Software burning. Moral and legal opinions.

Before I get into this, I first want to state that I, myself have never burned a computer game CD. A thread in IMHO about Napster made me think of this, and I think that Great Debates is the best place for this. Mods, please move if you deem it appropriate to do so.

I just bought a CD burner yesterday. I also have a decent 2 PC LAN setup at home (1.2Ghz and 500Mhz setups). The question I have is this. Would there be anything wrong with me burning a copy of a game/sim that I have already purchased so I can play multiplayer with a freind on my LAN? Is there anything legally or to some people morally wrong with this? Or, should a person be forced to buy 2 copies of every game that you want to try multiplayer. I am talking about those instances that 2 CDs are required of course.

I would be curious as to what you think about this subject since we seem to have quite a wide base of seemingly intelligent people frequent this site.

Once again, I wan’t to state** I am not a pirate**, and I have never copied cd games myself. I do not visit Warez sites (I don’t even know how to find them, really!) I have bought every game that I play.


There’s nothing morally wrong with it; although, if it is illegal, you should break the law without a good reason as a general rule.

We had this thread before if anyone wants to review the arguments.

Most companies state in their License Agreements that if you use the software, it maye onlybe installed on one computer at any given time. Hence, you need to buy more than one game to legally play multiplayer. Personally, I feel this is wrong of the companies to do this, but oh well.

I have copied games that I have bought. This is entirely legal, as you’re allowed one backup copy. Most of my original copies are gone, but I have my copies still. I’ve also copied friend’s cd’s of games that I had that I didn’t copy while I had it. I don’t view that as wrong.

and be forced to play DOOM for the rest of eternity at the highest level of diffulty. every time you die in the game devils will drag you away and throw you into a boiling lead juccuzi.

find something important to feel guilty about, like using your VCR to skip commercials. i’ve been doing that for 18 years.

it’s TECHNOWAR! screw the bastards.

the anal retentive conformist, Dal Timgar

IANAL, but I do work for a software manufacturer (which, I must note, I am not speaking for in any way, shape or form; all thoughts and statements contained herein are mine alone), and this is a really gray area of Fair Use law, I believe. Does purchasing a copy of something give you rights to that software in perpetuity, as long as you don’t sell it, or give it away or otherwise transfer the license? I dunno.

Regardless, though, it’s not like we’d come after you for it. Most corporate initiatives I know of are focused on license management of large installations. Microsoft make take a different view.

AFA multiple copies for multiplayer action, yes, that is generally illegal, and, IMHO, unethical, too. If you want more than one “seat” of a product, you pay more than the regular price, too. What is done in the business world, normally, is that a certain number of seats are sold at a discount rate. So, you could be fifty seat, but that might only cost you what twenty seats would costs individually.

For the gaming community, this isn’t normally practicable. But, if you and five or six friends all wanted to play Mechwarrior in network mode, the publisher might be amenable to negotiating a lower rate if you contacted them.

Loosing so many like that? I’m sure you must have a really messy room.

BTW, I’m not insinuating anything, really…

dal, I love it! HAHA

I take a very pragmatic attitude towards this.

Is it wrong, legally? Absolutely. Even if its a multi-player game if it requires the CD to be in each machine you are supposed to buy one for each player.

Is it wrong, morally? Well, yes. But only to a certain degree. IMO it does not constitute what we traditionally think of as ‘stealing’. ‘Unauthorized replication’, no matter what anyone says, is NOT even remotely like, say, shoplifting it from a store. That’s stealing, and is an order of magnitude more immoral than copying it.

For years software companies have made estimates about the ‘billions’ they lose to piracy. They get these figures by estimating the number of pirated copies (in and of itself a wild guess) and then by multiplying it by the retail price. The problem is, a huge percentage of the people who copied it would NOT have bought it even if they couldn’t have copied it! I’ve been pirating copies of WordPerfect ever since v5.0 for DOS, but for my own use, not to sell it. So I haven’t really stolen from them because I would never have given them my +$200 for it anyway. Yes, I know I’m benefiting from the sweat of a team of software engineers. But they weren’t cheated out of money I wasn’t going to spend.

Don’t get my wrong. I don’t buy into the argument that “if the software makers didn’t charge so much I wouldn’t pirate”. Computer software prices are not inflated do to piracy. They’re priced exactly at the level the market allows.

And being a digital medium it is very easy to copy protect computer software. Some CDs are. So I don’t consider it realistic to be expected to follow the ‘honor system’ and not copy those that aren’t. If it isn’t copy protected, and I don’t have to write or download some nasty warez which cracks it, then I don’t consider it particularly wrong to copy it.

If I bought a game at a software store, would it be morally OK for me to stick another couple of copies under my jacket and walk out, as long as I left the amount that the actual media and packaging cost? That’s the same thing as copying games.

slight variation, of which I am guilty: i have two computers. I am a sound designer/engineer, so i find it useful to put my recording software on both and leave one computer in my recording studio and take the other to theatres where I am working so that I can make fixes and edits during the day, instead of having eight hous of work to do when I get home. So by definition no one is ever using the software on both comps at the same time.

 I guess i could achieve the same thing by hauling my one computer back and forth everyday, but it seems silly. Would anyone (even the software manufacturers) begrudge me this luxury? Letter of the law, i realize, comes down against me, but the spirit of the law seems to be on my side, or at least indifferent to my circumstance.


