons license.... But nice try. It is also a derivative work.

Think again!

© 1999-2009 MetaFilter Network LLC
All posts are © their original authors.


...plus, derivative works of public domain material are still protected by copyright. Just ask Disney.
posted by Jairus at 3:34 PM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Plus, while I still use XP for lots of stuff and it's similarly validated, I know lots of people who are more open to moving to Ubuntu than to Vista or Vita Part Deux when the shoe finally drops.

Really, all Windows offers me is a *relatively* perfect plug-and-play out of the box experience and software compatibility with almost everything. I'm sure one of these days I will grow fed up with the entire experience and attempt Linux, but right now it still looks to be more trouble than it is worth.

As far as I'm concerned the illicit copiers just make my life as a game purchaser better.


The only good experience I've had with DRM on the PC has been through Steam, and that's largely because I've never bumped against it in a negative way. There are lots of stories of people being unable to validate their games or other issues, but I've never had a problem with it.

As such, I will continue buying games through Steam, when they are available (ESPECIALLY when they are on sale).

Braid is 5 bucks this weekend if you don't own it you are fools for not buying it at this price go now buy buy buy
posted by graventy at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2009


Really, all Windows offers me is a *relatively* perfect plug-and-play out of the box experience and software compatibility with almost everything. I'm sure one of these days I will grow fed up with the entire experience and attempt Linux, but right now it still looks to be more trouble than it is worth.

If you ever get tempted, drop me a MeMail about what you use your machine for, and I can recommend a distro for you. They're free to download, and you can burn the .iso to a CD and try it out without installing it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:43 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Braid is 5 bucks this weekend if you don't own it you are fools for not buying it at this price go now buy buy buy

Pay attention to graventy. Very good game. SO worth five bucks.
posted by Malor at 3:43 PM on September 13, 2009


Really, all Windows offers me is a *relatively* perfect plug-and-play out of the box experience and software compatibility with almost everything.

Funny, I had to reformat the hard drive on this laptop a couple months ago. I reinstalled Vista and Ubuntu jaunty. One of these OSes worked with all my hardware out of the box, gave me up-to-date drivers with a couple mouse clicks, and provided a user-friendly GUI for installing the software I use. The other sent me to driver purgatory for a few hours.

The plural of "anecdote" is not "data," but as soon as I get the same frame rate running TF2 under Wine as I do in Vista, I'm done with Windows.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 3:48 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apart from giving the developers that "fuck you, pirate!" feeling, I don't see how this accomplishes anything. They deliberately put out a broken version of their own game. People upthread claim it's already been patched.

And I mean at some point they have to release a non-sabotaged version of the game to stores. (They are going to do that, right?) And there's nothing whatsoever to keep that version from getting cracked and torrented all over the place. If it's not torrented in the numbers other games are, that's just indicating that a bunch of people, who were never going to pay for this game in the first place, are either too annoyed to mess with it anymore, or else have just already gotten what they wanted from the game and are moving on to whatever's next.

I'm not defending the pirates, and I get why the developers would be pissed, but the bitter truth is that the games market just isn't nearly as big as they want to think it is, and so there are too many developers pushing out too much product.

Here's the problem: the real market for games consists of those people who are already paying. The pirates, for the most part, are never going to be paying customers in the way the developers want them to be. Sure, some (maybe most) pirate kids will start buying games when they get older and have jobs and can afford them. But are they going to buy a fraction of the number of games they now pirate? No. They'll still play games, and they'll probably pay for them because it's easier than pirating them. But they'll only play a fraction of the games they used to play.
posted by Naberius at 3:49 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]



Unfortunately, they still work around this stuff. The pirates put out a glide patch 7 days ago.


Holey copy protection, Batman!
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:14 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


The plural of "anecdote" is not "data," but as soon as I get the same frame rate running TF2 under Wine as I do in Vista, I'm done with Windows.

Add the WINE development repositories to Synaptic and get 1.1.29 instead of the stable release. It's how I got Fallout 3 running.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:31 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


dirtynumbangelboy: "People have the moral right to get paid for the work they do, should they wish to get paid. People do not have a moral right to steal the product of such work, when the producers wish to receive money for it."

People do not have such a right, to be paid for work. There's lots of work that is done for reasons other than payment. I could go out and build a sandcastle, but I could not demand to be paid for it. Someone has to do the paying, and there is no demand.

Software piracy is not theft. Theft is bad because of scarcity; one person taking a physical object deprives someone else of that object. Copying data does not remove anything from circulation. Relating the two is a constructed moral equation made in order to try to map software development onto our economic system. The mapping works in some ways, but calling copying theft (or piracy) is taking things too far. The closest analogue words to what software piracy is are things like "recording," "transcribing," and "writing," which don't sound evil enough for some people. The terms "theft" and "piracy" carry a lot of baggage in our culture. This is exactly why they started being used to describe copying software.

It is good, I say, that people be paid for writing computer programs. I myself hope someday to be paid for this. But I also hope to maintain a realistic perspective on the situation, and not stomp my feet uselessly that people make free copies of my work. If 90% of people get free copies of my program, and 10% pay, then I will have to content myself with the 10%. If 10% is not enough to subsist on, then I will have to do something else with my time. That is the lowest energy state of the situation. Efforts to build artificial scarcity into the system will, at best, fail. At worst they might succeed, which will ultimately introduce more evil into the world, in the long term, than they remove.

Inspector.Gadget: "Yes, JHarris, me Tarzan, corporations bad."

Yeah, sure, I must be some sort of hippie for viewing something a giant company says with suspicion first.
posted by JHarris at 4:32 PM on September 13, 2009 [17 favorites]


localroger: "graventy -- what Marisa said. Plus, while I still use XP for lots of stuff and it's similarly validated, I know lots of people who are more open to moving to Ubuntu than to Vista or Vita Part Deux when the shoe finally drops."

I run Ubuntu pretty much constantly now. I still keep an XP partition on-hand for gaming and playtesting, but what with lovely lovely VirtualBox on my system, I haven't had to boot to it in months.
posted by JHarris at 4:38 PM on September 13, 2009


Heh - proving itself way ahead of the curve once again, Alternate Reality (circa 1985) the City - a 3D first-person smooth-scrolling RPG - had some ingenious copy protection: if you duplicated the program disks using the (Atari 8-bit) OS functions, then the game would seem to work... except after a random amount of time your character would develop a mysterious disease. Healers were unable to cure it, and your stats would gradually drop off until you're a sitting duck to the first beggar that comes along.
The Wikipedia article also mentions similar innovative protection on the sequel (the Dungeon) involving unbeatable fast-moving FBI agents who would always kill you.

Good times, and nice to see that current games developers are starting to catch up :)
posted by Chunder at 4:41 PM on September 13, 2009


Ah, I should add - PlayOnLinux is an excellent app for running Windows games.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:44 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Theft or not, it's still dishonest not to pay someone for giving you something of value. The rest of it is just silly rationalizations to justify taking something for nothing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:51 PM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hah! Valve halo-fury has extended its reach all the way to the mothership! I love it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:56 PM on September 13, 2009


Also: 4 Sites Where You Can Download Old PC Games For Free
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:57 PM on September 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


Theft or not, it's still dishonest not to pay someone for giving you something of value. The rest of it is just silly rationalizations to justify taking something for nothing.

It's only dishonest if you told them you'd pay them in the first place.

And copying != taking.
posted by Jairus at 5:01 PM on September 13, 2009


Chunder: Heh - proving itself way ahead of the curve once again, Alternate Reality (circa 1985) the City - a 3D first-person smooth-scrolling RPG - had some ingenious copy protection: if you duplicated the program disks using the (Atari 8-bit) OS functions, then the game would seem to work... except after a random amount of time your character would develop a mysterious disease. Healers were unable to cure it, and your stats would gradually drop off until you're a sitting duck to the first beggar that comes along.

Sounds great until you realize that floppy disks had terrible reliability. If the disk it came on fries in six months and you suddenly try to play your backup...?
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:04 PM on September 13, 2009


It's only dishonest if you told them you'd pay them in the first place.

That's not how it works.
Can I take your car for a joyride because I didn't tell you I wouldn't?
Can I punch a bum because I didn't say I wouldn't?

I mean, if you're not paying for software out of civil disobediance, because you honestly think playing-but-not-paying-for video games serves some kind of noble, greater good, and not just a personal one, then that's one thing. But I seriously doubt it. If you want to 'opt out' of the system, then dont buy or use non-free software. Otherwise, you're just being a parasite.

And copying != taking.

1. Who cares? Arson isn't theft. Assault isn't theft either. Many other wrongs and crimes are not theft (especially not your super-narrow definition of theft.)
posted by blenderfish at 5:21 PM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Can I take your car for a joyride because I didn't tell you I wouldn't?
Can I punch a bum because I didn't say I wouldn't?


You are not good at analogies. This

Many other wrongs and crimes are not theft (especially not your super-narrow definition of theft.)

is why. If other crimes are not theft, then you cannot make very good analogies by pretending that they are.

As an aside, my definition of 'theft' is shared by the United States Supreme Court. Dowling v. United States, 473 U.S. 207 (1985).
posted by Jairus at 5:26 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


PS: Punching a bum is violent and cruel, not dishonest.
posted by Jairus at 5:27 PM on September 13, 2009


1. Who cares? Arson isn't theft. Assault isn't theft either. Many other wrongs and crimes are not theft (especially not your super-narrow definition of theft.)

Dressing like you isn't theft, is it? Or is that arson in your super-expansive definition?

Something else to consider: you can't police copyright without policing free speech and communications.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:30 PM on September 13, 2009


First of all, thanks for your thoughtful commentary Re: my ability to make analogies. Since you have brought me to the sudden realization that I am so bad at them, I'll try again without:

Your first statement amounted to an assertion that, somehow, in order for something to be a crime, I had to promise ahead of time I wouldn't do it. I was pointing out that, in fact, that is very rarely the case.

Your second statement that "copying != taking" seemed to imply that software piracy is not theft. I am not attempting to argue the point, Supreme Court decision or no; I was attempting to point out that whether or not it is theft is a semantic tangent that doesn't matter. Many things that are wrong or crimes are not theft.
posted by blenderfish at 5:34 PM on September 13, 2009


Your first statement amounted to an assertion that, somehow, in order for something to be a crime, I had to promise ahead of time I wouldn't do it. I was pointing out that, in fact, that is very rarely the case.

No, my first statement was an assertion that in order for doing something to be dishonest, you need to have promised ahead of time that you wouldn't do it.

Your second statement that "copying != taking" seemed to imply that software piracy is not theft. I am not attempting to argue the point, Supreme Court decision or no; I was attempting to point out that whether or not it is theft is a semantic tangent that doesn't matter. Many things that are wrong or crimes are not theft.

I'm happy to debate about the rightness or wrongness of copying bits without the permission of whoever arranged the bits, but not as long as it is being misrepresented as a crime that it is not.
posted by Jairus at 5:38 PM on September 13, 2009


Dressing like you isn't theft, is it? Or is that arson in your super-expansive definition?

Dressing like me isn't a crime (though perhaps it should be [*rimshot*]), or even a widely regarded unethical practice, so I'm not sure how it pertains to this conversation. It would not be arson, and I'm completely lost as to why you think I was arguing that it would be.

Something else to consider: you can't police copyright without policing free speech and communications.

This is a valid statement. It applies to a great deal of other laws, as well. Enforcement is a valid avenue of discussion, but is tangential to the points I was addressing.
posted by blenderfish at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2009


No, my first statement was an assertion that in order for doing something to be dishonest, you need to have promised ahead of time that you wouldn't do it.

I'm happy to debate about the rightness or wrongness of copying bits without the permission of whoever arranged the bits, but not as long as it is being misrepresented as a crime that it is not.


Sorry, my bad, I got drawn into a semantic debate.

Unfortunately, I think these sort of semantic gymnastics provide sufficient rationalization to many people of their parasitic behavior, as they mistake them for meaningful arguments.
posted by blenderfish at 5:52 PM on September 13, 2009


Theft is wrong because you're depriving someone of the use of something. Copying is not depriving any one of anything, particularly in the case that you would not have spent the money on the product otherwise.

To my mind, piracy is only an ethical problem when you sell something that someone else produced without authorization, then you are literally taking something that should have gone to someone else. So yes, throw the people selling bootlegged DVD's in jail.

The people running torrent sites with ads on them, even. But people swapping files around on filesharing sites, or downloading torrents? No.
posted by empath at 5:52 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can anyone explain the general process to getting around DRM? This has always been a black box to me. I figure it cannot be too hard as you always see a crack pop up relatively soon. Is there a general process you would go through in trying to crack a game?

To understand this, you must first understand programs at their lowest levels, and what modern DRM is, and what is implemented to protect it.

DRM today is generally a product key that connects to an authorization server on the net and demonstrates that your key is not in use elsewhere. Others rely on checking the authenticity of a disk in a drive. I recall hearing that playstation discs were unreproducible by CD-R because the official discs contained intentionally corrupted bits that consumer CD burners would helpfully fix. Today it's probably good enough to check if a Blue Ray disc is present, because they're so damn expensive people hack in hard drives instead.

Programs are loaded into computer memory, the same memory data is stored in. Processors keep a note of what instruction they're on in a specific register. Debuggers like OllyDbg can, with the help of an OS, snoop this. If the DRM above was all there was, you'd just run the program in a debugger, wait for the program to scream pirate, and make a note of where the code was at. You go hunting for places that jump to this code, because the DRM is implemented there. Then where the instructions say do whatever, you replace that with "noop" (no operation) and the game works.

Anti-piracy systems then have to somehow protect the integrity DRM as well as authenticate. To that end they use a checksum of data, particularly over the code implementing DRM. With that, pirates can't replace the obvious bits with no-op, because checksums will fail and good checksum algorithms make it hard to make changes match the original sum.

Strong anti-piracy systems will sprinkle checksum algorithms all over, rather than reference a single copy. Systems like this batman one, and Earthbound, et all will require the cracker to play the whole damn game to verify it's clean. It's still crackable, but the bulk of sales happen up front in the games industry.

Rather than play this cat and mouse game in the future, I think pirates are going more likely resort to an emulator or virtual machine, like the kind some up thread are mentioning. A good emulator will look exactly like real hardware to the software as it relies on the hardware to execute its plans (the ones mentioned up thread don't; I'm not accusing them of piracy but I wonder if any games bother refusing to run on a VM).

I've simplified this a bit; there are systems to remove helpful debugging symbols or even contain data to crash or thwart debuggers. Some games refuse to run without a network connection to run these checksums on, and use cryptographic challenge response systems. Self modifying code can change the program in memory so that what you see now isn't what you'll see later or what detected piracy moments ago.
posted by pwnguin at 5:54 PM on September 13, 2009


To my mind, piracy is only an ethical problem when you sell something that someone else produced without authorization, then you are literally taking something that should have gone to someone else. So yes, throw the people selling bootlegged DVD's in jail.

See, I get where you're coming from here, and I've seen the thing where the dude from the BSA or FBI or whatever holds up a DVD-R with a bunch of apps-Maya, Photoshop, Pro Tools, etc., and says "This DVD has $120,000 worth of software on it! That's $120,000 lost to the software industry!" And, yeah, that's obviously bullshit. I agree.

But then there's this classic pirate canard of, "well, these people are pirates; they wouldn't pay for anything anyway." Which.. I don't think you can convince me this is true. Obviously, most people have some money. They buy food, booze, snowboards, clothes, whathaveyou. You're saying these people, who like video games, wouldn't ever buy a single one if they couldn't pirate them? Unless the answer, with a straight face, is "yes," here *is* money that is being taken. Obviously, its a smaller number than MSRP x Number Pirated, but it's sure as hell there. I'm not saying we should be tossing little Timmy in jail, but I think this "well, someone else does this worse, so I'm okay" is pretty classic rationalization of unethical behavior.
posted by blenderfish at 6:07 PM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Unfortunately, I think these sort of semantic gymnastics provide sufficient rationalization to many people of their parasitic behavior, as they mistake them for meaningful arguments.

I feel similarly regarding people who believe that flawed equivalency arguments can be made in lieu of a meaningful argument as to why copyright infringement is morally or ethically wrong.

You're saying these people, who like video games, wouldn't ever buy a single one if they couldn't pirate them? Unless the answer, with a straight face, is "yes," here *is* money that is being taken.

Honest question: Do you feel that money is being taken from bookstores because some people would buy them if they couldn't visit libraries?
posted by Jairus at 6:12 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


But then there's this classic pirate canard of, "well, these people are pirates; they wouldn't pay for anything anyway." Which.. I don't think you can convince me this is true.

Except it is. If there was absolutely no piracy, through some magical will of law enforcement, most of these people would simply not buy the games.

US District court Judge James P. Jones, in response to the RIAA's request for restitution against the former admin of Elite Torrents, Daniel Dove, said, "It is a basic principle of economics that as price increases, demand decreases. Customers who download music and movies for free would not necessarily spend money to acquire the same product. I am skeptical that customers would pay $7.22 or $19 for something they got for free. Certainly 100% of the illegal downloads through Elite Torrents did not result in the loss of a sale, but both Lionsgate and RIAA estimate their losses based on this faulty assumption. ... [A]lthough it is true that someone who copies a digital version of a sound recording has little incentive to purchase the recording through legitimate means, it does not necessarily follow that the downloader would have made a legitimate purchase if the recording had not been available for free."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:19 PM on September 13, 2009


I feel similarly regarding people who believe that flawed equivalency arguments can be made in lieu of a meaningful argument as to why copyright infringement is morally or ethically wrong.

My arguments were not "flawed equavalency arguments." I mistakenly thought that when you said piracy wasn't "dishonest" you were making a meaningful statement, and not just quibbling over the exact definition of "dishonest." If you were actually trying to say that piracy wasn't _wrong_ because you hadn't agreed not to do it beforehand, my arguments were perfectly valid, but I see now that that was not your intent (or, possibly, it sorta was, but you got called on it.)

Honest question: Do you feel that money is being taken from bookstores because some people would buy them if they couldn't visit libraries?

LOL. "Flawed equivalency" indeed. How is Kazaa, or BitTorrent, or whatever the kids are using nowadays, like a library, exactly? Legitimate game rental services _do_ exist, but the story isn't about people who rented Arkham Asylum from Gamefly.
posted by blenderfish at 6:24 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa: Please reread my post. The number is not 100% but it is certainly greater than zero.
posted by blenderfish at 6:29 PM on September 13, 2009


This is a poor decision. Pirates are very often early adopters, who talk to their less-piratey friends about this new game they just downloaded. If the buzz about your game from early adopters is that it's buggy, that negative word of mouth is going to hurt your sales.
posted by renataskyfire at 10:39 AM on September 13


I respectfully disagree. Several games I've worked on have done this sort of thing. When it's done with the proper subtlety, the pirate does not think the game is buggy but that the game is hard. If you're having a harder time with a game than the average gamer, it raises the possibility that you're simply not very good at it. A survival horror game I worked on, for example, shorted the player on ammunition after a few chapters if it detected an illegitimate copy. Frustrated gamers will out themselves on forums as pirates without knowing they are doing so.

The end effect is to make a pirated copy of the game effectively an extended demo. People who play the haxx0r3d version and decide they actually like it will either shell out some money, or wait for a better hack. While the player waits, the price may well go down, or some retailer may put it on sale, increasing the likelihood that the money-cost of paying developers like me seems more lucrative than the time-cost of waiting for a better hack.

