Piracy: Common Myths

Rydian

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Piracy: Common Myths

  • Piracy is theft.
    This is by far the most common myth. Piracy is not theft because it does not cause any direct damage or loss to the other party (in fact, whether there's another party at all is sometimes up for debate). Theft, on the other hand, is a criminal act because in committing an act of theft, you deprive somebody of something. If I go and take an old lady's purse, then due to my actions the old lady has been caused a loss, her purse. However, when pirating, nobody loses anything. The pirater gains a copy of some digital item, while the person/entity who originally created that item is completely unaffected by the act.

    The legal term for theft is "larceny" and is under criminal law, while piracy is "Copyright Infringement", which is under civil law (except exceedingly-rare cases that edge into a felony). If downloading a song from the internet causes somebody's bank account to magically have money subtracted out of it or causes physical copies of the item in question to poof into thin air, I would love to know how that works.


  • Piracy is not theft, so it's not illegal.
    Many people realize that piracy is not theft and doesn't cause a loss, so they assume that it's not illegal. That is false, in fact people go to court and/or get sued for piracy all the time. Civil law is still law.


  • If I'm caught pirating I only need to repay the retail cost of the product so it's not a big risk.
    While criminal cases often require that fees/damages are proportional to the property in question, no such relation is required for civil cases. It's not uncommon to see somebody fined $9,500 per song.


  • It's only illegal to upload, downloading is legal.
    This myth comes into being from people being taken to court for uploading. In reality downloading is illegal too, however the fees for uploading combined with downloading can be much bigger, setting a larger example, so that's generally what companies take people to court for, to make the biggest example out of them.


  • It's okay to download something if I already have a real copy.
    A myth commonly proposed by ROM/ISO sites, this is false as well. Nowhere do any of the laws or regulations add "unless you already have a copy". The concept of a single backup in "fair use" is commonly-mentioned, but this revolves around you creating your own copy, downloading somebody else's copy is taking part in "distribution", which is still illegal (and the main focus of copyright law).


  • This old game is no longer being sold, so it's out of copyright and it's fine to download.
    Copyright on modern (1978 and newer) works lasts 70 years past the author's death, or 95-120 years for an anonymous work. Whether it's still sold or not has no bearing on this.


  • I can download it as long as I delete it within 24 hours.
    There's nothing official that says this, this is an outright lie.


  • I bought the disc/cart/game, so I can do whatever I want with the software on it!
    Sadly, false as well. In the majority of cases, what you have bought is a physical object containing the information and a license to use that single copy of the information, which is different from owning the object outright.
    Ownership of a “copy” [...] – the tangible embodiment of the “work” – is distinct from the “work” itself – the intangible intellectual property.


  • Piracy causes job loss.
    Commonly-stated by large corporations, but has no actual backing. In fact a government report (PDF) has looked into many commonly-cited numbers and reports for piracy and found them to have no actual backing, or to consist of outright lies in their references.


  • I'm just some guy on a forum, they'll never get me.
    Tell that to GBATemp member kongsnutz, who was sued for $1,500,000 AUD.


  • That's just US law, copyright stuff doesn't apply to me in another country so I can pirate all I want.
    While I'm using US laws and regulations primarily since it's a main concern of this forum, this is another falsehood. The WIPO/Berne Convention is a worldwide agreement, if your country is in the member list (there's over 100 countries there, so you most likely are) then your country recognizes the copyrights of other countries and has it's own laws in place to deal with violations. Look at the above example, which took place in Australia.


  • Piracy kills game systems.
    There is no correlation between systems that fail (or succeed) and piracy. Multiple systems have failed terribly without any piracy in their lifetime (Virtual Boy, N-Gage, CD-i), while other systems that had piracy enabled for the majority of their lifetime ended up being some of the top sellers of their generation (PS1, Wii, GBA, DS, etc.)

    This holds true for games as well, for example the PS3 was the last console of the 7th generation to be hacked (and patched the hacks quickly and recent models are unhackable), yet it sold many less games than the Wii, which was the first to be hacked (and does not patch hacks quickly, and still has hackable models being sold).

 

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I was always bothered by piracy being called piracy. I understand that our use of words changes, but it's sad that the transfer of data (whether or not you have the right) is likened to hijacking a truck on the open road and selling the goods in Chinatown. There is an ethical dilemma in acquiring something (however un/limited the supply is) you didn't pay for, but it's quite different than profiting off of something you physically stole from someone else.
 

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I was always bothered by piracy being called piracy. I understand that our use of words changes, but it's sad that the transfer of data (whether or not you have the right) is likened to hijacking a truck on the open road and selling the goods in Chinatown. There is an ethical dilemma in acquiring something (however un/limited the supply is) you didn't pay for, but it's quite different than profiting off of something you physically stole from someone else.
It's kinda' funny, it was the MPAA (or an organization like them) I think that originally called it "piracy", because they wanted to give it a bad, dirty image.
 

pokefloote

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I agree with this 100%. One thing though, backing up your own media creates a 100% identical copy of what you could download from the internet, so what's the difference? Besides like actually being traced through a torrent or something, how can you prove or disprove if it's legal or not?

edit: I should say that I know it's the actual act of downloading that's wrong.
 
