Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Question of Piracy: RPG PDFs

A thread at The RPG Haven (thanks, walkerp!) and some questions raised in my gaming group have put me in mind to discuss RPG piracy. No, not playing buccaneers in a RPG (though that does sound like another good topic), but the act of acquiring RPGs through illegal download.

This is one of those things where one person’s moral code may see no issue with it, but someone else’s moral code screams that it’s wrong. You hear a lot of arguments on either side (many of them very persuasive), but for me it comes down as a point of respect. I know too many RPG publishers, writers, and FLGS owners to feel personally comfortable doing it, or to support it as a Game Master. (It gets really weird when you see someone with a pirated copy of something a friend wrote). I don’t think they’d like me doing it, so I don’t. It’s a personal stance on the issue.

Of course, I understand there’s a perceived gray area. What if you own the print version book and download the pdf—isn’t that just saving you time on scanning it in yourself? What if you own the book and you download the pdf to share with your group—is that like photocopying for personal use or passing the book around? These are questions that I admit to not having clear-cut answers for.

Personally, I think in-print and out-of-print products are a bit different. Taking from a company or publisher trying to make a livelihood vs. a company that’s been shut down for 20 years, with no new product, is a big difference-maker to me.

Look, if you’re a RPG publisher, you’re going to get pirated. I don’t know if it’ll result in sales or not; most publishers I’ve spoken with don’t seem to see a bump from it. Some seem to care more than others, especially pdf-only endeavors.

So, my question is, have you to deal with the issue of RPG piracy in your gaming circle or campaign? Publishers, please feel free to chime in, as well.

47 comments:

Mark Gedak said...

To my knowledge, I don't need to worry about piracy within my gaming circle. A couple of us have done some hobbylancing and may main group were playtesters for a time so they have a perspective of what's behind the curtain and I think that allows them to be respectful.

I have two new player's right now and I'm not sure where that stand but if it comes up I'll like express my disfavour of the practice to them.

Al said...

I don't have any interest in getting pirated stuff - I'm a print-only snob!

Unfortunately, as such, I think some publishers vastly overprice their .pdfs, which makes them a bigger target. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that $30 vs pirate is a much different dilemma than $5 or pirate. Not that it makes it morally right by any means, I just have to wonder...

Tim Brannan said...

Well I have seen books I have written on piracy sites and it feels terrible. Especially when it is a book I haven't even been paid for yet myself.

I know the most pirates are ones that would never have paid for those books anyway regardless of coast. So the price being to high argument holds no water for me.

It costs a lot to publish a book, not just in printing, but paying for the words on the page and the art.

Sure, I like cheap pdfs too, but I also like to be paid for my work.

Richard Iorio II said...

This might surprise a lot of people, but I do not worry about piracy. Our games -- both print and PDF -- are priced at a low price point, that there really is no reason to pirate the games. It happens, but I do not loose any sleep.

For me, there are much more larger issues to deal with then a pirated copy of our games. There are ways to prevent it, but these ways would make life harder for people who legally obtain the games.

Stealing is wrong, however, and I know I've not allowed a few people to play at my table who show up with print outs of things they printed up after downloading off a torrent. One of these people had a copy of Colonial Gothic -- which ticked me off because I would have given him a copy if they asked.

The barn door is open now, and it is very hard to put it all back. We as game publishers need to think of ways to design better games, attract new fans, and survive. We are fighting a lost battle when it comes to piracy.

Zachary The First said...

OK, Richard, I just have to ask: how ballsy do you have to be to show up with a pirated RPG file at the table of the game’s creator? I guess that’s assuming they notice, but still….

Greg Christopher said...

I bought three GURPs books after having been given the PDFs by a friend to help me make a few characters and play a few sessions. In my opinion, piracy will occur but only resulting in distribution to people who would never pay for it anyway and there is a chance that because of the piracy, they may actually buy a book for the convenience of it.

So needless to say, I think WotC is moronic to not sell PDFs.

Richard Iorio II said...

