You make a finite amount of money. Typically, that money gets spent on essentials, like paying the rent, your bills and procuring fine single malt scotches. With so many needs to attend to, by the end of the month, most folks find themselves with precious little scratch left over to spend on their wants, meaning that decisions and sacrifices will have to be made. Will you be going out to dinner or seeing a movie? Socking away a bit of coin for a rainy day or for a vacation? Buying software or… not? After all, why buy when you can pirate everything most of today’s popular titles for the low, low cost of free? Well, we’ll tell you. Before you decide to go torrent an application or game you’ve been keen on, consider our 10 practical arguments against piracy, and always try to remember — you get what you pay for.
You know that feeling of unbridled rage gnawing away at the cockles of your soul when you buy a new piece of software on the first day it becomes available, open it, and then discover you have to wait another hour and a half for a launch day patch to download and install in order to make the application useable? A lot of pirated software will allow you to relive the the experience every time you launch them. It used to be that rocking a pirated game or application was as simple as finding a viable serial number to work with a given program, but as many of you likely know (don’t worry, we’re not here to judge you) modern software piracy often involves a lot of work on the part of hackers, who spend a great deal of time reverse engineering applications to see what makes them tick, and inevitably, how that ticking can be translated into a crack to allow anyone to use the software for free. Such a crack can often stymie the software’s stability, making it a crash-prone bag of hurt.
If you’re anything like us, your rig’s drives are already full of photos, games, music, movies, applications, and work-related files. Space is at a constant premium, and unless you plan on investing in additional storage hardware, you’ll be mulling over whether or not you’ve got enough room to download or install additional content, and if not, pondering what you could get rid of in order to create enough space so that a new application can be shoehorned in.
When you’re dealing with pirated software, not only will you have to contend with the amount of data the installation chewed up, but you’ll also have to consider whether or not the installation files are worth holding on to. After all, just because you were able to find and torrent a program once, doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to find or download again, right?
When you buy a boxed copy or digital download of a piece of software, you’re not only forking over dough you’re paying so that you’ll never have to worry about obtaining another copy of your software again. Boxed software can be stored on a shelf in your office, and more likely than not, you’ll be allowed to download a copy of any previously purchased software from an online vendor like Steam, Direct2Drive or Microsoft time and time again.
Many moons ago, buying a piece of software was very much a WYSIWYG experience: Whatever came out of the box is what you were stuck with, whether it worked as you’d hoped it would or not. If you long for such whimsically frustrating times, pirated software’s the way to go. In most cases, no matter whether you’re using a bogus serial number or a cracked copy of an application, you can likely kiss any and all updates and additions goodbye. With today’s Digital Rights Management technologies, it’s getting harder and harder to authenticate pirated software with the publishing house servers.
Few subjects in in the geek circles cause more drama, venom, or troll-baiting than Digital Rights Management. Created as a direct response to digital piracy by individuals and organizations who, instead of paying the suggested retail price for software, digitally distributed music or movies, prefer to pay the low, low price of absolutely free. While DRM might seem a reasonable way to deal with the freeloading thieves of the world, DRM oriented anti-piracy efforts have caused a good amount of splash damage to those who choose to pay for their digital content too. There’s no regulation in place to limit how companies implement DRM for their products. This has lead to quaint practices like requiring games be constantly connected to the internet for DRM verification, which, as anyone who planned on play Diablo 3 on a cross country flight will tell you, sucks.
As pirates become more adept at bi-passing current DRM methodology, there’s little doubt that new, DRM technology will be developed to protect corporate interests and frustrate consumers. So, enough with the pirating already, if you please.
Viruses & Malware
Software obtained via P2P sites and torrents are an awesome delivery system for viruses and malware. Knowing that no sane PC user would want to intentionally install a virus or malware application, many a wily blackhat hacker and scriptkiddie has piggybacked their malignant work on to the back of cracked software, anticipating that in your eagerness to get your hands on a program you’ve had a hankering for, you won’t notice it’s there until it’s installed on your system. In some instances, digital ne’er do wells, don’t even bother to try and hide their payload amidst a mess of software—they’ll simply label their wares something tempting like ‘Microsoft Office 2010’ or ‘Crysis’ and watch unwary pirates do what they do.
Not cool, man. Not cool.
No Tech Support
If you’re rocking pirated software, you can still ask for help online from other users through any number of forums, but beyond that you’ll be out of luck. In order to grab the attention of any publisher sanctioned helplines, chats, or other resources, software users require either a legitimate activation key or a support code provided after activation. While this might not be a big issue for most users, it’s definitely a let down for individuals unable to overcome software related glitches, freezes, and fails. That’s what you get when you procure something for nothing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking video, audio, or software (or audio/video software for that matter,) piracy can land you in a whole lot of hot water. In 1998, the United States passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act - a piece of legislation that makes it illegal to circumvent DRM measures put in place by content creators and publishers. To keep things more or less on the same page, the European Union passed a similar set of laws in 2001. Despite changes made to the American DMCA last year to legitimize the ripping of CDs, DVDs and other select forms of digital media for personal use, make no mistake, big business is still deadly serious about suing to protect their investments. Don’t drop a ton of coin on your legal defence: just pay for what you play instead.
Killing PC Gaming (Sorry Gordon.)
While the rumours of the death of PC Gaming may be greatly exaggerated, software piracy has definitely left the industry looking a little browbeaten. This past week, word came down from the DRM-loving scamps at Ubisoft that one of their most anticipated titles won’t be released for PC due to—you guessed it—piracy concerns. Looking at the numbers, you have to admit, those fears are well founded. When 2D Boy’s World of Goo was released for the PC sans DRM, the developers noted that as reward for trusting gamers not to pirate their creation, they were suffering a 90% piracy rate. Then there’s Crysis: A title pirated to such epic proportions that the game’s development, which was at one time devoted solely to developing for the PC, was forced to swear off PC-only development if it wanted to stand a chance of securing anything resembling fiscal sustainability.
If you’re tired of crappy console-to-PC ports, Xbox 360 or PS3 exclusives titles and long for the days when PC Gaming reigned supreme, stop torrenting and start buying. It’s still not too late to turn things around.
Slows R&D Efforts
No matter how you spin it, for the most part, software development is a business like any other. When a developer’s product flies off of store shelves or is downloaded through legitimate channels, developers and publishers are motivated to cultivate improvements to their wares, be it in the form of additional content or service packs or an entirely new edition of a popular application. Conversely, more piracy means less money for developers and publishers. This translates into less motivation to produce add-ons, patches or hot-fixes for existing titles, and in some cases, as too few people are buying what they’re selling, there's no money in the pipe to be used for future development efforts.
You’re Screwing Developers
Perhaps out of all of our legitimate reasons not to pirate, the fact that you’re screwing hard working developers over every time you download a pirated ware is the most important. When it comes to software, most titles represent months, if not years of someone’s daily work. If you’ve opted to swipe a copy of an indie house gem, you’re benefitting from the passions of perhaps a few individuals without paying them a reasonable dollar value for the the hours and hours of their personal time poured into their product. If enough people illegally download software from large publishing houses like EA or Ubisoft or Microsoft, the dollar value of the revenue lost to pirating is often compensated for by initiating lay-offs of the development teams that worked hard enough to make something awesome enough to steal in the first place. With tough economic times quickly becoming the norm, rather than the exception, it’s easy to justify the theft of intellectual property, but screwing over your fellow geeks in the name of saving a few bucks? That’s harsh.