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Gremlins 08-22-2008 07:03 PM

The Ethics of Pirating Games
I was surfing around the Lucas forums a few days ago, when I came across an interesting thread. Someone had casually mentioned downloading a pirated copy of Full Throttle because he was unable to find a legal way of obtaining it, and he was immediately pounced on for being a pirate (but not the good kind of pirate). People pointed out that Full Throttle was NOT abondonware, and therefore him downloading a copy was proof he was a bad person (not in those exact words, but that was the jist). We all know that downloading copywrited materal is illegal reguardless of the age of the product, but that got me thinking: Is it morally wrong to download old, no longer sold video games?

Let's take Monkey Island. If you don't already own a copy, the only way for you to legally obtain one is to find it on ebay. Those are getting harder and harder to find, as there aren't hundreds of them out there. And even if you DID find one, is it any more noble to buy a game used than it is to download it? It's not as if the original creators get any royalties from the sale, and I'll bet you one million dollars that the person selling the game will keep a copy on his hard drive (therefore pirating the game). All you're really paying for is the original packaging. And if LucasArts has no plans of ever re-selling the game, where is the injured party? Now, if LucasArts DOES plan on re-packaging and selling the game (Ala Sierra), I say that everyone who downloaded a copy go out and buy it (as I would certianly do), and no harm is actually done.

On a final note, I think clinging to copywrite law in this case leaves us with a scary scenario. Monkey Island is less than 20 years old. When it was originally released, let's say 500,000 copies were sold. In this short time, how many legal copies remain? Maybe 1,000? The rest have been thrown out or lost over the years (or the disks finally crapped out). In another 10 or so years it is very possible that every last legal copy of Monkey Island is no longer functional, which would essentially mean it is lost forever. I think unless the game gets re-sold, the only way to garauntee the preservation of these old games IS pirating...

Is that not worth breaking a law that no one cares enough about to enforce?

Joshi 08-23-2008 10:48 AM

Unfortunately, on these boards at least, it's not really a case of the ethics, we simply can't condone it. What a lot of people don't actually know is that LucasForums have contracts with LucasArts so that they can use their name and properties for these fan sites without legal repurcusions. These contracts include things like not condoneing illegal activities, especially pirating LA's own games. Whether it's morally right or not doesn't really come into it, it's effectively a rule here on the site that we don't condone pirating software and it's one the staff and mods here are want to follow.

Gremlins 08-23-2008 12:39 PM

There is no question that it is not legal to download a game you did not purchase, my post was purely focused on the morality of it. As someone who works in the software industry I am completely against pirating, as downloading something you could have purchased is morally wrong (be it games, movies, music, what have you...). But when there is no way of legally purchasing a game (aside from ebay, which only benefits the seller), I think that line starts to get pretty fuzzy.

But I do believe in another decade or so we could potentially start losing these games if they don't start either re-selling them or re-classifying them as abandonware... Hard drives crash, floppy disks stop working, even burned cd's have a limited shelf life. To everyone who has a legal copy, preserve those backups! And to everyone like myself who purchased the game 17 years ago, but the disks have been lost over the years: Too bad! Because the only way to reliably get another copy is to pirate it.

As an aside, LucasArts could solve this by simply selling downloadable copies of all its old games for $10 a pop. I'd buy them...

Joshi 08-23-2008 05:32 PM

Yes, I was merely explaining why people here may jump down the throat of a person who admitted to pirating, since this board has certain obligations to LucasArts people here are going to be a little more agresive about it.

As for the actual morals though, while I agree that the line gets fuzzy when it becomes difficult to find something to buy, there are afew issue to think on. For instance, there are many hundreds of movie titles that simply are not available to buy here in the UK. Now while it may be possible for me to get it shipped in from the US (and thus risk incuring customs charges), it would be easier for me to download it.

Now, obviously that's wrong, if it's available, even if at a higher cost with more hassle, surely I should do that instead of downloading. I mean when is downloading justified, when i can't get something as easily as someone in another part of the world?

So then doesn't that apply to these such games? Take The first Monkey Island game for example. As far as I'm aware, that is no longer available anywhere... except maybe on ebay as you say. So what about ebay? You say that should you get it from there there's no money going to LucasArts and the person selling it is likely making a copy or himself.

But, the difference between getting it from ebay and downloading it is that the game you buy from ebay was paid for once, and money was given to LucasArts at least once for that very product. You are not (hopefully) buying a copy from ebay, but the oroginal thing that was once bought and paid for. If the seller was copying the game and selling those, that's stealing from LucasArts, if he's just selling his old game, no harm done.

