Wrong Targets

I was reminded this week of an old mini-series on television back in the 1980s where the then-powerful Soviet Union had taken over the United States. A few people decided to revolt and a professional soldier who was getting ready to fight the Soviet threat was standing in a train station. Suddenly, a sniper’s gun rings out and a couple of Soviet army privates getting off the train are killed.

The rookie-traveling companion of the professional soldier is overjoyed at seeing the dead Russians, but the professional soldier just looks disgusted.

"Wrong targets," he says, continuing to explain that the leaders need targeted and that knocking off few peons won’t make a bit of difference, exposes the snipers to danger, and wastes resources.

We had a similar feeling reading the major news announcement that several major game companies have sued alleged Internet pirates. Some rather large companies including Activision, Inc.; Capcom Entertainment, Inc; Eidos Interactive, Inc.; Electronic Arts Inc.; Havas Interactive, Inc./Sierra On Line, Inc.; Hasbro Interactive, Inc.; LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC; Interplay Entertainment Corp.; Midway Amusement Games, LLC; Nintendo of America Inc.; Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc.; and The 3DO Company, Inc. are the main people involved in the suit. All are led in their efforts under the banner of the Interactive Digital Software Association.

At first we were overjoyed that the industry finally decided to fight the pirates. Less piracy could mean lower game prices for everyone. But then we looked at who exactly was targeted by the suit. Major pirates?

Nope, they are just your average private getting off the train. The major pirates include some guy from Ohio, some girl from South Carolina, a Canadian and someone from Idaho.

Now the industry and IDSA President Doug Lowenstein are busy high-fiving each other for this major advance. But what have we really done? Lots of resources have been targeted at six people, who by all account were just running fan sites, albeit with pirated games.

We want to make it clear that we are not defending the alleged pirates. Theft of data in any form is wrong, whether it is an individual making a copy for a friend or a tightly controlled organization distributing games on a massive scale.

But while the industry seems content at beating up individual – and North American based – pirates, we are forgetting that $2 billion is lost each year in China and South America. Is being outside of the United States an invitation to steal? Why can’t the industry turn their resources to stopping the real piracy threat?

If the industry keeps devoting resources to a few pirates, it will actually be counterproductive. It won’t knock out piracy, but it will cause companies to spend money tracking down and prosecuting these small-time crooks. The end result could be higher game prices as the industry throws money into the hole of catching the small fish, while the big pirates offshore are treated to smooth sailing.

Lets turn the industry might toward the right targets.

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