Monday, April 15, 2013

Are Anti-Piracy Methods Really Worth It?


                When one hears about piracy nowadays, it isn’t about Jack Spa rrow or Captain Hook. Piracy is when a product is used or reproduced without authorization from its company. It is an issue that many companies face and wonder whether or not actions should be taken to prevent it. Also, one has to wonder how much it would affect companies that already have a high income of money from sales. I believe that though piracy is bad, there are other methods that can be taken in order to reduce unwanted piracy while increasing sales and monetary income.
How big of an issue is piracy?
                Using some stats from the Directors Guild of America site, it is shown that more people have pirated each episode from the TV series Heroes than have actually watched it on TV (6.6mil to 5.9 mil). Another statistic on the same site says that one million is the average number of times Russian movies are downloaded from the Internet during the first week in theaters. What can be taken from these values is that piracy is indeed a big issue. And if anyone is like me, he or she can remember when kids used to talk so much about torrenting - or downloading illegally - different videos and songs online. Now the numbers show how much piracy is an by the amount of people that are committing the action, but some other values include money that could have been used for other services. These values don’t have as much backing to them because the money doesn’t necessarily go in these areas. If people decided to use the money that they would’ve used to get videos rather than torrent them, it’s hard to say where it would’ve gone, if it was used at all. Another thing to point out is how much piracy actually affects some of the bigger companies. When we look at the music industry, many people earn billions of dollars from album sales and nowadays we get digital sales, but having some of their products get pirated might not actually harm them much. The torrentfreak website (most likely biased towards torrenting), decides to look at the different types of music format and how that’s affected sales, mainly with a decrease in physical copy sales where digital copies end up selling more. This is where man people blame piracy and attempt to say it is decreasing the physical copy sales, which is not the case. (Anything else to input?)
Does piracy help promote games?
                It seems like a weird question to ask, but in this case is very valid. As found about from a Kotaku blog, this game, Anodyne, was able to use piracy to their advantage. A Torrent for the game would be put on the site, as well as a donation button and links to pages like Steam Greenlight. This resulted in more sales overall, more money earned overall for the company that created Anodyne, meaning they earned more by promoting piracy than they did normally. It’s hard to say whether this process might always work and one of the main cases if it’s actually needed for some bigger companies that already earn enough. (Check if there is anything more concrete that can be added)
How well do anti-piracy measures work?
                 Though for the most part it’s a lot of speculation to whether or not anti-piracy methods are cost effective or not, it’s shown that having anti-piracy methods compared to not having methods have an equal amount of pirating. Anti-piracy can work to some extent, but how much effort and how much it costs may not necessarily be worth it. What some video game companies have taken to is being able to code a program in their game to detect if the game was pirated and then to make the game substantially harder once it was detected. Even in the well-known game Earthbound by Nintendo made it so you can still play the game passed a warning screen, even though it was harder, and just before the end of the game, it would freeze, crash, and delete the save data that you had for that file. It should almost be up to the company to find a way to prevent piracy for their own product, rather than having the government worry about piracy.
Looking at the numbers:
                When looking at statistics for piracy, it’s clear the numbers are there. What isn’t easily seen is how the numbers are actually depicted. In one go-gulf stat page from 2011(http://www.go-gulf.com/blog/online-piracy/), the stats are valid in terms of amount. When looking at a specific stat, though, one can tell there is some error. For example: The “Piracy in Numbers” portion of the page. The stats there show visits per day, minute, and year. One flaw with this is that it doesn’t say if these views are unique or not, though one can assume “53 billion visits/year” would mean that they aren’t unique views. Another thing with this data is that the views don’t have a constant rate at which they happened, meaning there could be peaks in the view count in certain month in comparison to others. Another statistic to look at in this area is the monetary values. Those numbers are a good example of how much is lost from piracy. And though they are a significantly high numbers, one thing to notice is that the first one is in reference to the music industry where sales in general are already at high values (in comparison to another industry that might have products sold at lower values, where if that much money was lost, it would mean more sales were lost). In the end it can’t be said that all of these stats have issues without looking at them in full detail. This site in particular is more of a well-known group so the info is more reliable. Some sites will be more biased than others or not depending on if they favor anti-piracy or not.
Piracy and the Supreme Court
                One of the first cases brought before a jury that involved piracy was Capitol v. Thomas.  This trial found Jammie Thomas-Rasset liable for copyright infringement for 24 songs and was ordered to pay $222,000 in statutory damages. An error occurred in the jury instructions and the trial was brought up again in 2009. This time, the trial awarded Thomas-Rasset $1,920,000 in statutory damages, and then was lowered to $54,000. The record labels this time refused to accept the reduced award, so a third trial that was held only to determine damages was held in 2010 resulting in $1.5 million against Thomas-Rasset. The trial went through one more change back to $54,000 in 2011, and then was finally resolved on September 11, 2012 when the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s reduction and reinstated the award to $222,000. This case was declined to be heard by the Supreme Court, and thus resulted in this ordeal. Another similar case that involved Joel Tennenbaum, another file-sharer, was turned down by the Supreme Court. At the time of the beginning of the case, thousands of other lawsuits were being made from the music industry and were resolved to around $3,500 apiece until Thomas-Rasset decided not to pay. In the end as well, after all of the issues were resolved, Thomas-Rasset wasn’t able to pay the final amount of money because she worked, had four kids, and her husband wasn’t working. After looking at these two court cases, what has to be looked at now is how much piracy needs to be paid attention to by the court system and if they do watch it, how much they will charge people who go against the laws if in the first place, they were pirating due to lack of money? One has to wonder if the amount that these two people get charged is enough, too much, or if charging them will stop any form of electronic piracy in general.

                It’s agreeable that piracy is bad. It is hurtful to the company no matter the amount of money or product that is stolen, and if one wants a movie, game, or album to continue on, they should support their company rather than hurt it. In the end, it may just have to be up to the company itself whether or not they will include anti-piracy methods or not, or whether they need them. Even if piracy was prioritized out of the issues to solve, it would probably still last for a very long time. Where we will have to look now are different approaches to piracy, and the efficiency of said approaches. 


Works Cited
Kyle Nazario. “6 Hilarious Ways Game Designers Are Screwing With Pirates” Cracked.Cracked, Web. 5 Apr. 2013
Iain Thomson. “Supreme Court silence seals Thomas-Rasset’s file sharing fate” The Register. The Register, Web. 14 Apr. 2013
Patricia Hernandez. “Embracing Piracy Is One Of The Best Decisions These Developers Have Made” Kotaku. Kotaku, Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
Steve Karnowski. “Jammie Thomas-Rasset Loses Supreme Court Appeal, Must Pay $222,000 For Illegal Downloads” Huffington Post. Huffington Post, Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

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