In this interview we will go head first into the piracy issue. The person being interviewed has pirated all his life and has been kind enough to express his personal insights on the matter. He will answer any questions you may have, so be sure to leave comments if you want to add anything.
First I want to thank you for letting me interview you. I understand it is a hassle for both of us to do this with the time difference.
Yeah, I just want to help out with that I can.
Letâ??s get started then. Who are you?
I am a small time blogger whose hobbies span arts, technology, and literature. I think the era we live in is one of the greatest in mankind; the technological revolution and all. Recent exponential growth fascinates me.
That sounds just like something I would say. From what weâ??ve discussed earlier, you are very close to my age. Would you describe yourself as an average teenager?
An average teenager with an outlook on mischief Â 🙂
I donâ??t think most teens interact with technology the way I do. But I have read your biography on your website, and I would say we are very similar in fact.
So when did you started pirating?
When I was 4 or 5. I didnâ??t even know what I was doing. My momâ??s friendâ??s son hooked me up with anything I wanted. I still think I have a CD from back then. I was getting brand new games for less than $3. Back then I donâ??t think I even knew about buying games in stores.
I also played games in a computer cafÃ© which I doubt payed for one single game on the 30+ computers they had. I remember one time a new bridge opened, the pope and possibly the president came to open it. I was in the computer lab across it playing Bomberman, Counterstrke, GTA, and what not, oblivious to the bridge opening. I think computers are the best toys a five year old could have. The last thing on my mind was some bridge opening that day.
How do you feel about pirating?
I hate it. In my opinion it is the same thing as stealing. No one knows I pirate. I keep it away from friends, parents, and my sister. I donâ??t want them knowing I do it and I donâ??t want others doing it.
My sister has been pirating since she was 6-7. She doesnâ??t even know what the heck pirating is either. YouTube videos give you links and you could know less about what youâ??re doing. Itâ??s terrible; especially for the new generation. Go to YouTube, search for your program of interest + â??Free downloadâ?, watch a video, download link, and follow instructions. Youâ??ve just broken about 20 different laws, but you donâ??t know it. Especially since you saved anywhere from $20-$2,500.
On the other hand thereâ??s douchebags out there that embrace the pirate culture. They have fun stealing software and sharing stuff, oblivious to the damage it causes. When it comes to the pirate culture I am just about one of the worst pirates out there. I never share anything and neither do I seed my torrents.
I canâ??t relate to the pirate culture because I donâ??t know why anyone would brag about not affording software/entertainment. If youâ??re going to do it, do it, but donâ??t act like a hotshot for stealing someoneâ??s work. A drug dealer can be proud of his infrastructure, but a inbred internet user canâ??t be proud of clicking on download links.
Why do you do it?
Because I canâ??t afford software. I may live comfortably enough in my parentâ??s house, but I donâ??t live comfortably enough to afford $400-$2000 software.
Iâ??ve worked in small businesses, where Iâ??ve seen pirating occur. Iâ??ve even seen it happen in my school. I donâ??t think Microsoft offers any license where youâ??re allowed to burn XP discs yourselves and sharpie a code on the CD. Itâ??s also very common for small businesses to pirate software such as Microsoft Office.
The reason I pirate is for education. I donâ??t use pirated software for commercial purposes. In my opinion pirating for education purposes is 100% justified.
When I was visiting my home country we were staying at a friendâ??s house. I found Autodesk Maya on there. It was pirated. From then on I started becoming really interested in 3D animation and modeling.
When Einstein was given a compass to him on his fourth birthday, the future of mankind was literally changed forever. The compass his father gave him inspired him to understand what was making the needle always point north. It quickly led Einstein to studying science and mathematics, he began exploring the world. Nearly three decades later he published his theory on relativity. In the same way that a compass once inspired a little boy, I believe that corporate level software can inspire new generations.
I wish I could find a link to something I read about a kid one time. This kid was basically 7-9 years old and was featured on Autodesk for using Maya and helping his parentâ??s factory, or something like that. It was really amazing what the kid was doing, and he was able to do it through great software. If you donâ??t believe me I found this video of a 7 year old giving a tutorial on building a spaceship in Maya http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAHffOISTNw&feature=related So the potential for generations benefiting from great software is there.
