RPG Illegal File Sharing Hurts the Hobby
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    RPG Illegal File Sharing Hurts the Hobby

    I ran across an excellent article by Andrew Bernstein of Polymancer magazine about illegal file sharing and its effects on the RPG industry. Its worth a read.

    http://www.polymancerstudios.com/ind..._w12_part1.htm

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    Piracy is wrong, but it's not worth the effort to curtail. Publishers are better served working on quality products and customer service than they would be trying to combat piracy. However, periodically sweeping filesharing programs to look for scans, and then asking the site to take down those files, is fine.

  3. #3
    Well Put, RangerWickett. I completely agree with you on that point.

    -Shay

  4. #4
    I don't think the file sharing/piracy will ever be resolved. It's just one of those annoying headaches we have to try to deal with.


    Off topic:

    That's got to be the biggest signature block I've ever seen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by philreed
    I don't think the file sharing/piracy will ever be resolved. It's just one of those annoying headaches we have to try to deal with.
    I somewhat agree. With the increase in technology, and the focus on privacy (which has positive benefits, but also hellps protect pirates), tracking them down is harder and harder.

    However, if we could help build ethical behavior in society, then it could be reduced significantly. It's not a matter of catching the pirates, it's getting people to realize that it's not right to download and use the products (or even put them up to share).

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Glyfair
    However, if we could help build ethical behavior in society, then it could be reduced significantly. It's not a matter of catching the pirates, it's getting people to realize that it's not right to download and use the products (or even put them up to share).
    Exactly. Unfortunately, we live in an age when people from all levels of society strive to bend laws and ethics to suit whatever their needs are at that particular time. While I am no where near a saint I'm often offended by the actions of people from all walks of life.

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    I was watching one of those investigative specials on music piracy a while back, and they concluded by saying that given how things stood today, it was probably inevitable that music would one day be completely free to everyone. That makes me wonder about RPG PDF files also...though quite obviously that'd seriously hurt the small PDF publishers if they couldn't release products for pay anymore, so that's probably not realistic.

    Likewise, has anyone thought of possibly combating file-sharing programs by release bogus files with the names of their products onto them? I heard that some music companies are doing this, uploading MP3 files, with the file names listing them as popular songs, while the actual file is blank. The people who just leech files and then turn around and spread them around don't listen to them to find out the difference, and pretty soon people just stop trying after they've downloaded bogus files a few times.

    Public service announcement: Don't steal RPG products. Become a reviewer, and they'll give them to you for free.

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    I generally don't allow anyone to play in my game unless they physically own at least a PHB.

    And although I pretty much allow any feat or prestige class from any WotC book, I require my players to own the book that contains the feat or class that they want to use and they must physically bring it to the table when they play.

    The turning point for me came from a Dork Tower comic in Dragon magazine, where the players were lamenting that their favorite RPG company was going out of business. They couldn't believe it considering they all had downloaded their products and thought they were great.

    I never really liked it when my players got a class or feat off of a downloaded PDF. But that comic inspired me to really put my foot down. No illegal PDFs allowed when I DM. I don't even allow the SRD. You want to play something? Then you buy the book its in and bring it to the table.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Alzrius
    I was watching one of those investigative specials on music piracy a while back, and they concluded by saying that given how things stood today, it was probably inevitable that music would one day be completely free to everyone. That makes me wonder about RPG PDF files also...though quite obviously that'd seriously hurt the small PDF publishers if they couldn't release products for pay anymore, so that's probably not realistic.
    In ways our "almost instant" distribution systems are returning us back to pre-industrial days. There is irony there.

    All in all, I agree with Phil. Something to get used to, say a bit about here and there, but generally just ignore and get on with supplying the people who will pay me with stuff they want to pay me for.

    joe b.

  10. #10
    I went and read the article. It was pretty good except for:

    "If file sharing is so bad then why are so many blank CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, and burners out there for sale? Why did Adobe make Acrobat anyway? Why did they make scanners? Why make file-sharing programs and high-speed internet so widely available? Arent the people who do these things just as guilty? To that last question, the answer is no. Building the technical means to make copies is not the same as sharing a directory. All of those technologies have legitimate business and personal uses."

