Lawyer Destroys Arguments for Game Piracy

Greg Tito

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Sep 29, 2005
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Lawyer Destroys Arguments for Game Piracy



A self-described game lawyer explains why arguments in favor of piracy are bunk.

Whenever the prosecution of game piracy is mentioned [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/105521-CD-Projekt-Plans-to-Make-Witcher-2-Pirates-Sorry], the pirates (or, at least, apologists) come out of the woodwork to defend the crime. There's no sure-fire way to go after IP addresses that have downloaded games illegally, they say, because the hackers can just mask their IP address. Or just because a game was downloaded doesn't mean that the computer's owner was the pirate. Worse, pirates say that any prosecution is just a way to scare people or that most of the time pirates become real customers of the game. Jas Purewal is a lawyer based in London and he pointed out today that most of those arguments don't hold up to any real logical scrutiny.

Purewal says there is really no evidence that most pirates have the desire or technical chops to effectively mask their IP address, and even if some did, that's hardly a reason to stop going after pirates. "There's no empirical evidence so far to support how often IP spoofing is done," he said. "In reality, I suspect fairly few pirates actually go to the trouble of disguising themselves. Besides which, just because the method is not perfect, doesn't mean we should throw our hands up in the air and do nothing, does it?"

The notion that piracy does not equate to lost sales is just as erroneous. "Piracy might result in an eventual purchase of a game, but in the meantime it means a financial loss for the developer," Purewal said. "Sadly developers are not gamer banks, willing to effectively loan gamers money until we decide we like them enough to pay them."

Even though Purewal is a lawyer and should therefor be on board for litigation solving all problems, he's also a gamer. The solution to piracy should come from publishers offering better ways for customers to enjoy their games, not suing willy-nilly. "If we can reduce piracy through the means of technology and via the market, then that's got to be better than getting lawyers involved," he said. He applauds platforms like Steam that are a form of DRM which don't slap paying customers in the face.

The arguments for game piracy seem a bit flimsy in response to stories like abominable list of pirated games from TorrentFreak [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/114429-The-Witcher-2-Pirated-Roughly-4-5-Million-Times-Says-Dev]. The games industry can't just ignore these thefts, and no amount of backwards logic can argue the impact of piracy away.

Source: NextGen [http://www.next-gen.biz/opinion/those-who-defend-game-pirates]


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Dastardly

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Greg Tito said:
The arguments for game piracy seem a bit flimsy in response to stories like CD Projekt's DRM-less Witcher 2 being pirated more than it was purchased or this abominable list of pirated games from TorrentFreak [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/115003-TorrentFreak-Reveals-Top-Pirated-Games-of-2011]. The games industry can't just ignore these thefts, and no amount of backwards logic can argue the impact of piracy away.
And now we are treated to the sounds of:

"It's not a lost sale, because they were never going to buy it anyway." (unverifiable ex-post-facto justification)

"Stop calling it theft. The publisher is not denied access or deprived of any property." (a "no true Scotsman" regarding the definition of "theft")

"Well the publishers need to stop being greedy, and maybe people will support them." (a deflection and complete change of topic. could be called "the Robin Hood defense.")

"If they made better games, maybe people wouldn't pirate." (logically inside-out, since any improvement to the game itself would equally improve the pirated copy. No disincentive is established.)

"People only pirate because of DRM." (reversal of the actual state of cause-effect, since DRM measures were created as a reaction to piracy, and DRM-less games are still frequently pirated)

So, now that we've got that out of the way, good article and I'm glad to hear lawyers weighing in on it.
 

hatseflats

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Aug 22, 2011
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No matter what one thinks of piracy, the notion that the notion that piracy does not equate to lost sales is erroneous is erroneous. I might download hundreds of games, none of which I would ever play (let alone buy). Yet they argue that these hundreds of downloads would equal hundreds of lost sales. Almost certainly there are some sales lost due to piracy, but how many has not been investigated, and there are positive effects of piracy as well. I doubt they're big enough to compensate for sales lost but there is no way anyone can be sure of that without doing proper research. Both sides should stop pretending to know for certainwhat the effects of piracy are.
 

brainslurper

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LilithSlave said:
but in the meantime it means a financial loss for the developer
NO, it does not. That logic is incredibly erroneous.
Yes it does. They worked hard on something, and what would be a paying customer got it without paying for it, depriving the developer or their profit.
 

deth2munkies

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He didn't seem to touch the harder arguments that people make about things that are not available/not in production that are being pirated.

To curb a large amount of piracy just do 3 things:

1) Make a damn demo.

2) Allow for digital distribution.

3) Use reasonable DRM.

Extra credit: Either release the code for or sell the rights to old games that you no longer support so people can still play/buy them.

