Notch: Piracy is not theft

Thursday, 3 March 2011 10:55 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson told a session at GDC’s Indie Games Summit this week that the notion of piracy as theft is false, Edge reports.

“Piracy is not theft,” he said. “If you steal a car, the original is lost. If you copy a game, there are simply more of them in the world.”

He added: “There is no such thing as a ‘lost sale’. Is a bad review a lost sale? What about a missed ship date?”

The developers comments are likely to prove contentious among a community that traditionally violently attacks anything to do with game piracy.

Persson scooped the IGF’s main award last night, following a year which saw Minecraft be branded a “phenomenon” and acxhieve sales of over 1.3 million.


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  1. StolenGlory

    This guy is a hippie tool.


    #1 4 years ago
  2. Gekidami

    Oh, ok then.
    *Torrents ‘Minecraft’*

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Kerplunk

    Piracy remains the acquisition of something through illegitimate means.

    Arguing on the technicalities is just an effort obfuscate the fact that the people doing it know they’re doing wrong.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. ududy

    Not at all. He made an attractive game at a reasonable price, and people paid by the droves. You charge 60$ for a game that lasts five hours, and people will pirate. They would not have bought the game anyway, most can’t afford even a fraction of those 60$ play-and-throw experiences.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Badger

    Piracy is not Theft.

    Piracy is also not Murder.

    Still doesn’t make it legal.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Mr-Brett

    @4 So what about the people who pirated World of Goo when they could pay £0.01 and get it legally?

    #6 4 years ago
  7. crooon

    #3 Actually it’s not, your definition is the product of misrepresentation. Traditionally it’s robbery (ie taking something away from someone else), which is the point of what he said.

    Regardless of whether it’s wrong (which understandably it usually is), the damages publishers claim are ridiculous, as seen by the simple fact that sales have continuously rised in parallell to file sharing becoming mainstream. I’m not claiming the two are necessarily connected, but obviously word of mouth and information sharing and spreading is good for a product, which Minecraft without DRM is an excellent example of. As a person remembering the isolation of a small town in the 80s before the internet, I can only tell you that finding out about music/movies/games you might like was extremely difficult. File sharing has most certainly helped with that, and my purchases.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Kerplunk

    Wanting something doesnt automatically entitle you to it. Filesharing is not a marketing exercise, it’s (mostly) used for the unauthorised distribution of media without the owner’s consent.

    I’m not aware of any videogame that has been officially released and sacntioned for distribution via torrent sites as opposed to, say, paid-for digital download.

    Note also that Minecraft is run on remote servers so that bypasses a lot of common methods of popular piracy. Minecraft has, of course, been pirated to hell.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Callum

    Patrick, that’s now how you spell achieve.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Schindet Nemo

    Doesn’t robbery involve some sort of violence?

    Anyway pirates gonna pirate. Some because they want to try before they buy, some because they can’t afford a new €60 game every other week and some because they are genuine douchebags.
    No matter how you call it, you can’t stop it.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Hunam

    I think the point is that when people pirate a game they are either trying it out and turn into customers if the game is good enough for them or they had no intention of buying the game at all and pirate it because that’s just what they do, if they couldn’t they wouldn’t bother anyway. There are obviously some people who would buy the game but pirate it instead, but by and large, the lost customers argument isn’t that strong as probably a minority of pirates are would be customers.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. crooon

    #10 Exactly, that’s why “piracy” is grave misrepresentation.

    #8 I… agree… All I’m saying is the damages aren’t at as bad as they’re portrayed. Of course you’re not entitled to something you haven’t paid for, but on the other hand you can’t claim a poor kid a lost sale because he plays a game he otherwise wouldn’t.

    Short: It’s wrong. It’s not hurting (as much) as they’re leading on.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. 2plus2equals5

    I hope that the message is clear.
    Piracy isn’t a theft because is a different illegal act.
    It’s like saying that corruption and theft aren’t the same, true and they are both illegal.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Kerplunk

    Nobody knows for certain how much it’s hurting because the people taking the goods they’re not entitled to don’t check in and report how much they’re not paying.

    This is the irony – all those doing wrong are insisting it’s not doing much harm. But they’re not doing anything to substantiate it other than squirming around and acting like they’re somehow the unfortunate victim in all this. Instead they petition and insist that those poeople who actually own whatever it is that they’re helping themselves to without paying for it are out of order for not being gracious towards the activities of pirates. Then these same people moan about how unfair DRM is.