Companies such as Microsoft and Autodesk now offer their software for free for educational purposes. I believe that is the right way to do it. Education should always be free, regardless if these private companies function on selling their software. Also it should be noted that most people that benefit from free educational licenses are often under 18 years old. If a 10 year old was found to be using a pirated version of Autodesk Maya to learn 3D modeling, I doubt a case would get anywhere. For that reason more companies should open up their licenses for education. Imagine if all schools had access to Photoshop, and Dreamweaver for free? We might find ourselves in a better world 20 years from now if we give our generation the right tools.
What I hate is when people pirate for entertainment purposes. If you canâ??t afford Rosetta Stone or Maya, etc, feel free to pirate it if you are going to put effort into learning. But I donâ??t think anyone should ever feel they are entitled to free entertainment.
Most people that use the internet just enjoy consuming work, creating memes, and what not. Of course 90% of the population will feel like pirating isnâ??t that bad. But when you try and start your own company, you will see how much it ruins you. So again if you are a small business, or do not need the pirated material to learn; I think you are a complete douche if you steal.
Where do you see the future of pirating going?
Naturally I would say I canâ??t predict the future, but I think in this case it is very simple. Recently Iâ??ve seen software developers trying to negotiate with pirates. Iâ??ve seen comments on download pages from people that say they are trying out a new project. They contact software developers and show them their software is being downloaded for free. Than they ask the developers to make a sales page that is 70% off (for pirates). That page is than shared on the illegal download page, asking pirates to at least pay 30% for the software.
That sounds like complete bullcrap to me. You should never negotiate with a pirate. Copying software is illegal and if someone is going to do it, you arenâ??t going to reward them not to do it. I blame all the pirating problems on the companies who make the anti-pirating techniques, such as outdated serial authentication. If itâ??s so easy a 7 year old can follow instructions on registering software for free, youâ??d think there is something wrong with the system?
In the future I would imagine that most software and video games require a remote server authentication to work. Blizzard tried this with their new game, Diablo III. Many people hated the fact that 10% of the game was hosted on a server, and you couldnâ??t play offline. But thatâ??s the only way to protect your software nowadays. Microsoft Office cracks emulate Microsoft servers and activate your products illegally. As long as the authentication process is local to some extent, pirating will always happen.
The solution would be to keep 5-10% of the necessary data on a remote server. Stuff like this takes a lot of design on the developerâ??s part, and it also doesnâ??t let you use your programs without an internet connection. In the future we should have internet just about anywhere, so that problem will be solved. Cloud computing will also become really popular. So it is possible that eventually most software will be hosted on servers remotely. Once Google Fiber makes a big hit, services such as Onlive should technically allow us to play video games on any device without any lag. Onlive is a service that lets you download PC games on a cloud computer, which you can access/play from an iPad, Android device, computer, etc.
So software and video games may become safe from pirating in the future.
As for music and movies. There is no simple fix for that. People can always download YouTube videos (extract MP3), they can always copy DVDs, etc.
The government could technically hunt down pirates. Most people are stupid enough to not mask their IPâ??s while downloading torrents, which are publically seen by everyone sharing the torrent. Iâ??ve hacked people based on the IPâ??s Iâ??ve found on new movies/games. It would be pretty easy for the government to aggregate a list of repeating offenders and issue out fees/ISP shutdowns.
I personally donâ??t use a proxy to hide my IP. But I do use a firewall to block all pirated software from trying to â??phone homeâ?. (Programs try to contact the company who makes them, and give out your info/check if you actually bought the software. If you donâ??t it probably goes in huge database that no one does anything about. For nowâ?¦) So trying to hunt down pirates is pretty hopeless in the sense that people will see it as their privacy being invaded. Eventually everyone would use proxies to download illegal programs, and then the anti-piracy implementations would just be spying on the average Joe. Even if the intent is not so, someone will abuse it, be it the government themselves, or a hacker.
Either way even if Google blocked all pirating sites/downloads, people would still share. I can still scan books, copy audio, and copy video, etc. Friends can still share songs, etc. If pirating websites were blocked or shutdown Iâ??m sure other things such as email networks would popup, and pirates would hide deeper in the internet, but they would still get their fix. As long as programs are hosted on cloud server, developers will be safe, until then, they will lose money.
