Sink The Pirates

Sean Sands | 14 Jul 2008 16:58
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

Piracy has been in the news a lot lately. And, by lately, I mean for the past decade.

The people doing the pirating are decked in that sheen of youthful rebellion, the digital revolutionaries with big talk about power to the people and the rights of the consumer. They tap into an undercurrent of conflict between the industry and its customers, and offer the safe thrill of anonymous theft without consequence. Compared to an industry with a PR problem and the perception that said industry is going to see legitimate customers as criminals anyway, it's not difficult to understand why the wave of popular opinion doesn't really move against the pirates.

Meanwhile developers and companies who see generations' worth of man-hours stolen as casually as a handful of candies from the Take One jar have grown understandably tired of having their game downloaded for free. They are angry at a popular opinion that labels them the bad guys every time they are forced to try and defend their work as well as the casual dismissal of the plague of piracy as being overblown and irrelevant. Imagine being hit with a baseball bat by a mugger, and then watching as everyone sympathized with the mugger because the bat gave him a nasty splinter. PC developers are being forced to make more dramatic decisions in the face of overwhelming piracy, an issue that Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crysis developer Crytek, recently enumerated at one legitimate copy to every twenty pirated.

For these people, piracy is far from a tired subject. It's the elephant in the room, the most important issue in all of gaming. They remain hard at work trying to find a way to squash it. If that means throwing the baby out with the bathwater - in this case the baby being PC gaming and the millions of molecules of bathwater each representing a tiny microscopic pirate - then at this point the prevailing mentality is: so be it.

I don't really want to get into a debate over the morality of piracy, mostly because there isn't a debate to be had.

As I understand the basic fabric of the social contracts that struggle to keep most of humanity from bashing each other's heads in with the bleached femurs of our enemies, there are some basic concepts about right and wrong that we all agree to by living within a society. One of those is that when you use something that someone else used resources to create, you're expected to give some of your resources in return. That's good. That's ten thousand years of civilization at work. It's safe to describe the concept as pretty well entrenched.

Oh, I've heard the piracy justifications, and believe me, they're adorable. When I hear all that yahoo-whackjob nonsense about entitlement to try before you buy and how pirates are actually helping gaming (a claim so audacious and magnificently detached from reality that I chortle just thinking about it) I just want to tussle your hair and call you Skippy. But, let's check in with reality for a second.

If you're a pirate, no one cares what you think.

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