@Zachary.

I was impressed with the his ballsy nature at first, then I was ticked. To me, it just seemed like he was clueless to a lot of thing. It is not as if I have that common of a last name. :)

I am sure other people would have not batted an eye, but in this case where I had a case of books in my office, and a few extra copies, I would have had no problem giving him a copy "on the house." I will say he was embarrassed as hell that I called him out on it.

Zachary The First said...

@Greg: All I can say is that I was a reliable customer of WotC pdfs before they yanked them without notice.

Richard Iorio II said...

@Greg.

I think you are correct, those who steal the game, would not have bought the game in the first place.

I have not seen a drop in any sales of the games we publish, when illegal copies show up. If anything, I always see a up tick in sales.

jonbrazer.com said...

I'm with Richard. I don't worry about it. It is going to happen and it is wrong, but am I going to make a dent in the problem? No.

Thirty years ago, pirates would buy a TSR book, take it to a Xerox machine, copy the whole book and then return the book. You can't stop someone determined to not pay for the book.

And if you own a physical copy of a book and want a PDF, try emailing the publisher. If it is a choice between sending an existing customer a free PDF or failing to stop that customer from pirating the PDF (and possibly losing that customer in the future), most will probably send the customer the free PDF. A quick picture of you holding the book at an odd angle and a picture of something in the interior should be all the proof they need that you own it.

Just a thought.

Richard Iorio II said...

@jonbrazer.com

Hell, you can bundle the PDF with the book sale like we do at Rogue Games, and other publishers do as well. Hell, we go a step a further, and work with game stores to provide PDFs to their customers, as well as field requests from customers who get our books in other venues (like Amazon). For me and my partner, if you buy the book, you get the PDF. Period.

Zachary The First said...

I really appreciate when publishers bundle print + pdf together. For someone who works from their laptop as much as I do, having a pdf copy to augment my print copy is a godsend.

Amanda said...

Pretty much everybody in my gaming group wants to have a physical copy and even though we all have laptops we never use them during the game. I will admit I've downloaded pdfs before but it's pretty much because there's no game store anywhere within 200 miles of me and I want to be able to see what I'm buying before I go dropping 50 bucks on a new book.

WalkerP said...

I can understand the behaviour when you are dealing with a big faceless company (especially one like WotC which is about as savvy as Nestlé when it comes to the internet). But the pirating of Diaspora and Dresden Files on the first day of sales when you have such a small intimate company is really astounding.

With my group and when I run one-shots, I try and go for the positive approach, saying 'the pdf is available at rpgnow, the designer is a really cool guy, it's a labour of love...' that sort of thing.

Randall said...

Before WOTC decided to pull all their PDFs because some people pirated thereby punishing paying customers, I had a house rule banning pirated material from my game table. As I posted last year (WOTC, PDFs and My Table Rules), however. I dropped that.

"Second, I am removing my "do not used pirated PDFs/illegal copies at my gaming table" rule from the "player info sheet" I give new players. I've never played copyright police unless someone was stupid enough to brag about their pirating in front of me, but now I will not even go this far. While I'm not going to pirate stuff myself, I will not longer stand up for copyright owners at my gaming table unless they pay me very large sums of money to play 'copyright police' for them. I'm tired of doing it for free only to be stabbed in the back by the 'corporate masters.' From now on, if they want my help, it's not free -- and I set the price and the terms and conditions, both non-negotiable."

Some people consider this "aiding pirates", I consider it expecting to be paid for work I do for others.

jonbrazer.com said...

@Zack

I strongly considered bundling a print with the PDF, but decided against it (for now) for one simple reason. I'm doing a push right now to get into game stores (not that hard when working on the Traveller/Pathfinder licenses) and I don't want to appear like I am giving a preference to internet customers over store customers. I'd like to, but it is just not feasible at this point in time.

Will Mistretta said...

Economic times are also tough right now, with many having little to no money to spare for entertaining themselves.