    All of this is just pirates spinning the details so they can feel better about their own wrongdoing. Pirates are bad enough. Pirates who go around claiming the moral high ground are far less tolerable.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. HauntaVirus

    Imagine the outcome if most gamers decided to use torrents instead of buying games…

    #15 4 years ago
  16. crooon

    #14 Here I must disagree… DRM only hurts us paying customers. I love steam for how great it works on most titles, but I can’t remember how many single player games before steam and after outside of steam where you’d actually have to crack your own game to be rid of the DRM/online checks/activations/play without the disc. “Pirates” don’t have that problem, which is the great irony.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. James Mac

    @8 Mechwarrior 4 was recently released as a free torrent download by Microsoft.

    Although, that game was around 10 years old by then, and released more as fan service to a dedicated community than anything else.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. BloodyJoe

    He is right! Always said it like he did!

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Kerplunk

    @16 – As a paying customer and someone who has been buying games for 25+ years, I’ve yet to encounter DRM that has a real-world problem for me. Sure, the notion that you can only install Spore on 5 PCs at a time faces outcry but in reality it’s not actually an issue. Paying customers with more than 5 PCs and a desire to install Spore on all of them.. nope, didn’t make the headlines. In most cases, in my personal experience, DRM has been unobtrusive. The noise people make about DRM is far more bothersome than the DRM itself.

    And, absolutely, the innocents get caught in the crossfire. As the saying goes “a few bad apples spoil the crop”. DRM is a response to piracy, not the other way around. When piracy stops, DRM will not be needed. So paying customers are suffering because of piracy – that’s where their ire should be pointed at. But that’s not so easy to do because pirates don’t give out their name, email and customer support numbers when you need to speak to them about the issue. Very convenient for them, don’t you think?

    #19 4 years ago
  20. Kerplunk

    @17 Good example, thank you :). And that’s why I said “most” and not “all”. I think 1 (or even 100) such examples are nothing against the rest of the type of torrents that appear though.

    Going back to DRM for a moment, it’s also used as an excuse to pirate games. Spore had high-profile DRM and the backlash was that the game was extremely heavily pirated. Playing the victim card as an excuse to let themselves off the hook and twist morals as to why they should just take something without paying for it.

    #20 4 years ago
  21. ManuOtaku

    Markus “Notch” Persson.. i will give you an advice….Change your PSN account fast, they will find you now……….

    #21 4 years ago
  22. crooon

    #19 While I agree that piracy obviously came before DRM (even the colorcodes/reference sheets of the 80s game purchases) the fact still remains that not a single DRM has stopped piracy from happening, so why bother? While you don’t, many many people (me included) do find a lot of DRM very obtrusive, so regardless of the chicken/egg situation, removing DRM would not hurt any publisher, seeing as it’s done zero to help them.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. aleph31

    I love the comments here arguing about legality. It should be clear that legality means just conformity with the law. And laws can be ethical/unethical, moral/immoral, just/unjust. Looking at the corrupt politicians that make laws, always bowing to big corporation’s interests, I don’t really care about that.

    Now into the moral/ethical/justice side of the thing, I do think that piracy is wrong; but it is just a normal comsequence of an overpriced, retail-oriented market. Prices should drop to something more reasonable, content should be much more accesible. Apple TV / Google TV etc. are on the right track. Steam with lowered prices would be the solution to all this fuss.

    Of course there will always be piracy. The problem is the big amount of it that we suffer now. As I mentioned, there is a direct cause leading to that phenomenon. Rage agains pirates and prosecution will solve nothing.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. Kerplunk

    @22 I’m not so sure publishers see DRM as completely ineffectual. Whilst it might suit many for there to be no DRM its the choice (and right) of the manufacturer of the product to employ whatever protection they feel is worthwhile. If people want to insist piracy doesn’t equal a lost sale then the same mentality can be said to claim that DRM safeguards against at least one pirated copy. Seems fair for a publisher to substantiate a claim with as much non-existant proof as the software pirates use doesn’t it?

    @23 The fact that products being charged at $0.01 or even $0.00 utterly destroys the argument of piracy being a response to overpricing. It’s just another excuse they give to make them feel their actions are justified.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. walkingfiend

    he is right.

    #25 4 years ago
  26. Dr.Ghettoblaster

    Webster Dictionary definion of piracy:

    1: an act of robbery on the high seas; also : an act resembling such robbery

    2: robbery on the high seas

    3a : the unauthorized use of another’s production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright

    3b: the illicit accessing of broadcast signals

    #26 4 years ago
  27. MushroomStamp

    Nice to see there are sane people in the industry that don’t buy into the nonsense of piracy = lost money. It’s simply not true. That’s a marketing tool used by some companies to cry about losses.

    #27 4 years ago
  28. bugmenot

    of course piracy isn’t theft its freeloading, enjoying but not contributing back.

    #28 4 years ago
  29. darksied

    No offense to the guys skills, but he’s a total retard. The only reason he’s getting time to sound off is because of of the success of his indie game.

