Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Piracy: Who's the real thief?

Ever since computers were made available to the public, software pirates made and distributed copies of software, and in some cases illegally sold their copies. With pirated copies being available much easier then ever before because of the internet, we must ask ourselves: Should we put an end to piracy to protect our software? Unfortunately, there are a few problems with just ending piracy. Not all pirates are thieves. The following examples explain who is a pirate, who is actually a thief.

1. One reason why you might pirate a video game is because the price is too high, and you are unable to afford to pay $60 every time a new game is released. Since software publishers claim that a download is a lost sale, it does not apply to those who cannot afford the software. Also, even if it was a lost sale, it wouldn't make much of a difference.

2. Sometimes software isn't just distributed by the developer, it goes through a series of steps to reach your computer. Coming back to the video game example, games are made by the developer (For example, DICE), then are sent through the publisher (EA) to reach the distributor (Gamestop, Origin...). The developer was already payed for creating the game, so if nobody buys the game, only the publisher and distributor would be at risk. Lets say that one person was to pirate a game made by DICE. This person dislikes EA because it was rated the worst company in the USA. (Source) He dislikes EA much that he has no problem with it going bankrupt, so he donates his $60 to DICE instead. Keep in mind that if the game was purchased from a distributor only about 10-30% would reach the developer. This is a win-win situation for the developer, the developer will have 100% of the money to create new games, while looking for a better distributor/publisher that would help them succeed. This may be considered dollar voting even though nothing was purchased.

3. People may also choose to pirate because of incontinent distribution. In software, it may be DRM. In video games, it may be on disc DLC. Would you really want to pay a full price for software when you can install it a limited amount of times, and when there are more features that are unlocked with a $20 key that should have been part of the total price?

We have yet to answer one question. Who is a thief?
A thief is someone who:
1. Can afford to purchase the software
2. Enjoys using the software
3. Supports the actions of the developer
4. Supports the actions of the publisher
5. Supports the actions of the distributor
6. Has nothing better to spend his money on (This depends on what your morals and values are)
7. Thinks that the software is worth the money


If you still don't understand, the percentage of thieves are too little to make an impact on the outcome of the developer. Therefore, ACTA, SOPA and PIPA only help the publishers/distributors make money, and not the developers.

EDIT: According to the US courts, code is not physical property and it cannot be stolen.