EDIT2: Upon re-reading the title of the article, what the hell is he supposed to be destroying? He picked out the 2 most flimsy arguments and basically said "No evidence" and "NO U" to both of them without any evidence of his own, which is about the least bit of destroying you can do to an argument.
 

brainslurper

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Mcoffey said:
So this is just another case of some person taking a grey issue and treating like a black-and-white one? Good to know.

Greg Tito said:
The arguments for game piracy seem a bit flimsy in response to stories like CD Projekt's DRM-less Witcher 2 being pirated more than it was purchased or this abominable list of pirated games from TorrentFreak [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/115003-TorrentFreak-Reveals-Top-Pirated-Games-of-2011]. The games industry can't just ignore these thefts, and no amount of backwards logic can argue the impact of piracy away.
And yet there is nothing they can do to stop it. They will never stop piracy, or hurt it in any meaningful way, and all companies like Ubisoft and EA are doing is kneecapping paying customers.
The witcher developers are able to pick out pirates and get money from them efficiently, but they are only doing it so they can make the money that they deserve, not to stop piracy. More companies should be doing this instead of DRM, because it only hurts pirates, not paying customers.
 

Gunner 51

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Oh curse you, Dastardly. You totally ninja'd my reply. :)

But in all seriousness, I think I support the Robin Hood defense. While games are a luxury, the social pressure to buy them propagated by the gaming culture via the internet (peer pressure?) in conjunction with the little Skinner Box to make gaming compulsive makes resisting games very, very difficult. And if these games are costing an arm and a leg at retail, people start to consider piracy.

The whole thing is a complete paradox, a real chicken and egg scenario. Personally, I don't think you'll ever get rid of the pirates no matter what the publishers or developers do. Oppressive DRM and treating all gamers like crap isn't the right way to go about it, but that leaves the question what IS the right way to go about keeping piracy to a minimum.

I'd say there isn't any right way to do it - so I would suggest inaction on the publisher's part. Perhaps an honour system should be used as an experiment?

Sources:
http://www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-creepy-ways-video-games-are-trying-to-get-you-addicted.html
http://penny-arcade.com/patv/show/extra-credits (Episodes 4 and 5)
 

ph0b0s123

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Greg Tito said:
Purewal says there is really no evidence that most pirates have the desire or technical chops to effectively mask their IP address, and even if some did, that's hardly a reason to stop going after pirates. "There's no empirical evidence so far to support how often IP spoofing is done," he said. "In reality, I suspect fairly few pirates actually go to the trouble of disguising themselves. Besides which, just because the method is not perfect, doesn't mean we should throw our hands up in the air and do nothing, does it?"
No, but it does mean that companies need more evidence than just an IP address to take people to court.
Greg Tito said:
The notion that piracy does not equate to lost sales is just as erroneous.
No, it's not. Someone who pirates a game was not definitely going to buy it if they could not pirate it. So if you stop all piracy, it does not mean that all those pirated copies would turn into sales on a 1:1 ratio. This is hardly rocket science, but some people try very hard to ignore common sense.

How is this article titled 'Lawyer Destroys Arguments for Game Piracy', when he does not even discuss any pro piracy arguments. The only things he is talks about are evidential short comings of enforcement and the industries wrong assumptions about how much piracy is costing them.

Greg Tito said:
The arguments for game piracy seem a bit flimsy in response to stories like CD Projekt's DRM-less Witcher 2 being pirated more than it was purchased or this abominable list of pirated games from TorrentFreak [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/115003-TorrentFreak-Reveals-Top-Pirated-Games-of-2011]. The games industry can't just ignore these thefts, and no amount of backwards logic can argue the impact of piracy away.
And as I predicted in my comment to the top pirated games article, the figures now are being reported as fact even though they are ESTIMATES based on bad data collection methodology. And the two ESTIMATES don't even tally as if the Witcher 2 Piracy ESTIMATE was right, then the game would have appeared in the top 10 Torrentfreak article.

I don't like games being pirated and buy all of mine, but the reporting / journalism here on this issue, leaves a lot to be desired. All these badly sourced ESTIMATES do is convince developers to add more intrusive DRM schemes which only affect legitimate buyers, like myself.
 

bombadilillo

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brainslurper said:
LilithSlave said:
but in the meantime it means a financial loss for the developer
NO, it does not. That logic is incredibly erroneous.
Yes it does. They worked hard on something, and what would be a paying customer got it without paying for it, depriving the developer or their profit.
The problem is you assume they WOULD be a paying customer. With or without piracy existing,there is no money that would go to the developer.

It is wrong to call it a lost sale. The sale doesn't exists, would not exist if piracy wasn't a thing.
 