    Bullocks. Directory sharing programs have as many, if not more legitimate business and personal uses than physical medium "directory sharing."

    After all, copying your yearly report onto a CD and giving it to your business partner is just the same as letting your business parter access the directory containing the yearly report. Copying onto a medium is directory sharing to begin with.

    joe b.

  11. #11
    Business models just need to change to adopt new technologies, is all.

    It's something I'm thinking very hard about, because the guy that perfects it is going to make himself unbelievably wealthy.

    The music industry of its time thought the world was coming to an end when the player piano was invented.

    And again when the cassette tape was invented.

    The movie industry tried to block the invention of the VCR, then attempted to legislate copyright control so that it could be used only for playback of official media.

    The internet and digitalization is merely another step in media evolution.

    The concept of copyright as a legal entity wasn't actually created by or for content creators, anyway. It originated with booksellers, who bought manuscripts from authors and had them printed to be sold by them ... both wholesale to other shops and from their own personal shop (at a bit of a discount). It was pretty common practice for distant booksellers to get a copy and send it to their own printer (the pirate printer) and have it printed for sale in their own area ... much to the chagrin of the original sellers, who then demanded legal protection to the rights to print the only available copies of a manuscript they purchased.

    Some authors would purposefully mess with booksellers/publishers by correcting and adding a small amount to a manuscript they had sold to ONE bookseller, then sell the new version to ANOTHER bookseller, who would then print it and advertise it as newly updated and addended by the author. A few would even purposefully sell the same manuscript under the table to known pirateers in distant areas to guarantee their work would get as wide a distribution as possible.

    Copyright's never been about content producers. It's all about distribution. The internet currently allows for effectively infinite and free distribution of content, which rucks up the whole pyramid ... it currently also allows for content producers to put their own stuff directly into the network without the middleman. Eventually, however, a bright boy is going to figure out how to make bank with a new distribution system based off of digital copy and a whole new methodology of distribution will arise.

    And when the next new technology gives power to the consumer (because that's what it is really about), the same guys that figured out how to make the internet make them rich will moan and complain and lobby the government to criminalize it.

    --fje

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonblade
    I never really liked it when my players got a class or feat off of a downloaded PDF. But that comic inspired me to really put my foot down. No illegal PDFs allowed when I DM. I don't even allow the SRD. You want to play something? Then you buy the book its in and bring it to the table.
    You won't allow the SRD? That's not an illegal .pdf; it's given away for free.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pseudonym
    You won't allow the SRD? That's not an illegal .pdf; it's given away for free.
    I agree with the affordmentioned. I would allow SRD for a completely new player (to gaming) but would urge buying the books. I would also not allow feats/classes/etc from a book that someone in our group did not own collectively... meaning at least 1 person from our group should own the material and have it accessible.

    With all the books out there, it is not feasible for many (most) to buy every single book, even for grown up professionals, but if someone buys a book in our group, I will do my best to include the contents into our game.

  14. #14
    In regards to the original post's subject line, I don't think that "hurting the hobby" and "hurting the industry" are necessarily the same thing.

    I mean, assuming that shared files are being used in games- you could argue that the "hobby" itself is actually being supported by the practice.

    (Not that I'm it's okay. People should support the companies who produce products they enjoy.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonblade
    And although I pretty much allow any feat or prestige class from any WotC book, I require my players to own the book that contains the feat or class that they want to use and they must physically bring it to the table when they play.
    So when i bring my pda and want to play a prestige class or use a feat from Lords of Darkness your going to say no unless i buy the book again (in paper this time)? Or would a credit card statement suffice? *sarcasm*

    The SRD is perfectly legal and requireing to carry so many books to the table is just... Criminal... Could i declare my docters bill at your address when my back gives out?

    Personally i prefer the oef (Original Electronic Format) to a scan of the book, if the book is well presented in paper (hardcover, color, nice layout, good art) i also buy the book. So if companies would just sell oef copies of their books then there would be no need to download a scan of a book (i already own in a paper format). Monte knows how it's done, White Wolf and recently a lot of other companies also have seen the light, still Wizards is lagging way behind with only seven of their books available in oef, AEG is even worse (no oef at all).

