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Questioning Piracy, Part 4 – Pirates Are Still Consumers

September 27, 2011 | | Comments 6

(These series of articles involve quotes from posts on a forum website that distributed copyrighted material. With certain exceptions, names and website addresses have been withheld)

“I downloaded your game for free and thought it was awesome, but I won’t give you money because I believe in free distribution for all creative content.”

No, this was not a post from the forum that was distributing RPGs for free. In fact, I have doubts these people exist. If someone actually said that, I would reply, “Well, then I guess you won’t see another book, because every half page black and white image costs a day’s wage for me.” But I know people want to support what they love. If that wasn’t true, I’d never have been able to watch Red Dwarf on PBS when I was child.

I don’t believe that all creative work is derivative. I believe originality can still exist and a creator has the right to defend his work from those that would exploit his ideas. Without that protection, you open the flood gates for corporate entities and frauds willing to capitalize on the dreams of others. This is not some objectivist Ayn Rand drivel. This is not about government stepping out of the way of the progress of corporate and capitalistic hegemony; it is about protecting the dreamer from the corruption and gluttony of selfish predators. Corporations don’t want outsiders using their ideas, but the prospect of avoiding paying outsiders for ideas is equally as tempting. We must exercise our copyright otherwise greater dangers will take advantage of us, far superseding the threats of a few internet pirates. I believe in inspiration and tribute, but not thievery.

If you have downloaded Amethyst at some point but not paid for it, get someone else to buy it, or post a favorable review somewhere, like RPGNow or on your own blog. I won’t ask where you got it, and someone somewhere may read your post and decide that reading it was the turning point to purchase the book for themselves. I wouldn’t want you to delete Amethyst. That would mean you don’t like it. Instead, tell others. I’m a compliment whore. I’m also Canadian, and as such am not much of a warmonger. I believe in the United Nations; I believe in dialogue and mutual understanding. My objective was and is to encourage peaceful discourse among publishers and fans. If the site in question had been one based on anarchy or some misguided belief that all content, regardless of ownership, should be free, I wouldn’t have hung around past my initial plea.

If I find other sites that distribute Amethyst, and if I am able to remove those files, I’ll attempt to do so. I’m compelled; it’s not obligation. Regardless of that act, I’ll still identify myself as the creator and make my plea for support. So if any of you reading still wish to download Amethyst for free, I’m sure you will be able to do so, even in manner I can neither detect nor prevent. If that’s the case, please copy and paste the following in a related thread:

“Amethyst was written by Chris Dias—a product of years of work and thousands of dollars out of his own pocket. Being a third-party product, he does not benefit from corporate backing, mass distribution, or product tie-ins. He wants people to enjoy his work, but he can only provide a product if he can afford to do so. If you like or love his work, he asks that you support him in any way you can. You can send donations via PayPal to slipstream2@serenadawn.com and/or purchase games from his site at www.diasexmachina.com.”

Simple as that.

Actual Post
Frankly, before this discussion, I’ve never heard of Amethyst or Evolution or DEM. I tend to stick with publishers that I am familiar with whose materials I’ve been using for years. That’s Wizards of the Coast and Goodman Games. I’ve been to the DEM web site and checked out the available material. The game premises are interesting with very nice artwork. Unfortunately, my interests lie in the more conventional realm of High Fantasy.

I appreciate your trying to develop a dialog regarding file sharing and can certainly understand your perspective. The fact that the library files were available on 4Share for anyone, not just forum members, to search for is, I’m pretty sure not what was intended by (name removed). He’s taken steps to rectify that situation, and has removed links that any 3PP has requested. I don’t know how or if this will affect your sales, as this is a small forum, unlike some of the bigger ones such as EnWorld. But most of us share a common interest in D&D, and gaming in general. Personally, I enjoy this forum because it is smaller, more intimate. Other forums have 1000’s of topics to search through, and I don’t often have the time to devote to it. When the time comes to add new materials to our growing libraries, we won’t have the benefit of browsing your materials. So this may facilitate potential lost sales. Yes, not everyone will buy, but from the previous responses, you can see that there are honorable people who would if they were financially able. Personally there has been times when I downloaded a PDF that I wanted to use, but could not afford the book due to temporary fiscal difficulties. I have always purchased a hard copy when I was in a better financial position to do so. Times are tough these days with less disposable incomes for many. We have to weigh our hobby purchase decisions carefully. I’m sure you are also being affected by the stubbornly recessive economy.
(Name Withheld)

