“Every method of DRM that has been tried has failed,” he says: “every popular single-player PC game can be found for free on the internet, without exception.”
Much the same can be said about Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music ‘product,’ ongoing sue ‘em all efforts by Big 4 extortion unit RIAA, and clones, notwithstanding.
The campaign, “failed for them,” but, “I believe it could succeed for the videogame industry,” says Fisch. “I am suggesting that we implement the same strategy employed by the RIAA in its battle against music pirates.”
He says he’s never believed in the argument the “RIAA would earn bad press if it started suing music fans” leading to a “backlash and fewer sales”.
Why would “paying customers get upset if a company sues people stealing its product?” – he wonders. “Would people boycott Best Buy if it started prosecuting shop lifters? The shop lifters might complain, but who cares what they think?”
Right. Who cares?
But no one has stolen anything belonging to the RIAA’s owners, or anyone else. Music lovers share music with each other, and by no stretch of anyone’s imagination does sharing equal stealing. No one has been deprived of any thing s/he used to own, nothing is missing, permanently or otherwise, and no money has changed hands. And the claim file sharing directly results in lost sales has now been debunked so many times it’s barely worth mentioning.
Gamasutra goes on »»»
The second argument against the lawsuit strategy is that it is ineffective. Obviously this was the case for the music industry, which has been in steady decline since mp3 downloading began in earnest. Yet the differences between pirated games and pirated music are such that the strategy could be successful if taken up by the videogame industry.
A song, at its most fundamental nature, is sound waves. It doesn’t matter if it’s played off a CD, the radio or streamed over the internet. A song whose raw .wav file measures 80MB when on a CD or 200MB on a DVD can be compressed to a satisfying 3MB mp3.
A videogame, on the other hand, is 0′s and 1′s at its most fundamental level. A user must have every last 0 and 1 in tact (more or less) in order for it to function. The fundamental nature of the two mediums makes music much easier to pirate.
The small size of an mp3 eliminates the need for trust that comes with a pirate videogame transaction. A person can stream a low-quality version of a pirated Beatle’s song from a Russian website to ensure it’s the real thing before paying 10 cents for the download. Likewise, if the person’s using a downloading service such as Limewire, it doesn’t matter if 50% of the mp3s are fake because he can download 20 in two minutes. By contrast the average pirated PC game takes hours to download and cannot be previewed.
Pirated songs are also much easier to distribute. Songs can be compressed and streamed from an ad-supported site like YouTube. A pirate website can afford to sell a 5MB mp3 for 10 cents because the bandwidth costs are minimal. Assuming the pirate website used the same pricing scale for a 3000MB videogame, they would have to charge $60.
Hence most game piracy comes from one place torrent networks where bandwidth costs are shared between thousands of distributors. It is likely to stay that way because, unlike mp3′s, the size of videogames keeps getting larger.
By targeting lawsuits at those who share pirated games via torrent networks, we could put a sizable dent in videogame piracy. While only a small fraction of sharers would receive subpoenas, many would quit using torrents once word of the lawsuits got out.
It’s true that many pirates would switch to more complicated methods of obtaining pirated videogames such as MIRC or Megaupload. Others would use proxy servers to hide their IP addresses and keep using torrents. Still others would put their fate in the hands of programs that attempted to block out all torrent connections but those from trusted pirates. In all of these cases piracy would be more of a hassle thus driving up its cost.
“I would love nothing more if the general public associates pirating videogames with harsh financial punishments,” says Fisch, adding:
“This will only happen if we in the industry make it happen. We have a choice. We can either shape our products around the pirates taking our focus off compelling single-player experiences and abandoning single-player PC games altogether- or we can fight for the artistic freedom that the medium deserves.”
Gamasutra – Fighting Piracy: Bring on the Lawsuits!, May 5, 2009
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