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Rydian

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I agree with this 100%. One thing though, backing up your own media creates a 100% identical copy of what you could download from the internet, so what's the difference? Besides like actually being traced through a torrent or something, how can you prove or disprove if it's legal or not?

edit: I should say that I know it's the actual act of downloading that's wrong.
If they take you to court for downloading, it's because they have the records of you doing it.
 

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I was always bothered by piracy being called piracy. I understand that our use of words changes, but it's sad that the transfer of data (whether or not you have the right) is likened to hijacking a truck on the open road and selling the goods in Chinatown. There is an ethical dilemma in acquiring something (however un/limited the supply is) you didn't pay for, but it's quite different than profiting off of something you physically stole from someone else.

I've always liked to use the term "shared" copy and " (illegal) digital media sharing" over "pirated" and "piracy", it's gets rid of any ridiculous positive or negative connotation that other terms tend to intentionally tack on.
 

RodrigoDavy

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The Berne/Wipo doesn't mean that US copyright law applies in every country that agrees with it, it's an agreemente that says that copyright holders of other countries have the same rights as the national copyright holder within that country's territory, and makes some minimum requirements about how the countries in the agreement have to deal with copyright, which doesn't mean that copyright related law of the USA aplies to other countries.

That mean that if I illegaly download a work of a french artist, I'll be judged according to my country's law not the french law, not the US law.
 

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Eh, kongsnutz flashed multiple pictures of his receipt in this board. Pretty sure it was spread to other boards as well. Like painting a target for Nintendo, with a huge flashing LED sign that says "Hit me".

Nice to see some justification on the subject of piracy, god know how many threads we have on the legality of it.
 

DS1

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I've always liked to use the term "shared" copy and " (illegal) digital media sharing" over "pirated" and "piracy", it's gets rid of any ridiculous positive or negative connotation that other terms tend to intentionally tack on.

I'm not even bothered by giving it a negative connotation, but it's like how people use the word 'rape' so freely. You seriously can't understand how bad something is if you're using it to describe something trivial.
 

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Surprisingly objective... Not because it's you, Rydian, but because of the subject at hand. It's hard to take a subject the many get very passionate about and not throw your own skew on it. I mean, I want to SOOooo... add something about the "pirated copy = 1:1 lost sales" non-sense but I'd have a hard time doing so w/o some "my personal experience", opinion and "it's just common sense. Are you stupid or something... OR WHAT?!?"

I'd love to think this would curb some of the dip-shittery we tend to see in the flame wars <cough>... I mean "debates" on the subject on this forum, but I've been around too long and I'm too jaded. :-)

None the less, kudos.
 

Rydian

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The Berne/Wipo doesn't mean that US copyright law applies in every country that agrees with it, it's an agreemente that says that copyright holders of other countries have the same rights as the national copyright holder within that country's territory, and makes some minimum requirements about how the countries in the agreement have to deal with copyright, which doesn't mean that copyright related law of the USA aplies to other countries.

That mean that if I illegaly download a work of a french artist, I'll be judged according to my country's law not the french law, not the US law.
Didn't say the laws were cross-country. :P

Can we add "Pirating games makes me a rebel!" to the list?
If I could find some easily-read stats on how many people actually pirate and slap it up with "See everybody does it, you poser"...

I mean, I want to SOOooo... add something about the "pirated copy = 1:1 lost sales" non-sense but I'd have a hard time doing so w/o some "my personal experience", opinion and "it's just common sense. Are you stupid or something... OR WHAT?!?"
If somebody does bring that up, I can point to the government study which notes how most of the figures for concepts like "lost sale" are total guesses with no actual studies behind them.
 
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LDAsh

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The myth is that piracy doesn't have a negative effect on game development in any sense. 'This is false'. It does, but in a way that many can't conceive and so is barely mentioned by anyone.

First, people need to understand the difference between a developer and a publisher. Developers actually create the games, write the code and produce the media. Developers create what you as a gamer actually enjoy, if only you could know about it and get your itchy hands on it. This is where publishers come in. Publishers are responsible for primarily littering their name all over it, the first screen you will see when booting up any title is legal jargon and then the publisher's splash, NOT the developer's splash. The developer's splash usually appears right at the end in a fleeting glimpse, so obscure a name that nobody is ever going to remember. That's why so many gamers refer to 'Ubisoft games', 'Activision games', etc. The publishers have won this battle for your mind, this is clear. Publishers are responsible for dealing with marketing, manufacturers and retailers, and fully have both hands stuffed into the cookie jar, while developers scrounge under the table like dogs for the crumbs to fall to the floor, just to survive and continue developing. Publishers have the 'brand name' that is steadfast and protected, because of the previously mentioned factor, while developers are so increasingly broken up and reformed into new studios, so much these days that it's almost like 1 studio each for 1 title each, before they are broken up again and reformed, almost always due to financial strain.

