Piracy and Other Forms of Digital Theft: a biblical perspective

The Issue

Piracy is a huge issue in our society that most people like to sweep under the rug. Let’s face it, almost everyone you know that grew up in the digital age has probably pirated something in their life. And a large majority likely make a habit of it. And why not? After all the impact of download one song or movie has much less financial impact on the distributors than buying it would have on your bank account right? And let’s be honest if you didn’t download it for free you wouldn’t have paid for it anyway so no one is really missing out on a sale here right? Even if you did stop pirating it would make little difference because after all everyone will continue. We’ve all thought or said these things along with a torrent (no pun intended) of other excuses but the simple fact is that we’re just lying to ourselves and making justifications. In this post I hope to make both a logical and biblical case for why piracy, along with other forms of digital theft such as ad blocking and file sharing, is wrong.

Note: if you don’t want to read this post I encourage you to at the very least read the last section

The effects of piracy

One good logical reason to avoid piracy is to simply look at the result of piracy. First of all consider a scenario where all consumers of digital media pirated everything that they consumed. As a result the companies who are making and distributing this content would lose money and never make anything ever again. After all how can they, it costs a fair amount of money to make a movie. My point is that if you listen to music, play games, or watch movies then that means these industries are important to you. And if they are important, you shouldn’t contribute to killing them.

Maybe this scenario is a bit unrealistic to you, so let’s look at what’s happening for real right now. Do you get frustrated at the prices of media these days? That new movie comes out and you really want it but $30 is just way too expensive. Or how about ridiculous in app purchases and the fact that you can’t play Diablo III offline. In fact these frustrations may have been what led you to piracy in the first place. You can spend all day raging at the greedy heartless corporations but the fact is that they are not the bad guy, you are the bad guy and they are doing only what we have forced them to do.

Consider a world where no one pirated anything. I don’t have any fancy statistics to work with but I imagine if no one in the world pirated media that albums and movies could be sold for a fraction of the current price for the same profit and wouldn’t have to resort to restrictive DRMs to protect their bottom line. Of course that the corporations really are greedy and evil and things would stay the same if we stopped pirating but for now the blame falls on you so stop making excuses for yourself.

Something for nothing?

I’ve heard a lot of people say that piracy and file sharing is not stealing because the victims are not losing a tangible resource. For example stealing a bike is stealing because one bike is no longer in the possession of the victim, but pirating an album is not because the record still has everything they had before the act. I disagree with this logic. The fact of the matter is that you are taking something that costs money, and not paying money for it. This means that the victim of your piracy is losing money. If you look at it another way the company really is losing something tangible; your potential as a paying customer. Before you download that album you don’t own it. Which means that you have the potential to own it in the future. Which means the company has the potential to make money off of you with a sale. The moment you download that album you are no longer a potential customer so in a sense they really do lose something.

How is ad blocking a sin?

You may be willing to concede that piracy is wrong, but ad blocking? No way man! For anyone who doesn’t know ad blocking means installing some sort of browser plugin or application that removes/hides ads from you when visiting free sites such as Facebook or YouTube. The idea that ad blocking might be wrong was introduced to me interestingly enough through a podcast called This Week in Tech with Leo Laporte. Just because a website is free for you to use, doesn’t mean it’s free to produce and maintain. Facebook, and YouTube cost tons of money to keep running and we are lucky enough to be able to use these great services at no cost to ourselves. How do you think this works? Well the truth is that these companies are almost completely funded by advertisements. That means that the sites aren’t really free, and you pay for them by being a target for advertisements. Once you realize this you shouldn’t have much trouble applying all the arguments against piracy to ad blocking. Besides at the end of the day viewing a few ads is a small price to pay for services that have become almost necessities to our lives.

What does the bible say?

Obviously the internet was not around during the Old Testament or the time of Jesus but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look to the bible for wisdom. I did a little digging and found a few verses that are very applicable.

Luke 10:7 – And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.

The main thing to focus on here is “for the laborer deserves his wages”. Pretty self-explanatory. According to this verse when people do work they deserve their wages (who would have thought) and through piracy you are withholding that from them.

Romans 13:7: Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

If you use a product that someone has made, then you owe them the cost of that product, simple as that. If a record company says “in order to own this album that we have produced, you must pay $10” and you own that album, then you owe them $10 and that’s all there is to it.