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Actual Post
I mentioned previously that I don’t like tech in my fantasy games, but after seeing how you handled the issues here I decided to take a look at your product and there might be something I can use in my fantasy (Eberron) games by re-fluffing some of your work. And the art is actually pretty amazing.

Plus, as I said previously, I understand your position and (while I don’t think the ideas here will work) I think that the idea that you’re making an effort to appease is worth something.

So I purchased your product from RPGNow (at the 14.99 price, not the discount price) in case I ever get around to using it. I’m guessing that a portion of that goes to RPGNow or I’d have bought multiple copies as a good faith gesture.

So we’re all on the same page — I don’t think “I don’t have the money to buy a product” is a good reason not to buy it. It’s very nice of Chris to allow that excuse to sway him to offer a discount, but if you can afford to spend your time gaming, you can pick up an odd job to buy the product for 14.99. You definitely should buy it for $7.00 if you’re using it, or you shouldn’t use it. Not being able to afford it isn’t a good excuse at that price point. That’s called a “fallacious justification.”
(Name Withheld)

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Actual Post
Chris, I’ve also just purchased Amethyst Foundations from RPGNow. As I’ve stated before, I prefer high fantasy gaming to modern or post apocalyptic games, but because you’ve been gracious, and not automatically labeling all users of this forum as nothing but thieves, I wanted to support your work. I’ve only perused your material a little so far, but I may give your system a try with a one-shot session for my group as a change of pace from our usual D&D gaming. Who knows? If everyone likes it, we may make it a regular thing. Most of us play the Fallout games so it might be something we would enjoy.

What I really like about your game is that it’s in PDF format. I only use my laptop when running games, so PDFs are a must for me. Unfortunately, WOTC stopped offering their material in PDF format early on. Hence my interest in this forum. Even though I’ve purchased all of their books for use as home, I strictly use only the PDFs at my game shop.

I’ll let you know how the group likes your game after we play.
(Name Withheld)

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Actual Post
I would just like to say thank you to SerenaDawn for taking the opportunity to discuss this issue openly and honestly. I hope that Nemesis is noticing how, as a community, we are reaching a common understanding, and that communication is the key to success here. Again, I completely appreciate the legality of what has transpired here and the potential damage to industry. I can say that I will not be downloading any more illegal copies of products on the simple basis that it is wrong (legally), but more importantly because I’ve come to appreciate the people behind the books more than ever before.

I apologize for my wrong doing, and, again, thank you (SerenaDawn) for explaining the situation from your point of view.
(Name Withheld)

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And yes, sales for Amethyst Evolution went up during this dialogue on this website. I even received a $100 donation from someone. I don’t know if it’s connected, but it would seem like an obvious correlation.

This was just the beginning. It gets even better. But this was proof that people will support something they love, regardless if that can get it for free. This is why even though I am compelled to send C&D notices to websites that distribute my product, seeing so many people request my products must mean I am doing something right.

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About the Author: Chris Tavares Dias is the literary equivalent of that crusty burnt cheese at the bottom of the fondue pot. Some people claim he looks like Mathew Perry. He would like that to be true. It's not. In 2010, Chris co-wrote and created Amethyst Foundations, a 4th Edition setting based on the previous version under 3.5. It has received critical acclaim for integrating science fiction into classical fantasy. In August of this year, Chris was last seen staring at a dead raven that had fallen beside his car. Two months later, his watch and notepad were found in the stomach of a basking shark that had washed ashore off the coast of Florida.

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