That being the case, it is really better for somebody to be using and enjoying a copy of a work for free at a time like this rather than simply not making use of it at all?

And what happens when that same person does have money to spare in the future? Is it really better that they have no fond memories of a company or author's products to inspire new purchases?

Theeo123 said...

I agree with you that in print vs out of print can make a big difference.

I also have another grey area for you though. for some years I lived in an area without an easily accessible gaming store, I know hard to believe in these days when RPG's are practically main stream, but think back to the late 90's

My local book store might routinely carry 3 - 5 book,s that was all the market there was for them. I often found myself downloading PDF's in order to "test drive" products, give me the chance to flip through them, before I committed to ordering them from an online retailer some other means.

If I didn't like it. I deleted it, if after a week or so I enjoyed the product, and wanted to use it at the table, I paid for it.


Now a new one comes up, this one I'm much more comfortable with, the "fair use" idea. I buy a product, I should not need to pay separately for a PDF copy of it, if I so choose to have one, Ripping the binding off it, to get a clean copy also seems extreme. I own an Amazon kindle, and believe me, passing that around a gaming table is a lot easier than a full-fledged laptop, or in many cases a print book. so often having PDF copies of books is in my interest

The kindle is light easy on the eyes, can be bookmarked indexed, and searched quickly & easily, especially for games with poorly written indexes, I sometimes prefer it. But I can't bring myself, to pay $40 for a gaming book, than another $40 for a PDF, or in some cases, companies that don't offer electronic copies at all anymore. So the choice I'm left with, is double-paying, or destroying my print copy to get a clean Electronic copy, or downloading it from some other source.

Alex said...

As with Richard, I strongly discourage members of my gaming group from using pirated materials (whether ill-gotten .pdf books or counterfeit miniatures). As a copyright attorney I obviously have an academic interest in pointing out why such actions are wrong, but I also, as a member of the gaming community, have a strong moral opinion on the matter.

Unfortunately this position is at odds with the general perception as to what is and is not allowable and the belief in the existence of the "gray area" you reference Zach - a point I would strongly push back against. In the US at least, one would be hard pressed to make a valid fair use claim for downloading a pirated .pdf or photocopying most of an RPG book, regardless of whether the book was OOP or an item they were unlikely to buy anyways. The latter argument is particularly non-compelling as, if the book wasn't valuable enough to you to warrant spending your money, why should you get a copy of it anyway? It generally seems that this particular "gray area" has been conceived by bad actors to justify their actions.

I hate to be overly critical of the community I'm passionate for, but it all smacks of entitlement and lack of respect for the content producers that sustain the industry. I think there's an analog here to the individual who uses their FLGS as a library, spending hours reading the books on the shelf but rarely ever buying them.

I'm generally progressive on copyright issues, recognize that attempting to curb piracy is like putting your finger in the dyke, and don't agree with gaming content producers that insist on sticking to a business model that is proving unsustainable, but, in the meantime, don't buy the arguments for piracy.

My first comment to your blog - sorry for it being a rant!

Zachary The First said...

@Walkerp: I think the positive approach is always best. Try to add the human element into it.

@Jon: I understand—thanks for explaining a bit of the reasoning behind it there.

@Will: I know that’s a viewpoint many hold. For me, I think about explaining to Fred Hicks, clash bowley, or Richard in person that I’m short on cash and that’s why I pirated their product. At that point, it falls apart for me.

@Theeo: There’s plenty of gray areas to be had, aren’t there?

@Alex: Not a problem at all! Welcome, and thanks for posting—it is much valued and appreciated! It’s good see the spectrum of opinions on this.

Randall said...

WalkerP: I suspect many of the people getting pirate copies of Dresden Files aren't regular gamers but fans of the novels. The size of the company or the like will not even be known by them. Personally, while I like the novels, ever since hearing the gamesystem was going to be FATE-based, I crossed it off my "want to get when I have spare money" list.

Richard Iorio II said...

