Instructor Carolyn Jong
24 March 2017
The Fuss over Piracy
Most of what was written in “Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture” by Sarah Coleman and Nick Dyer-Witheford hit home for me. I can even give one example that summarises almost all of it. When I was a teenager, I used to play Ultima Online. I didn’t own the original version of the game; I had a copy of the disc from one of my friends. We didn’t play on the official server (I couldn’t afford the subscription fee), so we played on free “shards”. What’s more, we even created our own server, in which I built new parts of the world, and created new scripts for the game. The only thing I never did was create videos for games.
Although I used to play a lot of pirated games when I was younger, today there are no illegal software on my computer. I even bought legal copies of old pirated games I had to replay them. Even though it’s more difficult to enjoy a pirated game then, say, a movie or music, companies still complain about the loss of profit related to piracy. Of course it’s important that they discourage people from playing their games without paying (because there can’t be any games if there isn’t any revenue), but piracy is not as bad as it’s typically set out to be.
First, let’s consider who it is that pirates. I remember reading an article a year or two ago explaining that the people who pirate movies the most are usually those who also spend a lot of money buying movies. The explanation is that they want to try the movie before purchasing it to make sure that they like it, or they feel like the movie is overpriced (like the Disney classics…). I couldn’t find that article again, but I found another that says the same about the music industry. “A report from the BI Norwegian School of Management has found that those who download music illegally are also 10 times more likely to pay for songs than those who don’t.” (“Study…”, The Guardian)
I have a brother who works in the video game industry, and he tells me that people who engage in free-to-play games without ever giving any money to the company still contribute to the success of the game by helping to build a community around it. On the subject of pirating television series, David Petrarca, director of Game of Thrones, said that the “illegal downloads did not matter because such shows thrived on ‘cultural buzz’ and capitalised on the social commentary they generated.” (He was paraphrased in the Sydney Morning Herald.)
So should we all pirate our entertainment? No, because the companies who produce it need the revenue to make more. Should we buy into corporate stories that piracy takes away jobs from honest citizens? No, because the film and music industry are reported to be growing despite piracy (“Why…”, The Guardian). Let’s just keep doing what we do, and if you can afford it, pay for your entertainment.
“Downloads Don’t Matter”. The Sydney Morning Herald. Web. 22 March 2017 <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/downloads-dont-matter-20130226-2f36r.html#ixzz2LywE7AZ2>
“Study Finds Pirates 10 Times More Likely to Buy Music”. The Guardian. Web. 22 March 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/apr/21/study-finds-pirates-buy-more-music>
“Why Piracy Isn’t Such a Bad Thing for Music”. The Guardian. Web. 22 March 2017 <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/mar/27/piracy.digitalmusic>