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Afford What Has Value To You


I watched Jim Sterlingís video about piracy too.

Something had been bugging me though, well before Jimís video. Iíve been reading plenty of articles and watching plenty of videos about it. Iím not saying that I know everything about this topic. But, in almost every conversation or speech Iíve heard, I havenít heard the most realistic arguments. Usually on one side you have consumers who pay for their stuff and companies that are entitled to their sales. And on the other you have people who donít mind using a torrent to share a file. Right now Iím uncomfortable on either side of the fence.

I do believe that piracy is wrong. I believe downloading a movie for free that is only sold in stores is a crime on some level, in that, it is theft. Iím even pretty sure that it is still theft if you already own it on DVD. If you want back-up copies Ė make copies of your actual DVD or something. And, well, don't share that copy.

I say this while listening to ĎBlonde on Blondeí by Nada Surf streaming on YouTube. I feel like this is the same thing as downloading it via torrent file, but maybe not. Does YouTube make money from my clicking on the play button again? If so, do some of the proceeds go to Nada Surf? They must have consented to the music being on there for free. Maybe?

I think the last thing I downloaded through some torrent was the full Twin Peaks series. I didnít have the money to buy it. I wanted to watch it after talking about it with my friends. I rarely take the plunge, but I wanted to watch it bad enough to take it Ė the plunge. I started making excuses for myself. Like: I know most of my friends steal things all the time Ė notably Adobe products, porn, music, and video games. Most of them have no sense of it being thievery. And Iím okay with that sometimes. I used to steal baseball cards when I was little, and I knew that was wrong back then. But this seems different somehow.

Another excuse in my head is: You canít even hold the data in your hand. The Twin Peaks series fits into a couple of gigabytes, and is only taking up a fraction of your hard drive. It holds almost no weight. You get the experience without having to think about the work that went into building it. You delete it afterwards, not having to think about it. Itís like a streaming video that you let buffer all the way to the end. You watch The Usual Suspects, and then *poof* itís gone.

Itís a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. I can even tell you that Iím only kind-of sort-of a thief because what Iíve stolen is still enough in a grey area that I wonít get thrown in jail. Just think of it. Think of everyone, that has ever downloaded a file illegally, in jail. Ridiculous. Itís even goofy thinking that I would get fined 100,000 dollars or whatever it says on that FBI warning.

Recently, though, I have changed my stance on it. Maybe itís because of the fact that I can pay for things I want now. Maybe itís because Iím thinking of having a business myself. When I make my super cool video game, how will I sell it? Will it be pirated and distributed without my consent? Will people want to steal my game too? (A side note: It would be awesome to be in a place where I would be required to think about this stuff. Note to self: Make a video game.)

Iíve always known I was stealing. But now Iím not going to do it anymore, because I have this idea that Iím screwing the artists every time I steal something. I love David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, and Lara Flynn Boyle. I understand that if I pay for something off the shelves or on Amazon, that some of the money goes to other companies, but Iím hoping that most of the money goes to the artists. I wish them success. I want more money to go to them because I want to see more stuff like Twin Peaks. I want my money to go towards something that I value.

Look, I mean, Iím not sure how to sort out what is worth my money and what isnít. Thatís not the point. What Iím trying to add to the conversation here is that I feel like I am STILL screwing the artists as a consumer. If I buy a CD off the rack, some part of me still thinks that the band gets at least some money out of it. The problem is not that Iím fine with giving money to artist and publisher Ė I donít have much to say about that. The problem is that CDís, DVDís, *.mp3ís, *.aviís, and all sorts of different types of recorded data are so easily distributable and so easily copied.

If you were a car manufacturer, you could probably sell your cars without much fear of the average consumer totally and completely copying the car in every way perfectly to share with their friends. These companies, like KFCís recipes, have trade secrets and they are protecting their products from being copied or illegally distributed. It is lawful to be able to patent something you invented and make money off of it, or like KFC hold trade secrets that are not given out to just anyone. So how does a music company do that? How does a band do it or an indie game developer?

I spoke with Knutaf about this. It is HARD to protect your data. Even if you lock up your game in a box tighter than an ATM machine and only distribute in arcades Ė you still run the risk of one security breach compromising your whole plan. The data only has to come from one place, and then itís everywhere. For entertainers and bands, performances are easily recordable, as are the CDís that are sold. It is hard to protect things that are so easily recordable. But I, for one, encourage artists to protect their data however they can. Yeah, protection in the form of DRM is annoying. But the idea is that if you buy a copy legit, you wonít have any problems. If you find something annoying about that Ė it is your choice not to buy it, just like anything else. Just like picking an apple without a bruise on it. Donít want to miss out on the experience? Too bad Ė you either think itís worth the price, or you donít.