Don't get me wrong, It's a tiny bit flattering that people who want to play my game will find any way they can to do so, but game development is how I make a living. Until can find a way to pirate groceries and rent, I'm gonna at least razz the piracy I can't ultimately stop.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Legitimate game rental services _do_ exist, but the story isn't about people who rented Arkham Asylum from Gamefly.

I'm not talking about the morality of filesharing, I'm asking if you think 'taken' is an appropriate word to use with regards to libraries/bookstores. If not, why is it appropriate for piracy and not for 'moral' uses?
posted by Jairus at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2009


I think Fred Wilpon must have illegally downloaded a pre-release version of the 2009 Mets. All those horrible losses and star players on the DL are very clever copy protection indeed.
posted by ericbop at 6:37 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If there was absolutely no piracy, through some magical will of law enforcement, most of these people would simply not buy the games.

And that.. wow. That's just delusional. I knew multiple people in high school who pirated tons of games, and played through some of them, but only bought one or two. And it was always the same two.
And what two games did they actually buy? Starcraft and Everquest.
Because there was no way to get around the copy protection.

And, of course, nowadays, people pay 400$ or more for fancy video cards (which seems like incontrovertible proof that they have at least 400$ to spend on games), and then pirate the games.
posted by blenderfish at 6:38 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


My problem with the notion of "The game developer wants to get paid is it's probable that the game developer GOT PAID already a wage or salary for his work-for-hire now being published and distributed. And I wonder if it's the same scam as "The Artist wants to get paid" when they're getting screwed by their record company.

And you never see "Madonna vs. Some Downloader", or "The Estate of Frank Sinatra vs Some Downloader", do you?
posted by mikelieman at 6:43 PM on September 13, 2009


But if the game developer is a salaried employee, then his continued employment requires his employer stay solvent.

In any case, I'd also like it if my friends in sales could get paid, too. They're nice people who work hard to make sure people see the stuff I make.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2009


blenderfish: And that.. wow. That's just delusional. I knew multiple people in high school who pirated tons of games, and played through some of them, but only bought one or two. And it was always the same two.
And what two games did they actually buy? Starcraft and Everquest.
Because there was no way to get around the copy protection.


Yeah, and I bet they played them more than all of the other games combined, too. Those were probably the only games they actually cared about, the rest just being chaff they played with because it was free.

I've known a few pirates in my time, and most of them pirated more stuff than I'd buy if I had infinite funds. They pirate stuff they never even install. I don't know why they do this, but it is very common. Yeah, they'd probably buy games if they couldn't pirate. But they wouldn't buy as many games as they pirate. Not even close. Hell, some of the pirates I've seen couldn't even fit all of the games they pirated into their house if they'd purchased them instead. Easy piracy seems to break some people's brains and then they go and buy multiple terabyte drives to fill with stuff they never even open. It's crazy.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:04 PM on September 13, 2009


Oh, and it's also worth noting that most of the pirates I've known have been pretty broke. Unemployed people or students, mostly, who could barely afford to keep up the computers they used.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:07 PM on September 13, 2009


And that.. wow. That's just delusional. I knew multiple people in high school who pirated tons of games, and played through some of them, but only bought one or two.

That's a nice story, but it seriously does not follow that if the games weren't available for free, they would be bought. "Delusional" it isn't. It's a fact, and it's why one pirated copy does not equal one lost sale. Some might say "Ah, guess I'll buy it then", yes. But the RIAA takes quite a different postion; that each pirated copy is indeed a lost sale. And that's just categorically false.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:12 PM on September 13, 2009


You know, there's a middle ground between "pirates wouldn't buy anything they currently get for free if they couldn't get it for free anymore" and "pirates would buy everything they currently get for free if they couldn't get it for free anymore."
posted by joannemerriam at 7:20 PM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Marisa: I don't know why you insist on talking in absolutes. You seem to be insisting that since people wouldn't buy every game they pirate (which is true,) they'd never buy any game, and money isn't being lost.

Mitrovarr: Most of my experiences agree with yours. But, I bet those guys who pirated tons of games had at least one or two that they really liked, and would have paid for. And nobody rich enough to keep up a gaming rig can't afford to scrape the money together buy a game every month or two. If you could show me that these people, after infrequently buying modest computer hardware, had absolutely no disposable income, and didn't spend excessively on their cars, or eating out, or entertainment, or whatever, maybe that would be one thing. But I've known poorer than dirt people who actually bought console games (maybe once a year,) while middle class 'poor' people pirated their PC games because they were so poor (then went out to eat, went on vacation, bought a spoiler for their car, etc.). 'Poor,' to me, means I don't have the money to buy what I need, not 'I can't buy some of the things I want.' 90% of the time this is mere rationalization.
posted by blenderfish at 7:33 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


And, just to be clear, I'm not a hardcore anti-piracy zealot or anything; I realize people pirate, and kids especially pirate, and I don't think we should be tossing them in jail or bankrupting them or anything. I just think people need to be honest with themselves when they do pirate and say "yeah, this isn't right, what I'm doing, while advantageous to me, hurts others, and I should knock it off," instead of rationalizing away the guilt ("It's not theft" "Some people do it for money" "I'm too poor to afford the game" "The money won't actually go to the guy making it" etc., etc., etc.)
posted by blenderfish at 7:38 PM on September 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


When it's done with the proper subtlety, the pirate does not think the game is buggy but that the game is hard. If you're having a harder time with a game than the average gamer, it raises the possibility that you're simply not very good at it. A survival horror game I worked on, for example, shorted the player on ammunition after a few chapters if it detected an illegitimate copy. Frustrated gamers will out themselves on forums as pirates without knowing they are doing so.

The end effect is to make a pirated copy of the game effectively an extended demo.


Really? That's the end effect?

Because, to me, you aren't going to translate a single pirate into a paying customer if they 'test' the game and find it too hard, or unplayable for some reason. That just pisses people off. It just seems like a good way to drive interested parties away from your game, rather than towards it.
posted by graventy at 7:57 PM on September 13, 2009


Marisa: I don't know why you insist on talking in absolutes. You seem to be insisting that since people wouldn't buy every game they pirate (which is true,) they'd never buy any game, and money isn't being lost.

Actually if you read what I wrote again, you'll see I allow that some people, deprived of free material, will break down and buy it. What I'm saying is that's not going to be the case for everyone. The RIAA logic that pirated copy = lost sale doesn't follow, for reasons mentioned earlier.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:01 PM on September 13, 2009


And speaking of talking in absolutes, what I was addressing was this:

But then there's this classic pirate canard of, "well, these people are pirates; they wouldn't pay for anything anyway." Which.. I don't think you can convince me this is true.

Which is just categorically false. It does not follow that if Game X could no longer be pirated, that all the pirates would then buy Game X. Some would, many wouldn't. That's all I've been trying to say. I don't know why this is contentious to you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:09 PM on September 13, 2009


Which is just categorically false. It does not follow that if Game X could no longer be pirated, that all the pirates would then buy Game X. Some would, many wouldn't. That's all I've been trying to say. I don't know why this is contentious to you.

Because you presented it as a direct refutation to a statement I made.

Your statement was "If there was absolutely no piracy, through some magical will of law enforcement, most of these people would simply not buy the games." I guess you meant to say "would buy only some of the games" ?
posted by blenderfish at 8:20 PM on September 13, 2009


Tomayto tomahto. It's the same conclusion either way: the elimination of the mechanism of piracy would not result in each and every pirate marching to Game Stop to buy all the games they meant to download. And yet this is pretty much what the RIAA contends to be the case. You're not a fervent anti-piracy zealot, I'm not "pro-piracy". I just wish the laws didn't swing to these black and white endgame scenarios is all.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:40 PM on September 13, 2009


Oh, ffs people. Look.

You have 100 people in a room who want to play your game. 20 of them are willing to pay for it, 80 percent are not.

You made the game because you want to make money. You hope that of those 20 people, all of them will find the money to pay for it. Odds are only a subset will; let's say 7.

So 7 people will pay you for your game, and 13 people want to but cannot, and 80 people will never pay you for it. Slim margins, but you take what you can get.

But now, of those 80 people who will never pay for it, one of them -- just one -- has the technical chops to beat the copy protection. They do this, and you lose nothing. Heck, they share their crack, and the other 79 get to play for free as well, and you lose nothing.

Oh, but wait -- now those other 20 people have access to the crack too, and the 13 people who didn't have the cash (but had the desire) get to play for free as well. Again, you lose nothing.

Oh, but wait -- now those 7 remaining people have the crack, too. 3 of them bought it before the crack came out, one of them refuses to use cracks and bought it later, and three of them use the crack instead of buying it. You just lost nearly 50% of your actual revenue.

But the best part? You're now hosting a tech support forum -- which takes resources to keep up and staff, and so costs you money -- where 100 people are asking for technical support, and only 3 of those people bought the game. Your support expenses are approximately 14 times larger, and your revenue is almost 50% lower.

You can quibble over the exact numbers, but the point is that piracy does result in some lost revenue, and an exponential growth in support costs. Can you really blame a developer for building in a simple, obvious problem that helps them flag tech support requests from the people who haven't paid for the privilege of support?

I know people think it's easy to equate software piracy to music piracy, but the ongoing support costs for software put it in an entirely different league.
posted by davejay at 8:44 PM on September 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


My statement was, in particular, a response to empath's post, that 'personal use' means money doesn't change hands, so money isn't lost.
posted by blenderfish at 8:44 PM on September 13, 2009


davejay: or, you have 3 people who would have bought it when it came out, but got a leak two weeks early instead for free and are bored by the time it is available in stores. And 4 people who pirated the game and used the 50$ they saved to buy the next faster video card (or maybe some pot.)

And, maybe 80 of those people weren't willing to buy it when it came out, but after a couple months, once all their friends had played it and said it was awesome, they would have broken down and purchased it.
posted by blenderfish at 8:51 PM on September 13, 2009


For all the semantic quibbling over the contextual use of "taken" as it applies to not paying for something that gave you value, a lot of you complain about services like Steam, in which you do not own the game but have purchased a license. When Spore's DRM was an issue, people complained that they did not own the software. Pirates can't have it both ways, morally and semantically.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jairus: "I will be expecting your paypal payment for the following work of mine directly:"

Okay, you win. We concede. We'll no longer defend developers who install their game alongside a bunch of freeware you downloaded and then retroactively demand to be paid for it. That's exactly what we're all talking about here.

I know you were being tongue-in-cheek, but if you can't acknowledge a dealbreaking fundamental difference between your example and software piracy (wherein people actively seek out content they know has a price tag attached), then I do not understand how your brain works.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:59 PM on September 13, 2009


blenderfish: And nobody rich enough to keep up a gaming rig can't afford to scrape the money together buy a game every month or two.

Don't forget that you have to do both. Having the games and not the rig is not exactly useful. Also, a lot of pirates are kids - it's easier to con your parents into getting you a good computer (or you use their computer) than it is to con them into getting you games.

davejay: But the best part? You're now hosting a tech support forum -- which takes resources to keep up and staff, and so costs you money -- where 100 people are asking for technical support, and only 3 of those people bought the game. Your support expenses are approximately 14 times larger, and your revenue is almost 50% lower.

Technical support for video games? Most gaming companies I've seen have like one guy who occasionally comes out of his cave to fix a bug a year after it was first reported and six months after the community has already made a patch that does a better job than the company programmer ends up doing. Every tech support forum I've ever been to is primarily user-to-user. Paid staff are less competent than the users half the time and usually totally swamped regardless.

Also, a larger audience is worth something; your multiplayer community is much more vibrant. your modding/mapping/unofficial support community is livelier, word of mouth is stronger... you need to take those things into account, too.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:09 PM on September 13, 2009


Can we at least try not to turn this into the same old "piracy isn't theft" war? Everyone here knows that stealing software isn't the same as stealing tangible goods. Treating terms like "stealing" or "theft" as if they have a single limited definition does not advance your argument.

Pretend you were talking to someone about the problem of identity theft. You'd assume they understand that the term doesn't actually describe depriving someone of their identity even though it uses the word "theft", right?

(yes, I know the MPAA had a high-profile campaign that equated piracy to "normal" stealing. They are not us. I am anti-piracy and I think that ad was stupid on toast)
posted by Riki tiki at 9:19 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't believe how upset are that a company is trying to stop people from downloading their software illegally. They have every right to try and stop people from stealing/taking/downloading their work.
posted by kylej at 9:31 PM on September 13, 2009


Look, first, this clearly has nothing to do with the RIAA and it's really not necessary to equate it with the larger piracy debate, even though it's a seriously sticky fetish that gives you all the chubbs.

The best copy protection I've ever encountered is in Ableton's Live. It's absoultely phenomenal software, and a few months with it will really get you hooked. Really hooked. 6 months (+/- 3 months or so) of using your pirated copy and you get a little message that lets you know - oops! You ought to register this maybe. So you can pay us. Also all your saved projects and files are locked until you do.

Which, at first, is a bit frustrating. You might break some things. Then you remember Ableton puts all their time and energy into this one thing, and they're not many people, and you find a way to buy it. You borrow or beg or save and then you buy it.

There is no reason to act in defense of the idiots who have complained about getting pantsed by this game and its developers. There is no reason to think in absolutes, which seems to happen even more when trying to argue against other people thinking in absolutes. As many good reasons as there are to have this ongoing piracy debate, this is not one.
posted by setanor at 9:36 PM on September 13, 2009


I can't believe we're having another "copyright infringement is not stealing" debate. Can't we just agree to disagree?

And uh, can we also agree to agree? Like, as in, copyright infringement, if that's what you want to call knowingly getting your hands on a piece of software without paying for it, is wrong and you shouldn't do it. Over a decade ago I did download a couple of apps I shouldn't have. It was wrong; I know it. Since then, if I can't afford to buy or use a piece of software, I don't use it. I don't say, "Oh man, it's too expensive for me to pay for, guess I"d better steal it." That's why I use Gimp instead of Photoshop, OPenOffice instead of Microsoft Office, and so on. If you asked me, I'd tell you that the commercial versions are probably better. I mean, Photoshop is definitely better and at least Microsoft Office doesn't take several epochs to start up.

The thing is, I am totally sympathetic towards those who have been screwed by the whole "piracy is EVIL" thing and are getting charged millions of dollars for sharing songs and the like. I think these people are being overpunished, and that too is wrong.

But that doesn't mean that somehow it's right to steal the content. All the "but it means more exposure!" excuse is just that -- an excuse. What is your job? How about I go to your restaurant and eat your food for free? I promise to tell other people your food is good. What if I wear your clothes for free so people can see me wearing them? It's a really dumb argument.

Finally, there's this idea that since I'm not stealing a tangible item, it isn't theft. Well, sure, it isn't. But it's not like it doesn't cost anything. Yes, you have this great diminishing return. Each additional copy of a piece of software costs virtually nil to make. But here's the thing. That first copy? It cost a lot. Software development is expensive, and so when you take the cost to develop and divide it by the number of copies sold, the amount is not insubstantial.

And actually, the price for each copy basically reflects the cost (plus profit) divided by the number of copies sold, not the number of copies made and used. What does this mean? It means that if you have a certain number of copies that are pirated, then the per-copy price must be proportionally more. So when you make an illegal copy, you're not stealing from the company, no. But what you are effectively doing is ratcheting up the price which is then snatching away additional money from people whose only fault is that they either lack the technological sophistication to steal, or feel that it is wrong to do so.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:37 PM on September 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Deathalicious: The best copy protection I've ever encountered is in Ableton's Live. It's absoultely phenomenal software, and a few months with it will really get you hooked. Really hooked. 6 months (+/- 3 months or so) of using your pirated copy and you get a little message that lets you know - oops! You ought to register this maybe. So you can pay us. Also all your saved projects and files are locked until you do.

This sort of thing is only OK if the company is willing to cover any and all damages that are ever incurred by the software ever misfiring and harming a legitimate user, including paying for lost time and honoring any and all requests for refunds that occur at this point. Somehow, I doubt they'd be willing to accept that bargain.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:50 PM on September 13, 2009


Actually, Ableton is a prime example of how copying software doesn't necessarily add up to the software company losing money. It's a piece of software that I'd happily pay money for. But not $600.

There's no way I'm ever paying $600 for a piece of software, ever, ever. Crack or no. In fact, I'm still on Ableton 5 because no one has managed to crack 6 or 7 reliably. If it were $100 I'd pay for it tomorrow. But it's not, and I won't.

But! I've taught 6 or 7 people how to use the software. One of them was a professional musician, who thought it was a lousy piece of software until I showed him what it can do. He actually went out and bought it, based on a little demo I gave him. I also posted mix cds I made with it, I started threads on local dj message boards showing how to use it. I got at least a few local djs over the fact that using ableton to mix was 'cheating', and they started experimenting with it, and some of them bought it.

They got, I'd guess, 20 or 25 new users of their software, because I was evangelizing for it so much locally, most of whom didn't pay for it, but at least a few of them that I know of did. And that never would have happened if I hadn't 'stolen' it to begin with.
posted by empath at 9:52 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This makes me happy. I've said it before -- our work is provided with the market expectation that the people using the work pay for it.

Would games be made available if there was zero chance of being paid? Sure. Happens now, in fact. But... most of those games have a quality ratio to professional games* right up there like Dr. Who fanfiction has to the Dr. Who show itself.

* including indies.
posted by andreaazure at 9:53 PM on September 13, 2009


Btw, I bought Arkham Asylum today based on a review in this thread and I'm loving it so far -- highly recommend.
posted by empath at 10:02 PM on September 13, 2009


There's no way I'm ever paying $600 for a piece of software, ever, ever.

I think $600 for everything that Ableton is and does is pretty reasonable compared to what some hardware manufacturers charge for specialized recording or production equimpent.
posted by setanor at 10:06 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


empath: "They got, I'd guess, 20 or 25 new users of their software, because I was evangelizing for it so much locally, most of whom didn't pay for it, but at least a few of them that I know of did. And that never would have happened if I hadn't 'stolen' it to begin with."

That's great and it seems like in this case it sounds like your evangelization outweighed your piracy, but no one's saying that sort of thing never happens.

In my opinion, even if piracy as a whole was measurably, unambiguously beneficial to content developers (through word-of-mouth profits or whatever), it would still be ethically wrong. The pirate has no moral authority to redefine the distribution terms of someone else's work. To then personally benefit from doing so is, in my view, just a way of rationalizing unethical behavior.

Not, you know, very unethical behavior. I actually don't think it's that grave a sin in the scheme of things. It's like jaywalking... I don't mind if you acknowledge that it's against the rules and do it anyway, risking (reasonable) consequences. My problem with the pro-piracy movement is that it seems like a lot of jaywalkers arguing that every inch of road should be a crosswalk.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:08 PM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


And actually, the price for each copy basically reflects the cost (plus profit) divided by the number of copies sold, not the number of copies made and used. What does this mean? It means that if you have a certain number of copies that are pirated, then the per-copy price must be proportionally more. So when you make an illegal copy, you're not stealing from the company, no. But what you are effectively doing is ratcheting up the price which is then snatching away additional money from people whose only fault is that they either lack the technological sophistication to steal, or feel that it is wrong to do so.

This is utter and complete nonsense. Video games are price-fixed. Their prices certainly do not "reflect the cost (plus profit) divided by the number of copies sold" -- not when nearly every game is either $59.99 or $49.99 at every single store, regardless of how much it cost to make, and regardless of how many copies are sold.