I personally wanted to start a small business recently, but it would have never taken off due to pirating. It is hard to write a popular eBook nowdays, or release a small app, without having it being pirated. You donâ??t know the sadness I felt when I realized I couldnâ??t make thousands of dollars, because people would just copy my work.
Do you think thereâ??s any easy solution?
When I was first learning CSS a couple of years ago from csszengarden.com, I found a very interesting image of â??Emperor Norton Iâ? being used in the site. I was intrigued, so I looked him up. http://www.csszengarden.com/?cssfile=/213/213.css&page=0 He was self-proclaimed Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I of the United States (and protector of Mexico), and was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco, California.
â??After losing a lawsuit in which he tried to void his rice contract, Norton left San Francisco. He returned a few years later, apparently mentally unbalanced, and claiming to be the Emperor of the United States.Â Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented.â?
I think the solution would be having more Emperor Nortons when it comes to pirating; self-proclaimed saviors that help in the race against pirates. Not the type of stuff big companies do such as trying to spread fake downloads, and claiming downloads have viruses, but more creative stuff. Iâ??m not sure what we have to do, but Iâ??m sure thereâ??s something to be done to inspire people not to pirate.
Public service announcements can surely be more engaging than the IRP makes them out to be http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx8obpx4844&feature=player_embedded
In any case I am not encouraging more Anonymous (the group) douchebags getting involved. We donâ??t need any exploits/shortcuts to solving things. I imagine the way anti-smoking/texting while driving prevention programs work at public schools, anti-piracy could work the same way. Everyone gets free songs anyways, so it wouldnâ??t really teach kids that they can get the stuff for free. 90% of them do it anyways, so it would be good to teach them why itâ??s wrong. Parents could also benefit from learning similar things, and monitoring their kidâ??s activities.
Do you actually think pirating is stealing?
The bible tells us not to steal. Surely this refers to stealing your neighborâ??s goat, etc. But what if you snuck in and took its DNA and made a million goats? Are those really his goats? What if he is the only want to have goats in the world? Surely the DNA belongs to him, as do any other copies.
In the bible stealing is a white and black scenario. You steal bread from someone, they starve. Etc. If you find out their recipe and use it to outsell them, did you really steal their recipe? Even if you take it out of their notebook, etc. Did you steal the recipe, or did you steal all their future clients?
Personally I want to say you did neither. Most of the time software isnâ??t even being copied. Illegitimate keys are created. Itâ??s a grey area and it can be solved in one way. Your actions of cracking/hacking software so that you donâ??t have to pay, does in fact directly affect the creator. Whether you werenâ??t going to buy the software or not, you have still stolen the creatorâ??s right to sell his work. So no I donâ??t think pirating is stealing. I do think it is wrong because of the impacts on others.
Most people are under the conception that stealing from big corporations is okay. In all honesty these are just excuses. Would you steal from the government? It runs taxes, etc, the economy. Big corporations similarly create jobs and fuel the economy; affecting big companies in ways that cause them to sell less, is directly affecting your economy and your society.
Also most people pirate small companyâ??s work as well. I can find just about any program for free. Even things that sell for $1. Even developers that make less than $100 for their work a year. It doesnâ??t matter who you steal from, youâ??re stealing from an open market which you are part of. Saying that it is okay to steal from big corporations implies that you should never grow that big. Isnâ??t that communism to some extent if you imply limits on profits?
How much have you pirated?
I have an entire collection of software ranging from audio, word processing, 3D modeling, video editing, photo editing, DJ software, and system utilities. I also have a lot of movies and music. Iâ??m not proud of it but once you get started itâ??s hard to stop.
When I was 8 or 9 all I wanted to do was play the new Grand Theft Auto. My dad wouldnâ??t buy it for me because it was rated R. I tried finding free downloads but I never knew what the hell keygens were. I couldnâ??t setup the cracks; I didnâ??t know what cracks were. I remember praying to god on multiple occasions that I hit the jackpot and I get the right files/game that works. I never did.
For that same reason I donâ??t hide my IP when downloading illegal software. I feel like if it meant so much to me that I wanted to win â??the lotteryâ? of a working game, I might as well enter myself in the â??lotteryâ? of getting caught one day. I think I owe the world that much; not hiding.