    Please keep in mind that a lot of this stems form the day when a lot of books were out of print and were getting redicules prices at ebay, now a lot of that material is available for very reasonable prices (in electronic format). But like all things, a lot of people would rather spend their cash on booz, smoke, drugs, their other half, their next generation, instead of funding the 'hobby'. I personally don't care if it' s wrong or illegal, it's just not smart. Sure, you'll get a kick out of it now, but the rpg industry ain't the movie/game/music industry. It's small and most of it can't afford to loose your dollar. If you don' t buy their stuff now, there might not be any money for a decent product next year...

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    You know, my wife and I had a discussion one day in the car regarding shoplifting. I had heard one time that if you stole shoes at Payless Shoe Store, that it was store policy to not do anything about it.* Their reasoning was that if you needed to steal shoes, you probably needed the shoes more than the store does. Seems like a valid argument. Obviously, stores aren't in the business of giving things away, but there is a certain cost associated with curtailing theft and shrinkage. Wal-Mart probably spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually on theft prevention measures. Most stores employ at least one plain-clothes security person who keeps on the lookout for people who steal. In the end, it boils down to one question:

    Is the amount of money I spend on anti-theft measures less than the amount of money I would lose if I had no such measures at all?

    In other words, if I run a store, and I lose $5,000 annually to shoplifting, and anti-theft systems cost me $4,000 and reduces the amount I lose to $2,000, I'm now $1,000 in the whole compared to if I did nothing at all. Not to mention the amount of time one spends implementing the systems and dealing with actually apprehending, firing, prosecuting, etc. the people responsible.


    Piracy isn't really any different. However, it's harder to track because it's harder to gauge how many copies of a piece of software are stolen, or how many Player's handbooks are scanned and distributed. In these businesses, you have another problem - implementing policies that are so restrictive that you lose paying customers. Consider the anti-piracy software that Sony just installed. That software received a lot of bad publicity, and there are probably people who won't purchase any Sony CDs now because of that software. That's legitimate sales that are gone in order to prevent illegal copying. Is it worth it?

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by der_kluge
    You know, my wife and I had a discussion one day in the car regarding shoplifting. I had heard one time that if you stole shoes at Payless Shoe Store, that it was store policy to not do anything about it.* Their reasoning was that if you needed to steal shoes, you probably needed the shoes more than the store does. Seems like a valid argument. Obviously, stores aren't in the business of giving things away, but there is a certain cost associated with curtailing theft and shrinkage. Wal-Mart probably spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually on theft prevention measures. Most stores employ at least one plain-clothes security person who keeps on the lookout for people who steal. In the end, it boils down to one question:

    Is the amount of money I spend on anti-theft measures less than the amount of money I would lose if I had no such measures at all?
    A lot of times, it's not even worth it when you catch someone to prosecute. When my brother worked at Publix, they'd catch & release shoplifters all the time. The cost to represent Publix wasn't a whole lot, but even if it's only $50, it's not worth it for the $10 item they attempted to steal. Add in lawsuit crazyness, and it's simply not worth the risk.

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    I don't think that it's a problem that's going to go away any time soon. Currently, it takes far more effort to protect something from piracy than what it takes to elude the protections. I auspicate some paradigm shift in the economics of art and literature that will remove the reasons for piracy. There are a few models that could work, and result in cheaper books/music/movies/software, easier distribution AND more money to the authors.

    In the mean time, I'm certainly not going to pirate an RPG book, and I despise people who do. The industry is weak enough as it is. It's like stealing from the homeless versus stealing from Walmart. Bad either way, but there's bad and bad.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Zappo
    It's like stealing from the homeless

    Wil rite 4 food.



    joe b.

  20. #20
    I still think that RPG piracy has far less practical value than music/movie piracy.

    In order to turn music into something you can listen to in any cd player, you basically need to spend 20 cents on a blank cd.

    DVDs are somewhat more expensive, but are about 50 cents each.

    Books, on the other hand, would often cost more to print to than it would to buy used. Unless you have access to free printing, like say at college or a office, then it's not easy to turn into something as readily useable as other things. And even then, you need to bind it and such..

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