Gamers are not generally known for clean language. Most gamers I know, are pretty liberal with vulgarities. In the game community, though, there is a three letter acronym which has become the equivalent of a four-letter word: DRM, Digital Rights Management (anti-piracy measures, essentially). And it is not surprising that this is the case. In their rush to stop piracy, developers and publishers of software have included all manner of draconian and invasive methods of DRM with their products.
Piracy: My Own Thoughts in Relation to Catholic Teaching
There exist very diverse opinions concerning software piracy. They range from those who consider any unauthorized use of software to be unacceptable to those who see it as a badge of honor never to pay for software and everywhere in between. The in between is, perhaps, much more interesting than the extremes. It is there in which we see the various justifications people use for piracy.
Looking carefully at the matter, I would say that I consider software piracy to be a form of theft. As such, I would say that it is wrong under any normal circumstance. The various people in the chain of software production and sale deserve to be justly recompensed for their labors. This is a Christian principle as well as one which is in keeping with the general concept of individuals rights. Taking the fruit of someone's labor both without permission and without recompense is theft. I do not think that it matters if you are not taking a physical item, even though some people will try to justify piracy by saying that non-physical goods are somehow not afforded the same protection as physical ones.
While there are numerous different justifications which are used for piracy, I will list a few here:
1) Justification: The software is over-priced.
My Thought: It could easily be replaced with "I do not want to pay for it". This argument strikes me as especially weak in light of the fact that software is not a basic human right nor, generally, do you need it for your livelihood.
2) Justification: "Try before you buy". The idea is that you pirate the software and then buy it if you like it.
My Thought: This is a concept which, if you were to attempt it with most other goods, would likely not be accepted by those who are purveying them.
3) Justification: Certain publishers or, perhaps, all publishers are "rich" and/or "evil", therefore making it acceptable to pirate their products. Microsoft is a popular target for this.
My Thought: This mentality does not strike me as having particular merit any more than the over-priced reasoning. Simply because someone is wealthy does not make it right to pirate from them. Not even if it is Microsoft (and please note that I am writing this on a computer running Linux).
Along with my individual responses here and the moral perspective from a religious and individual rights point of view, I would also like to add a practical test for personal actions. It is always good to ask: "What would be the result if everyone else were to do as I do?" In this case, if everyone pirated, then it would become difficult to profit from the production of software and many high-end games and powerful applications would no longer be available to us. Further, it would be a great injustice to those who labor to create software for our use.
There is one more justification for piracy which I find, perhaps, the most interesting:
Yes, sometimes people use software piracy as a means of protest against some policy or other which a developer or publisher undertakes. Ironically, as was the case with the game Spore, it can even be a response to draconian DRM (anti-piracy) measures. Once again, I would not endorse the idea of pirating software simply because the developer or publisher has made you angry. At the same time, a part of the reason I am looking at this issue on this blog is the very phenomena of piracy as protest.
NOTE: This article is NOT addressing issues such as "abandonware" and foreign titles not released in your native language. I will talk about that in a different article as it is rather a different circumstance.
NOTE 2: I am also not a fan of DRM, despite not supporting piracy.
God be with you,