And also, if the seller is copying the game to their hard drive, that's them doing the illegal thing, not you, the buyer.

Effectively, buying the game off of ebay is, I would say, better than downloading it, morally.

Downloading would, I would say, be the very last option. It's very much a question of how justified are you downloading the game simply because acquiring the game through legal means is too much of a hassle? How much of a hassle is too much?

Gremlins 08-23-2008 08:25 PM

You make an interesting point when you say that purchasing a game on ebay is morally better because at least the game was likely purchased by the seller originally, and it would be possible to make the argument that pirating hurts the resale value of games, and therefore hurts customers, therefore indirectly hurting LucasArts. And I certainly understand who's hosting these forums...

But I think it's not so much a matter of it being a hassle to download old games from ebay, as it is not even being possible. In order to obtain a working copy of Monkey Island, I'll need to be the highest bidder, THEN get 20 year old floppy disks that hopefully still work.

I can't make an argument that downloading games is ok because it's easier than buying them. Of course it's easier! Even it it was being sold in stores it would still be easier. But when LucasArts tells us that their old games are important enough to them to prevent us from copying them (or even making fan games!), but not important enough to sell them to us, it reminds me of a small child who wants a toy only because he doesn't want his little brother to have it. Are they afraid that people may like the older games so much that they wont feel the need to buy newer games? <snicker> I mean sure they are within their legal rights, but come on!!! Owning the rights to classics like Monkey Island and not selling them is only encouraging piracy.

Copying one of my friends DVD's just feels wrong, just like downloading music just feels wrong. I like to think that I'm a pretty moral person, but downloading a game from the internet that I do not have the option to buy new just doesn't feel wrong to me. If they care so much about it, just sell me a copy! Please!!!

Software and the internet are fairly new. I think we will start seeing plenty of new laws on how to deal with problems that didn't exist on the same scale 10 or 20 years ago. Illegal copies will be front and center. I propose that software that has been off store shelves and off servers where you can purchase downloads for X number of years be considered abandonware (lets say 5 years) and therefore be A-OK to download from other sources. Although I suspect that will never happen... Ah well!

It sounds like we agree that downloading older games is illegal, but in a fuzzy moral area. But in conclusion, and mostly because of who's hosting these forums, to anyone reading this: DOWNLOADING PIRATED GAMES IS WRONG! AND IF YOU DO IT, YOU'RE A BAD PERSON AND NO ONE WILL LOVE YOU!

Joshi 08-24-2008 01:30 PM

Let's think of it this way. Let's say you're a painter and all your life you've been painting and selling those paintings for a decent price. You're successful, your work is well sought after.

Now, after a few years, you decide to stop painting and you no longer want to sell any of the paintings you haven't sold yet. Do you not have every right to do that? Surely, even though there's a demand for your paintings, doesn't mean you absolutely have to sell them. Even more, just because somebody wants them, does that justify them coming into your home and stealing them from you because "well, it's not as if he's losing money"?

Obviously this isn't the same, but I think LucasArts has every right to say "We no longer want to sell these games, but we still want to protect our copyright.

It's also a legal issue, if LucasArts suddenly said "Okay, fine, if you want to download it for free, download it for free, it's not as if we're selling it anymore" then they lose a portion of their rights to the Monkey Island property (technically, in short it'd set down a precedent that any lawyer could take advantage of should someone wish to use that property without buying the rights). Monkey Island as a trademark is valuable to them, not as a game, but a franchise. Yes, I sincerely doubt they're going to make a Monkey Island 5, but at the same time, that trademark is one they've held onto most vehemently, so they don't really want others to get their hands on it very easily.

It's for this reason that the law you've proposed about software becoming abandonware after 5 years of not being available to buy is something that would never come to pass. By law today copyright lasts about 50 years, and even then a person or company has the right to pay a nominal fee so they can hold copyright for another 50 years. If your proposed law came to pass, people and companies would lose control of their own trade marks simply because they chose not to sell it.

Again, it's really down to the copyright holder and what they wish to do. Just because you want something enough doesn't mean you should be allowed to get it no matter what.

Gremlins 08-25-2008 04:27 PM

Let me expand on the painter argument a bit (with me making a few assumptions on how the law works): Let's say I decided to purchase the Mona Lisa. After purchasing it I decide that I'm going to leave it in my basement, and forbid anyone to display a copy or even download a copy from the internet. Anyone who had purchased a copy in the past is free to sell the original, but no new copies are allowed to be made. This would make it very difficult for anyone who hasn't seen the Mona Lisa to ever see it, or for art fans who weren't quick enough to purchase a copy when it was for sale from ever owning a copy. And if everyone abided by the law, slowly but surely all copies would start to disappear (as they get lost or kids spill grape juice on them). If that is within my legal rights, is it morally right for me to deny the world the Mona Lisa (which would be very important to some, but not to me :P), just because I can? And if someone wants to break that law and download a copy, is it any worse (morally) than what I was doing?

