Recently, Notch, the creator of the awesome game Minecraft, posted up on his development blog his feelings on piracy. And I gotta say, it's my cup of tea.
I'll say this first and flat out: I don't agree with or like piracy. I don't think anyone deserves or should otherwise acquire anything they didn't pay for that they'd normally have to pay for. Call it theft, call it copyright infringement, call it what you want. I don't agree with it at all. We're not talking about bread or food to survive, we're talking about a luxury item. Be it music, movies, or video games, if you can't afford it then you don't get it. Simple.
But I do have something in common with pro-piracy groups! And that's that game developers, the movie industry, and the music industry all need to be creative when it comes to dealing with piracy. Securom, Ubisoft's terrible online-only DRM, and other intrusive and really freaking annoying copyright control methods are not the answer we need in order to deal with piracy.
In Notch's post, he calls the internet and file sharing the biggest revolution in information flow since the printing press, and I couldn't agree more. We have access to so much information at a moment's notice, and it's continuously changing the media industry. Hollywood and big music companies have basically tried to operate like they did before the internet became what it now is, and haven't really moved with the flow. Rather then go with the tide of technology, they are being dragged with heels dug in.
The gaming industry has moved a bit easier, but there are still issues. For every Steam platform, there is an Ubisoft style DRM. For every Stardock stance on piracy and copy protection, there is an Activision stance. And it seems you're either sensitive to your customer base, or you're a copy-protection ogre. Left or right. Black or white. Or, to the customers, good or evil.
A recent commercial I heard on the radio had the owner of a mattress store talking about a customer appreciation sale. She said "We're celebrating our customers! Because let's face it! Without you, there is no business!". The owner of that mattress store gets it. Customers are kind of a big deal. They drive your business. Without them, you have no business. So if you treat them like crap, they'll go elsewhere. Or, in the case of digital media, they'll just take it without paying. So, developers, what can you offer your customers that will have them opening their wallets? That's what Notch asked himself, and I'll give you a hint to the answer, it's not intrusive DRM or over-zealous application of out-of-date digital copyright law.
Now, I'm not so naive to think that if every developer was like Stardock or Notch in their stances on piracy and copy protection that all piracy would stop. That's ridiculous. There are plenty of people out there, I'd say the majority of pirates, that download because they want things for free. It isn't a 'download-protest' or something, it's just simple greed. That'll always exist. But even I, with a pretty strong anti-piracy stance, can admit that the numbers would certainly be different if more game developers, if more movie studios, and if more record labels would take a minute to stop pointing the finger at those downloading, and reflect for a moment on the three fingers pointing back at them.
That would be my cup of tea.