@Jon

You can do both with, keep retailers happy and internet customers happy. That is why we do our PDF Guarntee:

http://12-degrees.net/pdf-guarantee/

It takes a little leg work to work with game stores, but I have done it, and continue to do it. I have a number of game stores I work with, and supply their customers with PDFs. All it takes is an email, phone call, or in store visit. In my experience, retailers are very happy to be given access to things like this, and they can be your biggest advocates.

For me, a customer is a customer. Does not matter if they are online, in a store, or at a con. Everyone gets a equal chance to get the PDFs.

Richard Iorio II said...

@Zak.

Hell I've given free copies of my games away. I see someone on a forum wanting to know about a game, or someone who is curious, I will comp them a copy. For me, it is marketing. If they like what they read, they are more inclined to buy something else for it. If they did not like the game, no big deal. They got something, I generated some goodwill, and everyone benefits.

Brett said...

I mostly agree with what's been said so far. There are generally three types of pirates: those who want to see a PDF before they buy a print copy, those who want a copy for gaming reference without putting out money, and those who believe in some sort of misguided agenda of distributing copyrighted work as if everyone has a right to it for free.

The first two are largely unimportant, as their methods can either be a prelude to actually buying it or as a way to get involved in a gaming group without having the game in question. I see no problem with members of a gaming group using PDFs as reference when at least one member paid for the game. Ideally, any publisher would like to see every member of that group pay for the PDFs, but that's probably a little greedy and unrealistic.

The third type of pirate is the real problem. He distributes the illegal material. However, since most people who download from him are not likely to pay for it anyway, one can argue that it's not really hurting the publisher's bottom line. I tend to agree with this, though it is still a breach of the law. To make matters worse, some try to sell printed/PDF copies of this work. That's truly criminal and really needs to be checked.

Are these issues the same for PDF-primary and print-primary publishers? Tough call. I'd argue that it eats more into PDF-primary publishers, since PDFs are their lifeblood. On the other hand, print-primary are also affected, because without the PDF technology, it is likely that more printed books would be sold in the first place.

Brett said...

Some people claim that piracy exists because PDFs are too expensive. I can buy that argument, but it doesn't explain why $2 and $5 PDFs are pirated.

Randall, that's a pretty lame excuse for not being against piracy. One publisher stops selling PDFs and you suddenly see it as OK for people to pirate them???

Adam said...

I'm going to crassly link to a couple pieces I wrote about piracy last fall:

http://adamjury.com/2009/icv2-gaming-book-piracy-quality-of-news/

http://adamjury.com/2009/further-piracy-thoughts/

And, of course, Posthuman Studios put their money where their mouth was, so to speak, by launching Eclipse Phase as (almost) entirely a Creative Commons work, and allowing people to freely distribute the few pieces of artwork that aren't CC-licensed. That, plus a low PDF price, have contributed to very good PDF and print sales of the core book!

Gibbering Ghoul said...

We have a few people who have made money working on RPGs so tend to frown on using pirated PDFs. Poor folk is poor folk tho. For the online games folks tend towards games with at least free quickstarts if not free versions or SRDs. Or homebrew. We'd rather play than require everyone to spend $40-100+ just to try a game. Around the tabletop the actual books, handouts, or quickstarts or actual books. No laptops and not seen any printouts 'cos frankly at about 10 cents a page, a 400+ page pirated pdf will cost the same or more as the commercial version (esp. if a used copy can be found).

A lot of games are out of print and the publisher is long gone. In that case, it's better to have the game preserved than not at all. I do support companies who bring back out of print games though. I also support companies that offer book+pdf bundles or "buy the printed book & get the PDF free!" vouchers.

As for the 'chans, 7chan started as a splinter group that even 4chan wouldn't allow on board, so take that as you will. 4chan's /tg/ has folks linking to stuff sure but most of them are gamers* or if not people interested in trying traditional (i.e. non video game) games. Plenty have tried pdfs of a game and then gone out and bought the printed version (CthulhuTech being perhaps the most infamous due to publisher brewup over it).

http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/epic/ironshrinemaiden/The_Titan_Playground_by_IronShrineMaiden.jpg

* suptg and 1d4chan archive some of their homebrews, character generators etc. and also act as more permanent gathering points for gaming from 4chan. There's also a non-imageboard forum for /tg/ but I can't recall its name.

