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?