So, nobody can know what they're talking about until they stop seeing 'game makers' as singular, large 'faceless corporations' and begin to distinguish between developers and publishers in a real-world sense. Yes it's true that some publishers are also developers and many publishers have 'in-house' development studios, but we still need to distinguish because it doesn't always work this way and it still doesn't justify such a simple view on the people who bring us the games. They are typically two different distinct groups.

So, the negative effect is pretty simple to explain after we realise this distinction. Publishers are junkies for marketing and marketing research. It's exactly the same for many other types of media, films, music and even books, all have publishers with dollar signs in their eyes who hold all the cards but of course can't really do much without actual creative people, artists and technical wizards, who come from all walks of life and degrees of education. An analogy is that, one might argue, someone who came from a poor upbringing with maybe not even a high-school education is more likely to create some rap/hip-hop lyrics and beats that resonate on a more realistic level with their intended audience than someone whose daddy busted out his credit card to pay for his white-bread honky son to attend hip-hop university and receive a master's degree in fabricating bustin' beats all laboratory-like. This is a strong point to the following argument because it's exactly the same with game development these days, there are actually 'game development schools' and 'digital art schools', and where there is cash willing to be spent, there are those who believe and have made reality that 'you can just buy artistic talent and original creativity', since there's little to no other way such people could even obtain it on their own. Them real-world streets is scary.

Publishers spend a huge amount of their profits on marketing research, what sells, to whom and for which reasons. When the evidence is great enough it is simply irresistible and a looping feedback occurs. This is not just from game sales research but from popular culture in general. It's a brutally literal and cold scientific approach to what should be a freely artistic and creative process. If a recent film is successful at the same time a recent chart-topper is successful, then publishers want a game that incorporates all of these elements for maximum cash factor and maximum return on their investment. From contrived to downright borderline plagiarised. Hair-styles and clothing fashion, are blondes or brunettes the trend, etc. These days, developers are, more often than not, told what to create and how, and given just barely enough creative room to manoeuvre any original ideas around within these limitations. Limitations imposed on them by publishers directly from marketing research.

When you pirate games, you do put some financial strain on the publishers, whether real or illusionary, from some such research reports. All that publishers need to know is that their title is being pirated and that's enough to get them snapping pencils at the board meeting. It doesn't even necessarily need to be real, or at least minimal evidence is required. This is what gamers, pirates or not, fail to realise. Then what happens is that it's not the trend-mongering parasites with sales figures and marketing research that get hurt, they will continue to be developed, but it's the creative risk-takers that suffer, where there's no sales figures to back them up. Usually newbie developers who have struggled hard and financed their dream project out of their own pockets, who have actually sacrificed produced a game stained with their blood, sweat and tears. Think about it, many of the games we now consider popular staples were once genre-breaking risks, developed by nobodies and making potential publishers very nervous. Publishers who typically don't know any better than to reside within the confines of their marketing research and sales figures. Originality gets postponed or binned completely, while publishers confidently churn out Twilight, Hannah Montana, Harry Potter, Barbie, etc. You get the idea... Trend-mongering and targeting an audience who, even if they knew how to pirate a game, probably wouldn't anyway.

I could go on and on but I will just say - when you pirate games you hurt small independent developers whom you mistakenly identify as these same 'faceless corporations', and you help welcome more trend-mongering parasites who spew more bland and shallow rubbish onto the market that is empty of originality, both in terms of gameplay and concept, perpetuating the marketing feedback and this all only makes things worse. It's a downward spiral.

Don't believe me? Just take a look! Support the developers who deserve to be supported, otherwise look outside and see them collecting your garbage to make a living. Make the distinction between publishers and developers, then open your eyes finally, with just a little maturity and intelligence, it should be clear as day.
 

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The funny thing I have a friend who downloads 40+GB games in a day and plays them once and just deletes them.
If he gets caught I'm going to have to laugh at him, considering I told him that was an extremely stupid thing to do.


I used to download everything I wanted. But lately I've been buying the games I've enjoyed when I pirating them. Oddly enough it makes me glad to support the store I buy them from (It's not Gametop and considering I get them used). Seems like a good time for me to stop all together considering piracy and rules and everything about it are starting to get changed. Quite frankly, I'm too lazy to be careful about downloading. So I'll just buy what I want for cheap.

Edit: I'm not trying to say pirates are evil and stuff either. So if you get that from my post, don't. I'm just saying I enjoy not downloading everything anymore.
 
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