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id CEO: Piracy PC's "Hidden Benefit"

Hollenshead & Carmack - Part One on GameIndusty is part of a conversation with id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead and technical director John Carmack that was conducted at this year's QuakeCon. The main topics are engine licensing, digital distribution, and piracy, and one bit they highlight in a separate story that seems sure to spark some discussion is Todd's contention that piracy of PC content is perceived as a "hidden benefit" to PC ownership, a "dirty little secret among hardware manufacturers." Here are the two pertinent questions and answers:

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 (realize) 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.



 

  
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