• Is digital piracy morally wrong?
  • Is digital piracy morally wrong?

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  1. #1
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    Is digital piracy morally wrong?

    One of Zemekis' posts in another thread got me thinking about how galvanizing the topic of digital piracy is, so I figured we could discuss the subject. So, is the piracy of digital media, such as video games or movies, morally wrong? Why or why not? As I see it, there are two main sides to this discussion:

    Side A) piracy is wrong because piracy is effectively stealing. If someone produces a movie with the intention of having people go to the theatre and pay money to see it, then circumventing that process and downloading it for free is stealing and thus morally wrong. Side B) piracy is not wrong because you can't steal something that doesn't physically exist. You can copy a movie, but you can't copy a car.

    Here's my own thought in the matter: when we ask if something is morally wrong, we can't look only at the action itself, but everything that motivates that action.

    The truth is, most of the media we enjoy today is not made by independent groups of passionate people, it's produced and funded by corporations. Often times, these corporations have an overarchingly negative effect on our world and help to fund things that aren't necessarily good. For example: if you pay one company to rent a movie, but that company is also owned by people who run another company that dumps toxic waste material into rivers, you are indirectly helping to fund that process. Therefore, is it morally wrong to pirate a movie from that company? In doing so, you are only hurting a business which itself is hurting you and others.

    Look at a company like EA or Activision. These are scummy, scummy organizations. By giving your money to them, you are absolutely hurting the industry and everyone that works in it. Now you might say, "if I pirate a game from EA, I'm hurting EA's bottom line... so doesn't that also hurt regular people who work for EA too?". The answer is yes and no. Your actions might hurt them on the surface, but by giving money to EA, you're feeding a beast that shackles these people and prevents them from having a better quality of life in the industry. If companies like EA didn't exist, then sure, people wouldn't have jobs at those companies -- but they would have jobs at better companies.

    Things are not black and white though. Let's say you're a small independent musician who produces his own albums, and you happen to be a swell dude too. Now if someone pirates your music instead of paying for it, I don't think that's morally arguable. At this point, you are denying a sale to a well-meaning person trying to make their own way in life, and your potential purchase does not fund any nefarious activities. The point being, there is a grey area here. Not all piracy is the same.

  2. #2
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    The are absolutely two sides to it. I only consider pirating something (not gonna say whether or not I actually do it here on a public forum) that I'm absoluetly never going to buy, or to use as a demo for something I'm absolutely going to buy. Needless to say, these demo tests would last under 2 hours which is the amount of time I could play the game on Steam and still request a refund anyway.

    The only other scenario is when it's a really old retro game like PC Engine stuff that I either 1. Cannot obtain physically any longer 2. costs $300-400 traded between hardcore collectors 3. the money no longer goes to the rights holder anyway, it's all secondhand


    That being said, what stops you from making the same argument about a tangible object? It's not okay to steal from a convenience store then use the excuse "I wasn't gonna buy it anyway", and somehow that usage DOES feel wrong to me. I think it's that I haven't fully accepted digital assets as 'real things' yet. I feel iffy about the morality when it comes to digital assets, but if it's a company like EA, Activision, Microsoft, Apple, or Bethesda (among others but no need to list them all) I feel no remorse because they actively lie to and exploit their customers. I have no problem with someone doing the same right back to them.

    Fun side note on this topic, a few developers are cool with the idea that you might pirate their game and just ask you to buy a copy if you like it. The most notable example is CD Projekt/CD Projekt Red because they got their start as a piracy group broadcasting game code over the radio in Poland. They'd broadcast the game code over the airwaves, you record it onto cassette and play that code as software on your computer. Considering their beginnings, they give their fans a blanket pass on pirating their games.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zemekis View Post
    That being said, what stops you from making the same argument about a tangible object? It's not okay to steal from a convenience store then use the excuse "I wasn't gonna buy it anyway", and somehow that usage DOES feel wrong to me.
    To be fair, in this case you'd be stealing a finite item that another person would likely have purchased, resulting in direct lost profit for the business. If you pirate a game but legitimately had no intention of buying it, you wouldn't be costing the company anything. But realistically, many people who pirate would have purchased the game if they couldn't have pirated it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zemekis View Post
    I feel iffy about the morality when it comes to digital assets, but if it's a company like EA, Activision, Microsoft, Apple, or Bethesda (among others but no need to list them all) I feel no remorse because they actively lie to and exploit their customers. I have no problem with someone doing the same right back to them.
    Well said, and I agree. I have absolutely no problem paying for something that was the product of passion, hard work and good intentions, but corporations like EA and Bethesda are absolute trash and if somebody pirates their products, more power to them.

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    I don't believe that digital piracy is stealing. By definition it isn't. However, way too many pirates use this argument to justify their actions. Some piracy is normal, but I think that pirating everything isn't going to do your reputation any favours.

