Friday, November 13, 2009


I'm writing this with a cracked rib, so I may be a bit off from my usual.

Today - again - one of the blogs in my feed posted about piracy. It seems like every day that one of the geeks I generally listen to posts about the ebbils of this horrifying method of theft. Frankly, it irritates me.

I think it's perfectly okay to think software/music piracy is wrong. But I think it's important to realize where this thought comes from. It's been injected into your head. It did not arise there magically, and I'm damn sure you didn't decide it on your own, because by the time you were old enough to think rationally on the matter, you had already been taught about it.

Now, that doesn't inherently mean that the thought is wrong. There are lots of things you get taught that are correct. And I'm not even going to argue one way or the other. What I am going to do is point out that arguing about it is like pissing in the ocean.

The fate of the "copying is theft" meme will not be decided using our minds or our culture or our rhetoric because it has no strong inherent morality. It will be decided by reality. The reality of the situation is that, no matter how you feel about it, it is simply impossible to even slow down the advance of "piracy". There is no way to magically turn back time. People will steal software. More and more.

You can, if you wish, argue with them. Brand them evil, or at least jerks. But it's already more than half of the people you know. In ten years, basically everyone under 30 in a first-world nation will be a pirate. Already, I would wager that it's over 50%, at least in cities. Hell, I bet there are destitute Africans downloading illegal ring tones to their shared village phones.

You can brand them all jerks and criminals. But that seems kind of retarded.

Whether or not copying is theft at the moment, in ten years, nobody under thirty will consider it to be significant. In twenty years, everyone under thirty will be amazed anyone ever thought it was immoral.

So before you judge for or against, how about you stop and think about how things are, rather than how your fantasies want the world to be. Your business model had damn well better not conflict with pirates, or you'll go out of business faster than an honest politician.


Patrick said...

In Argentina, piracy is the rule, there's a 95% piracy rate on console games and the rate on PC games is... can you go over 100%?

At a company where I used to work, before they got a cash injection, almost everything was pirated, the software, the games we played, it was the assumed means of course. I do believe the engine and modeling software was licensed. Then the Argentine version of the FBI, but like, the FBI for geeks, came and did and audit and everything is koshur. Now you have to wonder, does the taxpayer money spent on this auditing agency exceed the amount of tax revenue generated from the % of the added revenues to software companies, most of whome are foreign and do not pay taxes locally? I'd wager not.

Christopher Weeks said...

Whenever conversations on piracy of IP come up, I like to tell people about how I have a code that I adhere to quite strictly. It basically tells me that if I answer the question "would I pay for this if it were the only way to get it?" with a yes, then I pay for it. But that's not really my point.

My son is fifteen. He had some friends over a few weeks ago and we were talking about downloading MP3s and software. And, in preparation to tell them of my great moral code, I asked them how *they* decide when it's OK to keep an illicitly acquired piece of data. They didn't even understand the question. We talked a bit and the idea that it *might not* be moral was basically entirely foreign to them -- laughable.

So yeah, reality is what it is. We can adapt or not.

Craig Perko said...

Yeah, it's a weird situation. Here's some stuff to make it more weird:

If you buy a used game, the makers get NOTHING. If you rent a game, the makers get NOTHING (there's no rental license, unlike movies).

If you buy a single track on-line the band gets more money than if you buy an entire album on a CD.

If people want to talk morality, these are details that always gum it up. There are no pat answers, and the places where people are comfortable about where they stand will shift over time.