Please, Pay to Play
Piracy means serious losses for software industry

The game software industry is suffering huge losses each year due to a longtime but familiar enemy: piracy. By its most recent estimates, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) puts the annual cost of worldwide piracy to the interactive entertainment industry at over $3 billion, a figure that does not even take into account the growing incidence of Internet piracy. With the increased ease that broadband Internet connectivity creates for the downloading of pirated game files, the ESA is seeing dramatic increases in the volume of online game piracy, particularly over peer-to-peer networks. There are no statistical models that allow for a satisfactorily accurate estimation of losses resulting from Internet piracy, but the figure may well be in the billions.

Because pirate games ultimately displace sales of legitimate copies of game software, they undercut the ability of game developers and publishers to maximize returns on their investments in game titles; pirate games drain millions of dollars from the industry--money that could be used to develop new and exciting games.

Who is responsible for this situation? One could point to criminal organizations that oversee the mass production and worldwide export of counterfeit game cartridges and optical discs to countries across six continents. One might also add the growing number of "entrepreneurs" who use CD and DVD burners to make copies of games and sell them either online or at flea markets, swap meets, or even computer shows. There are also "warez" groups on the Internet that crack a game's copy-protection technology and flood the Web with downloadable cracked versions of the game, allowing for global dissemination of pirate copies, often far in advance of the game's legitimate release in many, if not all, markets. Some individuals surf the Internet looking to download copies of the latest cracked releases and then compound the problem by offering these copies for download to other members of peer-to-peer networks.

All of these factors contribute in one way or another to the global game-piracy problem. However, two other factors facilitate the continuing growth and spread of pirate activity: general complacency and indifference. It's easy to feel that people are all too ready to accept piracy as inevitable; some people may believe that the problem is so pervasive there is little that anyone can do to prevent it. But those who work in the game industry, as well as those who just enjoy playing games, should not regard piracy with a detached shrug.

The best way to limit the spread of piracy is for people to become aware of the problem and try to stop piracy whenever they see it, whether it's by telling their kids why it's wrong to download game files from a peer-to-peer network, or reminding a colleague that making an extra copy of a game is not the right thing to do, or taking the time to report an instance of piracy. People can help by taking action instead of just watching and doing nothing.

The ESA has established an industry antipiracy program to address the many different kinds of game software piracy and encourage people in the industry to let us know about instances of piracy. While the ESA does not have the resources to go after every last case of piracy that people may report, the organization is prepared to make the best use of the resources it does have to address any matter that falls within the parameters of the program. The ESA offers an anonymous reporting form at www.theesa.com/piracy.html for anyone wishing to report game piracy or any other illegal activities that contribute to infringement of interactive entertainment software, such as websites offering cracks, mod-chips, and other unauthorized software and devices.

If you have any questions or would like further information about the ESA's antipiracy program, please feel free to e-mail the ESA's piracy team at piracy@theESA.com, or stop by the ESA booth.

BY EDITOR
 
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