    I've pirated software. It's something I still do from time to time. I'm currently paying for Photoshop, but it's no wonder that countless people pirate it and other Adobe software because they crazily overprice it.

    I honestly can't remember the last time I pirated a video game. I pirated a lot on my Nintendo DS but that was many years back. Once I switched from console to PC and Steam in 2012, no more piracy. Come to think of it I might have pirated Far Cry 3 because I didn't like Uplay, but eventually bought it anyway. Say what you will, but Steam has done the game industry more good than many appreciate. Many people who pirated loads no longer pirate. Often this is because they're from countries where not a lot of games are sold. Thanks to Steam, they're sold at much more reasonable prices. Especially in Russia.

    I do pirate anime, but it's often not available in the UK. It took a long time for us to receive our first Outlaw Star video release. Anime streaming platforms often don't have dubs.

    I used to always pirate music. This is because a lot of music I listen to is soundtracks from Japan, which can be very difficult to find on eBay, and often needs to be ordered through a Japanese proxy. Furthermore, a lot of this music is no longer published. Anyway, nowadays I often buy music using Bandcamp. It's a great platform for discovering new music, allows streaming (often free with an optional purchase) and downloading FLAC or MP3.

    If only Japanese companies like Victor Entertainment used Bandcamp for anime and video game music, then loads of westerners would buy their music. It's an untapped market, but they're stuck in the past, basically giving people no choice but to pirate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mantis View Post
    If only Japanese companies like Victor Entertainment used Bandcamp for anime and video game music, then loads of westerners would buy their music. It's an untapped market, but they're stuck in the past, basically giving people no choice but to pirate.
    This is a good point as well -- piracy isn't really condemnable when you have no choice but to pirate. This I feel is the best defense for the argument of "I wouldn't have bought it anyway". If you're pirating some obscure bit of media that you can't otherwise obtain, then it objectively isn't a lost sale in any capacity for the owner of the media, so there is no harm in doing it.

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    If I am watching something that can be seen on my paid cable (which I rarely use) then I see nothing wrong with it. They are still getting money from me regardless. I just prefer to binge-watch stuff or watch stuff that isn't always being aired.

    As for music, I only listen to music that is considered free to the public (non-copywrite) anyways so me using something like youtube dl gui isn't really that big of a deal. I also view general downloading music from online sharing more so than piracy. Most mainstream artists are paid well beyond what they should be paid so they aren't taking a huge loss anyways.

    Video games is kind of where I draw the line. I will play roms and such but they are of older games I owned at one point. I did pirate some games like 10 years ago and fried my $1000 laptop so I paid the price for that one lol I won't pirate new or current games. I feel like that is hurting the industry, one that has enough problems as it is.

    Software... I use freeware so again, doesn't matter there either. I have the option to support them via donation.

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    I went out to lunch with my boss today and he told me that he's seen some articles recently stating that digital piracy is on the rise again. For the last 5 years or so, it has seen a steep decline due to the increased availability of games & movies/tv shows in more regions and more services....now that's starting to change. There are so many streaming services at this point and they almost all seem to have exclusive shows. We can see this as well in both physical and digital gaming, where certain vendors have exclusive items/DLC available in exchange for preordering here vs. there. Likewise, with evil Epic forcing their digital storefront on players, there are now plenty of exclusives in the digital space as well.

    It used to be believed that digital piracy would just get worse and worse & ruin companies' profitability, but as expected that was a scare tactic. For the few years where Steam worked really well AND had nearly every PC game and regular sales...game piracy significantly dropped. If you give people widespread, affordable access to media then they will pay as it turns out. Same with Netflix, once it kind of held a monopoly on TV/movie streaming (before Hulu/Amazon/Apple/HBO/CBS/Disney got really serious about competing), movie piracy dropped sharply. Now everyone wants a slice of the pie and they're going to ruin it for themselves yet again. Every network/streaming service wants their own exclusives to force people into subscribing for $10-15/month. They're reducing access & multiplying costs for the consumer which I expect to be profitable for a year or two tops before the scales tip too far for them to recover.

    I'm not 100% anti-piracy, but I am 100% against poor customer experiences and price gouging for no good reason. I can understand paying a lot for one huge monopoly service that covers everything, but not getting gangbanged by 7 streaming services and 2-3 game vendors. They're reducing affordability, but i suppose what they are giving us consumers is choice. We can vote with our wallets (or torrent clients). This whole battle is somewhat lost on me since less than 1% of my games are digital & I don't watch any TV or films in general, unless my sister or wife wants to see something. I'm simply NOT a consumer of film media, digital streaming services, or digital game vendors, but the health of these industries and the economy at large still interest me.
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