I'm sorry, but this is so ridiculous that I'm actually laughing. The price of games has stayed remarkably steady for a decade. At the same time, piracy has become more and more commonplace, and the cost of development has soared. You're claiming that piracy is "ratcheting up the price", when Final Fantasy XII cost me precisely the same amount, to the penny, as it cost my parents to buy me Final Fantasy III for the SNES when I was 14? Yeah, right. Tell me another one.
posted by vorfeed at 10:24 PM on September 13, 2009


vorfeed: "You're claiming that piracy is "ratcheting up the price", when Final Fantasy XII cost me precisely the same amount, to the penny, as it cost my parents to buy me Final Fantasy III for the SNES when I was 14? Yeah, right. Tell me another one."

You mean Final Fantasy XII, which was only available on the Playstation 2 and would have required a hardware workaround to play a pirated copy?

You mean Final Fantasy III (née VI), which was a cartridge game and had no practical medium for piracy until long after its major sales run, when computer emulation caught up with the SNES technology?

You see, perhaps, why this is not a great example of how piracy doesn't affect game costs since the burden of preventing piracy was borne by the console manufacturers?

Or perhaps you're advocating that all desktop PCs be built with hardware anti-piracy measures as a solution to games including clunky software solutions?

...somehow I doubt you'll find a lot of sympathy for that view in the pro-piracy movement, even if you were able to suggest a practical way to implement it in the first place.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:36 PM on September 13, 2009


vorfeed, some random notes:

Cost To Develop = Unit Cost (Revenue) x Unit Sales

Sales have gone up, as has development cost, since you were a kid.
If sales decelerate, or decrease, development costs (budgets) will follow suit. Also, less risks will be taken (for example, fewer 'hardcore' games will be made, since the hardcore are often the ones who pirate the most.)
Another way this manifests is budget allocation across platforms-- a platform with higher piracy rate (and thus fewer sales) than others loses developers and developer focus. Many traditionally PC-only games and genres are being released on consoles, while the PC platform is being dominated right now by a game which you can't pirate (WoW) and a game which appeals to people who probably don't even know how to pirate (The Sims.) Not a coincidence, I don't think.

Initial unit cost is nominally the same as it was when you were a kid, but it has decreased due to inflation. Also, prices sometimes stay high, but can decrease rather rapidly after release.
posted by blenderfish at 11:43 PM on September 13, 2009


I'm actually 100% fine with DRM of any kind. I think DRM is probably a good thing, in most cases, as long as it's accompanied by reasonable prices and ease of installation and uninstallation. The iphone app store, XBLA, and Steam have been boons for independent games producers, and for game players. My problem isn't with software companies making it difficult to copy their games, but with prosecuting people that break DRM or download cracked games with a crime.

Ideally, DRM should make it just enough of a pain in the ass to pirate a game that people will actually pay for it.
posted by empath at 11:43 PM on September 13, 2009


Ideally, DRM should make it just enough of a pain in the ass to pirate a game that people will actually pay for it.

Except it only takes one pirate to break the DRM and then every pirate benefits from a copy unencumbered by it. Meanwhile, legitimate users still suffer from inconvenience in the best case and outright system instability in the worst.

So while I'm sympathetic to game creators, they have to realize that all these cute things they do to their code will in the long term hurt mainly paying customers*, and that degrading the quality of the legitimate product compared to the pirated version is not a sustainable strategy.

* like when their internet connection is down, or the validation service went down or is overloaded, or the hardware the DRM depended on has become obsolete, or they want to run it on other operating systems...
posted by Pyry at 12:22 AM on September 14, 2009


they have to realize that all these cute things they do to their code will in the long term hurt mainly paying customers

Nothing about this particular bit of coding hurts paying customers(*), as near as anyone can tell.

(*: Unless having to pay for something that you want is painful.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 AM on September 14, 2009


they have to realize that all these cute things they do to their code will in the long term hurt mainly paying customers*, and that degrading the quality of the legitimate product compared to the pirated version is not a sustainable strategy

Still, if this is the easiest way they can feel secure in investing time and development costs in new software, why does it really matter? We are a market that, on average, is more lazy than not and not bothered by googling for a torrent whenever a need arises. Software development is not a personal endeavor, it is mass-market, and unless you can come up with something for them that can make them feel more secure, I don't see why they shouldn't be able to do something that causes inconvenience - intrusiveness and destructiveness is another matter entirely.
posted by setanor at 12:28 AM on September 14, 2009


empath: "My problem isn't with software companies making it difficult to copy their games, but with prosecuting people that break DRM or download cracked games with a crime."

I can get behind that. I definitely don't think cracking DRM should be a crime although I can understand why it seems like the most "bang for your buck" for anti-piracy enforcement.

I do think downloading cracked games should be a crime... but again, along the lines of jaywalking and punished more intelligently than we do it now. None of the nonsense like the Capitol v. Thomas damages.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:29 AM on September 14, 2009


What I just realized is that they don't even need to actually put in a bunch of stuff like that into the leaked early copies. All they need to do is make people BELIEVE the pirated versions are full of bugs, etc, and people won't download them.
posted by empath at 12:30 AM on September 14, 2009


I know you were being tongue-in-cheek, but if you can't acknowledge a dealbreaking fundamental difference between your example and software piracy (wherein people actively seek out content they know has a price tag attached), then I do not understand how your brain works.

My point is that I do not believe the creation of a work gives me the moral authority to declare what the value of the work is. If U2 write an album tomorrow and price it at $2500, I don't think that U2 fans who download it are acting immorally if a U2 album is worth, at most, $25 to them. The album has whatever value the person who is going to listen to it assigns to it.

With video games (just like most media), the value that most people assign to someone else's work is much closer to zero than it is to $69.99. I'm not going to fault someone for paying what they think it's worth to download a file -- especially if their only options are $0 and $60.
posted by Jairus at 12:41 AM on September 14, 2009


I'd also like to speculate that pirating is the only thing keeping a lot of the uber-expensive apps alive. I'm sure that 90% of the people who end up buying photoshop learned it with a pirate copy, and if they couldn't, they would have probably learned to use - and possibly stayed with - one of its cheaper competitors. By not stopping piracy, adobe undercut all of their competitors because anyone who needed photoshop but couldn't afford it wasn't high-profile enough to get caught and just pirated it instead of buying something cheaper.

Actually, given the popularity of image editors, if nobody had been able to pirate photoshop or paint shop pro or whatever I doubt any of them would exist anymore, because the sheer number of people going with the free alternative would have probably made the GIMP completely superior by now. Hell, I bet the team of people hacking photoshop copy protection is bigger than the GIMP's entire dev team.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:52 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


My point is that I do not believe the creation of a work gives me the moral authority to declare what the value of the work is.

This is where, obviously, the Law, and a great many peoples' ideas of fairness and ethics disagree with you. Which, yeah, Civil Disobedience, and all that, but are you really making the world a better place and writing wrongs by pirating a game that you thought was too expensive? No. It is a suspiciously convenient ethical stance, like the people I know who 'don't believe in tipping,' so they never tip.

If you honestly disagree with the system, and don't just want free shit, you should not be enjoying the fruits of the system.
posted by blenderfish at 1:00 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Technical support for video games? Most gaming companies I've seen have like one guy who occasionally comes out of his cave to fix a bug a year after it was first reported and six months after the community has already made a patch that does a better job than the company programmer ends up doing.

I'm not sure why I'm responding to this, since it's kind of trollish, but: first, what you've "seen" from "most" gaming companies doesn't reflect the reality of the situation at the volume we're talking about. Remember, most support requests are customer-to-company directly and don't get surfaces on a web forum -- those web forums are an attempt to find a community-driven workaround for the support resourcing problem. That's why those forums get your theoretical single cave-dwelling guy who sucks; they're scraping the barrel for resources at that point.

And note that the guy whose forum post inspired this FPP was a person working a pirated copy who, upon discovering the poison gas thing, asked for technical support help.

Oh, and:

My point is that I do not believe the creation of a work gives me the moral authority to declare what the value of the work is.

Really? "...the creation of a work..." is labor. If someone labors on behalf of another person, they expect to get paid. Why is this so hard to understand? I feel bad for your plumbers. I say plumbers plural, because each time you refuse to pay for the repair at the rate they charge for labor, they don't come back.
posted by davejay at 1:58 AM on September 14, 2009


Could somebody just post Rapidshare links to the patched version already?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 AM on September 14, 2009


I'd also like to speculate that pirating is the only thing keeping a lot of the uber-expensive apps alive.

This is perhaps a bit more of an interesting gray area, as 'professional apps' kind of have this market segmentation between 'people learning the software or just tinkering' and 'people using it professionally to make money', especially with the >500$ apps, and it would seem as though a lot of these companies have sort of built piracy into their business plan. (Though, Maya had the 'personal learning edition' thing, but they seem to have abandoned that.) Many companies offer honor-system explicitly 'not for professional use' versions of products.

However, retail games don't really have that 'Real Users and Just Tinkerers' property. Almost everyone who 'uses' a game is getting the sort of value from it that game developers expect to be compensated for.
posted by blenderfish at 2:30 AM on September 14, 2009


My point is that I do not believe the creation of a work gives me the moral authority to declare what the value of the work is. ... The album has whatever value the person who is going to listen to it assigns to it.
...
I'm not going to fault someone for paying what they think it's worth to download a file -- especially if their only options are $0 and $60.


Oh jolly good then. I'll cite your argument the next time I want groceries--I don't think that ground beef is worth $4.99 a kilo, so I'll only be paying $1.99.

Seriously, the level of rationalization-so-you-can-get-free-shit-whenever-you-want in this thread is mindboggling. How about you go out and spend years working on something and then watch people copy it. Years of work, down the drain. Like it or not, money is a large motivator for creating things--music, books, games, whatever--and without money coming in, they won't be created, and certainly will not be created at the level that can be achieved when people receive proper remuneration for their work.

But that really doesn't matter to you, does it? You want it, you don't want to pay, so you jump through increasingly tortured rationalizations until it suddenly sounds okay.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:50 AM on September 14, 2009


Seriously, the level of rationalization-so-you-can-get-free-shit-whenever-you-want in this thread is mindboggling. How about you go out and spend years working on something and then watch people copy it.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to copy the albums of music I spent years working on.
posted by Jairus at 5:59 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


*sigh*

I can't tell if you're being disingenuous or stupid. You released it for free because you believe you should. Other people who create don't believe this, and you have no right to impose your decision on them--they need to make a living.

Of course, you'll pretend there's no difference or some such shit. Arguing with people like you is so pointless: you want free stuff, and you've decided that because you want it then therefore you can get it, and retcon the universe until some twisted rationalization makes it so.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:14 AM on September 14, 2009


Other people who create don't believe this, and you have no right to impose your decision on them--they need to make a living.

As a fellow Canadian, you should know that as far as private copying of music is concerned, I do have the right to impose my decision on them.

I financially support musicians, film makers, software producers, and the creators of other types of media that I consume, and I go to sleep guilt free every night; there's no tortured or twisted rationalization that I have to hold in my head via cognitive dissonance. I that people who find value in a work should compensate the author for it -- what I don't believe is that an author is entitled to compensation by virtue of the fact that he made something.
posted by Jairus at 6:22 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


(I that people = I think that people)
posted by Jairus at 6:23 AM on September 14, 2009


I'm well aware of the law in Canada, TYVM, and I disagree with it.

what I don't believe is that anyone author is entitled to compensation by virtue of the fact that he made something working for that compensation.

FTFY.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:25 AM on September 14, 2009


what I don't believe is that anyone author is entitled to compensation by virtue of the fact that he made something working for that compensation.

I believe people are entitled to the compensation afforded to them by their contract with their employer. If you're not working for an employer and you're just hoping that people will buy your shit because you think it's worthwhile, you're not entitled to a goddamn thing.
posted by Jairus at 6:27 AM on September 14, 2009


Having listened to some of your music, I suddenly understand why you think creators aren't entitled to receive money for their hard work.

I find it fascinating that you think an employer is required. Artists/creators are self-employed, much like plumbers for example. Of course, they're not entitled to get paid either as pointed out by blenderfish above, so seeing as I need the tap on my sink fixed I'll call a plumber over and then not pay--he's certainly not entitled to payment for his work!

I'll be sending you my legal bills, by the way. I hope you can pay them.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:30 AM on September 14, 2009


Of course, they're not entitled to get paid either as pointed out by blenderfish above, so seeing as I need the tap on my sink fixed I'll call a plumber over and then not pay--he's certainly not entitled to payment for his work

You realize that when you hire a plumber that you're employing them, right?
posted by Jairus at 6:32 AM on September 14, 2009


You realize that you are entirely missing the point, right?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:33 AM on September 14, 2009


My point is that a plumber doesn't get to go around fixing people's leaky taps and then demand payment for it, they have to have a contract first. What's yours?
posted by Jairus at 6:35 AM on September 14, 2009


I actually have a secondary point about people who draw poor analogies from copyright infringement to theft of service, but I'll wait on that one for now.
posted by Jairus at 6:38 AM on September 14, 2009


My point has been made multiple times, but you're ignoring it. People have the right to set a value for their services; if nobody wishes to pay it, then the creator loses out. People do not have the right to decide they don't want to pay for something and then take it anyway. That is theft in common parlance--taking something without permission--and it is wrong. The fact that you don't feel the need to have people pay for your music--small wonder, really--is immaterial; you don't have the right to avail yourself of the hard work of others without their permission.

But you don't care, and you'll continue ignoring that, and thus there is no point in continuing this. There's a joke that applies here, but I shan't let you drag me down to your level and beat me with experience.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:45 AM on September 14, 2009


Let's try a different analogy. Let's say there are increasing numbers of mutants being born every generation. These mutants all have the same magical ability to duplicate things.

They can walk into a Best Buy, touch a product, then *poof* a perfect duplicate of that product appears in their home. They then walk out of the store.

Is that theft?
posted by fleacircus at 6:49 AM on September 14, 2009


Or, is sneaking into a movie theater theft? That's even more directly analogous.

What about paying for the movie but bringing in my own drinks in violation of theater policy. Is that theft?
posted by fleacircus at 6:52 AM on September 14, 2009


Of course. They're stealing the IP of the design etc.

Whatever. You lot are much happier rationalizing your happy little tendency to decide you want something for free so therefore you should have it for free. Carry on. Those of us who prefer not to steal will continue to do so, and hope that one day you'll realise exactly why you are so desperately wrong.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:53 AM on September 14, 2009


My point has been made multiple times, but you're ignoring it. People have the right to set a value for their services; if nobody wishes to pay it, then the creator loses out.

Video games (with very few exceptions) aren't services, they're digital products. If you can't recognize the difference between the two, then I would suggest googling 'scarcity'.

The fact that you don't feel the need to have people pay for your music--small wonder, really

There is not a rolleyes big enough in the world for this.
posted by Jairus at 6:53 AM on September 14, 2009


Seriously, the level of rationalization-so-you-can-get-free-shit-whenever-you-want in this thread is mindboggling.

I've especially enjoyed the "It's not exactly the crime you claimed, so it's not a crime!" and the "It doesn't cause as much financial damage as the RIAA claims, so it's not a crime!" defenses.

I explained it to my eleven year old this way: You'd be mad if someone did this to you, wouldn't you?

Everything else is sophistry; your gut knows it is wrong.
posted by srt19170 at 7:00 AM on September 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


There's a common error in these discussions where people think that since theft is an act harmful to business, that all acts that are harmful to business are in some way theft. That's not a useful way to talk in these cases.
posted by fleacircus at 7:10 AM on September 14, 2009


There's a common error in these discussions where people think that since theft is an act harmful to business, that all acts that are harmful to business are in some way theft. That's not a useful way to talk in these cases.
True. However, software piracy is illegal. One can argue that it should not be, or that it is the lesser of many evils, or that it's fun enough that it should be legal, or that the people engaging in it are not trying to obtain free products so much as testing their skills against DRM that coincidentally is attached to products...

But software piracy is still illegal. To some extent, it's like the "Pot should be legal: I'm sticking it to the man by toking up" arguments.
posted by verb at 7:34 AM on September 14, 2009


"Honestly, the juvenile sense of entitlement in software pirates is really the part that makes me unable to side with them most of the time."

Yes, but what about the hypocrisy of the great majority of people who buy their software? Do they *know* that all the fonts they have are theirs legally? Have they audited their font library? The average small business has 300 fonts that are either duplicated without license, or forged works that have been distributed by others.

When they see entire news articles or large sections thereof on non-news sites that have most likely not paid royalties, do they click away and determine the proper source for the article, registering to use the site, and making sure to turn their ad blocker off, in order to make sure that the creator of that content is properly compensated for it?

Do they ever watch video on YouTube that *might* be someone else's livelihood? After doing so, do they feel compelled to seek out the location where they can legally purchase the entire source video, even if their product is only sold overseas or is encoded for overseas audiences... or are they just pirates?!

Even if that video is from an old show and isn't currently for sale, what gives them the right to watch it? Would they feel it proper to distribute CDs of music not currently in print, without obtaining prior approval from the artists?

What argument can you use for watching such videos on YouTube, and not paying? "I only watched a little bit... I wasn't going to buy it anyway..."

Sounds a lot like a juvenile sense of entitlement to me. And unfortunately, it's a largely unavoidable state, as the current status quo makes us criminals and hypocrites.

The fact of the matter is that all sorts of people "deserve to be compensated for their work", even when its quite likely to be derivative of prior works. The problem is, we're all consuming more media than ever before, from all sorts of sources. Accessing that information is faster, easier, and more casual than ever before, to the point that it becomes referenced in real time, before the audience can even make a moral decision as to its legality. Friday's flash game becomes Monday's lawsuit.

How would we view the ethics of software piracy today if it were about a thousand times faster to obtain, with one-click convenience and no risk of virii? Why should we assume that the current status quo will be a permanent state of affairs? Why should we accept only the rights of those industries that assert them in the most aggressive, draconian ways?

I can appreciate those who try to make moral sense out of the current status quo, but I think it needs to be said... they are, quite possibly, working against both the public interest and what would ultimately be best for the artists. Supporting draconian, old school attitudes on copyright and how to market their products isn't helping industries facing major change (RIAA, MPAA, etc.) that are acting in a reckless, dangerous manner, against their own interests and the interests of those they are supposed to be serving, nor is it likely to be a particularly morally consistent stance.

As it says in Plato's Republic:
Socrates: What did Simonides say, and according to you truly say, about justice?

Polemarcus: He said that the repayment of a debt is just, and in saying so he appears to me to be right.

Socrates: I should be sorry to doubt the word of such a wise and inspired man, but his meaning, though probably clear to you, is the reverse of clear to me. For he certainly does not mean . . . that I ought to return a return a deposit of arms or of anything else to one who asks for it when he is not in his right senses. . ."

posted by markkraft at 7:43 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


markkraft, you're conflating people who do not understand licensing agreements and unintentionally violate copyright law with those who pirate and distribute pirated software.

That's pretty disingenuous, wouldn't you agree?

I agree that the current state of copyright law is absurd. However, as others in the thread have noted, the rationalizations are pretty mind-blowing.
posted by verb at 7:51 AM on September 14, 2009


markkraft, you're conflating people who do not understand licensing agreements and unintentionally violate copyright law with those who pirate and distribute pirated software.

Do you feel that comparing people who use adblockers and watch TV shows on youtube with people who use pirated software is disingenuous?
posted by Jairus at 7:58 AM on September 14, 2009


"It doesn't cause as much financial damage as the RIAA claims, so it's not a crime!" defenses.

