How to Stop Piracy: Realize Time Is Scarce

Loved this “remember when” story from someone who used to pirate Amiga games back in the late 80s. His story, involving floppy discs (!) sent through the mail (!), includes these comments:

Floppy disc art

…all was not well at my house. My entire evenings were spent on X-Copy and checking lists. I felt like I was coming home from school to do an 8 hour shift….

That experience taught me a great deal. Mainly that there is no fun in it. I was only one person, and sure I had every game imaginable, but… I could only play one at a time and I needed the time to play it and copying all the stuff was no way for a schoolkid to spend his time on….

Which leads me on the point of this rather elaborate anecdote. I often wonder what percentage of stuff people download they actually consume…. I think this is an avenue the RIAA/MPAA or who ever should consider pursuing. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but what stopped me was I was no longer enjoying it.

While not dealing with the morality of the situation, that’s an approach that speaks directly to the self-satisfaction that can drive some file-sharing. It’s work to keep up with all the newest and find the free sources and keep the sharing ratios up and buy more hard drives to hold it all, so maybe some sharing can be stopped by encouraging people to realize how much time they’re wasting when they don’t have time to enjoy whatever it is they’re trying to obtain? Alternately, content providers worried about piracy meaning lost sales can ratchet down their assumptions by a factor to account for these digital hoarders that aren’t viewing whatever they’re swiping.

(It’s not just a digital problem, either. I greatly sympathize with Mike Sterling, who laments “I have too many comics. But I love ‘em and would like to read them more often than I really have time for.”)

Similar Posts: Next on the Anti-Piracy Comic Hit List? § Does Anyone Understand Deprivation Any More? Piracy Because You Want It § Does Warner Consider Piracy Marketing Research? § Why DRM-Free Comics Matter § Must-Read: David Brothers’ State of Digital Comics


9 Responses to “How to Stop Piracy: Realize Time Is Scarce”

  1. Thad Says:

    As Charlie Stross recently put it, downloading a torrent of 4000 books is “not about reading, it’s about stamp collecting.”

    ( http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/01/sopa.html#comment-243072 )

  2. Johanna Says:

    Great quote! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    Man, that’s a phase I went through with both comics and DVDs: I didn’t have time to read or watch them immediately, but I was so sure I would someday and I’d regret it if I hadn’t bought it NOW. And so what happened? An embarrassing number of boxes clutter my closets of media left unviewed/unread.

    But the Amiga pirate’s stories has links to comics with the interviews iFanboy.com recently had with comic pirates. They talked about how people burned out of the pirate scene. Internal politics. The drudgery of scanning in the comics or of color-correcting them. Suddenly, the thrill of sharing and collecting becomes an albatross around the pirate’s neck.

    Someone is always lined up to replace them, though. (The same could be said for comic book writing and art jobs, eh?)

  4. Ralf Haring Says:

    Oh, the hoarding aspect is definitely a strong impulse for a certain share of illegal downloaders. No one downloading months of tv and video could ever hope to actually watch it all.

    There’s also the justification that they’re acting as a kind of archivist, “preserving” material that may otherwise be lost.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Augie, I’m afraid to count how many unwatched DVDs I have. I’m guessing over 120.

    Ralf, I’m guessing you don’t agree with this article: http://boingboing.net/2012/01/27/software-piracy-is-vital-to-pr.html

  6. Dwight Williams Says:

    Yeah. You may have nailed it here. Treat it as an addiction issue. And therefore physical and mental health issues.

  7. Ralf Haring Says:

    Software “preservation” is an interesting counterpoint. I suppose the incredible pace of obsolescence for most software led the companies to not really care if their older software was still being distributed. The demand for say a ten year old program must surely be minuscule compared to whatever the current version is.

    I can remember the late 90s having Sony crackdown on Playstation emulators while ones for the previous console gaming generation’s Super Nintendo were widely available. It’s been interesting to see the first generation of children who grew up with gaming consoles and early pc games reach the age of nostalgia. More and more gaming companies are dusting off twenty year old properties and repackaging them for mobile phones/tablets, browsers, or as downloadable console games. I suppose there’s no way to roll back the wide distribution such games once were allowed, but game publishers are characteristically ahead of the curve compared to most other media. Who’s going to bother hunting down ways to make such ancient software run on modern equipment when you can just pay a buck or two on the device you’ve already got in front of you? No customer friction = free money.

    Of course with business software, older versions sometimes just flat out don’t have the functionality or compatibility with other devices one would need and so most times aren’t worth using even if one could get them for free. It is often important to keep such software somehow so that data written in proprietary formats isn’t irrevocably lost in the future, cf. the digital dark age. Companies go bankrupt and/or can’t be relied upon to open-source their obsolete file formats (if they even remember they have them).

    All of this contrasts with other media in that the rate of decay is so much slower, lessening the need for immediate preservation. The earliest decades of films and tv shows are probably much more likely to disappear (or already have decayed) than most printed works from the same time.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, Ralf, that opens up the whole debate over whether there is a distinction (moral or otherwise) between downloading something you could buy and downloading something that isn’t commercially available to you at all. Tom Spurgeon argues that piracy is wrong because it takes away control from the creator, but in many of the latter cases, the reason it isn’t available is that someone other than the creator has taken ownership, and there are legal tie-ups.

    And yeah, if the companies are making games available in new formats, that’s a great way to satisfy the consumer desire and make new money.

  9. Ralf Haring Says:

    There is an interesting mindset that is more than willing to compensate the creators of the work (but on the consumer’s terms) and unwilling to be respectful of the creator’s “right to be stupid”.

    Tieing this into comics from yet another angle, it’s similar to how some stories are told with paper-thin pastiche versions of characters owned by someone else – Squadron Supreme, Marvelman, Supreme, and many others.

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