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.