I just want to clarify that I never, ever said this. I'll save you the effort of scrolling up and say it again: 1 pirated copy does not equal 1 lost sale. It does not follow that someone who downloads something for free would automatically buy it were it not available for download. I did not say that pirating is "therefore not a crime" and I have no idea where you drew that conclusion from. What I did say is that the law should more reflect the reality of the situation rather than the exaggerated claims of industry giants.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:03 AM on September 14, 2009


Do you feel that comparing people who use adblockers and watch TV shows on youtube with people who use pirated software is disingenuous?
Yes. Keep in mind, though, that the post I replied to also compared game pirates to 'businesses that don't realize they have fonts they don't have licenses for.'

Using ad blockers can be seen as a violation of a web site's terms of service, but it is not unauthorized duplication of copyright protected software. If you want to complain about bad law, precision is necessary.
posted by verb at 8:34 AM on September 14, 2009


Using ad blockers can be seen as a violation of a web site's terms of service, but it is not unauthorized duplication of copyright protected software. If you want to complain about bad law, precision is necessary.

Removing ads from copyright protected content is unauthorized duplication of copyright protected content. See ABC v. Flying J.
posted by Jairus at 8:46 AM on September 14, 2009


Removing ads from copyright protected content is unauthorized duplication of copyright protected content. See ABC v. Flying J.
Unless I'm mistaken, that case involved a business that was publically displaying a television station (at truck stops) and was using a product that removed existing ads and swapped in different ads in realtime.

That's a different matter.

That's why precision matters. You say, 'Ad blockers are illegal' and people think you mean software that, say, prevents popup flash ads while browsing in Firefox. The ABC vs. Flying J case is more like someone who sets up an RSS-driven republishing site, strips out the original site's ads, and weaves in their own adsense content. Again, I could be misunderstanding the case, but that seems to be the jist of it.
posted by verb at 8:51 AM on September 14, 2009


However, as others in the thread have noted, the rationalizations are pretty mind-blowing.

So I assume you don't copy mp3s, watch tv shows on youtube, etc?
posted by empath at 8:57 AM on September 14, 2009


That's a different matter.

It isn't a different matter at all. The violation of copyright was not adding ads to it, it was removing the ads of the original content, which was found to be a violation of public performance. The unfair competition charge (which is the part of the charge that concerns adding new commercials) was denied.
posted by Jairus at 8:58 AM on September 14, 2009


Jairus, are you suggesting that the public display of the material (as opposed to private viewing) has nothing to do with it?
posted by verb at 9:03 AM on September 14, 2009


So I assume you don't copy mp3s, watch tv shows on youtube, etc?

Is it really so mindblowing that there are people who don't do these things? I buy my music. Also, pretty much most TV shows are legally free to watch online (on Hulu or another site) with consent of the network.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:11 AM on September 14, 2009


Like it or not, money is a large motivator for creating things--music, books, games, whatever--and without money coming in, they won't be created, and certainly will not be created at the level that can be achieved when people receive proper remuneration for their work.

*points at dnab*
*body snatcher scream*
posted by fleacircus at 9:40 AM on September 14, 2009


Is it really so mindblowing that there are people who don't do these things?

Yes, I literally know nobody who pays for every piece of music they download, including people who make a living from music.
posted by empath at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2009


I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to copy the albums of music I spent years working on.

You got to choose to invite people to take your music without payment in exchange. Others who provide their music in exchange for payment are not making that same invitation (I presume, reasonably).

Ironically, you are arguing to take away their rights to invite or not invite others to copy, while maintaining your own right of invitation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2009


Also, pretty much most TV shows are legally free to watch online (on Hulu or another site) with consent of the network.
I have a 150 gigabyte collection of MP3s.

If you want to know where I got them, you can direct your attention to the eleventy-hundred pounds of CDs my wife and I collected during our hardcore music freak days. This doesn't make me some kind of pure, virginal crusader for DRM or something. I'm just saying that the conversation here seems to go:

"Software piracy is okay! It's a SERVICE to companies!"
"Uh, it's illegal."
"Oh yeah? Well, do you ever watch Family Guy clips on YouTube? Shut up!"

It's pretty much the definition of ad hominem.
posted by verb at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2009


And, for the record, I torrented a copy of Hellboy II.

I still feel cheated.
posted by verb at 9:56 AM on September 14, 2009


Jairus, are you suggesting that the public display of the material (as opposed to private viewing) has nothing to do with it?

The public display was ruled to be in line with the agreement between the two parties.
posted by Jairus at 10:02 AM on September 14, 2009


It's pretty much the definition of ad hominem.

...it's actually an ad hominem tu quoque.
posted by Jairus at 10:05 AM on September 14, 2009


In its heyday, the Radio 1 Sunday evening Top 40 countdown constituted the biggest file-sharing portal in British history, with millions of users hooked up simultaneously, mercilessly downloading content to their tape decks.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:11 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ironically, you are arguing to take away their rights to invite or not invite others to copy, while maintaining your own right of invitation.

Close. I don't think either of us have any meaningful ability to restrict access to publicly released material. I believe that when you release a work (such as a CD, game, photograph, poem) to the public, you are in effect broadcasting it, and the idea of restricting access to a artistic broadcast as a business plan is both foolish and broken.
posted by Jairus at 10:17 AM on September 14, 2009


Let's be clear here, copyright is not a moral right. Free speech is a moral right. Copyright is an infringement upon free speech. The argument is that it is ultimately beneficial for society (read: the public domain) for that infringement to be sanctioned by law for a fixed period of time. That's arguable in the best case, and laughable under the current regime, which ensures that the public will never be able to use the culture that was created in their lifetime. This is a bad deal.

DRM is designing your products to break. That is simply bad engineering, which should strive for robust functionality and not the opposite. Fixing things that break is not a moral transgression, although it is currently outlawed under certain circumstances.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:21 AM on September 14, 2009


I don't think either of us have any meaningful ability to restrict access to publicly released material.

I don't think that's much of an argument in your case, honestly. That restricting certain behaviors is difficult doesn't mean we shrug our shoulders. We can and do set up legal and social contracts that allow people to fairly exchange goods and services of value. Such a system is not perfect, but at least it allows the potential of fair recompense for value rendered.

And in most cases, it does. It persists, in fact, because it is usually fair. Or, certainly, fairer to most creative people than the alternative you are proposing, in which few get paid.

Even if you don't necessarily agree this system works for yourself (perhaps your music isn't worth paying for, no offense), this doesn't mean you have been granted vague authority to abrogate the rights of others who seek fair payment for their own works.

Basically, your attitude is part of the problem: Instead of dealing honestly with the issues at hand: namely that products are sold by cartels at too high a price, or are restricted to certain distribution formats and platforms, etc. you try to make yourself your own little RIAA, in that you are choosing what rights musicians have to seek a livelihood. That seems like a non-starter to me. Dealing with these legitimate problems in a manner that is honest and fair to all is probably going to make everyone happier.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:05 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Instead of dealing honestly with the issues at hand: namely that products are sold by cartels at too high a price, or are restricted to certain distribution formats and platforms, etc. you try to make yourself your own little RIAA, in that you are choosing what rights musicians have to seek a livelihood.

First, this is a false binary. I bust my ass to make things better for musicians and for music. Second, I'm not choosing what rights musicians have, I am not 'proposing an alternative', I'm bearing witness to the stark and unfriendly reality that is zero-cost digital duplication.

Content creators believe they have rights that they do not, full stop. The sooner they realize this, the sooner they'll be able to focus on means and methods that they have greater control over, rather than focusing on what they don't have any control over, like piracy.
posted by Jairus at 11:11 AM on September 14, 2009


ChurchHatesTucker: "Let's be clear here, copyright is not a moral right. Free speech is a moral right."

[citation needed]

I contend that copyright (along with other forms of IP) is the only practical manifestation of a moral right: the right to control the fruits of your creative labor. I don't believe that conflicts with the right to free speech because I think your definition of "free speech" is overbroad.

Jairus: "what I don't believe is that an author is entitled to compensation by virtue of the fact that he made something."

Neither do I. But you conveniently left out a crucial factor: I do believe that an author is entitled to compensation by virtue of the fact that he made something AND that people who know he expects compensation are consuming that thing.

You presented a dichotomy between a $0 price tag and a $60 price tag. Your exact words were "I'm not going to fault someone for paying what they think it's worth to download a file -- especially if their only options are $0 and $60."

Let me put this as clearly as I can, because you don't seem to comprehend the point we're making: Those are not their only options. They have the option to not enjoy the content if they don't want to pay for it. That is the ethical alternative to overpaying for content.

I understand that people make (and believe) moral arguments for piracy. I disagree with those arguments on their own merits, but on a meta level I think people should hold their beliefs to harsher scrutiny when they so clearly benefit personally from them.

(for the record, I think this is also true for the RIAA/MPAA's "moral arguments" for laws like the DMCA)
posted by Riki tiki at 11:29 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I bust my ass to make things better for musicians and for music.

I would suggest that your arguing to give away their creative work for free on their behalf, without their consent, is not doing them as many favours as you would like to think.

Content creators believe they have rights that they do not, full stop.

Content creators have whatever rights that the courts, legislators and, ultimately, people agree upon. Today, this includes not having their works taken without compensation. We can hem and haw about what words like "theft" and "taken" mean, but, regardless, most people understand copying shit without paying for it is shady, even if it is easy, and I also think most content creators are happier getting paid for their work than not.

I think our culture is better off with happier, well-fed content creators. I don't think taking their stuff without recompense is fair to them, nor does it improve our culture any. I welcome any reasonable approaches that help enforce a fair and equitable social contract.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:30 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Content creators believe they have rights that they do not, full stop.

Free Speech is an amendment to the US Constitution. Copyright is in the original document. Fell free to plug your ears and go "'la la la' I'm not listening" all you want.

Again, and I know I keep saying this, but if you don't agree with the system under which the content creators are creating their products, just don't use the products. Write your own music editing software, or games, or whatever. Give it away for free. Nobody is stopping you.

And, yes, violating copyright is easy, as are many torts and crimes; that does not make it a "right."
posted by blenderfish at 11:35 AM on September 14, 2009


Let me put this as clearly as I can, because you don't seem to comprehend the point we're making: Those are not their only options. They have the option to not enjoy the content if they don't want to pay for it.

I thought it was clear that I meant "their only options for compensating the author" when I said "their only options", but I'll make it explicit.

I would suggest that your arguing to give away their creative work for free on their behalf, without their consent, is not doing them as many favours as you would like to think.

I'm not arguing to give away their creative work for free on their behalf, I'm pointing out that their creative work is and will forever be increasingly consumed for free regardless of if they like it or not, and no one is served by them suing downloaders or wasting developer time making a fake poison gas room just for pirates that pirates circumvent in a few days.

most people understand copying shit without paying for it is shady

This is not necessarily so: Angus Reid surveys show nearly 45% of respondents say those who use P2P and file sharing services to download music and movies are “just regular Internet users doing what people should be able to do on the Internet.” An additional 27% admit these people are “doing something they shouldn’t be doing” but say “it’s not a big deal.”

The proportion of people who think filesharing is bad are getting smaller and smaller every day, and will almost certainly be extinct a generation from now.

I think our culture is better off with happier, well-fed content creators. I don't think taking their stuff without recompense is fair to them, nor does it improve our culture any. I welcome any reasonable approaches that help enforce a fair and equitable social contract.

The social contract that content creators are looking to enforce is outdated and unenforceable. I suggest that creators who want to thrive develop a new one.
posted by Jairus at 11:46 AM on September 14, 2009


Free Speech is an amendment to the US Constitution. Copyright is in the original document.

I'm not an American, but if I was, I'd point out that Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 explicitly states that copyright terms should be limited, which they are not in any meaningful sense of the wor'. I would absolutely be in favour of the original term length of 14 years with 14-year renewal.
posted by Jairus at 11:50 AM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey, I'm pro-public-domain, (and anti-DMCA,) too.
posted by blenderfish at 11:53 AM on September 14, 2009


>I contend that copyright (along with other forms of IP) is the only practical manifestation of a moral right: the right to control the fruits of your creative labor. I don't believe that conflicts with the right to free speech because I think your definition of "free speech" is overbroad.

If you think repeating what others have said (written, encoded, etc.) is outside the bounds of free speech, then your position is at least coherent. I'm cautious about those who think of freedom of speech as 'overbroad' but then I'm old-fashioned. Very old-fashioned.

For most of western history, making copies was celebrated, not discouraged. Monks spent their entire lives committing what, by your logic, is a moral infraction. Poor bastards probably were surprised to learn that upon their deaths.

The ability to control that speech is a monopoly instituted by government. It is, by definition, arbitrary. Unsurprisingly, it was originally granted to the publishers.

And, on preview, Jefferson struggled with the concept of copyright. The outcome was 14 years with 14-year renewal. 28 years maximum. Someone tell me how the copyright term from when you had to have a substantial investment to make a single copy makes any sense in the digital age? Let alone the century+ of culture lockdown that we have currently?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:55 AM on September 14, 2009


You mean Final Fantasy XII, which was only available on the Playstation 2 and would have required a hardware workaround to play a pirated copy?
You mean Final Fantasy III (née VI), which was a cartridge game and had no practical medium for piracy until long after its major sales run, when computer emulation caught up with the SNES technology?
You see, perhaps, why this is not a great example of how piracy doesn't affect game costs since the burden of preventing piracy was borne by the console manufacturers?


Actually, seeing as how everybody and their brother had that "hardware workaround" for the PS2 at the time, I think it's an excellent example of how piracy doesn't affect game costs. Console piracy went from practically zero to being a common, household-name practice, and yet prices stayed the same. In particular, if piracy increased game costs, then the Playstation (which was easily and widely modded, and could play games burned onto an ordinary CDR) should have caused game prices to go through the roof. It didn't.

Not to mention the fact that PC games are the same goddamn price as these console games, which makes zero sense if piracy increases game prices. Besides, I could just as easily have said, say, Wing Commander II or Wolf 3-D versus Fallout 3 or Aion. Computer games are, if anything, cheaper than they were in the late eighties, despite much, much more widespread piracy.

In short, piracy does not significantly increase game prices, because game prices have not significantly increased. I don't see how that's a controversial claim; you may want piracy to have this effect, or feel that it should, but twenty years of game prices suggest that it does not.
posted by vorfeed at 12:04 PM on September 14, 2009


I suggest that creators who want to thrive develop a new one.

It's interesting that you note the shift in public attitude. As if the onus is on the creators to develop news ways of making a living that are completely unrelated to their talents, instead of it being on people to adjust their moral compass. I guess I would prefer a world where creators get to focus on their talents, instead of jumping through more egregious and artificial hoops for less compensation.

The demand for digitally reproduced works isn't going away. We're not going back to the days where we all pack into cheap seats at the opera houses as a sole source of entertainment. We want to carry music and video with us and consume it at our leisure.

If digital reproduction is the reality, putting up reasonable boundaries that subconsciously remind consumers to respect the rights of creative talent doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world.

To be honest, it seems no worse than putting locks on cars to keep them from being stolen, even if cars have been reproduced to the extent that they are ubiquitous in industrialized countries, and so we should feel free to pick up a car from the street, whenever we please.

No one who is being reasonable seems to think locks are put in cars to hurt honest people. No one seems to want to get rid of locks on cars, even if some thieves manage to defeat these mechanisms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:06 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


> As if the onus is on the creators to develop news ways of making a living that are completely unrelated to their talents, instead of it being on people to adjust their moral compass.

Man, the Buggy Whip Association of America could have used a man like you.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:08 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you think repeating what others have said (written, encoded, etc.) is outside the bounds of free speech, then your position is at least coherent

Speech is a sharing of ideas. I am extremely pro-personal-liberties, but it is really really hard to imagine how offering-for-download a copy of the latest Beyonce single, or Windows Vista, or whatever, from BitTorrent is 'sharing an idea.' (And, if it were, I could just say "hey, go buy and listen to this song; that is how I feel" or "Windows Vista is awesome. You should buy and use it.") Obviously, there are valid 'fair-use' arguments to be made for and against remixing/mashing-up, and when things aren't available, excerpts, etc. But that's the point of Fair Use Doctrine-- to preserve the speech rights that copyright may otherwise occidentally curtail. And the 99% case of piracy is nothing even _approaching_ any meaningful definition of "speech."

Someone tell me how the copyright term from when you had to have a substantial investment to make a single copy makes any sense in the digital age

I have to imagine you didn't mean to write that. 30 million dollars to produce a game, or 100 million to make a movie, or lord knows what to make Windows Vista, isn't a substantial investment?

(As for your last point, I, and I think most reasonably people who aren't in the current business of juicing money out of things people did 90 years ago, agree that the current copyright terms are pretty ridiculous.)
posted by blenderfish at 12:13 PM on September 14, 2009


No one who is being reasonable seems to think locks are put in cars to hurt honest people.

I thought we were done with the inaccurate and valueless theft analogies.
posted by Jairus at 12:13 PM on September 14, 2009


ChurchHatesTucker, I feel you are willfully mischaracterizing my point. "Repeating what others have said" makes it sound like I'm arguing against things like fair use excerpts, singing in the shower, et cetera.

"Repeating what others have said, verbatim, in a way that obviates the listener's motivation to pursue the original source" is more like my point, but acknowledging those bits of nuance makes it harder to generate the same kind of folksy common-sense emotional impact.

As for free speech, you just outright misrepresented my statement. What I said was that your definition of free speech was overbroad. To reword that and pretend I'm saying the right to free speech is itself overbroad is simply disingenuous.

Combined with your straw men about monks and unlimited copyright terms (hey, guess what, pretty much everyone here probably agrees copyright should be limited in term!), you'll forgive me for assuming you're not discussing this in good faith.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:14 PM on September 14, 2009


I thought we were done with the inaccurate and valueless theft analogies.

I thought we were past unhelpful semantic game-playing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:20 PM on September 14, 2009


Not to mention the fact that PC games are the same goddamn price as these console games, which makes zero sense if piracy increases game prices.

Actually, PC games are more expensive, since console manufacturers don't get a cut. The extra expense helps offset piracy.

I thought we were done with the inaccurate and valueless theft analogies.

No. You're done with them, because they call out your behavior for what it is.

Anyway, I see we've gone into full de facto morals now. I guess if everyone is doing it, it can't be wrong. Get with the times, grampa! etc.
posted by blenderfish at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2009


>I have to imagine you didn't mean to write that. 30 million dollars to produce a game, or 100 million to make a movie, or lord knows what to make Windows Vista, isn't a substantial investment?

Of course I meant to write that. In your example, that's the initial investment. The second copy is essentially free.

Now if your business model is built solely around that last part not happening, it's not going to work in the long run.

The problem is that infinite goods (like digital copies) are currently treated like they're scarce goods (like, idunno, intaglio prints or somesuch.) The reasoning is skewed by faulty metaphors.

(As for your last point, I, and I think most reasonably people who aren't in the current business of juicing money out of things people did 90 years ago, agree that the current copyright terms are pretty ridiculous.)


Well, on that we can agree.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2009


I thought we were past unhelpful semantic game-playing.

If copyright infringement is, in fact, equivalent to theft, then you should have no problem coming up with a compelling moral analogy that involves duplicating bits instead of removing physical objects.
posted by Jairus at 12:23 PM on September 14, 2009


Man, the Buggy Whip Association of America could have used a man like you.

