Friday, April 3, 2015

Is emulating a game sinful?

If you're a Catholic who is serious about keeping in the state of grace and remaining in Christ's friendship then you probably think a lot about whether a given act is sinful or not. One of the things you might worry about is whether it's sinful to emulate games on your phone or computer.

Downloading a copy of a game you don't own, and which ordinarily can only be obtained by purchasing it is certainly sinful. I think if you have a habitual practice of doing this you are certainly dealing with grave matter, that is, mortal sin. Even stealing one game electronically could possibly be a mortal sin, if it is done with full knowledge that the action is serious. 

Some people would argue with this, but I think we need to see intellectual properties and software in the same way we would view physical items. If you apply the same rules to the physical item, would taking it be moral?

Anyway, lets move onto the question- is it wrong to download a copy of a game you do own?

This is licit so long as, in additional to owning a copy of the game you are going to play, you also own a console on which that game can be played.

  • So, for example, you own a ps1 and you own a hard copy of ff7. In that instant it is licit to emulate ff7 on your pc or phone.
  • Another example, you own a ps3 (which is capable of playing ps1 games) and a hard copy of ff7. In that instant it is licit to emulate ff7 on your pc or phone.
  • Again, you own a wii and you buy mario 3 on the virtual console, you can play mario 3 on your phone.
  • I would even go so far as saying- you own the nes cartridge of mario 3, you have lost your nes but own a wii upon which mario 3 is available for download, in this instance I think you can play mario 3 on your phone without sin.

Keep the faith my brothers, you have one soul and there is one eternity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Problem: You begin with, (to paraphrase)"We need to see intellectual property in the same way we see physical property..." But then you don't.

If I have a Lamborghini (a "hard copy"), do I get to drive them off of any car lot anywhere, because "I own one"? If I own a diamond ring, can I just take the same ring from anywhere?

A lot of people even say, if you owned the game and lost/broke it, you can download it. So you owned the car, and it got wrecked, you can still drive them off of car lots everywhere, for free?

To say nothing of, "render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasars." (That if the lawmakers command you to do something that ISN'T a sin, then you have to do it.)

Intellectual property laws should protect artists from theft, the way the police protect retail stores.When's the last time you broke something, and felt free to walk into a store and just TAKE another, because "you already paid for it once"? You can object that simply downloading it again "doesn't cost anyone anything" but actually, that's false. It costs the artist a SALE, the same way a person simply stealing a new phone would cost the phone company a sale.

The double standard is glaring. If you like the pattern on your twin-sized sheets, you DON'T get to just go steal the version for your king sized bed. We all accept that in that case, you simply have to blow however much money it costs to buy the king size ALSO. But people refuse to accept that if you buy a game for system A, and you want to play it on system B, you ought to shell out the cash, there, too.

The implication is that intellectual work does not deserve the same pay as physical goods, which we all accept we would have to buy in as many different sizes or for as many different applications as we wanted to enjoy those goods for... no matter how expensive it is. Stopped selling it? Can't get it in your country? You just don't get it, then! Intellectual work? Just steal it? How about just accepting we don't always get what we want?

"The laborer is worthy of his hire." But that goes for ALL laborers. The world would tell a novelist that after years of hard work, they should only make one sale per person. Then that person should be able to download pirated copies of the novel for every device they own. Which they then share with all their families and friends, "to be nice", "because everybody does it" and "it's no big deal"... costing the artist even more sales. And the artist is expected to just accept that. And that lots of people get to just steal it outright. Otherwise, they're "greedy." Because, hey... surely they don't need a roof over their head or food on their table, like those people who make physical godos, do, right?

Defrauding a laborer of their wages is one of the sins that cries to heaven for vengeance (according to Catholic teaching). But people do it. Imagine trying to pay your taxi driver just once for HIS services. Imagine trying to pay your utility company just once for THEIR product. But society demands to do this to makers of intellectual property, without qualm. And even if the artist is already rich, it is a question of justice, not wealth.

So yes... People DO need to start looking at intellectual goods the same way as physical goods. Problem is, the rest of your post suggests exactly the opposite. What people have been saying all along: That artists do NOT deserve to make money in exactly the same way as those who make physical goods. That people should get to take more copies than they paid for. That YEARS of such work isn't worth the same as 30 seconds of a factory machine's time, making physical goods. That is unjust.

We don't call it greedy if companies sell us physical goods multiple times, if we break it and have to get another. We only call it greedy when artists believe their products have the same value.