Anybody remember this?
With the painful SOPA* deliberations going on the last few weeks, I’ve been having discussions with friends and coworkers on stealing, piracy and the like. For people who grew up in the generation I did (that being the generation that’s basically been on a “wave’o'technology” since we were born. We’ve seen everything from VHS to BluRay, watched the internet change from a few humble pages and a squawking modem to the plethora of information, communication, and dreck that it is today, and have watched phones change from being a single-function machine to being considered odd if all it doesn’t bake you a cake) I think piracy is easily overlooked; it’s kind of considered an accepted method of getting…well, pretty much anything. But let’s start off this post with the clear assumption that piracy is illegal and it’s a struggle for companies selling digital media to get a handle on, especially without hurting their legal buyers. Sound fair? Cool.
*Wait, you don’t know what SOPA is? Okay, stop reading this and go here to get a low-down. If you’re in a hurry the video at the end of the article is succinct.
The biggest problem I see with piracy – not unlike SOPA – is the willingness to misunderstand and misrepresent it. I bring this up in relation to this article from Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a PC gaming blog. Here’s a (very) quick summary of the situation:
A game publisher by the name CD Projekt recently began dealing with piracy by sending letters to people who they believed had pirated one of their DRM-free games, Witcher 2. The letters asked that the person pay CDP €750 (that’s $978.15 according to Google’s currency converter) for the pirated software, or be expected to potentially pay more by going to court. This article discusses the morality and reasoning behind CDP’s decision to do this.
Sounds simple enough, right? Bad people steal software and they’re punished for it. Well, sort of.
The thing is, CDP’s punishment of the supposed violators seems willfully over-the-top for multiple reasons:
First, their fine is over 16 times the retail price of the actual game ($60). Ouch.
Second, they’re claiming they have a proven way to catch people who have absolutely, 100% pirated their software. IE, no false positives. Which is totally cool if they have…it’s just that no one knows or understands how they’re doing such a thing, and they’re not disclosing details. Also CDP also recognized that they already had 1 false positive. They correctly addressed it (yay!) but that sort of blows a hole in the 100% positivity case, doesn’t it?
Third, and in my opinion most important, they’re doling out the punishments themselves as if piracy requires punishment beyond what our justice system already calls for.
Let’s take a look at this third point more closely.
In the article, CDP makes an analogy to giving someone a traffic ticket. If you speed and are caught, you pay a fine – how is that any different from what they’re doing to pirates? This is how RPS’s article responds:
If I am caught speeding, I receive a fine of £60, from the government. If I pay it within two weeks I pay only £30. I also receive three points on my driver’s license. If I dispute the fine, I am allowed to challenge, and perhaps take the process to court to prove my innocence. That is not what is happening here.
Meaning that CDP’s analogy is a poor and wholly incorrect one – they’re giving out the punishment personally as opposed to letting the government objectively take care of the issue with systems we already have in place. If somebody shoplifts from your store you call the police and get them arrested, you don’t send them a letter asking for 16 times the cost of the item they stole, and threaten to take them to court and sue them for more if he or she doesn’t pay up.
I’m not sure what it is about scary-pants piracy, but for some reason the fact that it’s illegal and could be reported to the “proper authorities” (whoever they might be) seems to be out of the question. I’d like software companies to not have to worry about piracy, but what CDP is doing feels like a knee-jerk reaction to something that technically already has a resolution. It seems to me that the bigger issue should be taking time to correctly identify offenders, not figuring out how to punish them. Are they opting to react this way in order to smash all opposition into the ground (and if that’s the case, is it actually effective)? Is it because reporting each offender to the police would take too long to get their moneys? Whatever the problem is, it seems like there should be a way to put together some standards and laws to handle people who are able to be truly identified as pirates.
Do you agree? Disagree? Feel like I’ve missed an important point, or missed the boat entirely? Let’s discuss.