If you're writing that as if I support what the RIAA does to copyright violators, you are laughably ignorant of my moral and financial support of Creative Commons and hilariously blind to my repeatedly-stated support for the rights of creators.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 PM on September 14, 2009


Anyway, I see we've gone into full de facto morals now. I guess if everyone is doing it, it can't be wrong. Get with the times, grampa! etc.

Hey, if it feels good, do it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:24 PM on September 14, 2009


"Repeating what others have said, verbatim, in a way that obviates the listener's motivation to pursue the original source" is more like my point, but acknowledging those bits of nuance makes it harder to generate the same kind of folksy common-sense emotional impact.

Well then you should have said that. Don't aim low.

I'm not so concerned about persuing (frak, SP?) the original source. I heartily encourage it, but how many of us have looked at Shakespeare's source materials? (More importantly, how many of us have had to deal with the Shakespeare estate? Nobody? Thank Zeus!)

The point is to build upon what influences you. Placing a tax on that is a disincentive. Therefore, against the whole premise of the benefit of copyright.

The rest of it comes down to business models. Trying to force new tech into old business models is ultimately doomed.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:29 PM on September 14, 2009


"Now if your business model is built solely around that last part not happening, it's not going to work in the long run"

So, yeah, we could have a discussion about how tenable traditional copyright law and its enforcement is in the face of ever-more-efficient copying and distribution mechanisms, etc., and that's fine and good, and we'd probably find a lot of common ground there, but none of that makes it okay to pirate content created within the current system. It is still against the law, and it still deprives content creators of the fruits of their labor.
posted by blenderfish at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


>>If you're writing that as if I support what the RIAA does to copyright violators, you are laughably ignorant of my moral and financial support of Creative Commons and hilariously blind to my repeatedly-stated support for the rights of creators.

I had no clear view of your sentiments. I was simply responding to a statement that a Buggy Whip manufacturer would hold dear. If you misspoke, or I mis-inferred, please point that out.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:38 PM on September 14, 2009


If copyright infringement is, in fact, equivalent to theft, then you should have no problem coming up with a compelling moral analogy that involves duplicating bits instead of removing physical objects.

An artist chooses to offer you a copy of her album for $10. You, instead, choose to obtain that copy somewhere else without paying her. For example, you visit a torrent or other P2P site.

You have violated the terms of her offer by willfully choosing to consume her creative output without providing compensation. In other words, you received value without delivering payment in kind. In other words, you are taking money out of her pocket, which would have otherwise been there had you honored her stated offer to exchange her creative work for your money.

You can finagle the words all you like, but, at the end of the day, if she isn't being paid for what you purposely chose to consume and what you purposely did not pay for, you violated her rights. Period.

That just doesn't seem fair, to me, and while the technical mechanism of theft may be different, it does still seem like theft.

Even in the age of digital reproduction, we should be able to recognize the humanity and worth of other human beings, to respect their rights to distribute their creativity as they please, and honor the manner in which they choose to do so.

Creative people, after all, are respecting your humanity and your rights, enough to trust that you will treat them fairly. They are respecting your right not to have to consume their art. They are choosing to share their work. You are choosing to consume it. Be respectful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:44 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, yeah, we could have a discussion about how tenable traditional copyright law and its enforcement is in the face of ever-more-efficient copying and distribution mechanisms, etc., and that's fine and good, and we'd probably find a lot of common ground there, but none of that makes it okay to pirate content created within the current system. It is still against the law, and it still deprives content creators of the fruits of their labor.

Look, I'm not getting a buggy whip for my Toyota. I simply don't care if the law says I need one.

There are laws that are essentially moral imperatives (don't kill your neighbor's goods. Or whatever) and there are laws that are essentially grease for society (drive on the right, in the US.)

Copyright is of the latter variety. And we're just driving all over the Information Superhighway.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:46 PM on September 14, 2009


I was simply responding to a statement that a Buggy Whip manufacturer would hold dear.

Your statement was made in bad faith and is a major reason why the philosophy you espouse is not taken very seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on September 14, 2009


Actually, PC games are more expensive, since console manufacturers don't get a cut. The extra expense helps offset piracy.

No, they're not. We're talking about retail price, here (as the original claim was that piracy is "snatching away additional money from" non-pirating end buyers). Retail price on new top-tier console games is largely identical to the retail price on new top-tier PC games.

Again, nearly everything is either $49.99 or $59.99, regardless of development cost, copies sold, or degree of piracy. And new games have been at roughly those price points for decades. Ergo, piracy does not significantly increase game prices, because game prices have not significantly increased, even though piracy has. I don't see why this is a controversial statement... ten minutes in any game store should be enough to explode the notion that games are priced according to piracy and/or copies sold. Games are among the most price-fixed items in the market!
posted by vorfeed at 12:55 PM on September 14, 2009


>Your statement was made in bad faith and is a major reason why the philosophy you espouse is not taken very seriously.

Bad faith? How do you figure? You said:

As if the onus is on the creators to develop news ways of making a living that are completely unrelated to their talents, instead of it being on people to adjust their moral compass.


I said:

Man, the Buggy Whip Association of America could have used a man like you.


I think it's a sound observation, your objection is what, exactly? Did you mean you do want buggy whip manufacturers to move on? Or that you don't think moral compasses need adjustment?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:00 PM on September 14, 2009


I think it's a sound observation, your objection is what, exactly?

You are not obliged to steal a buggy whip, just because you want one but don't want to pay for it. Creative people aren't obliged to jump through hoops to protect their buggy whip business, just because you want one but don't want to pay for their hard work.

In any case, your buggy whip "observation" was made in bad faith. It's a common Slashdot-like retort, one without much substance and meant to smear me as an associate or apologist for the RIAA.

If you genuinely care about this issue, I suggest you grow up and move beyond that childish stuff. It doesn't support your argument, one iota, and makes your viewpoint look that much more ridiculous.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:07 PM on September 14, 2009


>>If you genuinely care about this issue, I suggest you grow up and move beyond that childish stuff.

:) You might be surprised to find that I do genuinely care. Also, not a child. "Childish" is up for debate.

You are not obliged to steal a buggy whip, just because you want one but don't want to pay for it.

Um. What? I honestly can't make sense of that. Should I pay for one?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:14 PM on September 14, 2009


Should I pay for one?

If you want a buggy whip, if it makes your life easier or more pleasurable, you have two choices:

1. Buy the buggy whip
2. Steal the buggy whip

Which do you pick? Which is fairer to the buggy whip manufacturer? Buying or stealing?

If you want the digital music and it has a price tag on it, just pay for your damn copy or move on.

I'm genuinely struggling to understand why this is a difficult moral calculation for music etc., when we agree to exchange money for pretty much all other goods and services that we value.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:23 PM on September 14, 2009


Oh for frak's sake I thought we had this settled upthread.

1. Buy the buggy whip
2. Steal the buggy whip


The correct answer, as always, is

C. Copy the buggy whip.

You are still whole, my friend.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:32 PM on September 14, 2009


Look, I'm not getting a buggy whip for my Toyota. I simply don't care if the law says I need one.

There are laws that are essentially moral imperatives (don't kill your neighbor's goods. Or whatever) and there are laws that are essentially grease for society (drive on the right, in the US.)

Copyright is of the latter variety. And we're just driving all over the Information Superhighway

"Look, man. You cant, like make me drive with your, like rules man, I drive on the left. There's nothing immoral about driving on the left. All my friends drive on the left, man. We're just cruising the highway. You want me to drive on the right side of the road? Whoa, grampa, I, like, left my buggy whip in my other pants, dude. *high five*"

You're stealing, but at least I take some solace in the fact that you at least seem to have an interest in perceiving your own actions as ethical.

Again, if you want to boycott or reform the system in a meaningful, by all means try. But really, all you want is free shit.
posted by blenderfish at 1:50 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


The correct answer, as always, is

C. Copy the buggy whip.

You are still whole, my friend.


NO I AM NOT WHOLE, because I just spent 25 million dollars developing a sweet new buggy whip, and a million people use it every day, and most of them didn't pay! In what universe am I whole?
posted by blenderfish at 1:56 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, then you're into patent law, and patents have a lifetime of what, 7 years?

Regardless, the point of copyright was to encourage the progress of the useful arts, and I don't think anyone can argue that the perpetual copyright that we have now does that. The world got along just find for centuries without copyright. It will survive without it again.
posted by empath at 1:58 PM on September 14, 2009


An artist chooses to offer you a copy of her album for $10. You, instead, choose to obtain that copy somewhere else without paying her. For example, you visit a torrent or other P2P site.

You have violated the terms of her offer by willfully choosing to consume her creative output without providing compensation. In other words, you received value without delivering payment in kind. In other words, you are taking money out of her pocket, which would have otherwise been there had you honored her stated offer to exchange her creative work for your money.

You can finagle the words all you like, but, at the end of the day, if she isn't being paid for what you purposely chose to consume and what you purposely did not pay for, you violated her rights. Period.


What if, instead of a torrent or other P2P site, I head down to a used record store and buy it for $5 from them instead. I'm still obtaining a copy of her work without paying her. How does that fit into your analytical framework?
posted by kafziel at 2:02 PM on September 14, 2009


>NO I AM NOT WHOLE, because I just spent 25 million dollars developing a sweet new buggy whip, and a million people use it every day, and most of them didn't pay! In what universe am I whole?

Um, in no universe, because your business model sucks.

Just don't blame us because you can't figure that out. We're just dealing with the laws of physics and shit.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:09 PM on September 14, 2009


We're just dealing with the laws of physics and shit.

You can justify any behavior with that, I imagine. And shit.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:19 PM on September 14, 2009


What if, instead of a torrent or other P2P site, I head down to a used record store and buy it for $5 from them instead. I'm still obtaining a copy of her work without paying her. How does that fit into your analytical framework?

That's part of the system that she volunteered to be a part of by becoming a musician. It fits just fine. She's not trying to get a 'best of both worlds' by being just a part of some parts of the system (in her case selling, in a pirate's case consuming) and not other parts (in her case, the used market, and in your case, paying.)

Um, in no universe, because your business model sucks.
Just don't blame us because you can't figure that out. We're just dealing with the laws of physics and shit.


Laws and ethics are not based on what is physically possible or easy. Even more people know how to break a window than use BitTorrent, but breaking and entering is still illegal and unethical.
posted by blenderfish at 2:21 PM on September 14, 2009


>You can justify any behavior with that, I imagine. And shit.

Well, given sufficient resources, sure. But we're talking about teens here, largely. If they can do it, it will be done.

Good luck with that shit.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:22 PM on September 14, 2009


The world got along just find for centuries without copyright. It will survive without it again.

REALLY? Go back to patronage perhaps? Maybe we should abandon pretty much all that other bullshit we've come up with since 1710?
posted by blenderfish at 2:24 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


What if, instead of a torrent or other P2P site, I head down to a used record store and buy it for $5 from them instead. I'm still obtaining a copy of her work without paying her. How does that fit into your analytical framework?

I have no idea. It's an interesting question. Are there such things as "used MP3 stores"? What does it mean for a bit-perfect MP3 copy to be labeled "used", in the same context as an analog vinyl record or book that suffers wear and tear from prior ownership? When resold, can the copyright holder have some reasonable assurance the work is transferred in total, as opposed to simply duplicated and resold?

Ironically, I could see how DRM might work to the advantage of proponents of right-of-second-sale. Embedding digitally-signed ownership data into the track could make a technically compelling argument for the courts to mandate record companies to allow the transfer of ownership, while still recognizing and protecting the creator's fundamental rights in the same way that is currently done for records and books.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on September 14, 2009


Well, given sufficient resources, sure. But we're talking about teens here, largely. If they can do it, it will be done. Good luck with that shit.

Once again, you're conflating prevalence with ethicalness. This is just not a tenable position. If you're saying that "enforcing copyright has become increasingly challenging, perhaps to the point where we should, as a country, rethink things," that's reasonable. But you're unilaterally changing the rules in a way that benefits you, then tacking on some "march of progress" bravado so you don't feel so bad.
posted by blenderfish at 2:28 PM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Once again, you're conflating prevalence with ethicalness. This is just not a tenable position.

I'm not sure it isn't. If fact, that's a defensible definition of 'ethics.' Of course, there are many.

If you're saying that "enforcing copyright has become increasingly challenging, perhaps to the point where we should, as a country, rethink things," that's reasonable. But you're unilaterally changing the rules in a way that benefits you, then tacking on some "march of progress" bravado so you don't feel so bad.

Not sure how the first part is in conflict with the (snarky) second part. Unless you expect me to wait for Official Approval of my actions. (Which ain't going to happen.)

And yeah, I don't feel so bad. Although I hadn't thought of the March Of Progress soundrack. Thanks!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:42 PM on September 14, 2009


ChurchHatesTucker: That 'rules don't apply to me' attitude is precisely why the punitive damages are so astronomically high. The next time I hear the RIAA busts someone pirating music for tens of thousands of dollars, I'll just imagine it's you, and I won't feel so bad.
posted by blenderfish at 2:47 PM on September 14, 2009


Blenderfish: That 'let's pretend infinite goods are scarce' mentality is the entire problem. Next time I D/L something, I'll think of you.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:55 PM on September 14, 2009


The talent and time to create those "infinite" goods is scarce. Next time I pull an 18-hour day to ship a game that you're going to play for free, I'll think of you.
posted by blenderfish at 2:59 PM on September 14, 2009


Blenderfish: Ah, now I see where you're coming from.

First off, don't sweat me. I don't play games much. I never bother to pirate them.

Second off, if your employer holds the same ideas as you do re: scarce vs. infinite goods, find another employer. Sooner would be better.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:48 PM on September 14, 2009


If nobody pays for games; if these 'dinosaurs' die, then we'll have games with ads on every surface I guess, or only online games, or all 'buy toys with real cash' Habbo Hotel games, or insane DRM, or games that only appeal to soccer moms, or all indie Flash $200k budget games. A lot of game programmers will probably go work for some bank or something. Not sure I want to go headlong into that glorious New World.

If you really think I am a doddering Grandpa, using my buggy whip to drive my dinosaur through Dying Business Model Valley, that's 100% fine. But you can't decry the business model _and_ enjoy its fruits. Or, if you do, you should at least acknowledge that you are doing wrong.
posted by blenderfish at 4:07 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


>But you can't decry the business model _and_ enjoy its fruits.

I've no conflict here, but why not? I hate the Designated Hitter, but I'm happy that my team fields one. (Or should that be 'plates one?' Whatever.)

Or, if you do, you should at least acknowledge that you are doing wrong.

Copying numbers is not wrong. I don't care what kind of tortured metaphor makes it seem so.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:23 PM on September 14, 2009


Copying numbers is not wrong.

That kind of passive reductionism is silly. One could take anything morally questionable and pull that rhetorical trick to make it sound right.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:26 PM on September 14, 2009


Copying numbers is not wrong. I don't care what kind of tortured metaphor makes it seem so.

Slander is just copying numbers. Making terroristic threats is just copying numbers. Treason/Spying is just copying numbers. Computer fraud is just copying (or changing) numbers. Wire fraud is just copying numbers. Illegal wiretapping is just copying numbers. Blackmail is just copying numbers. Misappropriation of trade secrets is just copying numbers. Illegal gambling is just copying numbers. Soliciting for murder is just copying numbers. Shall I go on?
posted by blenderfish at 4:28 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


>That kind of passive reductionism is silly. One could take anything morally questionable and pull that rhetorical trick to make it sound right.

So you're allowing that it's at least 'morally questionable?'

We've made a lot of progress today.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:31 PM on September 14, 2009


And, I don't know where this whole "tortured metaphor" and "flawed equivalency" business comes from. Copyright violation is explicitly forbidden by Law, the US Constitution, and 300 years of legal and moral tradition.

I mean, we could argue about whether you can "own" land or "own" possessions, I guess, too.
posted by blenderfish at 4:32 PM on September 14, 2009


You can say the same thing about gay sex. Do you think people were morally obligated to refrain from gay sex because it was illegal and 'everybody' agreed that it was wrong? Illegal =/= immoral.
posted by empath at 4:37 PM on September 14, 2009


Copyright violation is explicitly forbidden by Law

Yes, yes. Captial-L law. Gotcha.

Only that's not what I'm arguing, is it?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:38 PM on September 14, 2009


It's somehow right and proper that you bring up the morality of a consensual act between two adults, which requires consent and participation on the part of both people. Western society doesn't often find it morally or legally acceptable that one party violates the other's rights in a sexual relationship.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:42 PM on September 14, 2009


Essentially, it comes down to this-- The benefit to downloading something illegally far, far outweighs the downside for most people, and any law-enforcement regime that can effectively increase the perceived risks to the point where people would stop downloading would be near dictatorial in scope, or the punishment would have to be grossly disproportionate to the crime.

Content producers are going to have to incorporate piracy into their business models or they're going to have to go out of business. It's just a fact. No amount of complaining about it on the internet is going to change that.
posted by empath at 4:42 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's somehow right and proper that you bring up the morality of a consensual act between two adults, which requires consent and participation on the part of both people. Western society doesn't often find it morally or legally acceptable that one party violates the other's rights in a sexual relationship.

Depends on whether you believe that downloading a game violates anyone's rights.
posted by empath at 4:46 PM on September 14, 2009


Making terroristic threats is just copying numbers. Treason/Spying is just copying numbers... Soliciting for murder is just copying numbers. Shall I go on?

No need. The crime there isn't the copying of numbers in itself, it's the message therein. Unless you're saying that your games are criminal in and of themselves, I fail to see the connection.

(And if they are, send me a link.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:54 PM on September 14, 2009


Depends on whether you believe that downloading a game violates anyone's rights.

Absolutely, I do. And it does. There's not really any contradiction here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:54 PM on September 14, 2009


Yes, yes. Captial-L law. Gotcha.

I only brought 'Law' into it to help drive the point home that this isn't some hopelessly theoretical discussion of number theory. This is something that predates Church and Turing by some 200 years. The ethical arguments against it have been tread and retread, so I won't bring them up again.

The nice thing about Copyright law, versus 'Prohibition' laws (drugs, miscegenation, gay relationships, etc.) is that you can _choose_ not to participate, by simply not availing yourself of the works that have been created under the color of the law you disagree with. If you don't want to play my game because you disagree with Copyright Law, or the very concept of Copyright, you have my, and Uncle Sam's (or the Queen's or whatever) 100% support.

empath: I agree, or at least where I may disagree, I see your statement as a reasonable interpretation of fact. However, your pragmatics don't make piracy not "wrong." Just like "you shouldn't walk alone in a bad neighborhood at night" is great advice, but doesn't make someone mugging you not wrong.
posted by blenderfish at 4:58 PM on September 14, 2009


No need. The crime there isn't the copying of numbers in itself, it's the message therein. Unless you're saying that your games are criminal in and of themselves, I fail to see the connection.

The very clear connection is that the ethical issue lies in what you actually do with those numbers.

Your newest claim is that it is just "copying numbers", but in plain fact, you are actually doing something with those numbers: playing a game, listening to an audio track, sharing those "numbers" with your friend, etc.

It is a silly rationalization to simply shrug it off as "copying numbers", when the actions and consequences are much broader in scope than that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2009


The nice thing about Copyright law, versus 'Prohibition' laws (drugs, miscegenation, gay relationships, etc.) is that you can _choose_ not to participate, by simply not availing yourself of the works that have been created under the color of the law you disagree with.