Slycne

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Feb 19, 2006
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LilithSlave said:
but in the meantime it means a financial loss for the developer
NO, it does not. That logic is incredibly erroneous.
As I see it, the two polar notions that piracy is always a lost sale and that piracy is never effectively a financial loss are what is truly lacking logic. The truth is in fact somewhere in the middle.
 

brainslurper

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bombadilillo said:
brainslurper said:
LilithSlave said:
but in the meantime it means a financial loss for the developer
NO, it does not. That logic is incredibly erroneous.
Yes it does. They worked hard on something, and what would be a paying customer got it without paying for it, depriving the developer or their profit.
The problem is you assume they WOULD be a paying customer. With or without piracy existing,there is no money that would go to the developer.

It is wrong to call it a lost sale. The sale doesn't exists, would not exist if piracy wasn't a thing.
It is ignorant to say that all pirates would never pay for games in the first place. Sure, some wouldn't, but there is always going to be lost sales to piracy (just not every pirated download is a lost sale).
 

brainslurper

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Mcoffey said:
brainslurper said:
Mcoffey said:
So this is just another case of some person taking a grey issue and treating like a black-and-white one? Good to know.

Greg Tito said:
The arguments for game piracy seem a bit flimsy in response to stories like CD Projekt's DRM-less Witcher 2 being pirated more than it was purchased or this abominable list of pirated games from TorrentFreak [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/115003-TorrentFreak-Reveals-Top-Pirated-Games-of-2011]. The games industry can't just ignore these thefts, and no amount of backwards logic can argue the impact of piracy away.
And yet there is nothing they can do to stop it. They will never stop piracy, or hurt it in any meaningful way, and all companies like Ubisoft and EA are doing is kneecapping paying customers.
The witcher developers are able to pick out pirates and get money from them efficiently, but they are only doing it so they can make the money that they deserve, not to stop piracy. More companies should be doing this instead of DRM, because it only hurts pirates, not paying customers.
Yeah, I don't have as much of a problem with what CDPR are doing. I don't really think it will work, but it's a much better option than that constantly online bullshit Ubisoft likes to pull.
Depends how you define "work". If it means to stop people from pirating their games, then no, it wont do that. But if it is to make money off of their hard work, then I think it already is working.
 

Tzekelkan

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Dec 27, 2009
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"Piracy might result in an eventual purchase of a game, but in the meantime it means a financial loss for the developer,"
How is this "destroying" the arguments? It's the same retort used by freaking EVERYONE. I don't support piracy, but was actually interested in a new argument. I intensely dislike articles that have sensationalist titles without even the slightest content chops to back it up.

Sure, the guy spouts the same tired thing that there are no studies to indicate that pirates eventually buy the games, but there aren't any studies that prove that pirates would have bought the game, are there?

I get it, you need readers. I'm reading you guys, aren't I? But... I don't know. I just want some respect?

Bah, forget about me. I'm in a bad mood because I just finished Dragon Age 2, it which continuously disappointed me with its nonsensical story and then the ending came and I threw up.
 

Sixties Spidey

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I can understand the complaints regarding piracy. It absolutely sucks that developers and publishers lose out on sales and all, but I have a couple qualms with this, mostly because he isn't looking through a consumer perspective of things. There are a couple reasons why piracy is prevalent:

1. We don't want to put up with bullshit. We have absolutely no patience for DRM and less so for publishers who have a narrow and close-minded view of PC gaming as a whole. Denying them of a sale seems like a reasonable thing to do when said publisher implements a mechanism that sets out to punish people who purchased the game and inadvertently REWARDS those who pirate the game. It all comes down to the message said publisher conveys, and if the publisher is saying "Fuck you, we don't want your money.", they shouldn't ***** when they're refused a sale in favor of a better functioning pirated copy.

Same applies to those who force a spyware client to run a game (Battlefield 3) and the same applies to those that frequently and traditionally screw consumers over because they live in different territories of the globe (Nintendo and Xenoblade Chronicles). Publisher refuses our money? Okay! Don't come crying and blithely whining "HURF A DURF, PIRACY ARE BAD BECAUSE WE IS LOSING LEGITAMITE SALES. HURRRR DURRRRR"

2. Piracy is a good testing mechanism for PC gamers. We pirate the game, if it runs, HEY GREAT! We can buy the game and enjoy a legitimate copy to enjoy. I mean come on, Battlefield 3 and Crysis 2 are on that list, those are, if anything, heavy duty games that require a really good computer.

3. Piracy helps to justify a purchase. Yes, I know there is a thing called demos, but not a lot of games have them. I'll be the first to admit that I pirated Minecraft, but after playing the pirated copy, I set out to purchase it, knowing that the purchase I made was worth it having played it before and knowing what I was getting myself into. Plus, games are 50+ dollars these days. How do I know whether or not the game I'll be getting is either A: Good, B: Shit, or C: A console/PC port depending on the platform of choice?
 

Kargathia

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So essentially the same old arguments and counter-arguments are rehashed again, but now by one who holds a legal degree?

Colour me unimpressed. And do come back when there is substantial and conclusive evidence of economic impact - apart from raw numbers proving not much more than the mere fact that it is a very widespread activity.