(And yes, Monkey Island = the Mona Lisa in historical significance!)

I believe that in the case of old software it is morally wrong to deny people the enjoyment of it just because there is a thousand to one chance they might want to bring back the franchise, and all those copies floating around may somehow hurt that (I'm really not sure how they would. Just because you allow people to freely download your software doesn't mean you are allowing people to steal the idea and characters and re-sell them).

I think we could go back and forth on this issue for quite some time, but I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. But let me make an attempt at summarizing our discussion:

We both agree that pirating software is illegal, period. No argument there. However I believe that in the case of software which is impossible to buy new (and likely NEVER to be possible), it is not morally wrong to download them. You (Joshi) believe that it is merely a fuzzy moral area, and likely still should be considered wrong.

What do you think?

As an aside, I didn't reach my morality conclusion simply because I don't want to bother hunting something down, and would rather just download it for free. When Sierra decided to release it's old classics in collections recently, I found a Futureshop store that actually carried them and bought them, even though it is particularly easy to download the "Quest" series' on the net. Not that that makes me a wonderful person, but I wanted to make sure I'm not coming off as someone who is just simply cheap and trying to justify his actions.

Joshi 08-25-2008 08:15 PM

Okay, the law with paintings works in much the same way as any real copyright law. First of all, owning the painting will not give you ownwership over copyright, even if you had the original. But, if you did own full copyright (which, for the Mona Lisa at least, I think is impossible, but for our hypothetical lets say it isn't), morally or not, you would have every right to say that you didn't want it to be redistributed anymore (enforcing such a demand would be pretty impossible, but effectively, should you fin that someone was redistributing the work, you could request that they stop and even take legal action against them).

What you seem to be talking about here isn't really the morality of downloading a game, but the morality of a company refusing to let you have that game under any circumstances. And those are totally different things. I agree that LucasArts should be obligated to allow us to acquire these games legally, BUT, as they do own the trademark, that decision is still up to them and I think it is still morally and legally wrong to take that decision out of their hands or circumventing their authority over those rights by downloading the game anyway.

All I'm saying is that, if the company doesn't want you to have the game, them being morally obligated to make the game available doesn't justify stealing it simply because they choose not to.

gumpy 10-23-2008 01:30 PM

I don't download new games, movies, music, etc... but if I want to play an old game that isn't being sold anymore, I download it and play it. I don't feel wrong about it.

As was already stated, what is the real difference between downloading a copy of an old game and hunting on Ebay and buying a copy? Since the game isn't being sold anymore, the designers of the game are not getting any money either way.

I don't see why people get all huffy and look down on people who download an old game that isn't being sold anymore and hasn't been sold for over 18+ years. If you feel that it is wrong to download old games, then fine, if you want to hunt around on Ebay and pay $200 or more to buy a game from some guy in Singapore and get 18+ year old disks, that may or may not work, that's up to you. But don't get upset and start acting all self righteous because someone else doesn't have a problem with downloading an old game.

Let's face it... If I download a copy of an old game, it is not hurting anybody! The game is not being sold, so I'm not taking away money from the game's designers.

CrisG 10-25-2008 03:20 PM

Copies of all the LucasArts games can be purchased on Amazon or other sources easily, safely and affordably. We do NOT support any discussion here of pirating in any form, either as community members or the forum officially as posted above by mods. LucasArts has worked hard to create wondeful games and they deserve our respect and support.

James Isaac 11-04-2008 01:11 PM


Originally Posted by Tim Schafer
Personally, I'd rather my old games were stolen and played for free than forgotten about.

I haven't seen Day of the Tentacle (for example) on sale anywhere except for eBay and Amazon Marketplace. Those will just be second hand copies being passed around anyway, so it's not as if LucasArts are getting anything for it.

I'm not saying I pirate games myself... I own at least one copy of every LucasArts adventure. But I wouldn't hold anything against people who do pirate them.

Giant Graffiti 11-04-2008 01:23 PM


Originally Posted by James Isaac
Those will just be second hand copies being passed around anyway, so it's not as if LucasArts are getting anything for it.

Not like you would want LucasArts to get something from it, either. :)

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