Needless to say, it's best to treat ALL 'chans sites and their offspring as NSFW.

Amanda said...

As someone who lives in a place without a game store I really appreciate when retailers provide a preview that's extensive enough to cover the major bullet points of a system so I know whether it's something we might like or not. I've noticed a lot of the more indie publishers are doing that and I think it's a good way to draw in customers like me. The only place to buy rpgs where I live is a big chain bookstore and they pretty much only carry 4e, WW and Star Wars rpg books. They do buy used games so occasionally you can find other stuff people have sold but I have a hard time even special ordering stuff from them. (Which I can choose NOT to buy.) I tried ordering the Pathfinder core book from them several times and eventually gave up. 2 months later it's on the shelf regularly...after I already bought it from Amazon.

WalkerP said...

There are a few commentors mentioning these $40 pdf's. I've yet to pay anything near that for a pdf. All the pdf products I buy are either bundled with the hardcopy or sold at a significantly cheaper price than the hardcopy. On the one hand, there are still companies who are still learning about pdf pricing, but on the other, this sounds a bit like justification.

@Alex, however, I can see a strong justification in downloading an OOP product. If a product is not available any more and there is a consumer demand for it, then it is the company's responsibility to get it out there. When WotC pulled all the digital versions of their OOP products, I figure at that point all bets are off. They could have been making money (and were) and decided through still not very well explained reasons to simply hoard them dog in the manger style.

In effect, our hobby is so small and dynamic that when something goes out of print (for real, not just temporarily because the company is getting enough funds together for another print run), it is pretty much akin to the copyright expiring. It will never be published again. So should consumers simply deny themselves something because nobody is taking advantage of a potential revenue stream?

Zachary The First said...

@Brett: I’m not sure why $2 PDFs are pirated, either. When the price is that low, what’s the point?

@Adam: Nothing crass about it. Valued opinion! Thanks!

Gibbering Ghoul said...

Good articles Adam and yeah Eclipse Phase CCL is very nice. Eventually I'll buy a printed copy if I run it cos trying to print out a 400 page full color book will cost as much if not more and not look as nice.

Yep, libraries are good stuff and yes many are making electronic versions available. The local system still makes me wait for electronic audiobooks or books like they were printed copies with only 1 in existence though, which kinda defeats the point IMO.

Zachary The First said...

@Gibbering, Amanda: I’ve really grown to appreciate quick-starts and free player’s guides as well. That really helps cinch the decision to buy for me.

Alex said...

@Gibbering Ghoul - If only all groups would adopt the philosophy that yours has - play the game that everyone at the table can afford. Games are luxuries, but all too often gamers seem to feel entitled to play whatever is on the market, regardless of the economics. Instead they become Brett's third type of pirate, a self-style Robin Hood justifying their actions as a blow against the greedy content provider on behalf of the little guy, when really they're just stealing for themselves, without a benefit to the community at large.

@Walker P - You and Gibbering Ghoul both raise the issue of keeping an OOP product from disappearing. I understand the motivation and have a hard time advocating against it. However, I also have a hard time supporting the notion that it's our right to force the continued existence of a product. One of the rights of a creator is to decide not to take advantage of a potential revenue stream and so the question shouldn't be whether a consumer denies themselves, but whether that producer is going to deny the consumer. As much as it sucks to see a product you love become no longer available, it's up to the company to maintain or kill a product, regardless of whether we agree with their business motives.

Narf the Mouse said...

It's not piracy; it's theft, most of the time. Piracy involves watercraft.

WalkerP said...

@Alex, I agree that it is definitely shaky ground to be talking about our rights as a consumer to have a product. And so from my perspective as an individual I can agree with the idea of taking a step back and just living without if permission hasn't been given.

