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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Copyright-Infringement in the Era of Entitlement

Two days before its intended launch, Modern Combat 5 was leaked to gamers everywhere via torrent. Gameloft is understandably livid. In a perhaps futile effort to stem the tide of users illegally acquiring the game because of the lack of an official launch, Gameloft rushed to push the game’s release ahead by one day.

To the end-user, a single day may seem to be no big deal, but to Gameloft, that means a number of new headaches; adjusting marketing, preparing servers and staff sooner than expected, dealing with app store policies and schedules. However, for all of the trouble that Gameloft has to go through in order to address this issue, gamers will be the ones suffering the consequences.

Modern Combat 5: Blackout may be receiving all of the press attention, but it is hardly the only major release to have its launch marred by apathetic gamers. A month ago, SEGA and Disney released the long awaited Android port of Castle of Illusion HD. I wrote up an article about the release and turned to Google+ to share my article. Upon posting the article, I was met with a disturbing series of posts.

The game launched on June 18th. By June 19th, Google+ was filled with links to the APK file. I was astounded, to say the least. The game had not even been given a chance to gain an audience on Android and already people were undermining SEGA and Disney’s right to monetize the project.

Chances are you have heard the flaccid rebuttals of those whom feel entitled to infringe on the rights of another party’s work. If not, look below.

I gathered the above posts from across the Internet. The rationale for infringing remains consistent among admitted copyright infringers; users feel as though they have a right to protect their financial interests at the expense of the financial interests of other parties. Worse, these people feel vindicated about their actions. As unfathomable as it may seem, infringers feel as though they have a right to play pay-games at no cost, including the titles they claim are “bad.”

I’ll be blunt.

You want to know about a game’s quality so that you aren’t squandering your hard earned dollars? Fair enough. Go read a review. This isn’t the 90s. You don’t have to go to the newsstand and spend $4 buying a magazine to read reviews. YouTube, DroidGamers, Destructoid, Gamespot, GameFAQs, Escapist Magazine and so on. Take your pick. There are numerous sites that will help you make an informed purchasing decision without you having to resort to copyright infringement.

You think that a potential purchase is a bad game altogether? Then don’t bother illegally downloading the game. If you have already concluded that the title is awful, why would you spend time AND bandwidth acquiring it? It seems reasonable to assume that people tend to avoid displeasing things. Why then would you copy a game you claim to dislike?

You want a demo that’s at least two hours long? I’ll do you one better. Go watch a Let’s Play video on YouTube. You can literally watch a play through of an entire game, and guess what? You still wouldn’t have to go torrent a copy of the game.

Modern Combat 5: Blackout

It is absolutely ridiculous that gamers complained to Gameloft about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 having always-on DRM, to which Gameloft responded favorably and removed the DRM, only to have consumers leak and copy Modern Combat 5 two weeks after the fact. What message does that send to Gameloft about their future releases? That even if they show trust to their customers, that the same respect won’t be returned?

Why did I claim that gamers are the ones to suffer because of copyright infringement? Because legitimate customers are the ones that will have to deal with game clients, always-on authentication, install limits and other intrusive, crippling methods of DRM. I detest intrusive DRM, but at this point, I am not going to pretend that I don’t understand why publishers use DRM.

Whenever you go on a rant about how much you loathe having to play with an online connection or logging into an account, consider that what you really loathe is the fact that unscrupulous players have antagonized publishers to the point where publishers feel forced to release games with crippling copy-protection methods. Don’t blame publishers for attempting to protect their content, because even when they give an inch, the community seems happy to take a mile.

Should Gameloft decide that it was a bad move to relax their DRM (and it seems likely at this point), just remember how we reached that point.

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