Blame Markets, not Criminals for Piracy (Canadian Study)

Matt Barton's picture

What's more to blame for piracy: a lax and ineffective legal means of going after and punishing offenders, or lack of access to your products? It's more the latter, according to a Canadian study by their International Development Research Centre. This probably applies more to foreign markets than domestic ones, obviously, but it makes sense--people are most likely to pirate when it is difficult or impossible for them to buy something legally. Maybe the product simply isn't physically or legally available in their country (such as new BBC shows in the U.S. or abandonware), or it could just be that the product is priced too high for the locals to afford (which is the case in developing countries). The study also suggests that anti-piracy measures (legal and educational) have completely and utterly failed to demonstrate a significant result. I should probably put that last sentence in bold.

Would you still pirate if the game was widely available and priced to match your budget? It could be that publishers would be better off simply lowering prices than investing in DRM, regional lock-outs, and fighting so many legal battles over piracy. Or would this simply make it impossible for publishers to make profits on their games?


Joined: 01/21/2009
I have always had one simple

I have always had one simple beef with devolpers and piracy. We have al mentioned it a 1000 times, the people who pay are the ones who suffer. I suffer with poor DRM that simply has never worked to stop piracy EVER! I AM ALL FOR some type of anti piracy on the software, key code, activation, etc.. you cant just leave it wide open, we are all human and even the best of use would take a $50 bill if it was laying on bank floor with nobody standing around it. Personally the activate once online is my personal preferance (i know, I know, not everybody has a connection). I just find this the best option.. if they cant verify thier own software once, they should give up (IMHO). But even the crappy DRM we legit buyers suffer is nothing in compared ot the huge inflated prices. I really want Crysis 2 right now, but $59 (console prices where 30% goes to MS/SONY/NINTENDO i understand the inflation, but the PC doesnt have this issue) for a game... they justify the price increase on piracy. I'm sorry, you dont make the legit customers pay for the criminals... I guess they figure we do it with health insurance, car insureance and Credit cards.. why not games?

I'm just getting sick of paying EXTRA for products becuase they are pirated/defualted on.. Why is that my problem?

I am honestly quiting buying items that Im paying extra on because sombody else is screwing the system (pretty much everything). Crysis 2 will have to wait a few weeks till its $29 or $39, as will DragonAge II and others...

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
You know what it is--people

You know what it is--people just can't adjust smoothly from a system based on scarcity to a a system based on abundance. In the old days, you make a record, you sell a record. Very simple. The record company could control prices by increasing or decreasing the number of records they produced. Supply and demand; simple economics.

I'm sure there were bootleggers back then, too, but it was to keep all the machinery and distribution secret, so they'd eventually be found and busted once they reached a certain volume. Fast forward (or I guess I should say skip forward) to today, and it's a different animal. Anybody with any tech savvy at all knows how to copy and distribute music willy-nilly. Latest Duran Duran album -- potentially it exists in infinite copies. Supply has become infinite (or at least abundant), and now it's demand that is limited.

Obviously, this problem has always been around for the software industry, though arguably it didn't really get to be a crisis until torrents were introduced (the huge file sizes were an issue before). Some will say that it was also an issue for the movie industry after VCRs, which it no doubt was. I remember a guy in my hometown who ran a bootleg movie rental store out of his house! He'd rent a movie, make a copy of it, and people would pay him (I think it was like $1 a day). This is where Bill's theory of "just good enough" applies; 99% of people didn't give a shit if the quality was second generation.

From the consumer's perspective, piracy makes perfect sense. Why pay for something you can get for free? Yet that's a simplistic view, because people aren't always rational. For instance, I don't pay for drinking water; I drink out of the tap because I know it's safe and healthy. Yet almost everyone else I know pays for drinking water, usually buying into some mystery claims about their tap water being dangerous, contaminated, "flavorless" (which is really what you want, right??), etc. All it takes is some mild suggestion and they're wasting money on bottled water, which is probably from the same source as their tap! What's the connection? Well, a similar suggestion is that if you pirate games or music, "THEY" will eventually get you. They will take everything you own. Of course, the actual chance of that happening is very, very low. But people don't think in terms of stats; they think in terms of worst case/best case scenarios.

Now from the industry's perspective, everything looks different. Hey, we put a lot of money and time into making this CD or game. You ought to PAY for it. It's very black and white in their view--you're either a legit customer, or you're a thief. Keep in mind how hard they tried to fight the rental business, and succeeded in blocking PC game rentals. In their eyes, every pirated copy is a copy that would have sold if it didn't exist. Try to imagine the error in the logic there--you could theoretically have INFINITE pirated copies. Therefore, they stood to earn INFINITE wealth. See the gap there?

We're in a transitional period where something has to give. I don't believe that the law is the answer. If for no other reason, our government is BROKE and can't afford to be policing and prosecuting hundreds of millions of file sharers. Technology seems like a better solution, but it's proven elusive. As it turns out, pirates are pretty damn wily and have always broken and cracked DRM. Then there's the obvious harm to your own legit customers; you don't want that, because you want their sympathy (and thus peer pressure on their friends not to pirate). Piss them off, and suddenly everyone is against you.

Another technological solution is to comb the internet and try to take down the distribution sites. This is where, oddly enough, the law comes back into play, and we get all this strange nonsense with the "pirate party" and servers in other countries where the laws don't apply. It's also where the net neutrality stuff comes into play and anti-censorship stuff comes into play. Imagine if the RIAA, SPA, and MPAA could just go to Congress and say "We want the following sites blocked from America."

It scares me to think about the palms being greased and blowjobs being given over this net neutrality stuff. I'm frankly shocked (and perhaps impressed) that we've been able to keep the internet this long. Maybe we will have it always, though it sure seems likely that eventually we'll end up on a tiered, carefully policed system where sites like this will be slow or inaccessible, and Comcast's official sites will be streaming in lovely HD (for a fee, of course). Oh, and of course all uploads will be terribly slow (to knock out the torrents; sorry creative people).


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