You can choose not to smoke pot, etc, too.
posted by empath at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2009


No need. The crime there isn't the copying of numbers in itself, it's the message therein. Unless you're saying that your games are criminal in and of themselves, I fail to see the connection.

My numbers are criminal when you're copying them over Kazaa, just like Opiod molecules are criminal when a guy on the corner is selling them, and not when you're getting them by filling a prescription.
posted by blenderfish at 5:03 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can choose not to smoke pot, etc, too.

No, that's pretty different. I mean, if you could just up and invent a new psychoactive plant and smoke that instead legally, then that would be a better analogy.
posted by blenderfish at 5:06 PM on September 14, 2009


Your newest claim is that it is just "copying numbers", but in plain fact, you are actually doing something with those numbers: playing a game, listening to an audio track, sharing those "numbers" with your friend, etc.

It's not the 'newest claim,' it's the same old one. There was always presumed to be a reason for copying those particular numbers. There's a reason for copying primes. Just different reasons (I hope. That'd be a boring game.)

It is a silly rationalization to simply shrug it off as "copying numbers", when the actions and consequences are much broader in scope than that.

Seriously, are there bomb threats in your games? Do your games cry "Movie" in a crowded Firehouse? What kind of threats are we dealing with here?

Or can I copy it safely without causing a panic? In which case I don't see the analogy you're going for.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:14 PM on September 14, 2009


Seriously, are there bomb threats in your games? Do your games cry "Movie" in a crowded Firehouse? What kind of threats are we dealing with here?

As you already understand, the main consequence is, basically, violating the creator's rights, which is a really serious matter, at least to the extent it is enough to motivate a 250+-comment Metafilter thread about the subject.

Since I think you're being purposefully silly and not discussing the matter in good faith, once again, I think I'll wish you luck and part ways with you here.

Just for my own benefit, I'll note that I liked how you used the passive voice to denote "copying numbers" as harmless:

Copying numbers is not wrong.

As Stanley Milgram noted, it's an interesting trick, to divorce the actor from the act. "Numbers were copied." If it is okay to violate someone's rights and hurt their livelihood, then why not be direct and own up to merely "copying numbers"?

Why use the passive voice, after all, if only to offer the moral disconnect needed by the actor to make the violation sound innocuous?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:25 PM on September 14, 2009


Everything's just an atom, everything's just a number, whatever.

Mozart? Just made numbers. Einstein? Numbers. Picasso? Numbers. Warhol? Numbers. The Beatles? Numbers. Kant? Numbers. The Constitution? Numbers. Mark Twain? Numbers. Stanley Kubrick? Numbers. The recipe for Penicillin? A number. The plan for an A-Bomb? A number.

If you think of the entire creative output of humanity is a 'number', just like a prime number, then that is extremely sad. But, you really don't. You obviously care enough about these things to acquire them and enjoy them. Yet, when it comes time to discuss their value, 'they're just numbers.'
posted by blenderfish at 5:27 PM on September 14, 2009


Copying numbers is not wrong.

>As Stanley Milgram noted, it's an interesting trick, to divorce the actor from the act. "Numbers were copied." If it is okay to violate someone's rights and hurt their livelihood, then why not be direct and own up to merely "copying numbers"?

Are you calling that passive voice?

Seriously?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:34 PM on September 14, 2009


Let's go back to first principles (And I want to say, that while I've pirated shitloads of music and games over the years, I also spent literally thousands of dollars buying vinyl records when I was djing regularly, and I the last game I pirated was Civ IV for the Mac, while I've dropped probably $1000 on xbox stuff just in the past year, so I'm not really speaking out of pure self interest here.)

First, copyright exists not to benefit copyright holders, but to benefit the public at large. Let's look at who pirates -- mostly teenagers and college students. Teenagers and college students are usually broke. They only have so much money to spend, you're not losing money when they pirate because they don't have the money to spend anyway. Now, who do you think is going spend lots of money on games and music when they have jobs? Who is going to design games and/or start bands when they go to school? Don't you think that over all, it's to the benefit of the world that kids are exposed to more music, games, movies or whatever, even if they don't pay for it? And why should people with lower incomes be excluded from enjoying art of any kind? Paying for music is an incredible luxury for people who can barely afford to buy food.

Let's look specifically at copyright and music-- the entire genre of Drum and Bass couldn't exist if copyright laws were enforced strictly, since the whole genre is largely based on one unlicensed drum sample. Or just dance music in general-- there are hundreds and hundreds of unlicensed, illegal remixes out there -- how can you possibly say that the world would be better off if copyright were strictly enforced? You'd be removing music from the world.

Or look at copyright and games -- Bethesda is suing to prevent the distribution of Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, probably because it competes with their new product. Now how can you possibly say that anyone benefits from that besides the copyright holder. Those are two works, that if people don't pirate them, nobody will every be able to play them -- and they're both important works in the history of games.

Or let's look at photoshop, and ableton, etc-- how many products have been produced with pirated copies of that software? Do you think the world would be better off if a 14 year old kid with a musical inclination just delays exploring music because he can't afford the $1000 he needs for for production software? Musical education has long been something exclusive to the well off -- because who else can afford to buy a piano? But now anybody with a laptop can theoretically have access to all the gear that professional studios had decades ago for nothing. But it would be WRONG, and IMMORAL for a kid to warez a copy of Reason to make a song. Or download a copy of photoshop or illustrator to learn how to make digital art.

Like, I'll give you an example of a recent time I pirated music. I had a DJ set coming up, and wanted to find some specific songs from the mid 90s. For every song, I checked on Beatport first (because the quality is best), then I checked on itunes, then and only then, i went to bittorrent sites to find the songs I wanted. Now, I could have just stuck to songs I could buy legally, but who would have benefited from that?

It's just not cut and dry. Sure, if somebody who makes $60,000 a year is downloading Arkham Asylum because he's a cheapskate, he's kind of a jerk, but I don't think that's what's going on in the vast majority of cases.
posted by empath at 5:36 PM on September 14, 2009


Don't you think that over all, it's to the benefit of the world that kids are exposed to more music, games, movies or whatever, even if they don't pay for it?

Yes, but they shouldn't be too apathetic, or confused into rationalization, to realize it isn't wrong to some degree that they are getting these things without paying for them.

the entire genre of Drum and Bass couldn't exist if copyright laws were enforced strictly

We haven't really been addressing that in this thread; that's a whole other ball o' wax. We're talking about good-old-fashioned piracy.

Bethesda is suing to prevent the distribution of Fallout 1 and Fallout 2, probably because it competes with their new product.

My understanding is that this is a trademark issue.

Or let's look at photoshop, and ableton, etc

That was touched on earlier, and, as I admitted upthread, that's a bit of a grey area.

For every song, I checked on Beatport first (because the quality is best), then I checked on itunes,

Works that are not available for sale could also be a bit of a grey area. But also not the 'good old fashioned piracy' we've been talking about.

Sure, if somebody who makes $60,000 a year is downloading Arkham Asylum because he's a cheapskate, he's kind of a jerk, but I don't think that's what's going on in the vast majority of cases.

And I actually kind of do. And, as someone brought up upthread, if you assume that only a tiny fraction of the market can afford the purchase, that makes it _worse_ that that guy is pirating. Probably bittorrenting it off of 16 'poor kids'.

Again, though, I think the 'too poor to afford music/games' is a line o' crap most of the time. "Unwilling to sacrifice other things I want" is more like it. I've known some actually poor people with decent (non-pirated) console game collections (that they got by buying them once or twice a year,) and some nice upper-middle-class folks with nothing but pirated PC games to run on their sweet 3000$ rig.
posted by blenderfish at 5:51 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


>We haven't really been addressing that in this thread; that's a whole other ball o' wax. We're talking about good-old-fashioned piracy.

It's harder to tease out that ball of yarn than you might think.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2009


So you've just teased out a bunch of examples where piracy is a gray area, while you think it's cut and dry. I'd prefer that people pay for their music, games, etc, in some way. Or at the very least, if contribute to the world by making their own music, games, etc. But I'm not going to pass moral judgement on people that don't.
posted by empath at 6:00 PM on September 14, 2009


BitTorrenting a copy of Arkham Asylum, or the latest Kanye album is not 'Gray'. We can talk about sampling, or whatever, but that has little to do with the discussion at hand.

But I'm not going to pass moral judgement on people that don't.

I'm not condemning them to hell, or calling them bad people, or even believing they're going to stop right away; I just wish people would call a spade a damn spade, so that maybe one day they'll take a step back and say "hey, y'know.. maybe I should compensate all these people who have risked a lot and worked really hard to produce the stuff I enjoy."
posted by blenderfish at 6:10 PM on September 14, 2009


>I just wish people would call a spade a damn spade, so that maybe one day they'll take a step back and say "hey, y'know.. maybe I should compensate all these people who have risked a lot and worked really hard to produce the stuff I enjoy."

Just like they compensated everyone else whom the built upon? OK, lead on! I will be taking notes, however.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:19 PM on September 14, 2009


I just wish people would call a spade a damn spade, so that maybe one day they'll take a step back and say "hey, y'know.. maybe I should compensate all these people who have risked a lot and worked really hard to produce the stuff I enjoy."

I agree 100% with this sentiment, and I personally feel that the way to lead them to this idea is not to call them thieves. That isn't a snark at you, it's a problem with the prevailing attitudes. If instead of spending however many hours coding a poison gas room, the developers had spent a fraction of that time talking on forums where pirates were playing the game and saying "hey I'm really glad you like this game that we all worked really hard for a year on, and we're having a preorder sale right now!",they'd make more sales from people who want to support them than they would from people who are frustrated that the game isn't playing right.
posted by Jairus at 6:20 PM on September 14, 2009


If instead of spending however many hours coding a poison gas room, the developers had spent a fraction of that time talking on forums where pirates were playing the game and saying "hey I'm really glad you like this game that we all worked really hard for a year on, and we're having a preorder sale right now!",they'd make more sales from people who want to support them than they would from people who are frustrated that the game isn't playing right.


Um what? No, payback would be the developers spending time on their forums saying 'Hey, if you liked our game, you should try Marathon (or whatever) that influenced us here.'

But, I'm not expecting it.

The plus side is that mentions of influences will TOTALLY overwhelm any complaints that may come from comprimised game development.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:27 PM on September 14, 2009


Heh, yeah, that'd work.

Not that coding a poison gas room is any more effective, but it's got to be more fun than having a circular argument with a bunch of scabby parasites.
posted by Artw at 6:32 PM on September 14, 2009


"I can do it to them, because they probably did it to someone else?"

Unless you can prove that Arkham Asylum somehow infringes Marathon's copyright, I'm not buying. When Bungie made Marathon, they voluntarily entered into a system in which other game studios would later be able to build on or copy their ideas (ideas are not protected by copyright.) There was no unilateral rule change made by the creators of Arkham Asylum. And most game developers are pretty frank when you ask about their influences (though, marketing isn't really into that sort of message.)
posted by blenderfish at 6:36 PM on September 14, 2009


Heh, yeah, that'd work.

Works for Stardock.
posted by Jairus at 6:54 PM on September 14, 2009


Unless you can prove that Arkham Asylum somehow infringes Marathon's copyright, I'm not buying.

Oh, relax. The point is that you want influences acknowledged. I'm just pointing out how long a trail that is.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:55 PM on September 14, 2009


Thanks; it's been fun.
posted by blenderfish at 7:10 PM on September 14, 2009


BP, thanks for the nuanced and rational view of the issue. It's nice to see an offset to the usual "You're a thief! You're a dinosaur!" bickering. It's actually made me think a little more about what copyright means and might even change some of my behavior.

One point of contention though... you keep saying that the content creator's rights are being violated. I think that is what set off this storm in the first place. There is no right to be paid for your creative work. That right just doesn't exist. Any exchange of money is a contract; not a right. Being a capitalist society, it's easy to think in terms of "If I do work, I am supposed to get money". But it's not a right. It's only a societal agreement. And the laws are the definitive terms under which that agreement is enforced.

I think that's what's being challenged in this digital age. The current generation didn't sign up for this social contract, they don't agree with this social contract, and they don't see any benefit to this social contract. A lot of that can be blamed on the RIAA for acting as such an easy foil. It's not artists that are being hurt, it's these crazy middle-men who are suing innocent people. Why should I give them money? Everyone still seems to be getting rich. I'm not hurting anyone. If anything, I'm helping the artist get popular, so they can make money from someone else. But I'll be damned if I'm gonna support those IP lawyers.

So what started with a good-faith argument of "How should we treat each other? Should people be rewarded for their creations?" has become "Why are people demanding I give them money for something that costs nothing?"

I'll try my hand at an analogy. Say you paint a mural on a wall across the street from me. Then you come to my door...

You: Hey, have you seen my mural?
Me: Oh, yes, of course. It's very nice.
You: I'm glad you like it. That will be $100.
Me: No, no... I don't think so. I didn't ask you to paint it. I'm under no obligation to pay you for it.
You: But I slaved over it. I studied for years. My heart and soul is in that work. You admitted you like it. You should pay me for it.
Me: I do enjoy looking at it. But, no, if given the choice between paying for it, and the work not being done, I would choose that it didn't exist. Sorry.
You: Then you must avert your eyes. Do not look at it.
Me: Why? It's not hurting you if I look at it. You should just be happy that I'm enjoying it, if you are a true artist. I'm not taking anything from you. I'll tell you what... I'll let my friends know how much I like it, and maybe they'll pay you to make something for them?
You: But I wouldn't have made it in the first place if I didn't think I would be compensated for my efforts. You haven't paid me for it, so you shouldn't benefit from my labor. Isn't it only fair that since I created something that you like, you should give something in return?
Me: It was your choice to create it and put it in the public. I never agreed to finance this. I don't really have that kind of money to spend on artwork, anyway. I mean, I guess I can give you a fiver if it helps, because I do like it, and I do think you deserve something. Can you break a twenty?
You: No.
Me: Well, good day, then.

The obvious rebuttal is that you're not publicly displaying your art. You want to choose who is allowed to view it, and under what terms.

But that doesn't exist anymore. Anything that is released is immediately available to everyone in the world. There's no physical product, no scarcity; distribution is free. I don't have to go to any effort to click a link and listen to your song, or play your game. It's as simple as looking at a wall as I walk down the street. That's what you're dealing with. It's not a matter of asking people to adjust their ethics, because what you're asking of them amounts to averting their eyes in the presence of your work. It is public whether you like it or not, and it seems ridiculous to ask a person to look away.

So, yes, it is the burden of the content creator to figure out how to be compensated for their efforts. Society at large has pretty well decided that they don't agree to the terms of the existing contract, and so they are ignoring it. And yet, they still do believe that creators should be rewarded. It's a matter of renegotiating the contract. The solution may be DRM, or taxed endowments, or non-profit collective fund raisers, or offering additional value outside of the digital product. But the one thing that is guaranteed to fail is calling the general public immoral thieves and suing teenagers.

Man, I really didn't expect to go on like that. Back to what I meant to say... Thanks BP, you got me thinking.
posted by team lowkey at 10:30 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry I didn't get you thinking, Lowkey, but at least I will address some of your points.

For one, I hardly think some dude painting a mural on a wall then hustling money from the neighbors is a good analogy to hundreds of people investing years of their life making something that most people will expend deliberate effort to illegally download and enjoy for many hours without paying a dime for. And frankly, as someone who works very hard and has dedicated much of my life to making games, I kind of resent the implication that by offering them for sale to people, I'm some kind of pushy dickwad, like your hypothetical muralist. And anyway, this argument was made like 200 comments ago.

"Why are people demanding I give them money for something that costs nothing?"

'Cost nothing' is just willful ignorance on the part of people who want something for free that took money, possibly many millions of dollars, and years of peoples' lives, to create. It's funny that people value these things enough to steal them, but when it's time to establish what they should have payed for them, they 'cost nothing.' Or they pretend like they've magically 'created wealth' by duplicating a disk. Sorry, Gandalf; the guy who spent years of his life making the work is the one who created that wealth, which these people then plunder. If he hadn't done the work, and you duplicated the disk, you'd now have _two_ disks full of zeros.

It is public whether you like it or not, and it seems ridiculous to ask a person to look away.

There are many examples of crime opportunities that people look away from all the time. The candy isle at the store has tons of candy on public display, and yet most people don't shoplift it.
If they did, would it mean the store owner should have done a better job figuring out how to be compensated for his merchandise? Probably, but the shoplifters are still doing wrong. Even if a lot of them "don't agree with the social contract" or whatever.

Society at large has pretty well decided that they don't agree to the terms of the existing contract, and so they are ignoring it. And yet, they still do believe that creators should be rewarded.

No., I think the only thing going through 95% of these peoples' heads is "ooooh... free shit!" With some kind of maybe magical rationalization of how these people will make money so they can pay their rent. (Like Seinfeld's "they just write it down!" rationalization for shoplifting.)

The solution may be DRM, or taxed endowments, or non-profit collective fund raisers, or offering additional value outside of the digital product.

So, instead of letting people decide which games they want to play, and compensating the creators of the games directly so they can make more, we have some sort of beauty pageant? Some kind of a judge panel decides how much your game is worth? Or a bake sale? Or what? Those are all poor substitutes for a market economy.

But the one thing that is guaranteed to fail is calling the general public immoral thieves and suing teenagers.

I understand that you, and other people here, such as empath, are trying to be pragmatic, and that's fine. Most of your observations of cause and effect, etc., are reasonable. But what some people seem to be tap dancing around the fact that piracy, while hardly a major crime, is Just Not Right (and especially is not 'a right'.) I think that incubating this entitled view is a bad thing for thinking, honest people to be doing. If enough people realize this, who knows? maybe it will have a positive effect. I understand that informing people that what they're doing is wrong is not a good way to make friends, but I think a large part of the failure here is education.
posted by blenderfish at 12:18 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


In a very broad sense, the price of any good tends toward the "marginal cost of production" -- that is, the price of one more unit when you've got your factories all built and staff all trained. Prices for new goods are usually much higher at first, and then steadily drop as new competitors enter the market. As supply increases, price moves downward to equalize demand. Eventually prices will go below the marginal cost of producing the good, which will either cause manufacturers to slow or stop production until the price comes back up above the cost to make the item. There's no reason to make it if there's no profit in it, so the cost of production is a soft floor.

What's weird about digital products is that the initial investment to create the good is very high, but then the cost of duplication is just short of zero. And all your customers, at least in the PC market, have fully-equipped factories to go into competition with you. Their cost of duplication is higher than yours, but it's still so low that it's almost free, easily absorbed in their existing overhead costs for Internet and electricity. And you have to pay for the initial cost of creation, so you can't price your copies as low as they can price theirs.

This is, in other words, an obsolete business model. It doesn't work. We're seeing that it doesn't work. And instead of expecting the capitalists to adapt to the new reality or go out of business, we're passing laws with insanely draconian penalties to prop up their bad businesses. Jammie Thomas, for copying a few albums' worth of music, was fined more than she would be for deliberately burning her neighbor's house to the ground.

This is insane. And until we realize it's insane and collectively throw off these stupid shackles, and demand that business owners figure out how to make money in a zero-duplication-cost environment, we're going to get more and more and more snarled up in these stupid arguments.

The War on Piracy is exactly like the War on Drugs. They're both attempts to combat the basic laws of supply and demand. Both are doomed to failure, and will cause social damage in pretty much direct correlation with how much money and time we spend on them.
posted by Malor at 12:32 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I appreciate your reasoned response, team lowkey, so I hope you'll bear with me while I explain in excruciating detail why I disagree with it.

