Reply Rant About Copyright Concerning Companies

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I've just read an interesting journal by :icongundam-genki: about the frequent issues of piracy, DRM and the like concerning music, video games and movies, and I wanted to reply to that. Since I have more to say about this than just a little, I wanted to do this in the form of a journal instead of a reply, so that more people might reply and tell me what an idiot I am. I'm also posting what follows on my blog, which also has a hand-made german translation of this for those who care.

DRM and Music

As nearly always, xkcd sums it up perfectly.

Short story: We won the DRM war.

I've just updated yet another piece of music ("Live Like you Were Dying" by Tim McGraw) that I've bought in the iTunes Store to DRM-free. You and everybody else is completely right, and the record companies have finally agreed. That fight is over. So let's get to the next topic, which wasn't big in :icongundam-genki:'s original journal, but which I have a lot of things to say about nevertheless.

"Trying out" Video Games

Now, a lot of people are going to hate me for what I'm about to say, and I guess at least some might think that I hate them. I really don't, and none of what I'm about to say is personal.

See, the thing is that I am rather opposed to the orthodox geek opinion on things here. A lot of people say that they "try out" video games and buy them if they like them, and they more or less seem to consider this their right, or at least not very wrong. I completely disagree with that.

First of all, you simply do not get to do that. If you play through a game, even just a quarter of it or just a few hours if it's multiplayer, you have received value. Whether you liked it or not is completely irrelevant to this, you did receive some of the full value of the game. It's great if a company does allow you to try out a game with a demo, but in that case you are still receiving something that is worth money. The developer just books this as promotional.

Second, and this is probably where the hate will set in, I think most of the folks who claim the "just trying out, I'll buy it if I like" thing are not telling the truth. Some might be, of course. Still, I don't believe that all of them have never had the case where they kind of liked a game, but were just too lazy to buy it. Or maybe played through a single-player game, liked it, but didn't buy it because they wouldn't play through it a second time. Not all pirates are potential customers, not even most of them, but some are and sometimes that really does matter.

Some think that a little piracy does not hurt the games industry. I'm not certain where they get that idea from, though. As an example, Ragnar Tørnquist, director of the adventure game Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, says that piracy severely hurt that game. As a result, online activation and possibly online verification when you play it will be required for the next installment. In a more high-level view, Funcom, the company he's working for, is turning more and more of its attention to MMORPGs, since the different business model makes piracy less of an issue in that market.

Finally, you often hear that current video games are too expensive, and that they are too high a financial risk for the core audience of students. That may be true (I've been saying the same thing about model railroads for years, although obviously you can't pirate them), but it actually does not work out that way: World of Goo had a 80-90% piracy rate, despite costing $20, being free of DRM, and having the entire first chapter available as a free demo. Like the blog I've linked to you can certainly wonder whether the numbers are entirely sound, but the basic point remains: Cheaper games, DRM free, longer demos - those methods don't work, so most of those who have been using these points as a justification for piracy are hypocrites. If you find a different way to interpret the numbers, I'd be glad to hear it.

Obviously, blog posts against piracy don't work either, I'm fully aware of that. My hope for the future is that we will see more Steam-like solutions, where strict DRM is coupled with true advantages for customers, like being able to have all your games on every computer you want, achievements and the like. The alternative would be strict DRM (that might not even work) without any benefits for the actually paying customers (I think Spore is the canonical example for that), or all games except MMORPGs moving to consoles.

The Conclusion

What do you think? I wrote a lot here, but I'm really more interested in a discussion than in getting my point of view out, so if you have something to say, even just "You are an idiot", please do! Should you choose to post your own journal or blog post, it would be kind of neat if you could leave a link in the comments.

Not so important things I wanted to mention
Per the request of my sister, the locomotive has been turned dark red. What do you think? Also, you'd think that paying good money for a subscription gives you the right to use

in your journal. Well, no such luck...

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EricForFriends's avatar
On the bright side, I've bought quite a number of games without ever playing them, so that should compensate for some pirate activity. :D