Feb 2011

PiracyIt's not stealing (but still wrong)

Well, technically, software piracy (yarr!) is stealing according to the second meaning of "to steal": "to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment."

There are however a couple of reasons why it is not stealing, usually:

The Pirate does not make money with it

With the exception of developers who use pirated software for their own private company, the general public uses software only for their own gain (not money). Like a lot of photoshop software is pirated because of the price of the package being too much for poor people who still want to learn to design in it.

The creator does not lose any money on it

This is a sore point, but bear with me on this one.

  • There is no money on 'lost sales' (assuming it wouldn't have been bought in the first place).
  • No bandwidth, diskspace or anything is used of the original creator. All sharing is done externally.
  • Online components (multiplayer, leaderboards, updates, help-content, etc.) is usually for registered users only, therefore not wasted either.

But what does the creator gain?

  • Exposure of the product, for free.
  • Free testing/experience of more users.
  • People talk about it more.

And copy protection is completely pointless!

It only irritates people who buy it, and Crackers can crack it faster than new technology can be devised. Even before it has been released sometimes.

The worst solution to Piracy: DRM

The biggest problem is that a Steam. For people who pay it offers many things (achievement systems, global leaderboards, extra content, automatic updates, etc.) but it can still be played offline and you can have it installed (and running) on multiple PC's at the same time.

But here is a list of why DRM can be a very bad idea:

  • Limiting installs to X. Because people never buy more than 1 pc or multiple after a while.
  • Always needing to be online (Assassins Creed 2 I'm looking at you). Because people are always online and never roaming, on holiday, travelling or otherwise in a position where they'd want to play without internet.
  • Crippleware, because detection methods never go wrong and crackers don't find their way around it.

And the downloaded copy is 'better'

It's getting ridiculous, honestly. To the point where downloading a DVD/Bluray is better than buying one in the store. Why? Because there are many ways in which a downloaded copy is superior to an official one.

  • No copy protection, you can copy it as much as you like.
  • Never scratches or, if it does, download a new one.
  • No forced ads / warnings every time you boot up, which is terribly ironic if you think about it.
  • No DRM that will fail in too many situations. A failure rate of 5% is not uncommon (that's one in twenty people).

Seriously, this must stop. When a paying customer has more hassle, more wasted time because of a DVD that doesn't work in a laptop or whatever else just to 'fight piracy'.

So, what is the solution?

Offer, like Steam, extras to people who buy. Online things that are not required for the basic experience, but can add to it.
And no, this is not an excuse to put a buggy product on the shelves just because you can patch it later... (a trend that is all to prevalent lately)