15 People Respond To The Idea That Pirating Media Is OK If The Original Creator No Longer Benefits

We all know – even if we don’t want to or pretend not to – that pirating things like movies, books, and video games is harmful to the artists who create them. You’re taking money out of their pockets and food out of their mouths and all of that.

What if a license has expired, though, or royalties have lapsed, meaning the person who created something is no longer getting paid for it?

CMV: It is entirely moral to pirate media that never was or is no longer being sold through its original creator.

I’m speaking more of video games than anything else, but my point stands for movies or anything other forms of media as well. If the original creator of something is no longer selling it, this giving me no way to support them, I shouldn’t feel bad at all for pirating it. As an example, there is a large multitude of Nintendo games that simply aren’t available for sale anymore. Hell, the game Mother 3 was never even released outside of Japan with NO way for me to play it OTHER than pirating it and emulation. I will always buy an official copy of something to support the artists behind it, but if I can’t do that, I will gladly pirate something instead.

Edit: Here’s a couple of additions to what I said, as I accidentally caused a bit of confusion. When I say original creator, I’d like to include rights holder as well. As an example, I’d pay money to buy a copy of Minecraft even though Notch is no longer getting paid for it.

Additionally, in the case of something no longer available, I do not believe it makes me greedy to want to play/watch it. If the rights holder is not giving me the opportunity to pay for it, that is their problem, not mine.

In cases of artists wanting their pieces to be private, or if they no longer want their art to be viewed/appreciated, I would respect that. As a game developer myself, I took down some of the projects that I created in early high-school as they just kind of suck. I stated this for the reason as well. However, if something is simply no longer available but no reason is given, I am not going to assume that this is the reason. But of course, I would respect a sentimental reason if it given.

This Redditor thinks it’s moral, then, but do people agree? Let’s find out!

15. Piracy keeps old games alive.

This argument of yours has so many problems I don’t even know where to begin.

Like it or not, piracy is what keeps old games alive: just like how it keeps old movies alive. You seriously think, for example, that the majority of cinema schools have the original movies from 1930 to 1980 all perserved in their original state? Hell no, it’s all digital, pirated copies so the students (or even cinema enthusiasts), and if you do find someone selling that… good luck having peace of mind, as the person won’t even have the rights. Same thing for video games: the reason why companies don’t sell their older games anymore (except a few cases) is precisely because it’s too much of a budget expense to produce something for such a specific audience. Old games don’t sell, just like old movies don’t sell: there aren’t viable ways of offering said product in a workable state. Up to this day, only the music industry is doing the right thing by re-releasing and remastering old records.

You might mention, as a counter-argument, that websites like GOG exist. And it is true: GOG does cover a lot of stuff, to the point that things that don’t feature there can very well be considered abandonware (and therefore considered legal to copy). But it’s the PC we’re talking about, not consoles, which get games stuck in that particular generation. And there’s no way in hell I, you or any other consumer will be paying perhaps an acceptable sum for a console, but a completely ridiculous price (look up original Castlevania SotN’s prices for example) for games, when you know damn well the original company would charge much, much less. “That’s how the market works” isn’t an acceptable excuse to the bullshit this is.

The truth is that this is a huge hole in both the movie and video game industries and it should be addressed, as video games aren’t that special or different from other media products and are as much deserving of being studied or enjoyed despite their age. If you don’t look beyond the paper saying “no piracy at all” then I don’t know what to tell you.

14. It’s still stealing.

Are you aware what abandonware is?

Because of its existence and practice, I believe the majority of people side with your view.

As an example, there is a large multitude of Nintendo games that simply aren’t available for sale anymore.
I find this hard to believe. Sold new directly from a business or buying used? You can find their games still being sold on eBay. The issue here is that Nintendo was able to renew many of their IPs. They did this through selling virtual consoles.

Hell, the game Mother 3 was never even released outside of Japan with NO way for me to play it OTHER than pirating it and emulation.
You can still buy a JPN GBA system and cartridge on eBay.

EDIT: To everyone pointing out the aspect about the original creator, I purposefully ignored but I also asked above for OP to clarify and they did not. Additionally, with regard to out of region console games, you can backup carts\discs you own, modify them, and then play your own modified backups. That’s technically the moral way where you’re not obtaining something you don’t own; aka stealing.