On the other hand, when you talk about the creator, it is often not the creator at all who makes these decisions. Don't you think the original creators of D&D wish their products were still out there so people could play them? We start to get to the heart of private property and capitalism, but I have a hard time understanding how Wizards has the right to withhold intellectual property whose creation they had absolutely nothing to do with. And it is a right that they earned solely through buying it and paying an extremely cheap price for.

So if a small press company or an individual takes their game off the market or allows the print run to finish off and they have a reason for doing so (either creatively or economically), then I can see respecting their wishes.

But when it's just bad policy by a company that doesn't give a fig about its fans or its history, then I really can't see why anyone should not download copies of those OOP games beyond a slavish adherence to the very questionable principle of private property. It's the law that is problematic here, I would argue.

Alex said...

@Walker P - I'm completely on the same page as you when it comes to my gut reaction to these kinds of situations. The larger the player involved, the more concerned with their bottom line and pleasing investors they become, inevitably leading to some result that dissatisfies some subset of the customer base.

But, I think it's too easy to cast large companies in the greedy, uncaring role. Without their investment in the work of a creative, it's unlikely that work would ever enjoy the broad success that it may have. It's that investment that gives them the right to either distribute, or withhold, a product from the consumer.

And where do you draw the line between aloof company that carelessly cancels a product, and a company that is simply making a sound business decision? Are we in any different territory if the company at question did in fact create the property themselves, and is now taking it off the market?

The kinds of intellectual property we're talking about here are unique in that they are so heavily touched by the creative work of an individual or group, and we as consumers build far greater sentimental attachments to them than we do other IPs. But, at the end of the day, IP is increasingly becoming a commodity that companies buy, sell, and leverage for profit. It's unpleasant to think of our favorite world or system being treated in such a way, but I can't come up with a solid rationale for why they should be treated any differently than a car.

Thanks for the discussion so far. This has been fascinating!

Will Mistretta said...

"It's not piracy; it's theft, most of the time. Piracy involves watercraft."

Personally, I prefer "copyright infringement", which is a distinct legal term with a specific meaning.

In my experience, those using loaded and inaccurate terms like "piracy" (deliberately invoking images of rapine and murder) to sway the reader's emotions are more interested in stifling a debate than participating in one.

Zachary The First said...

@Will: If you’d prefer that term, by all means. No skin off my back!

Red said...

This may be off topic, but I think the work/reward/property system we have is all wacked. Denying artists of income - whether through piracy or work for hire type agreements - is only the tip of the iceberg.

Consider the whole finance and corporate infrastructure. While there is some value to it in allocating resources to projects and then in distributing them, on the whole these systems of finance and ownership are parasitic. I'd much rather find Mike Mearls on the internet and send him some cash instead of trusting his corporate masters (muh-ha-ha!) to allow him the freedom to create and reward him for it on their terms.

Beyond RPGs you can really question what value corporations and banking bring to our economy given their costs (the daily percentage suck and the occasional blowups.)

I would prefer direct contact between creators and (I hesitate to use the term) consumers. One more reason I like the OSR.

Gibbering Ghoul said...

@Alex "However, I also have a hard time supporting the notion that it's our right to force the continued existence of a product."

Rights? All I know is I like certain games and they're otherwise unavailable. The other possible option, buying a used product (if available) doesn't support the original company/IP owner either.

As said before, if someone brings a product back into production, I support them and purchase the product.

These days it doesn't cost much at all to put PDFs on sale but still some companies choose not to or the product is unable or unlikely to be made available for sale again (expired licenses, holed up IP owners, legal issues etc.).

(shrugs) It's like the BBC using fan audio-tapes to help release otherwise lost (from when the BBC erased them in the first place!) episodes of Dr. Who or Talislanta.com asking for fan scans of long oop books. These are dedicated hard-core fans helping to preserving something they enjoy.

Alex said...

