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Let's Talk About Piracy

Before I begin this blog, please read up on this article.


Done? Good. Now let's clear up another thing. I do not now, nor have I ever, condoned the idea of a person not being compensated for their hard work. If an individual puts time and effort into creating something, they should be compensated for their creation should they chose to sell it. Clear? Ok, moving on.

Piracy. What is it? Well there is the traditional form of piracy, and then there is the kind I'm discussing in this blog, which is specifically software piracy. A software pirate is an individual who obtains access to a piece of software without paying for it through various means. The basic mechanics of software piracy is uploading software to the internet, either on a torrent site or some other form of file sharing site, for others to download.

Pause. Does the act of uploading software remove it completely from the original owner's possession? Answer: No, it does not. The original owner still has total access to their creation, and total right to sell it to whomever wishes to purchase it.

See, Piracy is copying. It isn't taking. This means that calling piracy "theft" is fallacious. Theft is defined as the following.

theft noun
1. the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.

As we can see, since the property is not taken, and is not "carried away," in the absolute strictest sense, piracy is NOT theft or stealing.

Piracy is not theft by any sense either. Some would make the claim that piracy is the theft of profits. That is also incorrect. To make that claim, one would have to prove that pirates would have bought the product if they had no other choice.

Example: Assume a game is released in retail and online stores, and leaked to a torrent site. Game sells 3 million copies through retail and online stores and 1 million copies are pirated. Developer/Publisher complains that 1 million people didn't pay for the game and thus cost them, we'll say, $60 million dollars in profits. This is false. This claim makes the assumption that that $60 million dollars in profit already existed when it didn't because there is no possible way that anyone could know if all of those million copies would have been legitimately bought in the first place.

Example 2: Same situation. Game is released, sells 3 million copies but is not leaked on any torrent or file sharing site and does not sell more than 3 million copies. Absolutely no complaints about a loss of $60 million in profit from 1 million copies not being sold.

What's the difference? In one situation the developers can see that people aren't buying their game but are angry that people are playing it for free. In the other there are 1 million people who weren't going to buy the game to begin with and simply didn't have the chance to play it anyway. The result? The exact same amount of money was made in both situations, and the developer/publisher still own the original product to sell anywhere and anyway they please.

So let's move on to another aspect of Piracy. That being that it is an infringement of some rights. What rights? Well to find that out we have to first understand what copyright is. Strictly speaking, copyright is the "right to copy" any idea or creation. A copyright holder is given exclusive rights to copy their original work in whatever form they chose. Copyright also grants the holder the right to be credited for the work, the right to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, the right to determine who may perform the work (if applicable), and the right to who may financially benefit from the work.

From that description we can see that piracy; as the act of taking an original work, copying it, and distributing it either freely or for a monetary sum, infringes on the rights of the copyright holder to do so themselves. Sounds terrible doesn't it.


Piracy is NOT theft. Although piracy does infringe on those rights, it does not in anyway prevent the original owner/creator from selling the product themselves, nor does it transfer the rights granted to the copyright hold from said holder to the pirate.

The only argument that can be made against piracy/pirates, and the reason why piracy/file sharing is a complex issue that will not be resolved any time soon, is that it has the POTENTIAL to prevent the copyright holder from making profits based on the number of people that pirate the work. Since potential is not the same as a guarantee, many smart pirates have found ways to use the law to their advantage and get away with pirating.

I saw someone attempt to make a connection between piracy and intellectual property/patent infringement and they are not the same. Claiming an original work as your own when you did not create that original work is not piracy, it's fraud and an infringement on the right to be credited for an original work. So long as a pirate doesn't claim that they own the original work, or created it, then they are not infringing on those particular rights.

So, to summarize a long blog filled with too much "law talk," software piracy is the act of uploading software to a file sharing site with intent of distributing said content without any profit going to the original owner/creator. Doing so does not remove the owners rights, but it does have the potential to affect their ability to be profitable with their own work. But just because it has this potential, doesn't mean that without it the original owner would necessarily make more money as it can't be established that the people who would pirate would buy the product to begin with.

Piracy is wrong, but let's not confuse feelings with fact. It isn't stealing as nothing has been taken away. Non-existent profit can't be considered as a tangible item that was taken away. It isn't the same as someone taking your idea and then claiming it as their own to make money off of. What is happening is that the original owner has the work, and someone who didn't pay for it has the work. Nothing was taken away, but nothing was given either.

I won't bother going into the reasons why people pirate, even if some of them seem more "legitimate" than others, but I just wanted to get some things clear because some people really don't understand what stealing/theft really is.

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PopRocks3591834d ago

Piracy in its most basic form is simply getting a copy without paying and therefor not getting a license that gives you ownership of that copy. Generally it's our copyright laws that say it's illegal to simply download a digital copy of a game.

Here's a cute little music video on the subject from one of my favorite animators. And it makes a good point! Similarly to how some bands get popular through the passing of demo CDs, a game/movie can actually become really popular through piracy.