Jeremiah 22:13 – “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
    and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing
    and does not give him his wages,

For me this verse hits home more than the previous 2. “Woe to him…who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing…” To me this is pretty clearly stating what’s wrong with ad blocking and piracy. When you listen to music, watch a movie or visit a website you are being served. How can you accept that service without giving the laborers what they are do?

Conclusion

Well I know piracy is a hot topic and there are lots of issues I didn’t cover here but hopefully I got you thinking a bit more about the issue. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject so please leave a comment below 😀

p.s sorry there are no pictures

The Wandering Wizard Dev. Journal #1: Starting Out

Late last month I decided to reboot a project that I had started last semester. I had made some good progress on it before summer break but I stopped working on it when I was inspired to develop my proposal platformer. Ever since taking an android development class in Fall of 2011 I had been searching for my great idea and one day while out walking I realized that the problem with a lot of mobile games is the way that they are controlled. Like it or not, virtual joysticks and numpads will never come close to a keyboard or a controller. After coming to this conclusion the light bulb went on and I thought of a (hopefully) pretty good idea.

The Concept

The resulting vision was a puzzle platformer where you had no direct control of your character, but instead indirectly manipulated his movements using a set of spells. The main character, who I will now refer to as “the wizard”, can cast spells in two different ways. One way is to shoot them as a projectile. This affects the environment around him; such as burning ropes and freezing water. The second way he can cast spells is on himself. For example if he needs to stop moving to avoid being crushed he would cast the ice spell on himself.

When playing any level the challenge is twofold. Firstly the player must figure out how to effectively use the wizard’s spells to get through the level. Secondly, once the player knows what they need to do they have to actually do it right. Many levels require timing and precision to make it through alive.

Words can only convey so much so here is a video of a very early stage of the game (ignore the title, I have changed it since making the video)

Where to Start?

After developing my concept I had to figure out where to start. When starting a game there are many options. I could have programmed everything straight from OpenGl. This is a graphics library that is supported by android. If I went this route I would be doing a lot of background coding like a tile engine and a physics engine. I also would be placing all the graphics straight from code unless I made my own map editor or something. Even if I used preexisting libraries and engines there would still be a lot of groundwork to do before there was any real tangible result. Many programmers love to tinker in all that stuff and have full control of everything but I firmly believe in not reinventing the wheel and getting right to the fun stuff.

In the end I settled on a cross platform game creation tool called Unity3D. Normally the android version of this software would cost a pretty penny but I was lucky enough to get it during a student giveaway period. Although Unity is meant for 3D game development after doing some research I confirmed that it was perfectly viable for 2D development as well.  By using this tool I was saved the trouble of graphics coding and physics coding. I could even drag my sprites right into a viewport to build the levels! Additionally Unity has an asset store with many free and paid plugins that basically just make development faster and life easier. On top of all these advantages the potential for expansion that Unity gives me is amazing. If I want to in the future I can easily deploy my game to the web, iphone, mac, and pc. In future versions of Unity I believe even Linux and Windows 8 Tablet apps will be supported.

To Be Continued…

This is all the information I feel like writing about right now but expect more information in the future. I plan to talk about various things such as difficulties I’ve faced with Unity, where I’m getting my graphics and music, and whatever else I feel like. I’ve made a lot of progress in the few weeks that I’ve been working and I look forward to eventually sharing my game with the world!

My Proposal Platformer!!!

A couple months ago I proposed to my awesome girlfriend (now fiance) through a little platformer game I developed over the summer using Unity. The project taught me a lot and ended up a huge success!!! The concept of the game was to just have a super easy game that revisited some of our memories and inside jokes. Melanie (my fiance) is not much of a gamer so I made it as simple as possible and really focused on making it look polished and glitch free. I used all open source graphics and audio. Almost all of the graphics are from a set called “Planet Cute” found at LostGarden.com and the music was written by Matthew Pablo If you’re reading this you may have already seen the reaction video or gameplay videos that I posted closer to the proposal. But recently I decided it might be good to deploy a web version of the game.

If you feel inclined to check out the game for yourself you will need to install the Unity Web Player plugin (it’s harmless I promise). I will also include links to the two videos below.

Here’s the link!!!

Game: http://triton.towson.edu/~mholtz2/WebPlayer/WebPlayer.html

Reaction Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn0DpzO9pMo

Gameplay Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvYRKm57a9I&feature=youtu.be