    Everything he said is wrong. There definitely IS such a thing as a lost sale. If someone is going to buy a game, but finds out how to pirate it instead, that’s a LOST SALE.

    Piracy might be making a copy technically, yes. But it’s software, you can’t ever steal the original, so the comparison doesn’t make sense. Getting something that costs money for free is stealing/pirating, no matter if the original is taken or not. You got a game for free when it costs $50 or $60 in retail? -> you stole it.

    Keep working on your games and stop saying stupid things.

    #29 4 years ago
  30. DeathJynx

    Sounds like Notch is basing his logic on partially outdate standards. In the world of digital media, when you make a digital purchase, you get a digital copy. A legal digital !COPY! There is no pre exsiting copy that you recieve. There is no bank full of digital versions that might run out. You can infinitely make copy without a “missing” version. You can’t redefine theft with the ignorance of what it means to purchase. Theft is taking something that is not yours without permission. Like to download a trail version for something and then developing a crack for it. You didn’t “copy” a legit version, you just took it.

    #30 4 years ago
  31. freedoms_stain

    @29, my 1st experience of The Elder Scrolls was a pirated copy of Oblivion. I know own legal boxed copies of Morrowind AND Oblivion. 1 count of piracy, 2 gained sales.

    I don’t doubt that there are people who *only* pirate, but lets not pretend that 1 download = 1 lost sale, because that is 100% grade A bullshit.

    #31 4 years ago
  32. DSB

    The only people affected by DRM is paying customers. Pirates just bypass it day 1.

    That means the publishers should be under considerable pressure to explain why they’re putting useless software into our games to monitor what we’re doing.

    It doesn’t matter if you’ve been lucky enough not to be hassled by it, the publishers should be expected to make an argument on why pirates can offer a better game than them.

    I buy all my games, and I’m sick of being the one treated as a criminal for it. It’s ridiculous. I’ll accept that as much as I accept a cop accusing me of stealing with no evidence. Which is to say “Not, under any circumstances”. If a business wants me as a buyer, they can treat me as a buyer, instead of as a common thief.

    The only effective dent that’s been made in piracy over the last 3 decades has been Steam. A superior service that’s so appealing that it brings the unpaying consumer back in the fold. Cloud subscriptions are set to be the next one. That’s just another case of a constructive solution to a real problem (superior service) beating out a destructive one (ineffective malware DRM).

    Piracy is definitely stealing though, and Notch is obviously being naive. I’m sure that a considerable ammount of people who pirate, especially in the developing world would never have been a sale anyway, but that’s certainly not the case for most German and French pirates. A lot of people pirate out of personal convenience.

    However, after close to 20 years in gaming, I’m yet to see any evidence that piracy is a real threat to the gaming business. It stumps growth by a certain ammount, but the industry has seemed to adapt to that quite well, even so.

    … Apart from a few panicking publishers clinging to DRM instead of getting to work, and finding a solution that isn’t make-belief.

    #32 4 years ago
  33. TheWulf

    Are people saying that physical scarcity is present in digital property again?

    *sighs heavily.*

    If people could argue this honestly and/or intelligently it would really be something, but so long as one side keeps insisting that scarcity exists in digital property, it’ll never be a serious argument and one side of the argument will always be a complete joke.

    It’s a good idea to read and understand that for the sake of everyone involved. In other words, scarcity isn’t involved in digital media because digital media isn’t scarce, it’s abundant to the point of total ubiquity, this disincludes scarcity as an element of economy.

    To try to get people on board with the problem and the solution, I’ll try and provide the most low-tech example possible. So try to stick with me, here. Imagine a Renaissance setting where a bard sings a tale. Now if someone were to memorise that tale and sing it almost exactly the same, with almost the same level of talent, then that would’ve been that era’s version of piracy.

    Yet people would still go and listen to the bard and pay him for his efforts. Why? The bard is a likable person, and there’s something in the reproduced versions of the song going around that isn’t quite the same. They’re not coming from the bard, and people are loyal to him.

    Now the next thing to read and hopefully understand is this:

    That makes the point that loyalty is important, now Valve are the modern-day bard, because they’re making a profit from a field where there is piracy. How? They’re being more likable than those who’re producing replicas of the song, they’re also ensuring that everyone who deals with them receives the best version of that song possible.

    They do this by making purchase and content delivery easier than piracy, and they keep their prices reasonable, in this way they realise that piracy isn’t an issue. Piracy isn’t a lost sale, piracy is a potential sale, so there’s no point in making enemies of pirates.

    Now, stick with me!

    Pirates are underserved customers. Piracy isn’t a lost sale, it’s a potential sale. There you have Valve, the bard, saying the same thing that I am, and this is why they’re being so successful in the PC field.