One thing I learned from my dad, something Iíll always remember him saying is, ďIf you want to make more than 250,000 dollars a year, there arenít a whole lot of ways to do it without working your ass off.Ē Developing video games is like the new kind of rock star, but was being a rock star the new kind of gold rush? Iím sure there were things in between, but itís clear to me that the whole problem here is greed.

People with lots of money to spend are spamming us with CDís and DVDís that are both easily produced, easy to put on the shelf, but also easily copied. The artists do all the heavy lifting, sell out, and are not wise to how much the producers are making. Again, if artist and producer are making a lot of money, then why complain? But if you find that people are copying your stuff and are wondering how much money you could have made from those people if they actually bought a copy of the CD, then itís really the fault of the producers and the artists for trying to mass produce something that is so easily copied at home. The fault is not only on the pirates. Isnít it clear to them that there will be pirates?

Using music sales as my example: I think that when studios record quality tracks to put on CDís and on iTunes, it becomes the first mistake when trying to make an honest dollar off of their products. Some company can say, ďHey let us distribute your music. Weíll produce your music and market it. Youíll get a dollar for every CD you sell. Yeah, we are making most of the money here, but we are also very important because we are the ones that make your product a million seller. And, hey, your team still gets a million dollars. You have to spend money to make money.Ē

If I had a band, I would not expect millions of dollars for my insane awesome talent. I would expect to sell a good product, protect it, and distribute it in a way that didnít give pirates the opportunity to record my music at all. The money would come from the work we did on tours. We might even hire some light security to stop people from bringing recording devices or video cameras into the performance. Kind of like what happened when I went to the Cirque du Soleil. Yeah!

So if you dupe it and sell as many as you can, you will never be able to protect your musicÖ your productÖ your intellectual PROPERTY. If you do this, do not complain like Metallica that your music is being copied and distributed illegally. You have agreed to make it stupidly easy for people to do so. KFC wouldnít put their recipes in someoneís desk somewhere to be easily seen or stolen. They probably have it in some vault somewhere. As an artist, if you arenít willing to give the effort that most average people do to try and make their millions Ė then I donít think you should complain if some producer makes millions of copies of your work onto CDís. Unfortunately you donít live in a world full of people that give a shit about your band making an extra buck, especially off of a 15 dollar CD.

It goes the same way for video games. As I understand it you will have some protection when you release on a platform like Steam, XBLA, or some other thing. I wonder how Minecraft did itÖ Minecraft has that subscription thing that must at least be pirated somewhat Ė but, holy shit is that guy making a lot of money. Iím guessing they have a low piracy to actual sale rate. World of Warcraft probably still makes a lot of money both from having an addictive game, but also Ė the game must be hard to pirateÖ or, hard enough so that the average user wonít stop paying monthly to do it.

Let it be the sellerís fault for selling it wrong for the lack of success. Let it be the fault of the artist for making shitty content. Let it be the consumers fault for not having enough money. Donít let thieves be the guiding force behind your success.

Things are changing. The game Iím developing at work right now is going to be extra hard to pirate copies of, mostly because you need your own copy of our game and a server to go with it. Itís like World of Warcraft. An average user will not be able to succeed at making their own duped server on their own local machine - much easier to pay a monthly subscription. In the future Iím sure the protection of data will be much easier to accomplish.

But for now, let me suggest this: Stop listening to the artists and companies complain about what they didnít get. And stop listening to pirates trying to make sense of what they are doing (stealing). Either way, the artists, producers, and pirates should not be able to get what they want without some old fashioned WORK.

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Chris Bradshaw   1



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About Fame Designerone of us since 7:47 PM on 01.31.2010

I've been working on developing video games for a few years now. I put up a blog on here to share what I hope will be sensible and interesting articles about game design. The "Fame Design" name came to me when I thought, "I want to be famous for only one thing: video games".

At the moment I'm developing new games in Flash. So I expect to share experiences in being an indie game developer. I often find myself wondering if I should be working in Flash, HTML5, XNA, or the iPhone/iPad SDK. Time will tell.