Saturday, August 07, 2004

Feeling the BURN of illegal software.

Since the beginning of portable digital media people have desired to make copies of software. Legal or not, be it right or wrong, people do it. They have been doing it and will never stop. There is no effective means of protecting digital media and there never ever will be. I know this is true because of Rule No.1 and No. 2 of Surges Guide to Computing. [ see links to the right ]

Many companies believe that anyone who obtains an unauthorized copy a piece of software will never buy it and it's money lost for them. 'This person has the software and now they don't have to buy it. They stole it.' Or rather they stole the profits owed to the vendors and copyright holders.

Ok, I'll accept that there are many people who do this. This scenario is real. But there is no way to stop it. The business model needs some modification to allow for or compensate for the people who do this and the losses they inflict (real or imaginary ), because they will never ever stop. But this is not the only type of pirate. For some people illegal digital media is a hobby, for some it is a means to preview material and still others trade illegal digital media just because they can. There is a social element to warez and file sharing, particularly among the bit torrent community and where BT and IRC intersect.

I'm not out to justify warez, or P2P sharing. But some companies and some researchers make claims or 'estimates' about the impact warez has on industry. All of these estimates are bogus. The very illegal nature of file sharing and warez distribution promotes secrecy. Secrecy in a social network means some level of anonymity will be present and that whole ball of wax can be another posting. Many many people have created one or more online alter-egos. But I digress, The systematic secrecy in this warez community makes getting any real measure of what is happening and in-turn determining how much of an impact it has, impossible to measure. You simply can't measure something you are unable to observe in some way.

Not daunted by this rather simple fact, content publishers around the globe launch massive efforts to stop piracy. All of them have been defeated. Let's take a look at something very recent. id software's release of DOOM 3. Probably the single most anticipated shooter ever to be released and will no doubt be another landmark title for the venerable game publisher. The game checks for software that could be used to make or utilize illegal copies of CD's and DVD's with emulation. If it finds one, the game displays an error message and shuts down. The warez community got ahold of DOOM3 the day it was leaked by vendors and released a cracked version of the entire game in less than 12 hours. This is still more than 12 hours before the official release party held in TX!

The end result of this situation is that people who want to download the game and play it, without buying it, can and without the hassle of CD-Check or the emulation software check. The people who didn't spend a cent, who stole it, the pirates get a bullshit free version of the game.

Everyone that paid for the game, gets the full brunt of the copy-protection. Never mind your right to make a back-up copy of your game. ( YES! YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE A COPY OF ANY SOFTWARE YOU BUY! ) Nevermind your right to install and use software as YOU see fit on YOUR computer. Does the game have a systematic conflict with some part of your clone-CD? NO. It's all copy-protection. Does the game read content of the CD's to save space on your HDD? NO. It's copy-protection. The paying customer, who obeys the law, and supports the publisher and the vendors and all the middle-men, is the one who gets the shaft. The hassle of figuring out why it doesn't work, or being forced to register or authenticate or activate software.

WHY? Why are we the ones being punished? The software check is just bad logically. How does checking for that type of software, stop me from making a copy? It doesn't! If I want to make a copy I can. The game and all its copy protection don't stop clone-cd or daemon tools from working.. they stop the game from working. Why would you add something to your game that would prevent paying customers from being able to play? All that software check does do is stop me from playing the game, that I purchased! If I had the warez version I could play it without any bullshit being thrown in my face. I paid money for it, so I don't get to play.