With all due respect, I think you start off with a faulty analogy. Look at all the things you had to change in order to establish a hypothetical situation like that:
  1. I (the author) attempt to charge for the work retroactively.
  2. Not only that, you (the consumer) did not know at the time you viewed it that I expected compensation.
  3. Not viewing the work requires an active effort on your part ("avert your eyes").
  4. You establish a negotiation platform, wherein you offer to tell your friends about it instead of paying.
  5. Failing that, you offer a lesser amount that you consider reasonable (but don't end up paying it based on a technicality).
Number 5 doesn't really have any relationship to the current situation since there isn't a mechanism to wire $20 to Rocksteady Studios in lieu of the $60 for Arkham Asylum and it doesn't really make sense to assume that they must provide such a mechanism on either philosophical and practical grounds.

Numbers 1 and 4 don't fundamentally undermine the analogy, but they also don't apply here. Regarding #1: the standard for video game and music sales is that first you give me the cash and then I let you enjoy the content. Exceptions exist, of course... some shareware being a prominent example, which is why it's still a reasonable point. It is not, however, what we're talking about with the Arkham Asylum situation.

As for #4: pirates do not have access to a negotiation platform, no one here has claimed that the "word of mouth" benefits of piracy should exist as a contractual obligation between you and the authors, and I maintain that if the author declines your offer you are not therefore freed from any intellectual property restrictions.

Then there's #2 and #3. What's important about them is not only that they don't apply to the cases we're discussing, but why they don't apply: they specifically flip the assumptions that make intellectual property rights morally sound.

Pirates know that authors or their surrogates expect to be paid for music and games[1]. Furthermore, pirates must seek out the content they want. It is not delivered to their iPods and Playstations without their knowledge.

These two points are at the heart of the "social contract" argument for copyright. Consumers have an option that costs them nothing and requires no effort on their part: they can simply not enjoy the creative work in question. Alternatively, they can enter into widely understood social contract in which they exchange money for the license to enjoy that content.[2] Those two choices, we contend, are sufficient to satisfy any moral obligations on the part of either party. No one is compelled to do anything unless they agree to the terms of it in advance.

On the other hand, if pirates didn't know the work was supposed to cost money, or if they were forced to act to avoid consuming the content (and subsequently be charged for their consumption), then that would negate the social contract and the author would not have any basis for intellectual property protections.

But that's not the case in reality. None of the positions advocated by anti-piracy advocates in this thread resemble such a situation. Your scenario doesn't apply.

In a nutshell: any analogy will have holes by nature of drawing a comparison between two different things. But the moral arguments for intellectual property fit exactly into the holes in your analogy.

I would go on to say that several of your other assumptions don't really go without saying. You say that "anything that is released is immediately available to everyone in the world". If I understand your argument correctly, you conclude from this claim that the traditional view of intellectual property no longer applies and therefore piracy is not immoral.

However, even insofar as your claim is correct, content is only available because of piracy. Pixar isn't seeding its own movies' torrents. If the piracy causes the availability, and the availability justifies the piracy, then you have a circular argument.

You continue to use examples that imply content is spread passively, but it's not. If it is made passively available to you it is because someone else besides the author took active measures to put it there and so the ethical burden simply shifts to them instead of changing in nature.

It's not like a wall on a street. It's more like a museum patron taking it upon themselves to relocate a painting to the outside wall. Hey, the museum still has it, right? They haven't been deprived of anything! But the fact remains that their right to control their own property has been undermined without their consent. It doesn't matter if having the painting on the outside ends up drawing more paying customers to "offset" the freeloading. It is the museum's authority alone to make those decisions and it's unethical to usurp that autonomy.

Finally, you assert that the burden of protection should be on the creators in a society that widely disagrees with IP protections.

I disagree right off the bat. Widespread disregard for the law is not the same as widespread disagreement with the principle behind the law. Virtually everyone drives above the speed limit on highways, but if you asked them whether speed limits make sense on principle I bet they'd overwhelmingly answer "yes". I would say that most pirates do so casually, out of convenience and a basic assessment of the risk/reward ratio -- not, for the most part, because they believe it's ethically justifiable.

From that, I conclude that the burden of copyright protection is no more on the author than the burden of burglary protection is on the homeowner or the burden of fraud protection is on the credit card user. Yes, it's good for those parties to take steps to protect themselves, but they are not morally accountable for bad things that happen even if they take no preventative action whatsoever.

Heh. You think you didn't expect to go on like that.

I think what bugs me the most about pro-piracy advocates is when they seem to go out of their way to rationalize their actions instead of actually defending a principle. That's why I stopped arguing with ChurchHatesTucker; his rhetorical acrobatics seemed crafted more to disagree with his critics than to actually make a coherent point.

You and empath, on the other hand, seem to be arguing on proper principles. I obviously disagree with them, but I respect that you've been willing to engage in a legitimate discussion.

[1] It is of course possible to have lived under a rock and not know that, but such a case would be so rare as to be not worth discussing.

[2] There are ways in which this social contract is not widely understood, including the ideas of time- or format-shifting for personal use. The MPAA and RIAA have argued that these actions are infringement... I believe they are fair use, but more to the point the fact that they are not widely recognized inherently negates them as part of an implicit social contract. Nevertheless, what is widely understood is that the social contract prohibits reproduction or public performance, and I assume the MPAA/RIAA objections stem from fears that time- and format-shifting will be treated as loopholes to those prohibitions.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:57 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Malor: "This is insane. And until we realize it's insane and collectively throw off these stupid shackles, and demand that business owners figure out how to make money in a zero-duplication-cost environment, we're going to get more and more and more snarled up in these stupid arguments. "

I overwhelmingly agree with your comment. I just want to be clear that piracy is not an acceptable form of "throwing off these stupid shackles".

I'll buy you a coke if you come up with an internally-consistent, practical, sustainable business model for creative works, but until and unless that happens I stand by the current capitalism/IP hybrid even if it is being held together with duct tape and chewing gum.

And, as always, I'm happy to discuss the hairier particulars of that jury rigging, such as the term of copyright or the appropriate civil and criminal penalties for infringement.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:07 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I'll buy you a coke if you come up with an internally-consistent, practical, sustainable business model for creative works, but until and unless that happens I stand by the current capitalism/IP hybrid even if it is being held together with duct tape and chewing gum."

I would point out that there are loads of people doing just that. Musicians, authors, game devs, you name it. But you'd just call it rhetorical acrobatics, so what's the use?

Have some gum.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:25 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


blenderfish wrote: a great many peoples' ideas of fairness and ethics disagree with you

Apparently, a great many peoples' ideas of fairness and ethics disagree with you, as unfortunate as that may be to your continued employment.

verb wrote: I have a 150 gigabyte collection of MP3s.

If you want to know where I got them, you can direct your attention to the eleventy-hundred pounds of CDs my wife and I collected during our hardcore music freak days. This doesn't make me some kind of pure, virginal crusader for DRM or something. I'm just saying that the conversation here seems to go:


Sadly, that was probably illegal.

Riki tiki wrote: the right to control the fruits of your creative labor. I don't believe that conflicts with the right to free speech because I think your definition of "free speech" is overbroad.

How exactly do I have the "right to control the fruit of my creative labor?" The only natural right I have regarding my creative endeavors are to keep my creations a secret. Legally speaking, of course, society grants me copyright on my creative works because society as a whole thinks (thought?) it would be worth the restriction on their natural right to do things like read and write.

In the abstract sense, both copyright and patents are quite immoral. Luckily for content creators (and me, who very much likes to be able to play video games without directly commissioning them!) we have all decided to give up some of our rights for their betterment. I suppose that's what pisses me off about the sense of entitlement some seem to carry along with them.

blenderfish wrote: But what some people seem to be tap dancing around the fact that piracy, while hardly a major crime, is Just Not Right (and especially is not 'a right'.)

Note that the Constitutional language regarding copyright is permissive, not prescriptive. You have no right to your creative works any more than I have a right to Social Security, student loans, or the use of my CB radio. So long as Congress continues to decide I do, I receive the benefit of those things. It is a statutory right, not a natural right.

So it goes with copy"right".

I do wonder, however, if you work for one of those dastardly publishers who force purchasers of their products to sign away their first sale rights.
posted by wierdo at 7:49 AM on September 15, 2009


I would point out that there are loads of people doing just that. Musicians, authors, game devs, you name it. But you'd just call it rhetorical acrobatics, so what's the use?
It's easy to say "there is no constitutional right to your business model succeeding." But the corollary is also true: there is no right to force another business or businessperson into a business model you believe would be more successful or somehow 'better.'

If I write a piece of software and charge a million dollars for it, I cannot demand that people pay me for it. I can, however, demand that if they don't pay me they don't use or distribute it. My business may fail for any number of reasons, but no one can argue that making copies of my software and writing me checks for $50 is "okay." There is no constitutional right to use my software.

It's been noted by a number of prominent open source developers that software piracy actually retards the development of legitimate alternative systems: instead of building sustainable alternatives it leeches off of the system that's being criticized. After all, why bother investing work building an alternative to Product X when people are just pirating it if they don't want to pay for it?

The same applies to music, film, games, etc. There are some who will leverage shareware/donationware/art-as-loss-leader models to stand out from the crowd or because they have already generated sufficient funds from past traditional projects. But as long as piracy is a more popular option than boycotting the 'traditional system', there will be no real alternative for the vast majority of non-hobbyist artists.
posted by verb at 7:58 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sadly, [copying CDs to mp3s] was probably illegal.
Last time I checked, ripping one's legally owned CDs to MP3 format to listen to them on another device was a legally protected act. It's important to distinguish between 'Things the RIAA probably wishes were illegal,' and 'Things that are illegal.'
In the abstract sense, both copyright and patents are quite immoral
So is money. So is property. The only moral system is anarchy. We live with the system we've got, and as someone who makes his living both creating intellectual property and giving it away for free via open source licensing, I think that kind of sophistry is full of sh

Free is only meaningful if the person who has the legal right to give something away authorizes it.
posted by verb at 8:06 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


>It's easy to say "there is no constitutional right to your business model succeeding." But the corollary is also true: there is no right to force another business or businessperson into a business model you believe would be more successful or somehow 'better.'

What made you think that anybody was advocating forcing people into better business models? That's the job of the market. I'm just pointing out that people who lag behind are screwing themselves. (Oh, and that the law shouldn't be propping up those outdated business models.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:11 AM on September 15, 2009


What made you think that anybody was advocating forcing people into better business models? That's the job of the market. I'm just pointing out that people who lag behind are screwing themselves. (Oh, and that the law shouldn't be propping up those outdated business models.)
Not you, necessarily, but those who say that piracy should be legally acceptable because the content producers' business model is outdated. The whole "Oh, buggy-whip manufacturers!" line -- in response to a clear case of pirates copying and distributing a commercial game -- is nothing but "I get to decide your business model" wrapped in snark.
posted by verb at 8:21 AM on September 15, 2009


>Not you, necessarily, but those who say that piracy should be legally acceptable because the content producers' business model is outdated. The whole "Oh, buggy-whip manufacturers!" line -- in response to a clear case of pirates copying and distributing a commercial game -- is nothing but "I get to decide your business model" wrapped in snark.

Oh, add me, necessarily. What the hell.

You can rage against the fact that copying bits is easy. You can rage about how copying bits should not be easy. But you want copying bits to be easy. If it wasn't, you'd have, essentially, the seventies (Yeah, yeah, work with me here.)

People who bitch about 'piracy' are like barge operators who hate the fact that it's easy to go downstream. "It should be just as hard either way, dammit! I've invested millions in these mules to pull me upstream!"

Yeah, whatever, it's still easy to go downstream. Raging against that fact just makes you look stupid. Your business model should have incorporated that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:59 AM on September 15, 2009


People who bitch about 'piracy' are like barge operators who hate the fact that it's easy to go downstream. "It should be just as hard either way, dammit! I've invested millions in these mules to pull me upstream!"
This is exactly what I'm talking about. If your analogy is accurate, and it's so easy to go downstream, don't use the barge. If the boat is so terribly redundant, and commercial game distribution is so horribly outmoded, and all that business -- don't use the products.

Is that so hard? It's not like you can accidentally torrent a copy of Final Fantasy.
posted by verb at 9:47 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


>This is exactly what I'm talking about. If your analogy is accurate, and it's so easy to go downstream, don't use the barge.

Why not? There seems to be this idea that you can make easy things equivalent to hard things. I'm just pointing out that easy things are easy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2009


Why not? There seems to be this idea that you can make easy things equivalent to hard things. I'm just pointing out that easy things are easy.
Squatting on someone else's land is easier than buying your own. Why make the former as hard as the latter?

It's easier.
posted by verb at 10:26 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Squatting on someone else's land is easier than buying your own. Why make the former as hard as the latter?

It's easier.


And, in the digital realm, you still have your own land. So what's the problem?

As copyright arguments progress, they increasingly become a "she's dressing like me" argument.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:30 AM on September 15, 2009


I'll buy you a coke if you come up with an internally-consistent, practical, sustainable business model for creative works, but until and unless that happens I stand by the current capitalism/IP hybrid even if it is being held together with duct tape and chewing gum

You'd owe me a hell of a lot more than a coke. :)

Ultimately, that's not my problem, because I'm not trying to make money off something that costs nothing to distribute. That's YOUR problem, because you're the capitalist trying to extract value from the global system in exchange for whatever it is you're doing. If you can't do it, well, too bad. You can't make money doing whatever it is you want to do. You'll have to do something else. This is the same problem that every other capitalist faces. Adapt or die.

The 'held together with duct tape' means having the government hold people at gunpoint and demand payment for something they can make and spread for free. And the primary beneficiaries of this enforcement isn't "artists", it's giant corporations.

Remember, those giant corporations are enormous, vast entities that exist purely to copy bits. They are demanding enormous, enormous fees for the act of delivering physical bits from artists to consumers -- fees so high, in fact, that the artists themselves usually see very little of the profit.

Propping up this model is incredibly stupid.

The consequences of trying to make bits not copyable except with permission will be dire; to whatever degree we succeed, we will have to go even deeper into social surveillance and draconian enforcement. Just like the War on Drugs, the War on Piracy will have profoundly bad consequences, much worse than letting existing businesses go bankrupt, and letting artists try new business models until they find some that work.

As an aside, I will also note that when I do a lot of music piracy, I buy quite a bit more music. In years where I don't pirate, I buy essentially nothing. In years where I do, the RIAA would claim that they're losing tons of money on my evil stealing, but in actual fact they make substantially more profit. I'd guess I buy maybe, oh, about one album in ten that I download. If I download fifty albums in a year, the RIAA shrieks about the loss of 45 "sales", but in actual fact they gained five that they wouldn't otherwise have gotten. When I'm not downloading, I simply don't buy music at all.

So their raging and suing, at least in my case, is directly counterproductive. I do buy music I like, and the only way I find out what I like anymore is by downloading it, because the radio is a complete waste of time. Imogen Heap, for instance, has sold me three albums directly because I was a 'dirty thief' and downloaded two of them first.

As far as games go, I buy pretty much everything. Even though pirated games are typically more convenient than purchased ones, I don't generally bother. If the copy protection has activations or is particularly onerous, I simply don't play it at all.

If I were young and poor, I think I'd probably copy more games, because they cost too much. If they were $10 or $15, I think even young me probably wouldn't have.
posted by Malor at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2009


Let me expand on that penultimate paragraph a little:

It's worth pointing out that the "product" provided by pirates costs only whatever it costs to download in your area, and typically has all copy protection removed, so it simply works without hassle. And you can install it on as many computers as you want.

Most commercial games have copy protection of one sort or another, and typically have a fairly high cost. Further, the copy protection inflicts a non-zero chance of breakage. If a commercial game that you bought breaks, or you don't like it, you can't return it. You're stuck with a $50 coaster.

The pirates' product, in other words, is not only free, and more convenient, it also has less risk of significant loss to you. Even if it breaks, you're out only what it cost you to download. It is, simply, a superior good, and that's why there's so much piracy.

You can have any moral judgment you like on this situation, but that's the truth of it. And trying to inflict your moral judgment at gunpoint, by using laws to fine or lock up people who violate it, will have terrible side effects, much worse than simply expecting game and music companies to adapt to the reality of the situation.

If some game and music companies go out of business, this will not be a catastrophe. And getting rid of the parasitic record companies would probably be the best possible outcome for artists.
posted by Malor at 11:15 AM on September 15, 2009


And, in the digital realm, you still have your own land. So what's the problem?

As copyright arguments progress, they increasingly become a "she's dressing like me" argument.
Summary: "Only I get to use flawed, shitty analogies in this discussion."
posted by verb at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Summary: "Only I get to use flawed, shitty analogies in this discussion."

Not true, your analogies also suck ass. This, BTW, is not a helpful contribution.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:25 AM on September 15, 2009


Malor: The 'held together with duct tape' means having the government hold people at gunpoint and demand payment for something they can make and spread for free.

The only people "held at gunpoint" are the people who walk out in front of the gun. Once again, for the cheap seats: there is a foolproof, 100% effective solution to the evil government tyranny of copyright: don't download music, don't download games, don't download movies. Taking action that you know puts you in the crosshairs is your own fault when you have an alternative available at absolutely no cost to yourself or others.

And the primary beneficiaries of this enforcement isn't "artists", it's giant corporations. Remember, those giant corporations are enormous, vast entities that exist purely to copy bits. They are demanding enormous, enormous fees for the act of delivering physical bits from artists to consumers -- fees so high, in fact, that the artists themselves usually see very little of the profit.

Propping up this model is incredibly stupid.


Everything primarily benefits giant corporations that exist purely to manage the logistics of their business. That's not specific to the intellectual property business model, flawed though it may be in other ways.

The fact remains that artists consent to that relationship, so it doesn't really matter how parasitic you think it is. Pointing out the soulless evil of the studio system serves no purpose other than to emotionally load your argument.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:38 AM on September 15, 2009


Not true, your analogies also suck ass. This, BTW, is not a helpful contribution.
When you understand the difference between 'creating' and 'distributing' perhaps you'll be able to spot the portions of the discussion that have content. Until then, I've got hobbies. Thanks for playing.
posted by verb at 11:45 AM on September 15, 2009


Riki tiki: "I appreciate your reasoned response, team lowkey, so I hope you'll bear with me while I explain in excruciating detail why I disagree with it."

I appreciate your response as well, and would like to note that what I wrote wasn't meant as some justification these actions, or advocating piracy, but only an attempt to model the frame of mind of the average music and movie downloader. I don't know how well it applies to games, because I assume there is more effort necessary to run a pirated game. You're right that I left out the original act of piracy that makes these things public, but I don't think that factors in to most people's decision making when they download things. To them, it is as public as a mural. They are wandering around their web communities, and these things are right out in the open for their enjoyment. There isn't much thought put into "Am I allowed to have this? What about this? What about this?" There's just the content, and the belief that no one is harmed by enjoying the content.

Riki tiki: "'Cost nothing' is just willful ignorance on the part of people who want something for free that took money, possibly many millions of dollars, and years of peoples' lives, to create. It's funny that people value these things enough to steal them, but when it's time to establish what they should have payed for them, they 'cost nothing.'"

