I participated in a forum discussion a while back that relates to the piracy issues I’ve been writing about recently, and I thought I should share them with you.  My post had two parts.

Part 1: Responding to the question “If they don’t get money from used sales, then what’s the moral inferiority of pirating.”

I think there’s a very easy answer to that question: selling a used copy moves a copy of the game, while pirating the game devalues the game. Let me draw an analogy to artwork.

When I sell my artwork in an art show, I only sell my prints in limited print runs. There will never be more than 50 authorized copies of any of my prints; once the fifty prints are sold, I never sell another print of that image again.

When I decide not to sell anymore of my work, it does NOT become abandonware; it becomes scarce enough to maintain its value to the customers that own it. Nobody has a right to my work, no matter how badly they want it. If they want it, they can come to me for a commission of similar work OR find someone that has already purchased an original. If someone turns around and sells one of my prints on the secondary market, the value of my prints remains the same, and I lose nothing. If someone prints a bunch of copies, however, they devalue the product for me and ALL of my other buyers. Further, they compromise the collectibility of ALL of my work.

It’s the reason why my work will continue to maintain its value, while Thomas Kinkade’s inferno-filled house prints will get you 50 cents at a yard sale.  In fact, THIS should reinforce the point: I’m not nearly as good as Kinkade, and I’m sure his originals still have value.  The problem is that he has allowed his prints to become devalued.

Pirating the game is the same. It’s morally inferior to selling on the secondary market because it dilutes the market. It’s no different than counterfeiting money. If you don’t endorse the poor counterfeiting money to pay for food, you shouldn’t endorse counterfeiting games.

In fact, this is the most important point when arguing against piracy:  We shouldn’t call it piracy; we should call it counterfeiting.

Part 2:  Responding to the hypocrisy argument (“you guys can argue all you want and try to look legit, I dare any of you to claim you never download a single pirated software/game/picture/song/etc.”)

That’s like hearing a recovering alcoholic that just told you not to drink, and replying “I dare you to claim that you never drank before.”

Actually, it’s worse; given the context of this community, it’s more like going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and saying “You people are hypocrites for telling me not to drink. Every one of you has been drunk in the past.”

Yes, I’ve pirated software before, and I have to live with the guilt of knowing that I contributed to the shortened demise of my beloved Commodore 64. I have to deal with the fact that I will never be able to talk to Ron Gilbert or Tim Schafer at a PAX about Maniac Mansion without knowing that I played a pirated copy. It’s a horrible feeling, and one that I would spare each of you.

I encourage you to go out there any create some content that people actually want to buy. Sell that content. Pay your rent with it. After you’ve done that for a while, come back and let us know if you still think counterfeiting is OK.