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).