13. You enter into an agreement.

When the creator of those movies sold them and the buyer of the movies bought them they did so under the terms of an agreement – either explicit or implicit. A copy of a 1930 movie is not piracy, so…that’s pretty straightforward.

The moral issue is that you enter into an agreement – you can elect to not buy it (or the person who creates the pirated copy you know to be pirated) or you can honor your agreement. It’s that simple.

I absolutely do not like copyright law as it exists, but thats not the point. Make an agreement, and stick to it. Or..don’t make that agreement because you find it repugnant. I’m in favor of reform. I am – however – no in favor of engaging in transactions in “bad faith”, dishonestly and essentially going back on your word. (or supporting those who do). That is immoral. Not the worst crime or ethical issue of the century, but not something that doesn’t cross boundaries of integrity and ethics.

12. Pirating in order to play.

 Slippi Melee online is really a great example for this argument though as it provides a gaming experience desired by a huge consumer base that is completely unavailable without pirating.

Almost anyone who cares enough to get Slippi up and running most likely owns a legal copy of the game as well and in that situation I agree that pirating in order to play online (especially during a pandemic) is not immoral.

If Nintendo decides to one day provide a valid online gaming experience to the fans who have supported them for 20 years keeping a game alive then I might change my mind on the morality of something like Slippi but as it stands I agree with your original view in this context.

I think most Smash fans would gladly pay Nintendo to pay Smash online if they offered it (imo Ultimate online in it’s current state does not count since it is built in a way that can never support fluid online play).

11. You don’t own it.

“When I buy something, I am well with in my rights to do practically whatever the hell I want with it”

THIS is where you get into a slippery slope between physical possession and license to use. When you purchase physical entertainment media, you DO have the right to resell that instance, you do NOT have the right to modify or copy the media within.

You “own” the transfer medium for accessing what is granted you by purchasing the limited license to display or engage with that entertainment. You do NOT own software or movies you purchase. you own a license to enjoy it.

10. Impossible to acquire.

To add to this OP.

There are also extremely rare variants of games that either never were sold in your region or the quantity is so low it’s unreasonable to assume that anyone could afford it.

Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64 for example. It had a 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2 release. Most people only have played the 1.2 release.

Not a strict regional exclusivity, but 3 releases where Nintendo had edited the game itself.

There is the famous Fire Temple Theme music based off an Islamic prayer chant that they selected, and used in 1.0 and 1.1 but realized it would cause controversy… So they patched it out for the 1.2 carts, the ones that were sold for the longest amount of time.

But if you can manage the herculean task of finding a 1.0 or 1.1 release, the original music is in there. Nintendo will NEVER re-release that version, so it is plain and simple, impossible to acquire that game in a way that could benefit Nintendo.

Sure you could get the 1.2 release emulation that’s on their ‘virtual console’ stuff. But that’s not gonna have the same music, that’s not going to be the ‘same’ game.

9. Possible brand damage.

There are some cases where something is definitely not being sold for reasons other than money. The prime example of this is probably the Star Wars Holiday Special. Almost everyone in charge of the Star Wars brand over the years has seen it as an absolute embarrassment.

Given how big the Star Wars fandom is, there’s certainly some money to be made by re-releasing it (and in fact, one of the cartoons included within it which actually isn’t so bad is being released on Disney+), but they don’t see the embarrassment and possible brand damage as being worth it.

They can’t stop distribution of any VHS recordings of it, but they can and have limited other ways of distributing it. Do they not have a right to say, “No, that’s our copyrighted work, and we don’t want you to see it because it’s an embarrassment to us”?

8. Rights management kills potential.

I just want to add to this: I had to pay like $200 dollars for a copy of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Granted, it was in brand new condition, but that was the cheapest available at the time.

About a year later I end up with a gaming PC and I’m able to emulate that same game without any cost. So yeah, I wouldn’t feel the slightest bit bad about pirating. Rights management is just killing market potential.

At a certain point, the fault lies with the companies involved with abandonware or disposable products. If anything, enabling pirating would clue them into their market interests. How many people are pirating the Metroid Prime games, and at the same time are just waiting for a new one?

7. They could still be working on it.

I’d like to point something else to you. When you’re an author, having your work published is not a trivial matter. Your publisher might decide they don’t want to publish your work if it’s not profitable or even if it’s not profitable enough. Does it become suddenly ok to pirate their work (that they most likely would like to sell to you) just because nobody was able to find a middle man?

