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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Free Tech Support: Purchase Not Required?

I just read a recent Ars Technica article (link) that highlights a little-discussed area where software piracy drains a company's resources: support. To pull a paragraph from the article,
Within three hours of the release of Ritual's SiN Episodes Emergence, the game was pirated and up on the 'Net; releasing it on Steam had little effect on piracy, at least initially. When a bug in the game was discovered, Ritual patched it and released the update via Steam... and that update was applied to the game slyly, in the background. Users who had paid for the game received the update. Those who had pirated the game didn't, but that didn't stop them from complaining to customer support.
The article goes on to quote Michael Russell, Ritual's QA Manager, describing how one guy who called in was using his friend's legitimate copy of the game to check his own settings in order to try and ensure he was giving the "right answers" to questions about his configuration. This was so that he could hide the fact that he was using an illegitimate copy of the game.

I guess I shouldn't be, but I'm surprised at the audacity of these people. "I don't feel like paying for your software, but I expect you to spend your time (time you could be using to help a legitimate customer) to help me use it, anyway." Granted, the people mentioned at the end, who have been sold counterfeit software, get a pass, since they likely didn't realize the software was counterfeit. But when you are consciously attempting to hide the fact that your software is illegitimate, why do you feel that it's okay to call the company you ripped off and expect them to support your installation?

I'm sure the RIAA and MPAA would love if people would do this for them:

Non-Customer: Hello, [recording company]? Yes, I'm having some trouble here. I made some copies of a friend's CD's, but the DRM protection you included on the originals messed up my copy. Can you help me get a good copy?
Recording Company: Sure, just give me your name and address, and we'll have our legal department contact you right away.

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