Piracy: Society & Geography’s Role

I came across an interesting blog about the prevalent issue of (gaming) piracy. The author makes some interesting and, more importantly, valid points about society and its role in piracy. Roy Taylor points out two examples on maybe how to handle the escalating situation. He mentions that in the U.K., the number of DUI cases have drastically plummeted because the media and police have handled the whole scenario in such a way that drinking while driving has become socially unacceptable. So now the Brits don’t do it simply because it feels wrong to do so. The other example he gives us is the case of Texas’ campaign of “Don’t Mess With Texas” which was implemented to combat their littering problem of years past. Again the media’s role influenced the locals to cease littering since it is now deemed uncool. Mr. Taylor then mentions that the present aggressive policing being done to fight piracy has, on the other hand, not worked for the music and movie industry. So in short, the answer to the piracy problem would seem to be that the media and powers-that-be (and indeed we, gamers as well) need to come up with a new way of making piracy just not the right thing to do.

Albeit I am morally on his side, I have to make a few ‘arguments’ to this case from the realistic-society side of things. First off, let me just say that not all societies are the same in their ways of thinking. Case-in-point is the issue of DUIs. In most progressive countries, this is looked-down upon and even if there are still numerous cases being reported every day, their frequency has steadily declined. On the flip-side, here in the Philippines, DUI cases are infrequent but sadly not for the right reasons. Even though DUI is still socially unacceptable here, no one really does anything to combat it. Sure we have the occasional billboards warning us of the woes of drink-driving but Filipinos have been doing it for so long that it’s just not that big of a deal anymore. I personally think that’s stupid. I moved back to Manila around Oct. 2008 after spending about 8 years overseas and I was shocked at how accustomed locals are to DUI. I was also shocked at how I’d forgotten that this was the case even before I had left.

Unfortunately, piracy is also as socially accepted here as DUI is. People have been doing it for ages and it’s pretty much everywhere you look so I feel that no matter what kind of brilliant, ground-breaking intervention anyone might concoct up, Filipinos are so set in their ways that it really won’t change much. I also think the DUI and littering case in the UK and Texas respectively are sort of in a different ballpark when compared to the issue of piracy. With DUI it really is easy to understand why it is wrong as people’s lives are put at stake. So it would have been simple to convince folks of its gravity. On the other hand with piracy, the damage done doesn’t seem so serious. “Why, I’m only copying the thing. I’m sure they’ll make their money from their other sales.” “No one is getting hurt but for the developer’s income, so it can’t be that bad.”

Now if you read some of the comments left on the blog in question, there are again some interesting points raised. One is that most people cannot or do not directly relate piracy to outright stealing simple because with piracy we are only making copies of products. I like the comparison made by one reader on how if one had the ability to make a complete copy of a Ferrari, many would probably not consider that as theft.

Another point I’d like to raise is piracy is generally understood in the Western world as downloading games, software, movies, or music. Now since broadband Internet has only picked up in our region here quite recently, piracy has always been, to us, synonymous with purchasing a copy of any given media from a real physical store. In fact there are only **2 major legitimate retailers of games and only a handful for the DVD/CD industry in the whole country. Pirated media is so commonplace that you will find them in even major shopping centers. In fact there are a few places which solely specialize in illegitimate products. I guess what I’m trying to convey is that a majority of people do not regard purchasing pirated products as theft since they are shelling out REAL money for them. (Now don’t insult my intelligence. I know that is completely bollocks and buying stolen goods is a crime in itself.)

Lastly, there was a short report on how developers are directly affected by piracy. Just a little FYI for those who are not aware that besides the PlayStation 3, pretty much all consoles are mod-able and are pirate software-friendly.

OK after saying all of that, I just want to make clear that I DO NOT CONDONE piracy. I was just pointing out how things are very different region-to-region as to what is socially acceptable, and most unfortunately what is wrong or right.

** God knows how these games retailers stay in business but it is quite refreshing to report that for the DVD/CD industry, things are starting to look brighter. Locals are demanding legit copies for their quality and extra content and retailers have responded as well by lowering prices thereby enticing even the most frugal of consumers.

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