spicysaurus (spicysaurus) wrote,

Why anti-piracy measures encourage piracy

A funny thing happened today. I turned on the PS3 and logged in to play a bit of Ratchet & Clank. Actually, Ratchet & Clank downloadable content. My husband played the game when it was new, and downloaded the extra content after he finished the game. I've been playing and enjoying it for the past few days.

But when I tried to load my saved game, it said there was no data. I restarted the system (because that fixes a great deal of computer-based problems) and most of the downloaded games were gone! Including, of course, the one I've been playing.

Thirty minutes on the phone with PlayStation support flushed out the root of the problem: apparently, I was never supposed to have access to that content in the first place. System maintenance that was run today has found these "problems" and addressed them.

And therein lies the real problem. Why wasn't I supposed to have access to my husband's downloadable content? Yes, he bought it on his account, but it's our system. The full game, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, is on a disc and thus we can each play it on our own accounts any time we like. The downloadable content, however, does not exist on physical media, and is therefore susceptible to "copyright infringement protection".

All this protection of digital media is supposed to deter piracy, but I think it probably has the opposite effect. After all, analog media isn't protected in the same manner, and when's the last time you heard of a bootleg copy of Gone With the Wind? If I buy a book, I can read it anytime I like. I can loan it to a friend. I can read it out loud to a group of friends. I can donate it to a library. I can even sell it to a bookstore, if they're in the market for used books.

So why can't I do the same thing with my downloaded films, songs, and video games? I paid for it, after all. If I like it, I'm likely to want to be able to enjoy it in many different places (after all, who limits themselves to reading their favorite books, say, only in their bedroom?). I'm likely to want to loan it to my friends, so they can enjoy it too.

But the companies that produce this media think maybe, just maybe, I'm going to share it with the entire world and they're not going to make any money. So, rather than have faith that people will continue to buy video games, just as they continue to buy books, they make it so that, even if my family has paid for a copy, we have to buy another one so each of us can enjoy it.

And this is why this "protection" encourages piracy. What I am absolutely NOT going to do is buy a second goddam copy of a game we already own just so I can play it under my account. What I might do is play on my husband's account, which unfortunately erases all his saved data and means we'll have to each play all the way through if we want to share. But what I might do is crack the content we already own, or obtain some cracked content from someone else. The companies who set up these ridiculous "anti-theft" devices make it so impossible for those of us who aren't pirates to actually enjoy the media that we have no alternative (other than amply lining the pockets of the media execs by purchasing multiple copies of digital files). By attempting to protect their media, these idiots are actually creating a market for bootleg material.

So here's a message for the people in digital media: learn to work for your consumers, not against them. There are more pirates than there are of you, and, on probability alone, they're likely smarter. You imagine we're all greedy enough that we'll refuse to pay for your products. Keep up your miserly tactics, and you'll find you're quite right.

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