And there's the rub. Once those millions of dollars are spent, and the product exists, it costs me absolutely nothing to make a copy. As in my analogy, you are assuming that I value the product enough to pay for it. What if I don't? I didn't ask you to spend your time and money to make it. If I couldn't get it for free, I just wouldn't get it at all. But if it's there for the taking, what's the harm? I admit that I'm playing devil's advocate here, because I do understand where there could be harm. But that's what you have to deal with. Not willfully ignorant thieves who are decisively stealing money from your pocket, but a general public who are starting to feel like you are demanding money from them for something that they never agreed to pay for, and costs nothing to copy. They don't value it enough to steal it. Nothing is exactly the price that they are willing to pay for it. And, yes, if you want them to open their wallets and give you money, the onus is on you to offer them something they value.

But the vast majority of people do believe that the creator should be rewarded for creating the things that they enjoy. They believe it has value, and they are generally willing to pay for the product. You are not going to convince people that it is immoral to copy data, because there isn't anything fundamentally immoral about it. No one is harmed when you move bits around. If you say you are harmed because you aren't getting paid for work that you did, the response is invariably going to be that you are not entitled to my money. I never agreed to pay you anything. So we need to come to an agreement where I do pay you when appropriate. I don't know what this agreement looks like, but it's not up to me to figure that out. I'm already getting what I want. How do you get what you want? Using the existing laws as a weapon to threaten me isn't working. Trying to convince me I'm evil sure isn't going to work. How should we proceed?
posted by team lowkey at 12:07 PM on September 15, 2009


You are not going to convince people that it is immoral to copy data, because there isn't anything fundamentally immoral about it.
"Copying Data" is a means to an end, not the thing that people desire. No one sits around watching the file transfer progress bar for entertainment purposes. What people want is possession of the thing that they are copying. And that is something that our legal system currently reserves for the creator of the thing, and those that the creator gives permission to.

That's it. It's that simple. If you don't like it, try to get copyright law changed. But don't pretend that the underlying issue -- ownership of the right to duplicate a particular work -- is moot because the mechanism by which that right is exercised has become cheaper.
posted by verb at 12:15 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, ownership of the right to duplicate a work is granted to the author... by our representative government as a means to serve the public good. That makes it illegal to copy data, but not immoral. The method of duplication doesn't matter, nor does the end product. I don't think listening to a song without paying for it is immoral, either.
posted by team lowkey at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2009


As a heads-up, team lowkey, that second quote was from blenderfish and not myself. I agree with it though, so it's not a big deal. Just pointing it out for the future... it looks like you're using the greasemonkey quoting script and that's a quirky issue with it; hilighting text from one comment then clicking "quote" next to another will incorrectly source the hilighted text to the second comment's author.

To your point: anti-piracy folks are occasionally accused, falsely, of assuming all pirates would pay full price for everything they pirate (the RIAA and MPAA have lent credibility to that accusation by taking that exact stance, sadly). Your "if I couldn't get it for free, I just wouldn't get it at all" claim is just the flip side of the same coin. Just as the cost of piracy is not (MSRP × incidents), it is not (0 × incidents) either. Some pirates would pay full price, some would pay nothing, others are in a grey area where they wouldn't pay $600 for Photoshop but might pay $80 for Photoshop Elements if they weren't just able to pirate the full version.

The real cost is somewhere in between. The math doesn't work the way you've described because you're improperly multiplying by zero.
C · x = C · y.
therefore, x = y.
-----------------------------
assume C = 0, x = 1, y = 2.
0 · 1 = 0 · 2.
therefore, 1 = 2.
Zeroing out terms can lead you to illogical conclusions and I think that's what happens due to the moral reductionism of calling piracy "just copying bits" or by assertions that the first copy "costs" millions of dollars but the second one is practically free.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:30 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


team lowkey: "Yes, ownership of the right to duplicate a work is granted to the author... by our representative government as a means to serve the public good."

I used to believe copyright was just a means to an end too. But really, there's no reason why it can't be both. Free speech is a moral right, but it's also worth enumerating as an official government protection because free speech serves the public good.

Similarly, the ability to define the distribution terms of your creative works is a moral right, in my opinion. It just happens to also serve the public good.

There are reasonable limits to that right, just as free speech doesn't cover "fire" in a crowded theater. I don't believe copyright should exist in perpetuity, for example. I also don't believe the right to control over your content extends to control over others' derivative works (but as with time- and format-shifting, I understand concerns that "derivative works" can become a loophole to avoid the broader protections). But just as we've done with other inalienable rights, we can (and do) develop our interpretation of intellectual property over time.

I suggest we continue that approach, not only because I think it's the right one but because I think focusing on platforms like pro-piracy has ceded too much ground to the content holders on the actual field of battle.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:44 PM on September 15, 2009


And there's the rub. Once those millions of dollars are spent, and the product exists, it costs me absolutely nothing to make a copy. As in my analogy, you are assuming that I value the product enough to pay for it. What if I don't?

Then you don't get a copy. I don't understand why this is so difficult to understand.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:51 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then you don't get a copy. I don't understand why this is so difficult to understand.

What's difficult to understand is how the difference between "I don't have a copy" and "I pirated a copy" impacts anybody in the world except me.
posted by kafziel at 2:08 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then you don't get a copy. I don't understand why this is so difficult to understand.

Except in the real world, I do.
posted by empath at 2:14 PM on September 15, 2009


What's difficult to understand is how the difference between "I don't have a copy" and "I pirated a copy" impacts anybody in the world except me.

It somehow impacts the person that you were never going to give money to anyway.
posted by empath at 2:14 PM on September 15, 2009


Here's what I think the difference is.

I think that's its good to pay for music and games that you copy, etc, in the same way that helping old ladies across the street and holding doors open for people is good. It's polite, it contributes to the well being of society, it encourages more artistic production. But I think the case that you're morally obligated to do those things is a gray area at best, and a legal penalty for not doing so strikes me as obviously wrong.
posted by empath at 2:22 PM on September 15, 2009


Please do stop using the "were never going to give money to them anyway" line. That is certainly true in some cases but is absolutely not true in all cases, and so it is not a valid claim in the broader discussion about piracy.

kafziel: "What's difficult to understand is how the difference between "I don't have a copy" and "I pirated a copy" impacts anybody in the world except me."

There's no significant impact there, but that doesn't matter because you've simply lopped off the part of the debate that was inconsistent with your point.

There is absolutely an impact to the difference between "I pirated a copy" and "I paid for a copy", and since you cannot argue that no pirate would ever pay full price for software, you cannot pretend that impact doesn't exist and informs the ethical merits of piracy.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:27 PM on September 15, 2009


Just to be clear, before my ambiguous grammar derails this again: I meant "absolutely not (true in all cases)", not "absolutely (not true) in all cases". In other words, "we were never going to give money to them anyway" does not apply to all cases of piracy.

Stupid English language.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:30 PM on September 15, 2009


>There's no significant impact there, but that doesn't matter because you've simply lopped off the part of the debate that was inconsistent with your point.

I see what you did there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:19 PM on September 15, 2009


Riki tiki: "Your "if I couldn't get it for free, I just wouldn't get it at all" claim is just the flip side of the same coin. Just as the cost of piracy is not (MSRP × incidents), it is not (0 × incidents) either."

Yeah, I agree with that, and meant to include something to that affect. There are always going to be people who are just not going to pay for content, period, and that is going to affect the bottom-line. But I don't think that's the case in the great majority of instances. And as Joe Downloader, I'm using my judgment to decide on a case by case basis whether that's true for me. If I want to listen to a song, I can choose to (A) wait for a legitimate broadcast, (B) illegally download it, or (C) purchase it. If B isn't an option, I can't think of any instance where that would cause me to choose C. But if it's something I value, something I want to support, I'll choose C whether or not B is an option. Since I believe that to be true, I face no moral dilemma. I'm not stealing anything, because in the instances where I illegally download something, I don't believe I would pay money. No one is harmed by my actions.

Now I realize that on a large scale, it isn't in the best interest of the creators to trust individuals to make that decision, and that people in general aren't good at making that kind of self-judgment, and that there needs to be better method of use vs. imbursement. But that's where we are now.
posted by team lowkey at 3:36 PM on September 15, 2009


If I want to listen to a song, I can choose to (A) wait for a legitimate broadcast, (B) illegally download it, or (C) purchase it. If B isn't an option, I can't think of any instance where that would cause me to choose C. But if it's something I value, something I want to support, I'll choose C whether or not B is an option.

Hrm. Sounds like CwF+RtB.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:46 PM on September 15, 2009


Riki tiki: "Similarly, the ability to define the distribution terms of your creative works is a moral right, in my opinion. It just happens to also serve the public good."

Good luck to you, but I don't see how people are going to come to believe that control over distribution of a creative work is a moral right. We're having a hard enough time getting people to believe that access to health care is a moral right.

Riki tiki: "I suggest we continue that approach, not only because I think it's the right one but because I think focusing on platforms like pro-piracy has ceded too much ground to the content holders on the actual field of battle.

If I'm following you correctly, I agree there, too. I don't think piracy would be as rampant today if it weren't for the overzealous battle against it. If the iTunes and the Amazon music store had arrived at the same time as Napster, I don't think people would have worked so hard to develop illegal ways to distribute music. They would have been satisfied with that model. But now that we've got it for free, it's hard to go back.

oh and, yeah, I caught that greasemonkey quoting error after the fact. Sorry about that.
posted by team lowkey at 3:51 PM on September 15, 2009


Similarly, the ability to define the distribution terms of your creative works is a moral right, in my opinion. It just happens to also serve the public good.

It directly benefits content creators, which MIGHT benefit the public good, if it encourages those creators to make more content. It won't in all cases.

But enforcing those laws with the draconian penalties and intrusive surveillance required when anyone with a PC can copy them does an enormous amount of public damage, far more than the good of having additional content.

Personally, I would much rather live in a world with a little less shoveled music for profit and a complete absence of surveillance. The intrusive snooping required to police individual actions, along with penalties that completely destroy the lives of those caught copying, is far, far more damaging than the loss of a few movies or games could ever be.
posted by Malor at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2009


"The only people 'held at gunpoint' are the people who walk out in front of the gun. Once again, for the cheap seats: there is a foolproof, 100% effective solution to the evil government tyranny of copyright: don't download music, don't download games, don't download movies. Taking action that you know puts you in the crosshairs is your own fault when you have an alternative available at absolutely no cost to yourself or others."

There is another 100% foolproof and effective solution to the evil government of copyright: Don't release your stuff to the public. As it stands right now the public is getting both shitty ends of the copyright deal stick. The public doesn't get the benift of works entering the public domain that copyright was meant to foster in the first place while still being stuck with all the costs. Nothing has entered the public domain since the 1920s (and it seems unlikely that'll change anytime soon) and the public is expected to pay for enforcement so the content owners can make money. "Taking action that you know puts you in the crosshairs is your own fault when you have an alternative available at absolutely no cost to yourself or others."

Damn it the strip mining of the public domain pisses me off
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 PM on September 15, 2009


Mitheral: "There is another 100% foolproof and effective solution to the evil government of copyright: Don't release your stuff to the public."

I assumed that option went without saying, but since no one (pro- or anti-piracy) wants to starve our culture of new creative works it's safe to dismiss that as a "solution" in any real way.

You're absolutely right about the absurdity of our current copyright terms, particularly since they were extended retroactively in a transparent gift to powerful content holders. But without absolving our legislators of their sins, I feel like The Walt Disney Company showed up and we did not.

To an extent, it seems like the most effective advocates for the public domain and Free information have wasted their talents. They could have rallied around a reasonable, pro-copyright but anti-CTEA platform and maybe turned the tide on that issue. Instead they chose to align themselves with pro-piracy interests.

To be clear, I think we've benefited greatly from the work they've done; Creative Commons, the GPL, DeCSS, these are all amazing achievements. I just feel we could have done all those things and so much more if we hadn't pandered to the "screw you, got mine" contingent.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:23 PM on September 15, 2009


I'd like to be more specific in saying that all the content, every song, every movie, every story, that may or may not have been created because of our oppressive copyright-enforcement regime in this country, wasn't worth the destruction of Jammie Thomas' financial future.

Her one life was worth more than all of that.
posted by Malor at 4:39 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's an admirable position, Malor, but quite misinformed.

First off, Jammie Thomas-Rasset isn't dead, unless you have information I don't. Her life still is worth more than all of that.

Second, it's also a bit premature to mourn the death of her financial future due to the $1.92 million penalty levied against her. She does, after all, still have legal options including (in my view) quite a strong eighth amendment claim about "excessive fines".

Third, according to this post on ars technica, she isn't (in practical terms) on the hook for $1.92 million. Supposedly, the RIAA offered her a four-digit settlement in 2005 and is still willing to settle. Though I expect their asking price has increased in light of the verdict, they have lots of smart lawyerly-types who are probably balancing the amount they'll practically be able to receive from Thomas-Rasset against the continuing PR catastrophe of pursuing the full $2 million over the piracy of 24 songs. From the link:
"Our understanding is that Thomas-Rasset has simply been unwilling to negotiate a settlement; she would rather pay nothing, continually claiming innocence."
I can see the value of that decision but at the end of the day she knows the consequences and is responsible for her choices. She received her due process, got a jury of her peers, and they found against her.

I agree that the law itself is unjust, and as I've repeated over and over: I am happy to support reforms. But those reforms can and should happen within the "oppressive regime" of copyright.

Personally, I wouldn't give up every song, every movie, every story that has been created as a result of the profit-based copyright system, just to protect someone from having to swallow her pride and pay a reasonable settlement for the crime she was determined to have committed in a court of law.

On the other hand, I'd abandon my principles completely if it meant we could go back in time and erase my experience watching The Master of Disguise.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:57 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


But I think the case that you're morally obligated to do those things is a gray area at best

It's a gray area at best?!?

There is no law saying that it is illegal for you to sit on your fat ass while an old lady is crossing the street. There is a law that says you can't copyright and distribute protected materials. The legal penalty exists because when you copy protected works, you are breaking the law. Now, the manner in which this law is enforced sucks sometimes, and that definitely needs to be addressed. It also wouldn't hurt to shorten the life of copyrights, so that more material could enter the public domain.

If you really want something for free so bad, go to the library and listen to the album, or read the book. Play the demo to see if you like the game. If you decide you want to have a copy on a more permanent basis, then pay for it. Pay for it. Again, I really don't see why this is so hard to understand.

If you go to most restaurants, a relatively tiny portion of the money you pay is actually going towards the food itself. Most of it is going towards the labor. Now, you could, if you wanted to, say something like, "I know for a fact that the ingredients for this sandwich only cost you around $1, but you're charging $6, so I'm going to slip into the kitchen undetected and make a sandwich for myself, and the cost to you is going to be close to nothing so don't even think about trying to charge me." But you would, you know, be breaking the law.

And I don't think anyone in this thread would say, "Now wait a minute, food wants to be free." Even though without question the right to be fed trumps the right to waste time playing a video game any day.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:35 PM on September 16, 2009


There is a law that says you can't copyright and distribute protected materials.

Since I'm correcting my comment, I might as well add that I'm fully aware that fair use laws generally allow you to make personal copies of materials that you actually have paid for.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:42 PM on September 16, 2009


>The legal penalty exists because when you copy protected works, you are breaking the law.

Huh. Not sure what that has to do with morality, but good to know.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:28 AM on September 17, 2009


And I don't think anyone in this thread would say, "Now wait a minute, food wants to be free."

No, but I think most of us would agree that recipes do.
posted by Jairus at 8:28 AM on September 17, 2009


Huh. Not sure what that has to do with morality, but good to know.

Sorry; I was referring to the entire quote: "But I think the case that you're morally obligated to do those things is a gray area at best, and a legal penalty for not doing so strikes me as obviously wrong."
posted by Deathalicious at 9:44 AM on September 17, 2009


>Sorry; I was referring to the entire quote...

Yes, I know. Empath was referring to the morality of the situation, and you cited the law. Unfortunately, those are two separate things. (Which, oddly, the copyright minimalists and maximalists will both decry.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:51 AM on September 17, 2009


Oh, fun, I just got 80% of the way through Arkham Asylum and my save game got randomly deleted, on the Xbox, with a legitimately purchased game.

I'm SO GLAD that I paid money for that piece of shit.
posted by empath at 10:00 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


empath wrote: Oh, fun, I just got 80% of the way through Arkham Asylum and my save game got randomly deleted, on the Xbox, with a legitimately purchased game.

I'm SO GLAD that I paid money for that piece of shit.


I don't think that's intentional. (And possibly not even the fault of the game programmers) I doubt they include the silly code on the consoles.

Or maybe they do on the 360, in an attempt to head off the folks using the hacked DVD drives to run "backups." If so, they're assholes for writing code that misfired.
posted by wierdo at 10:57 PM on September 17, 2009


Its just that the save game system in arkham asylum sucks. you can't save whenever you want, and as far as I can tell, you can't have multiple saves going. So it just kind of saves randomly, over-writing your save, without warning you. I turned it off on a 'retry or quit' screen and came back the next day and the save was corrupted.

There are tons of people complaining about it on the game forums. I assume a patch will be forthcoming, but I'm not going to waste another 15 hours just to see the ending. I'd feel better about it if I hadn't dropped $60 on a game that I'm never going to finish.
posted by empath at 11:36 PM on September 17, 2009


Yes, I know. Empath was referring to the morality of the situation, and you cited the law. Unfortunately, those are two separate things. (Which, oddly, the copyright minimalists and maximalists will both decry.)

Okay, I think I get it. I guess i feel like my position is that it is wrong to acquire works without paying when payment is expected, so therefore it is okay that there is a law against it. empath seemed to be saying that copying a copyrighted work was like not helping an old woman across the street -- maybe you should behave otherwise, but that was not morally set in stone and being legally punished for behaving otherwise is obviously wrong.

I think that the main issue is that "Acquiring a copy of something for free when payment is expected is (wrong|perfectly okay)" is not something that can be proved. It's basically a postulate, and people are working from that postulate. There are plenty of arguments on each side of the effects that that belief will have on others, but fundamentally if you believe one way or the other, that's pretty much it.

If you take the "okay" position, than of course empath's quote makes perfect sense. Since it's okay to do it, punishing someone who does it is morally wrong. From the "wrong" perspective, of course a legal punishment is expected (although I think it should not really be as harsh as it has been).

Since I hold with the "wrong" crowd, of course I would think that the "gray area at best" position was flawed. But I suppose I am not "right", merely expressing my opinion based on my belief (and, for better or worse, my position is more-or-less upheld by law and established practice). And of course I wouldn't understand why the response to "I don't want to pay for that" is "I guess I'll copy it" instead of "I guess I won't get it".

If it is a belief system rather than something that can be proved, I don't even think it makes sense to have a discussion about morality. Basically, all we can talk about is what laws exist and how each of us might behave. Morality is based on belief systems, so people with different belief systems are not going to always be able to come to a consensus.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:47 AM on September 18, 2009


I will say this though, my belief system notwithstanding, if you copy a piece of software and then use that software to make a copyrighted work (music, art, book, etc) that you then attempt to sell for a fixed price in order to make a profit, you're kind of an asshole.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:52 AM on September 18, 2009


Ugh, that sucks empath. Have you tried returning the game? I know a lot of places have policies against it (although that's usually for the PC versions), but you could claim that the disc was corrupted late in the game and they'll usually accomodate you.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:25 AM on September 18, 2009


Since it's such a widespread issue, hopefully, they'll patch it over Live (or PSN.) Too late for you now, but you might want to wait for a fix before attempting again.
posted by blenderfish at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2009


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