GDC11: Piracy is Not Theft, Says the Creator of Minecraft

“If you steal a car, the original is lost. If you copy a game, there are simply more of them in the world,” said Minecraft creator Markus Persson at the GDC Indie Games Summit yesterday. “Piracy is not theft.”

Persson went on to say other things about piracy after that, but I’ve tuned out, because this is really dumb. Theft isn’t only about physical products; it also includes services, and if you don’t want to think of digital copies of games as products, then you are by default considering them to be entertainment services. It’s wrong to, like, not pay for the not-free car wash or the not-free help with your taxes. S–t, wait a minute. Persson actually said something about this.

“Treat game development as a service,” he said. “Make a game last longer than a week. You can’t pirate an online account.”

Yikes. I mean, you actually can pirate an online account. That is a thing people do, via VPNs/emulated servers.

Ugh. I hate everyone. We are not entitled to have things we want that cost money for free just because we are physically capable of doing so.


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10 Comments on GDC11: Piracy is Not Theft, Says the Creator of Minecraft


On March 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

When developers stop wasting so much time trying to stop something that can’t be stopped, and find ways to use it to their advantage, they’ll prosper.
Gabe Newell from Valve speaks about it all the time, listen to your customers, stop bad DRM, if you make a good game players will support you.

Piracy is not the problem:—Gabe-Newell-Valve-Software.html


On March 2, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I think what he was trying to say is that it shouldnt be treated the same way as a “normal” theft.
your car wash example doesnt work either…

Phil Owen

On March 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Look, there are problems of all types in the games industry. Yeah, games and bad DRM are problems, but the fact that those things are problems does not change the fact that it’s not ok to pirate games.

And, yeah, my analogies aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not on me to prove to you that stealing is bad. Stealing is bad, and you should not do it.


On March 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Yes Stealing is bad and immoral, I didn’t defend it, and I didn’t speak against it either, my mistake sorry. I should’ve made it clear that I agree that stealing is just plain bad.

Markus Persson doesn’t spend the hours of his days fretting, worrying, stressing over people pirating Minecraft. He doesn’t stay up at night having nightmares of people sapping away his game for free. He invests ALL that time that would’ve been wasted into making a great game, that’s still in alpha and because he spends all that time GIVING back to his fans, he’s made more money than probably everyone on this site combined in a lifetime.

He could easily stop all game development dead in its tracks and reinvest all his time, resources and effort into fighting pirates, and by doing so, Minecraft would Fail, because the fans would respond.

It’s in the hands of the developers to discourage piracy in a positive way. Throwing Moral implications at pirates is well just plain stupid. You really think someone that steals really even gives a crap? It’s like telling Hitler that killing the Jews is immoral, … I don’t think it’d work.

So to those that are socially normal, they realize yes stealing is bad… These people don’t, deal with it and adapt that thought pattern and realize how best to use it, like Gabe from Valve, Markus from Minecraft, and Fredrik Wester from Paradox Interactive.

Can’t change morality of society, but you can use it in your favor

Ron Whitaker

On March 3, 2011 at 7:11 am

Jack, I see where you’re trying to go here, and you’re not 100% wrong. Still, it doesn’t matter whether you discourage piracy in a positive or a negative way. It doesn’t change the fact that piracy is in fact theft.

Pirating a game is no different from sneaking into a movie. If you sneak into the theater and watch Iron Man 74 (or whatever number they’re up to now), you’re a thief. No, there’s nothing physical or tangible that you have taken possession of, and the original isn’t gone. You still availed yourself of a service without compensating the person providing said service.

I’m always entertained when I see people who try to separate piracy and theft. The two aren’t just similar, they’re twins! If you’re trying to rationalize away your piracy by contending it’s anything but stealing, you may want to try a new tack.


On March 3, 2011 at 11:01 am

You apparently didn’t read what I said entirely. I never once said piracy wasn’t theft, in fact I stated stealing is bad and immoral. Try again.

I never stated that I myself condone piracy, nor did I say I support pirates in their action. I fall within the normal social group of those that have morals and a conscious. Downloading a game you didn’t pay for is no different than walking in store taking retail box, yes agreed 100%.

All I wanted to make a point of, is telling someone that steals stuff that it’s bad, isn’t going to make them stop.

However the game developers that have realized this, and adapted, “Natural Selection, adapt or die” are the ones that will come out on top, because they can counter act without punishing paying customers. That’s all.

If publishers wish to throw wasted resources at trying to stop the oldest immorality act since the dawn of time when the first caveman figured out he could take his fellow caveman’s food because he was strong enough to do it. Then by all means they can waste those resources and wipe out more small developers by harsh deadlines and ramped up cost of production.

they can adapt, evolve, learn, listen and improve.
Valve/minecraft/paradox interactive “Treating the customer with respect and gratitude, not like a criminal.”

This will not stop piracy, but it gives less reasons to do it.

Yet again I point it out, I have not defended piracy, I have not supported it, I agree it’s stealing and a criminal act. Just pointing out those that trying to adapt to it.


On March 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Haha. He’s right. Also, some people who pirate the game actually bought Minecraft. I guess if a game is really awesome, like minecraft, people will support it.

Ron Whitaker

On March 4, 2011 at 5:27 am

Jack: Fair enough. I concede that I misread your argument a bit. So now, how do we deal with it?

The myth that says “If you make a good game, people will buy it” is a fallacy. People pirate everything, and the majority of them don’t buy the game at retail. There are a ton of reasons why, ranging from lack of adequate cash to just plain unwillingness to pay for it. People pirated the hell out of the humble Indie Bundle, and it could have been had legally for a dollar or less!

Developers do need to change their stance, and some of them have been. Still, DRM is an unfortunate fact of life we are not going to get away from. Valve is an industry darling, but they still have DRM in every game they ship. Granted, it’s all tied into Steam, but ask the folks who couldn’t play HL2 on its release because they had no net connection if that makes them feel any better.

The trick is to make the DRM a seamless experience, and one that doesn’t interfere with the legitimate buyer’s enjoyment of the game they purchased. That’s what Valve has done so well. They’ve integrated the DRM in a way that doesn’t roadblock the user from enjoying the product.

This is the challenge to the industry going forward. We as gamers should say “We understand that you are trying to protect your product, and we have no problem with that. What we want is for you to structure that protection in a way that doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the game we bought.” If we can reach that middle ground, then we’ll be on our way to a solution that could actually work.

A Different Jack

On March 4, 2011 at 9:38 am

“Persson went on to say other things about piracy after that, but I’ve tuned out, because this is really dumb”

No he didn’t. You just have already made up your mind about this and weren’t willing to listen. So, end of story, eh?

Phil, you need to subscribe to the Techdirt blog so that you can understand this subject better that than simply being close-minded.

Frankly, how many more times do we have to read some writer being negative about Piracy? Piracy isn’t going away. So game companies need to make it a way to make more money on their game (like Minecraft has done) rather than about it. Get with the reality of today!

Same for DRM. Everyone hates it. Don’t use it.


On March 4, 2011 at 11:45 am

Thank you for your response.
I agree. It really truly is a new frontier at the moment with developers vs. paying customers vs. theft.
It’s a very tough balancing act of how far is too far, how little is too little. It’s pretty close to politics of no matter what happens, there’s no pleasing everyone.

DRM’s will be around always in one form or another, I agree, that’s a fact we have to accept, but I believe us as customers also have the responsibility of making our voices heard when it’s a bad DRM. (Not by pirating, but actual forums, e-mails, phone calls).

It will be very interesting to see over the next 2-3 years how the industry evolves.