Don't get me wrong, I never download something illegally unless it's my one last alternative. I actually used to use a lot of ROMs, ISOs, all on various emulators, etc. These days, I keep that stuff off my drives and just focus on buying my games, new and old.

In light of all of that, I don't feel it's my place to determine the moral scale at the end of the day, whether it's illegal or otherwise. I only encourage other gamers to purchase newer games so as to help support develops, publishers and the industry as a whole. That is what is most important to me.

DragonKnight1834d ago

Completely agreed. I myself only use ROMS of games that you just can't get anymore because they aren't being sold anymore, or are way to expensive to justify paying for it, especially when it's a used copy. There are more benefits to actually buying a new game than buying used or pirating. That being said, I wanted to point out some of the fallacies people believe about piracy.

PopRocks3591834d ago

Ha, this reply prompted me to go back to my "Used or New" blog. I often get used games when it's something I'm not that sure of, such as when I got my copy of Brutal Legend. Ever since I've been buying many Double Fine games (albeit digitally).

Nintendo games are another example of games I like to buy new. I have no qualm with buying used ones since I know that kind of software always sells, but I like the Club Nintendo benefits and I wish more publishers would adopt this sort of rewards program (I think Konami or Square has one as well).

Publishers should ADD value to a new copy, don't take away value from a used one (like an online pass).

dedicatedtogamers1834d ago

80% of the time, I think publishers treat piracy like the boogeyman as an excuse to put stuff into their games that infringe on our consumer rights. When it comes to making money, used game sales is actually what hurts a company much more, and it is no coincidence that DRM is often bypassed within hours by pirates but it can make it impossible to sell your game or buy it used. Convenient, huh?

DragonKnight1834d ago

I don't think used games are worse than piracy. For one thing, used games were at one point new games, which means the developers got paid. But that's another topic for another day.

-GametimeUK-1834d ago

Piracy is wrong. There is no way anyone can convince me otherwise. Sure it doesn't fit the technical definition of "theft", but in a way it should be treated as such. I'm not saying piracy IS theft, but I feel they should have similar punishments, but yes piracy is piracy.

At least a majority of pre owned were probably purchased at one point or another and in supporting pre owned games you are at least supporting a store. Piracy isn't directly supporting anyone (or at least the people who deserve support), but I do admit that it offers people a way to try out a new franchise or even offers a means to pick up old games.

But yeah, if you can pirate and are happy doing it then go for it. Who am I to tell you otherwise? It's an issue that I care little about in the first place, but I still have the opinion that it is wrong.

DragonKnight1834d ago

I agree that it's wrong most of the time. If a person has the option to buy new, or used, then they should. But if they don't have those options because, say, the game isn't available anymore, then I don't think it's wrong to pirate the game since it's likely the original developer wouldn't be getting the money to begin with.

What I really don't agree with is people pirating games to teach a company a lesson. That never actually works because you're showing the company you still have an interest in their game to begin with so they don't care that you don't like something they did to it.

rainslacker1833d ago (Edited 1833d ago )

I decided to do some research to really get to the nuts and bolts of this since your whole argument is based on semantics, and not any actual law whatsoever, or not as much as you claim there to be.

Luckily, since you just expanded on a comment from another thread I decided it wasn't really looking past the first result in google, because really this blog seemed to be a way for you to try and convince the rest of us as opposed to offering anything worthwhile.

Here's the whole article

I'll summarize a relevant point which made me decide not to bother any further as it deconstructs your argument when looked at logically.

Identity theft is not theft. You can copy someones SS number, credit cards, bank accounts, etc. You can do all sorts of things with it, however the person retains their individual identity. Hence identity theft isn't really stealing since nothing is permanently or forcibly removed from the original owner of the identity. Do the courts see this as against the law? Yes. But it isn't called theft, it's called it's own thing(didn't bother to find out what). Is it the same with piracy? Yes. It's called copyright infringement.

Now of course the act of draining a person's bank account or racking up huge amounts of debt the person is now responsible for could be considered stealing, but that is physically removing something of value away from the person. I feel that is another debate though.

Playing with semantics is fun. But in the end it doesn't matter for this debate because it is against the law. Whether or not it's technically stealing is a moot point. The term theft and stealing is just a vernacular that people use to liken the results of the actual act. Whether or not it is completely accurate, or on the scale that some people make it out to be is another topic altogether.

Don't take this comment personally. From what I've seen we both have similar views on piracy in general. I just don't really understand why you're bothering. It's amounts to the same type of commenter who has to call out the difference between "their" and "they're" or "your" and "you're".

Qrphe1833d ago

# of illegal downloads != # of lost sales

That's simply ridiculous. Many overplay piracy as if it was truly destroying the industry.

If I'm willing and able to buy a game but don't for some other reason (piracy, bad review, used copy, etc) then consider me a lost sale. If I'm not willing nor/or able to buy a game, then I wasn't in the market for the game to begin with.

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