Peer to peer thieves pay the penalty

You have heard the mantra on here before, interweb downloads of games, music, films and TV programmes is the biggest binge of stealing in the history of humanity. Now people make all sorts of excuses rather than face the facts that they are thieves. But the simple matter is that the reasons they do it are because they think that there is zero chance of getting caught and because after they have done it they have the product and they still have their money. So it is truly excellent that at long last the game industry is acting.

Firstly five games developers, Atari, Topware Interactive, Reality Pump, Techland and Codemasters, will write to 25,000 people in the UK, asking each to pay £300 at once to settle out of court. Failure to comply risk being taken to court. Initial legal actions will be against 500 people who haven’t paid up. You can understand this action when you consider that Operation Flashpoint, a game I worked on, was downloaded (stolen) 691,324 times in one week.

Secondly a UK woman who put Dream Pinball 3D on a peer to peer network has been ordered to pay damages of £6,086.56 plus costs of £10,000 to Topware Interactive. Their lawyer said: “Our clients were incensed by the level of illegal downloading. In the first 14 days since Topware Interactive released Dream Pinball 3D it sold 800 legitimate copies but was illegally downloaded 12,000 times. Hopefully people will think twice if they risk being taken to court.”

It is actually very easy to catch these thieves. All you have to do is to join a peer to peer thieving network and record the IP addresses of everyone who contacts your computer, upload and download. Then use Whois to find whose the IP address is. Or ask the internet service provider. So, with application it is possible to close the whole den of vice down.

Obviously acting in this way is quite controversial. And Peter Moore, EA Sports boss, is more cautious: “I’m not a huge fan of trying to punish your consumer. Albeit these people have clearly stolen intellectual property, I think there are better ways of resolving this within our power as developers and publishers.”

Obviously this all applies mainly to boxed retail games. And any regular reader will know that this is a dieing business model. And the business models we are headed for in the future such as free gaming and server based gaming preclude piracy. But this is no reason to allow people to steal off you in the current business model.


  1. I think many of us can honestly say we have nothing to fear from those companies. For a while now I have not had any of their games on my computer, illegal or legal.

    However, I do fear for the people who tried GRID out pirated, before they went to buy it, to check to see if they could get around the insanely poor copyright protection that banned users from playing just for having anything that could possibly be linked to piracy installed.

    I’m sorry your demo didn’t work because it had tough copyright protection too.

    I’m sorry I like to burn CDs, Codemasters.

    I’m also sorry for having a virtual drive installed …once upon a time but still hiding away in my registry.

    I’m also sorry for having Steam installed.

    I’m also sorry for not buying the Steam version of GRID in case even that didn’t fix it.

    I’m sorry to hear the no-cd patch only worked for some of the people who bought this game.

    I’m sorry to say I couldn’t even be bothered to pirate this game because it wasn’t worth my download time or time I would spend fixing my PC to comply.

    Codemasters can suck it.

  2. Although, these game developers are taking steps towards reducing game piracy, it will not stop it. People now-a-days think they can get anything for free over the internet, many of them do and they get away with it.

    Unfortunately many service providers will not release IP information so easily, especially if authorities are not involved and the Whois system is very unreliable.

    I agree with Peter Moore, and this could be resolved without taking legal action, but he knows just as well as the rest of us, that piracy is only growing, and becoming easier and more user friendly for the masses.

  3. The recording industry has been trying to stop illegal (P2P) music sharing since 2001. They’ve sued services, providers and customers. They’ve put the most horendous DRM on their files and agrevated paying customers. The result? More people than ever are sharing their music, and the P2P scene is more fragmented and underground than ever. In a few years, everyone will be using encryption and decentralised techniques to hide their identities, and finding these “pirates” will be nearly impossible.

    What makes you think any attempt from the game industry will do anything other than help that process and alienate customers?

  4. Wow Bruce this is a new low. Are you illustrating a piece about a housewife who has been ordered to pay £16,000+ for uploading a crappy game with a picture of a person about to be executed? You are as out of touch as the present government.

  5. That reminds me, since the courtcase against that woman was for her uploading stuff, then how does that directly translate to legal action for people ‘possibly’ downloading stuff?

  6. This is exactly the kind of stupid action that makes people buy LESS. Just look at the music sales after the RIAA debacle. For once, Peter Moore is right (and that’s a miracle in itself).

    Also, penalizing 16K for downloading that rather abysmal game (to put it mildly) is way overboard.

    It’s not the right way. Sadly, the publishers always prefer the stick to the carrot, and it never works. This won’t, either.

  7. Seriously, this tactic has backfired so badly for the music industry that I don’t expect it to do the games industry any good. As Raph Koster put it, the music industry is “suing its customers for liking it’s product”, and the approach has been completely ineffective for years now.

    There are much more strategic things the industry can do that will stop piracy without the negative PR fallout of mass lawsuits. Rory Cellan-Jones recently said “My son thinks music is free, but sees paying £10 or so a month for a World of Warcraft subscription as completely natural”.

  8. While I agree that copyright infringement should be stopped and justly punished, the antics of the RIAA are despicable, IMO.

    A lot of the problem with P2P sharing though is the “sense of entitlement” that has sprung up with the advent of the web. People believe that just because it’s easy to do it should be perfectly acceptable that they behave in these ways.

  9. Interesting assumption in this article that every download of a game is some how a lost sale. The game industry needs to find ways to make people want to support games. The use of local governments to enforce draconian penalties on people isn’t going to do it. I certainly think the idea of free and serve based games as suggested in the article are good ways to go. As for boxed copies they need to come with services, gifts or benefits that can not simple be copied by ones and zeros. Make people want to be your customers or I guess you can just line them up and shoot them 🙂

  10. In this world there are Sith and Jedi, Jedi fight for farmers and lovers, while the Sith and the Dark Side live for corruption, greed, and terror. To call p2p as the greatest theft in human history is ridiculous and out of touch with reality. Sorry Bruce not to diss you, but governments that spend trillions on warfare while millions locally are are homeless, and worldwide billions are impoverished, an american millionare can and does buy products manufactured by people making pennies an hour, yes its true, some people on this planet farm, mine, do all forms of labour for less than 50 cents a day, or how about the slave trade????? real theft, real crime. How about international real estate, half a million for a condo in the city, 200 for the burbs, and you think p2p is a problem? It is only the symptom of the corruption, a little revolution by the working man, just some mudslinging at the Sith. I suggest you spend more time with your coders and less with your bankers. I know rich ppl that make more than 30 an hour! and they drop huge coin on guitar hero. Find a market that has money and make a game for it. FPS, that is either poor teenagers on an xbox their parents bought and uncracked or uber rich old ppl with 5grand computers, so neither that would download a game. I can not imagine a million cracked xboxes, if that were the case, MS would just make a tamperless selfdestructing system, agreed with Tom, that 600k mark is unrealistic. Anyways by 2015 or 20202 games and movies will be a terabyte and untradeable by virtue of brute size, this of course in a world where people are still starving and homeless. Maybe one day the Library of Congress will be online and maybe one day there will be world peace, in the meantime my esteemed colleagues keep life in perspective and join the Force. with thanks in peace K

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