A well-worn counter to the claim ‘piracy is theft’ is that it’s just sharing, or borrowing, or accepting a gift: ‘I’m not stealing this video game; a friend gave me a copy. Those GBs of music on my hard drive? Think of them as a mix tape. You wouldn’t sue someone for that, would you?’
Thanks to Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson, pirates now have several new counter-arguments against those who view them as petty thieves, though maybe not all of them should be employed.
Speaking to an attentive collective gathered at the Game Developer Conference’s Indie Games Summit, the successful designer declared “Piracy is not theft.” Depending on your own personal stance, this quote – from someone who not only consumes content, but produces it – either elicited a hearty ‘right on!’ or a quizzical ‘are you serious?’
Persson’s reasoning was simple, if not completely logical: “If you steal a car, the original is lost. If you copy a game, there are simply more of them in the world.” Perhaps pirate sympathizers should come up with better analogies. Is there an “Analogies for Dummies” book they could download?
Elaborating on his outlook, Persson said, “There is no such thing as a ‘lost sale.’ Is a bad review a lost sale? What about a missed ship date?”
To be sure, Persson speaks from a unique position.
He’s a game designer whose PC hit “Minecraft” enjoys success despite offering both free and paid versions. Over 1 million players bought the game, which is currently in Beta. In total, nearly 5 million people downloaded the odd build-your-own-world sandbox survival title. Offering a form of “Minecraft” for nothing with an option to buy a more complete version, Persson sidesteps some piracy fears: you can’t ‘steal’ what’s free.
But will other game developers follow suit?