So as a kid you want things. I wanted to play Grand Theft Auto. In the past if you wanted a BB gun or something else you either had to beg your parents, or make the cash for it. Through pirating we can have everything and anything for nothing. Video game addiction is just as serious as sex addiction, drug addiction, etc. But nowadays it can be fueled by $0. For the first time in history a man can hold a mediocre job, build a gaming computer, and play unlimited amounts of games for free. Iâ??ve played over $4000 (at least in the past few years) worth of games without buying them. Iâ??ve played 2012 games weeks and months before even the betas were released to the public.
Itâ??s easy to fuel an addiction that doesnâ??t cost anything; especially such a time destructive one such as video game addiction. I walk into video games stores and I just laugh my nutsack off looking at all the games on the shelves. Games I was playing before they were even out, and I look at the prices $60, and I laugh even more. Adding up all the games Iâ??ve played and imaging how many hours of work it would have taken me to buy them. I faintly remember how personal it felt to open a CD case and the smell of a new game. The way the CD was a little sticky to your fingers, and how youâ??d have to handle the edges careful not to touch the silver part. Now it is all about waiting 20 minutes, and emulating an .iso, installing the game, and copying over the cracked files.
Thatâ??s the horror of pirating. How much you can get for nothing. When you put it that way you really start to see that even if all those games arenâ??t worth $4000, you still contributed to at least 10% of those loses. Itâ??s easy to not care and keep on with your habits, especially when they cost nothing to maintain.
I donâ??t think breaking the rules always means something bad. In the booking Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, thereâ??s a story about two prisoners. Their guards in Texas didnâ??t know how to use computers, and they thought the prisoners were even dumber. So they gave them unmonitored access to computers. These two prisoners ended up connecting to the internet, controlling all the prison computers, emails, passwords, etc. Were they breaking the law? Were they breaking the rules? Yes, they were. When they got out they both went into IT and started their own businesses. They may have been doing something illegal, but it sure ended up benefiting them in the future.
So in the case of pirating for non-educational purposes; it may also be justifiable. But as you can see once I laid down the line, it was easy to move it again when comparing even worse actions such as pirating video games. Thatâ??s the thing about pirating. You canâ??t keep moving the line, because the world doesnâ??t run on free. Not even open source is free. The tradeoff is time spent using open source software, when you could be using software designed for specific purposes in mind. So you canâ??t drive developers into free. It just doesnâ??t work that way. You get what you paid for.
If you use a cracked antivirus suite, you have to think. Should you really be using an antivirus suite that was vulnerable enough to be cracked by some 15 year old living in his basement?
In my opinion decisions about pirating should be up to you, the individual. Not anyone else. Iâ??ve honestly been lost in the middle of the problem long ago. I think Iâ??m better than other pirates, and Iâ??m sure other pirates think theyâ??re better than the corporations, and so forth. It is a vicious cycle. But it is indeed the cycle of pirating.
It is really scary because it is possible some companies caused the pirating problem on purpose. If you watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJIuYgIvKscÂ you can see what I mean. The guy is a bit off, but the things he says about cnet.com are very valid. I don’t know the truth, I can’t really discern it from the mess of public data. But something fishy is going on. It seems like the classical, create a problem (such as pirating), offer a solution (anti-pirating bills), BAM! You’ve just got control of millions of people. Give them the tools to break laws, than say they can’t govern themselves, than take away their basic rights. Tactical indeed.Â That’s why I say you can’t listen to my opinions about pirating, and you can’t really listen to other’s opinions either. Your best bet is researching the topic and deciding if you can live with the guilt/risk of pirating. You should also decide if you want your kids to grow up in such a goalless world where they can have anything they want without paying for it.
If you want to pirate go ahead, if you want to shut down the whole system, please become an Emperor Norton for anti-piracy, go ahead. I really don’t know what is wrong or right anymore in this sense. Your decision isÂ probablyÂ better than mine. Good luck.
How would you feel if you woke up one day and pirating wasÂ completelyÂ eradicated?
It would look like something from the last scene of The Dark Night Rises, where Alfred looks across to Bruce; and that would be that. I would be would be happy the way Alfred feels for Bruce. But at the same time I would be sad for losing such a close friend. Because after all, pirating is sharing, and sharing is commication, and communication is the spectacle of humanity.
Interview with a pirate, by Octavian Ristea.