    If piracy exists, it’s for three reasons:

    1. Game developers/publishers are making enemies out of people.

    The whole attitude about how all PC gamers are actually pirates doesn’t help with this. Note what Notch did there, he generated a large amount of positive karma, and that’s going to turn into attention, attention will then turn into loyalty and money.

    Less attention means less loyalty, which in turn in this new digital world means less money.

    2. Piracy is easier than the alternatives.

    If piracy ever becomes easier than buying a game, then the publisher has lost due to their own stupidity. This is why people should keep away from using their own distribution platforms and arcane, draconian DRM systems and simply use Steam.

    If someone buys a Ubisoft game and finds that they can barely play it due to the always on DRM, they won’t buy another Ubisoft game, but they might pirate them. What’s happening here is that the publisher is making piracy easier than being legitimate.

    The only person hurting the publisher in this case is the publisher (see: Valve).

    3. Keep prices reasonable, there is no scarcity.

    If you keep a price reasonable then it will sell more. Valve realise this with sales, but if you release a game at £40 for the PC and don’t offer any preorder cuts or sales on it, then people will see that as price-gouging and they won’t bother with it. They may pirate it or they may not. It’s a lost sale because that one unit, that person, couldn’t afford the cover price.

    Not everyone lives in a stable financial ecosystem, people lose jobs, some people only have ancient PCs for which they can only barely afford the occasional game for.

    Now, if a developer is friendly, makes purchasing easy, and keeps the price reasonable then piracy ceases to be an issue. Let’s take a real world example: The Humble Indie Bundle. This was run by Wolfire who’re really good at being well loved – mostly because they know how to treat people like people. They talk on their forums, on their own meebo thing, they post snippets from meebo (I love those), and they answer mails. They’re always friendly and inviting. The Humble Indie Bundle was a success because Wolfire is Wolfire.

    The Humble Indie Bundle didn’t have any security surrounding the games, either, as it was simple to access them by anyone, there was no DRM there either, and more importantly the price was reasonable. In fact, Wolfire even said that they’d cover the cost of the bundle for whomever couldn’t afford it. And they still turned a profit. They turned a profit as large publishers are crying about piracy and hateful PC gamers. Figure that one out (with the materials provided thus far, you should be able to).

    Now then, rounding this up in a wonderful crescendo – NOTCH. Look at Notch, what is Notch doing? Can anyone tell me? Notch is accruing loyalty and attention. One of the articles that you hopefully read and understood explains this. He’s not making enemies from those who might instead be potential sales.

    Instead, someone thinks that that Notch guy is alright and they buy his game instead of pirating it, or they toss a donation his way, because he’s likable, he’s making fun things, he’s keeping those fun things accessible, and he’s not overcharging for them. And perhaps mainstream publishers would have less to cry about it if they followed the example of Notch and Valve.

    Now, in closing? @1 – if Notch is a hipppie tool, then so too is Valve!

    The truth: Not everyone understands the economics of this new, digital world, and these people are luddites. The sooner they understand this and start reading and learning, the better the world will be, and if they don’t then they’ll simply become obsolete as the world rolls on and leaves them behind.

    Notch is doing the right thing, for all the right reasons.

    #33 4 years ago
  34. heherman

    I agree with 33.

    Also, to people saying it *is* theft (and pointing out that there is a version of theft with that definition): you’re correct in the sense that one definition of it fits that description, but it is still nonsensical to call it that. What do you believe the average person thinks when they hear the word “theft”? Loss of previously owned property. Most of them won’t think “loss of potential sale due to a download over the internet.” Hence, it is absolutely confusing to call copyright infringement theft (just like it’s confusing to call copyright infringement piracy). It is nothing more than a ruse to make the so-called ‘pirates’ seem worse than they supposedly are. Here’s a good post about that:

    You also can’t lose something that you never even had. Not a sale. Not money. Not anything. I suppose you can ‘lose’ the potential for something good to happen to you, but that really doesn’t affect you as you never had the thing in the first place.

    Obviously, however, if you want to support the company, you should buy their products. You’ll be helping them, but not doing so doesn’t hurt them.

    #34 4 years ago
  35. fuchikoma

    It’s true. I tried the free “classic” Minecraft and thought it was utterly pointless. Why plant a bunch of blocks of different colours if there’s no point to the game?

    A couple months went on and the whole Internet was doing crazy for MC, but what I played was some crappy block dropping sim. So I grabbed a pirated copy of MC beta and fooled around with it for a couple days. It was loads of fun, so I bought my license to use it legitimately.

    I pirated it because it was the only way to see what I’d have been buying. It’s not a lost sale – it’s a gained sale, because I never would have given him a penny based on what was offered freely.

    #35 4 years ago

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