Software Piracy

Dorrell’s article on Copyright Levies (2005) summaries copyright tax law and the issues with decriminalising piracy as “free for personal use” and the difficulties in policing this in addition to how commercial use may be decided upon and calculated and distributed. Having said that, from the perspective of a piece of information or a product that is specifically aimed at the personal use market, e.g. games, music, DVDs, suggesting that personal use should be free would halt a great deal of production and innovation in these industries.

Progression in piracy protection results in progression in protection removal in techniques and with ever advancing software techniques it is difficult to see if one side or the other will be ultimately successful. I can envisage the day that biometrics, somehow inbuilt into our being and linked with an approval database will be the only way to control anyone but the approved content purchaser from using the protected media/data. Even if this were the case, there would be a clash with privacy laws and the protection could still be broken, risking even worse consequences to both the person and to protected industry in question.

The way in which piracy protection is applied in some cases is a problem in itself as it instils a feeling of disrespect in its legal and proper users. For example, when we buy a DVD or visit the cinema, we are usually introduced with a piracy protection notice when we have already paid for the use of this content, a move considered “preposterous” by industry commentators (Stephen Fry, 2009) and user blogs. Another example in the gaming industry is the requirement for the user to have to validate (via technologies such as SecuROM) ownership, have to connect to the Internet or by the supplier limiting the number of installs. From this perspective, decriminalising piracy would definitely be an advantage and would re-establish trust in honest users, however, it would also potentially allow more piracy.

The argument for piracy protection is largely a catch twenty-two scenario for if a developer sees value in their work it follows that they would like to be paid for each use. Therefore their work is protected in some way. However, as in the games industry, many iconic titles have only found the mass paying market as a result of the spread of an earlier or different version of the game, or a game by the same company that has spread as a pirated version. Without this it would have been unlikely that as many copies would have been sold.

Given the above, piracy will always exist so it makes sense to develop a system that would cope with it, rather than fight it. Lessig (2007) suggests that there should be a middle ground allowing peer-to-peer non-commercial file sharing, and hence decriminalisation but that work could be protected in the interest of creators to ensure they get paid for their work. Whilst the creators insist on protection and in legal action against those caught, which in community terms is unachievable, they are only damaging their trust relationship with honest users. A perfect solution is difficult to envisage.

References

Adams & McGrindle (2008) Pandora’s Box: Social & Professional Issues of the Information Age. University of Reading: Wiley.

Dorrel, P (2005) Copyright Levies [Online]. Available at: http://www.1729.com/ip/CopyrightLevies.html (Accessed 28 February 2010).

GameSpot.com Blog (2008) Piracy, arrr: Would You Mistake DRM-free’s Kindness for Weakness? [Online]. Available at: http://www.gamespot.com/users/MrCHUP0N/show_blog_entry.php?topic_id=m-100-25535364 (Accessed 28 February 2010)

Lawrence Lessig (2007) File Sharing, Pros and Cons for Independent Artists. [Online]. Available from: http://www.artistshousemusic.org/files/Lawrence%20Lessig%20–%20File%20Sharing,%20Pros%20and%20Cons%20for%20Independent%20Artists.doc (Accessed 28 February 2010)