@Will - Agreed on the term, though piracy is mild compared to some of the more outlandish portrayals of copyright infringers that the content industries have drum up.

@Red - That's exactly why I've been a patron from day one of Wolfgang Baur's Open Design projects (not intended to be a plug). If you don't like a business model, actively participate in the cultivation of an alternative.

Alex said...

@Gibbering - Supporting a company that has chosen to re-release a product you like, by purchasing that product, is a different point, and the ideal solution for the problem of an OOP item. I was responding solely to the often used justification of an item's OOP status to justify copyright infringement. My apologies if it sounded like I was making a charge against you directly.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I do pirate RPG material. Oh, I've got my rationales for it - I can't afford to buy it, and even if I could, I've no place to store it - but ultimately, I'm not deluding myself into believing that I'm doing something that's somehow "right" or ethical.

I, and many "copyright infringers" do it for pretty simple reasons. We want it, it's easy, and we can. Sometimes, it has lead to me buying a product, often I skim it once, drop it into a folder and never look at it again. I bet many downloaders work the same way.

What I will say is that a PDF copy included with a print book is a HUGE incentive to buy the hardcopy, and that if your game is really good, I'm going to want a hardcopy, and I'll be buying it.

Pricing out PDF's at $40 and trying to crack down on downloaders is counter-productive - a digital copy is not as useful as a hardcopy, and downloads will drive sales, if the material is good.

mxyzplk said...

I try to buy in general. But I have no problem with pirating in two circumstances:

1. I already own the print copy - I have no compunctions about consuming it digitally as well. In my opinion it's unethical to expect the opposite.

2. I just can't get my hands on it otherwise. My gaming group decided to plan an Alternity campaign. We looted every Half Price Books in the Austin area and got every Alternity book we could (like most everyone, we all prefer print) especially for our GM. After that - it was torrent time. Whaddya gonna do?

Anonymous said...

I do it. I pirate things I own, as well as things my players own, and keep printouts nearby when I DM. I pirate things I've owned but no longer own, and I pirate collectibles that I'll never be able to afford. I've filled in holes in magazine collections, and I've used it to preview entire game lines. When we try a new game, I buy the core books then scan and print out several "player copies." I used to do this in the olden days before PDFs, and I'll do it until I stop playing RPGs.

In short: I buy what I can afford, and I pirate everything else and then some. I know it's wrong, but I probably won't stop.

The two FLGS game store owners in my group are blase about it (they do plenty of "sharing" of my livelihood - music). They do it as well, but in general we don't talk about it, and sure as heck never bring printouts much less even use the word "PDF" in front of their customers.

...and I'm staying anonymous so I can stay honest.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to lend another personal example of "real people" that pirate. I am a college student, and this coming summer is the first time I've been able to find a full time job, so most of my money gets poured into room and board, tuition, my violin, and other things that are more or less inevitable. I pirate as much as I can of a gaming system when I'm interested, because I want to get a good feel for what's available. When I use a book enough (like the core book or any splat books I use very regularly), I will go and buy it. I live over an hour from any gaming store, so it's a big headache in addition to being a large cost. If I don't play a system enough, I find no real reason to buy a copy.

As my disposable income has increased, I've found myself buying more and more, and I plan to continue buying things that I like or whose authors I like. I think it would take a lot for me to stop pirating entirely, though, especially since there's no way I will go out of my way to get something if I have never experienced it.

Anonymous said...

Alex, you did not comment on the legality of downloading a PDF for a book that one already legally owns to have an electronic copy or backup. Like photocopying a book that one already owns, is this legal or not?

To Brett, I think there is a fourth reason for piracy, which is that people want something that is out of print and it's either not available otherwise or it's prohibitively expensive. From an ethical standpoint, the purpose of copyright laws are to make sure that authors (and their publishers) receive compensation for their work. Purchasing an out of print book at exorbitant collectable prices does not compensate or enrich the author or publisher of the work, so other than technical compliance with the law, what's the ethical superiority of paying collectable prices for an out of print work?