If I’m an author and my publisher suddenly decides to drop my series, I still want my work published, I just don’t have solutions to do it.

The truth is, if you’re an author, you probably want to see your work published as much as possible. And if it’s not, it’s most likely because you couldn’t find a way to do it (not enough money to self-publish, no publishers interested). The face that something is not available to you doesn’t mean people are not interested in providing it to you, it just means they haven’t find a way to provide it to the public without having to pay more for that than they get in return…

6. You should be able to pull your own creation, too.

If I create something and decide to sell it your position is that I do not have the authority or ability to say “i do not want to offer this anymore”. That seems problematic for people who create things.

You seem to think that because someone doesn’t want to make money selling something, that this means they don’t have interests in control of the thing anymore, as if the only thing that matters and that you’re “violating” is money-making.

So…when you pirate in your scenario you’re simply NOT supporting the artist – you’re doing exactly the opposite of what they said they wanted with their creation.

5. You’re not entitled.

What makes you think you’re entitled to some sort of statement from a creator?

For that matter, what makes you think you’re entitled to the thing that they’ve made in the first place?

A creator isn’t obligated to give or sell their creation. If they choose to do so, they aren’t obligated to do so everywhere, or for all time. And their act of making it available doesn’t magically entitle you to anything in any way.

4. You don’t get to change those terms.

You think the act of stopping selling something isn’t done with intention?

How would you know? Because you absolutely no that when you bought it that you were agreeing to not sell copies of it or distribute it unlawfully. Ever. Thats how! You don’t get to change those terms, the artist does. Why? Because thats what you agreed to when you bought it.

3. It depends on the situation.

Where in torn is when you’re talking about a product that was pulled from the market because the hardware and software is no longer available because they’re no longer manufactured just because a company moved onto bigger and better things. I have very little moral qualms about piracy in this situation.

If we’re talking about an individual artist pulling it for personal reasons, ie, doesn’t feel it’s representative of his work, says something he didn’t like the audience, his own thoughts have evolved, etc. I lean more towards protecting the rights holder.

The problem is that corporatocracy has subsumed the original intent of the copyright laws and as a result we get a lot of morally gray situations like this. And it isn’t cut and dry. I think companies like Disney should have the ability to get rid of Songs of the South, for example, because it expresses a lot of things that wouldn’t fly today and can have an impact on market value and reputation.

2. Some power lies with the consumer.

I’m going to have to disagree. When I buy something, I am well with in my rights to do practically whatever the hell I want with it. There is some power to the consumer here. If I buy a copy of something, of course I can sell it. If something is no longer available, someone else can sell their used copy. There is no law that says you are not allowed to resell used pieces of physical media. It happens all the time. Of course, I can’t make a plethora of copies and sell those, however, I can sell the original thing I bought.

And yes, I do believe the act of not selling something is OF COURSE done with intention. That intention, however, is most likely not the fact that they don’t want it sold. Producing physical media is quite pricey, and even reselling it on digital markets still has some costs on the seller’s end. So, it is probably much more likely that if something is no longer sold, it is due to the fact that it would no longer be profitable to do so. If an artist has some sort of regret or disdain towards their pieces, they would most likely say so.

1. A bit of clarification.

I think there needs to be a clarification here according to the language used.

There are three scenarios i envisage from your description.

You have no ability to purchase the product any longer however due to its digital nature you can acquire it from someone who owns it. This product was once for sale to you but you didn’t get it at the time.
Same as (1) but you never had the ability to buy it. An example of this could be region locked games.
The rights to the media in question has been bought by someone else so you are no longer supporting the original developer and publisher, an example of this would be the Bethesda acquisition i guess.
In the case of (1) i think the morality question lies with whether or not you waited for this moment so that you would have an excuse not to buy it. There is also an argument that you could purchase the item second hand that indirectly supports the industry because the person you pay is the type of person that would use their money to buy these things new and so supported the developers originally.

In the case of (2) I think from a morality standpoint it is fine to pirate the software.

In the case of (3) I think it is nor morally ok to pirate. The money you would spend is going towards the development or new media products and many of the developers from that game have been brought along with the purchase in many cases. Whilst game franchises do often get ruined when the game makers are bought they don’t always get ruined and if you like the older games more than the new ones what better way to send that message than with your money.

This was such a fun conversation, honestly – bravo to everyone for sharing such great thoughts.

We want yours below, so leave them in the comments!