Pirates of the Amazon

Pirates of the Amazon is/was an interesting experiment that quickly got a cease-and-desist letter from Amazon.com. For a day, however, the site hosted a Firefox extension that assisted the user in pirating works for sale at Amazon. As TorrentFreak put it,

An add-on for the Firefox browser called ‘Pirates of the Amazon’ makes it possible to shop at the Amazon store but leave without paying a dime. Instead, on Amazon product pages the add-on integreates links to ‘free’ copies on The Pirate Bay.

. . .

When the add-on is installed, it integrates a new “download 4 free” button into the Amazon product page when the same article is also available via The Pirate Bay. It works for CDs, DVDs, games, books and basically all products that can be converted to a digital format.

Now that is an interesting mashup. As TorrentFreak noted there are plenty of Greasemonky scripts out there that do much the same thing for Last.FM, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, etc. It’s not like it is rocket science to do this with Greasemonkey.

If you’re curious, TorrentFreak is maintaining a backup of the Firefox extension here.

Todd Hollenshead’s Idiotic Rant about PC Manufacturers and Piracy

Id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead tells GameIndustry.Biz that PC manufacturers are happy that piracy is rampant on the PC,

Q: It’s the barrier-for-entry thing isn’t it? It’s really easy to pirate PC games whereas console games are much harder to pirate so the returns are better. What can PC hardware manufacturers do to make it harder for pirates?

Todd Hollenshead: There’s lots of things that they could do but typically just they just line up on the wrong side of the argument in my opinion. They have lots of reasons as to why they do that, but I think that there’s been this dirty little secret among hardware manufacturers, which is that the perception of free content – even if you’re supposed to pay for it on PCs – is some sort hidden benefit that you get when you buy a PC, like a right to download music for free or a right to download pirated movies and games.

Q: You think they’re secretly happy about it?

Todd Hollenshead: Yeah I think they are. I think that if you went in and could see what’s going on in their minds, though they may never say that stuff and I’m not saying there’s some conspiracy or something like that – but I think the thing is they realise that trading content, copyrighted or not, is an expected benefit of owning a computer.

And I think that just based on their actions…what they say is one thing, but what they do is another. When it comes into debates about whether peer-to-peer file-sharing networks that by-and-large have the vast majority, I’m talking 99 per cent of the content is illicitly trading copyrighted property, they’ll come out on the side of the 1 per cent of the user doing it for legitimate benefit. You can make philosophical arguments that are difficult to debate, but at the same time you’re just sort of ignoring the enormity of the problem.

Of course one of the reasons piracy continues to flourish is that the same cracks needed to pirate a game are also needed by legitimate users half the time to just get the damn game to run.

Stardock has shown that you can have enormous sales and make a lot of money in PC games without treating the customer like the enemy. Clueless hacks like Hollenshead will never get that and wonder why their games don’t sell.

Also, Hollenshead also mentions a bit about World of Warcraft sayin,g

It is a big problem – people even say it impacts the World of Warcraft stuff, but obviously not to a great extent, and I think that the subscription is one proven economic solution to the piracy situation on the PC. I think part of it is that, to me from a market standpoint, I think of WOW as eBay: the reason eBay wins as the auction site is that’s where everybody goes, so that’s where everybody want to list their items so that’s where all the buyers want to go to shop. WoW is where everybody plays, so that’s where everybody wants to play, so the cost of entry there is insignificant relative to what the whole experience is about – playing with all these people.

In Blizzard’s case, though, World of Warcraft is more like a Stardock product than an Id product.

First, World of Warcraft will play on an enormous number of computers — you don’t have to be running the latest graphics card in SLI mode to have a decent experience with WoW.

Second, Blizzard makes it easy for me to play WoW on whatever computer I am. Hell, I can log into my account and download the original game and the expansion and run it anywhere. Same thing with Stardock — I install Sins of a Solar Empire on my laptop and go.

Contrast that with the typical games where a) you have to constantly have the CD/DVD in the drive while playing, and b) you have to wonder what the hell problems the copy protection is going to cause to your system. WIth a game you’ve bought at a store, you’re better off buying it and waiting until someone’s releases a crack to remove the copy protection — and after doing that repeatedly with games you spent $60 or $70 on, you start to get the point of wondering why bother with buying it in the first place since you’re breaking the law removing the copy protection anyway.