I hafta admit that I have made more than my share (and received much more than my share) of copied software. Do I know that I’m not supposed to do it? Yea, I do, but as someone who writes software for a living I tend to draw my own personal line: If I receive software for (my own) educational purposes and use it to write programs that I learn with than I have no problem. If I use that knowledge and/or program to make money than as soon as I can afford it I buy the real thing (that is a liscence). Its a tough call a lot of times. As a developer I want my code to bring happiness to all the people. ‘course I wouldn’t mind gettin’ paid either.

In your case you’re using the program for its primary purpose and getting the primary value from it ( I assume you’re not writing your own DOOM worlds and/or trying to sell them). In this case I would say that “Yes, you are stealing.” Will you go to Hell? That’s between you and your God, but the fact that you even wonder about it should give you at least a hint. Maybe $50 is alot of money, but, instead of buying software with it, would it be worth a little piece of mind?

Badtz Maru:

I disagree. Before you walked in, the store had two games. When you leave, the store has no games left and it has only received retail value for one of them. If you leave the smaller wholesale value, the store has to spend time and transportation costs to turn it into another copy of the game to put on the shelf.

Copying a game is like paying for one copy, then sticking it into your Star Trek replicator and magically pulling out a couple more. The store and developer are only affected indirectly, if at all.

If you do it on a large enough scale, and if your friends would otherwise have bought the game, the store might notice “Hmm, last week we sold 50 copies of Rocket Boys, but this week we only sold 25.”

Here’s my copying question:
Suppose there’s an expensive application whose license agreement states that it can be installed on more than one computer, as long as only one copy will be used at a time. If I have this application, but my friend in Australia (who will never be awake at the same time as me) can’t afford his own, can I send him a copy of mine?

That isn’t very difficult. I can do that in my sleep. In fact, I DO do that in my sleep.

You have no idea. I should start taking pictures of his room and posting them on the 'Net. At least six inches of mess on the floor at this moment. Granted, it makes for some nice padding…

Bad Hat – actually, I think the law is on your side, at least in some juridictions. It generally doesn’t matter that you have done multiple installations, as long as you are the only person using it. That is why they call it a “seat” licence. It is for where ever your ass happens to be at the time.

Back to the OP though – I’ll chime in that it isn’t theft, since what you are talking about is stealing an idea, which doesn’t actually exist. Can’t steal what doesn’t exist. QED.

So, if you’ve been pirating and using this software for several generations, at what point do you suppose it might become useful enough to you that you feel compelled to buy a copy? I can’t imagine how this is not stealing. You want the product, but you want it for free rather than, say, paying money for it, so you simply make a copy, thereby violating the producer’s exclusive right to distribute the product. Sure sounds like stealing to me.

bernse wrote:

Good. They’re a real pain-in-the-neck to burn. They’re mostly made out of plastic, which has a really high ignition temperature, so you have to practically DROWN them in lighter fluid before they’ll get hot enough to ignite. Plus, when they finally DO catch fire, they give off this awful black acrid smoke that’s really bad for you and supposedly damages condor eggs.

Use one of those “color flame” fireplace logs instead.

And if I win?
Can I keep the M16 patch?

Actually I did buy v8.0 and 9.0, although they were OEM discs from eBay for $25 so I’m still not off the hook (you’re not supposed to buy bundled versions).

I’ll admit its a grey area, but I still have not cheated Corel out of any money. I don’t want or need it bad enough to ever have given them $200 for it. But at the same time, I don’t feel compelled to stick to the honor system and not use it for free if it isn’t copy protected.

Background - I work for a software manufacturer.

Are you doing anything wrong? IMHO yes. Ask the maker of the game software if they have a demo version that your friend can use to see if they like the game and want to buy it. If they don’t, suggest to the game manufacturer that they have a demo version. If the game manufacturer’s policy says “this is only for use by one person” and you give it to someone else, then you are in the wrong by giving a copy to someone else.

I often hear the argument “I wouldn’t have bought the program anyway.” Well if you wouldn’t have bought it, what is it doing on your hard drive? If you can live without it, then do so. The other argument is that “when I copy software I’m not really stealing anything since the original copy is untouched.” The reason that software companies charge the price they do is that it’s expensive to pay programmer salaries, marketing, licensing/purchasing of the hardware/software they use to write the game, graphical artists, tech writers, etc…

In short, if you don’t want to pay for the software, that means you can live without it. I know several people that don’t have a computer and enjoy happy, productive lives. You don’t need that piece of illegal software.

Since I have a life, I am not familiar with the games you’ve all mentioned. So tell me this: Is it possible for you to play, say, DOOM by yourself? In other words, are you buying a game which, because of the way it is designed to operate (on a LAN, or whatever), requires you to purchase a second copy in order to use the first copy?

That seems like you’re being set up to be screwed. On the other foot, if it states clearly that a 2nd copy of the software is required in order for you to play with your copy, then you are buying it fully aware that you actually need to buy two copies.

So playing on a LAN, I’d say go ahead & make copies - as long as your friend doesn’t take them home. After all, the software manufacturer wanted you to play with other people right? And if this is a WAN based game (internet gaming site supported), then it’s almost certain that whoever you happen to bump into in the game site lives in East Timor and has his or her own legal copy of the game.

Once you start burning copies & passing them out to your friends for them to take home, then it becomes more likely that your partner in East Timor has acquired her copy the same way your friends did.

I have a chess board here next to me, but you know what? It came with black pieces and white pieces! The manufacturer was thoughtful to sell me two licenses when I purchased the chess set, so I can legally play it with somebody. It’s too bad software manufacturers can’t build this functionality into their product by making use of LAN file sharing capability. ‡

[sub]‡ I bet they could if they wanted to.[/sub]

Attrayant - Just two people short of a ménage à trois!