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Piracy is not activism, it's a crime

by Zaid Kriel (Zaid)  Posted Friday, July 12, 2013 8:49:00 AM

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I have a confession to make: I have pirated software.

It started in the '80s when my brother and I used to game on our beloved Commodore 64. Back then one of our usual tools for game acquisition involved saving our Eid money to buy new games at the Dion store. Saving up that way meant we were guaranteed at least two new games a year and if we were really lucky, our dad would add on a few bucks and we could buy a compilation set that had five or six games in a pack. That yearly ritual of going to the Dion was like Christmas for the two us.

Buying games from Dion was however not our primary tool to get games. I’m guessing, but I hazard that at minimum half of all the games in our C64 collection were acquired via piracy. We didn't call it that back then, but that's what it was. And it was really easy to do. What could be simpler than putting a game cassette into a HIFI, pushing play on one deck and record on the other? A buddy would have a game, itself already pirated from somewhere else, and you would make a copy for yourself. We did it, our friends did it and if you had a C64 or ZX Spectrum, I bet you did it too.

That was just how you got games. Your friend gave it you. It was never stealing. It was sharing. It was just how things got done. And that pattern of behaviour extended to the systems that would succeed my C64. Many of the PC games I owned just came in a shoe box of floppies and later CDs with names like Doom, Need for Speed and Half-Life written on them in khoki. Later, after I had switched to consoles, the PlayStation I bought came chipped, plus a great collection of pirated games, including Disruptor, V-Rally and Final Fantasy VII. I bought Gran Turismo for R80 from a guy whose number I found in the CapeAds, who delivered games on his motorcycle. It wasn't until I entered the work force and got a PlayStation 2 that I became a legit gamer.

At the risk of sounding disingenuous, we didn't know any better. And, flimsy as it sounds, everyone was doing it.

Today, however, I do know better. And if your story is similar to mine, as I suspect it is, then you know better too. Thing is, in spite of the fact that we all know better, everyone is still doing it. If you are pirating software today, or anything else for that matter, you know that what you are doing is illegal. Now I am not about to suggest that torrenting is a more serious crime than murder, armed robbery or rape. I don’t think pirates should be flogged or lynched and I especially don’t think people should be dragged through the courts because they torrented some games or whatever. And while I'm being so honest and all, I'm not sure that torrenting should be illegal to begin with. But it is. So if you're doing it, then technically, you are a criminal. Which is fine. What you aren't, is an activist or a victim.

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What I'm trying to get at with this whole piracy issue is the “victim and activist” labels that many committing piracy have come to mark themselves with. No, you are not a victim being gouged by “the Man”. No, you are not an activist fighting “Big Content”. You are a criminal.

Movies, videogames and music; these are not things you are entitled to. Someone somewhere made these things in order to sell them. They are commodities designed with the intent to be sold. If you feel that it’s too expensive, that does not suddenly infer on you the right to then pirate them. If it’s too expensive, then learn to live without it. I agree that ridiculous Digital Rights Management (DRM) measures and those highly annoying unskippable commercials on DVDs are things that absolutely need to GTFO. But those things do not justify your piracy.

Bottom line? The main motivation for people who pirate: They want free stuff. You can come up with all justifications in the world, and many of them may be salient points, but the truth is you are taking something that you have no right to. If you want to pirate stuff, then fine. I'm not here to ask you to stop. But please, stop this rubbish about pretending to be a noble crusader acting to protect consumer rights or whatever.

Just accept you are a thief.

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