The Wrong Way To Stop Video Game Piracy

The Wrong Way To Stop Video Game Piracy

Republished from Rock, Paper Shotgun.

You’ll likely remember that last week it was revealed that CD Projekt had hired a firm to send out letters to those they believed had pirated copies of The Witcher 2, demanding large sums of money.

It’s a practice that is widely despised, due not only to its propensity for threatening the innocent, but more significantly, because it’s based on threats in the first place. A person receives a letter demanding an excessive amount of money (evidence for this story suggests in the region of €750, corrected from 900+ that was previously reported), or the recipient will be taken to court where they may end up paying a great deal more.

These apparently necessary court cases will be dropped if the fee is paid. And that’s why I consider it such a serious issue. Never mind the severity of the act of piracy, this process subverts the legal process, avoids actually providing evidence and proving guilt, and depends upon scaring people into paying money they likely can’t afford. This is something I wanted to discuss with CDP themselves, who I thought had given unsatisfactory responses to other outlets who suddenly picked up on the story after RPS reported TorrentFreak’s week-old article. My discussion is below.

I want to stress that this is a personal article, between me and CDP, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of all at RPS. At RPS we regularly argue between ourselves about matters of piracy and the like. They may agree with every word — no one’s around just now to check.

I contacted CDP, and ultimately Member of the Board and VP of Business Development, Michal Nowakowski, through their PR, beginning by asking a few questions.

We’re wondering why CDP have gone ahead with this action, when it’s well known that it’s extremely difficult to prove a crime via an IP address, and that so many false positives are inevitable. And whether they think such actions are merited when it is widely accepted that an unauthorised duplication does not equate to a lost sale? Are they concerned about how it makes their company appear, especially in light of the horror and condemnation with which Davenport Lyons’ actions were met with in 2008.

Here I had focused on the position of false positives, but this was written before any other sites had published other statements, and their focus on this area had yet to happen. In response I at first received the same statement that had been sent out elsewhere, But in light of RPS’s article having clearly caught their attention, more was to follow. That statement read,

“As you know, we aren’t huge fans of any sort of DRM here at CD Projekt RED. DRM itself is a pain for legal gamers — the same group of honest people who decided that our game was worth its price, and went and bought it. We don’t want to make their lives more difficult by introducing annoying copy protection systems. Moreover, we always try to offer high value with our product — for example, enhancing the game with additional collectors’ items such as soundtracks, making-of DVDs, books, walkthroughs, etc. We could introduce advanced copy protection systems which, unfortunately, punish legal customers as well. Instead we decided to give gamers some additional content with each game release, to make their experience complete. However, that shouldn’t be confused with us giving a green light to piracy. We will never approve of it, since it doesn’t only affect us but has a negative impact on the whole game industry. We’ve seen some of the concern online about our efforts to thwart piracy, and we can assure you that we only take legal actions against users who we are 100% sure have downloaded our game illegally.”

Clearly this simply confirmed that the action was taking place. Nowakowski’s reply came soon after. It is lengthy:

“Before we took this step, we have investigated the subject, spoke to other developers and publishers using the same method and company we are using, and are convinced that the method used by them is targeting only 100% confirmed piracy act cases. When we investigated the subject, we were made aware and looked into the infamous Davenport case, and again, we are convinced the methods used in our case are not going to hurt innocent people. After all the months since release piracy of The Witcher 2 was tracked, not a single person denied act of piracy when addressed with that subject. At least not to our knowledge.

On whether such actions are merited — I feel that we are really trying to do a lot in terms of being pro-consumer ie. By removing the DRM experience for the users, delivering a lot of free extra content, etc. These people do repay us by being with us, and also by showing their support by means of paying for our games and allowing us to make new ones in the future. The purpose of this action is not to get rich on piracy — believe me, the numbers coming through as a result of this action are petty to say the most. We do hope, however, they may be a sort of deterrent for future pirates; maybe they cannot afford to buy the game here and now, but if they want it really bad, maybe they will consider buying it when the price drop happens as it always does for all titles eventually. It will not fix the world, as nothing ever will, but maybe it will stop some of the most notorious pirates from downloading our game and sharing it further. As for the more casual pirates I want to believe they will eventually become our legal customers because of how we try to work on our customer’s satisfaction.

As for the unauthorised duplication not counting as a lost sale — I guess this is not so simple really. I agree in some cases people just download “whatever” to have a look but would not buy otherwise, but there are also quite a few people who have financial means, have interest but feel that they should not pay becaue it is out there for free. It is this last group that is the most problematic, and I do not feel fine with this way of thinking, and we have never officialy supported this kind of behaviour. Being DRM-free is not a shout to all the folks out there — “hey, come and take our game — it’s free.” It is DRM-free, which means we really had to go through huge efforts with our publishers to make this happen so that people can enjoy the game without the hassle that pirated copies are already circumventing. Am I afraid this makes us look bad? I do not feel we are doing anything wrong, as long as people targeted are really 100% confirmed pirates. So far nothing has happened in the past couple of months that would indicate otherwise.

I cannot go into details on how can we be sure such information is correct, as this is trade secret of the company working on that on our behalf, but as much as we could see the reasoning behind the method, it is actually leading so far only to 100% piracy cases.”

These were odd claims. Claims at which PC Gamer’s Graham Smith had raised concerned eyebrows when they’d arrived to them via a separate email chat. And they sat equally awkwardly here. To identify someone as a pirate via downloads, one must use their IP address. This is no new technology, and certainly not the subject of something that cannot be revealed for the sake of trade secrets. In fact, you can scare your own balls off by visiting here. It’s also the means by which false positives occur, for many and obvious reasons. So what possible technique could exist that allows more detailed, more accurate information? Because surely it would have to be something astonishing or illegal?

Meanwhile, in their statement to PCG, published after I’d asked my questions but before I’d received the reply, Nowakowski had explained that,

“For some reason the spotlight came down on CDP RED, however you should be aware this is something that about 95% of the games industry is actually doing. Pretty much all the major publishers and most of the independent developers.”

None of us at RPS could think of any examples of other publishers’ doing this in recent months, and we’d certainly never heard of an independent developer ever taking such action, so this comment struck us as strange.

And something else was bothering me about the generously detailed and candid reply — it wasn’t addressing my larger issue in the original article — simply that surely the act of threatening people for money is wrong? I got back in touch, wanting to appeal to the company to change their course of action, rather than simply ask questions. I sent this:

Hello there. Thanks very much for your candid response. I have a few questions and challenges regarding it, which I hope you don’t mind my putting to you.

Could you explain what this 100% accurate technique is, and how it works, and which company it is? You mention trade secrets, but obviously there must be a general methodology without explaining how it precisely works. Identifying someone by their downloading something from bittorrent can only be done by IP, and IP obviously cannot identify an individual. So I’m really interested to learn how this works. Especially with cases such as our commenters who’ve said they paid for the boxed copy and it didn’t work, so downloaded a pirated version. Could this system take this into account?

The other thing is, the issue for me doesn’t seem to be about inaccurate threats — those can be weeded out by the courts. It’s about that they’re *threats*. I realise you’re not getting rich from this, but I’m also aware that if I had to part with a few hundred Euros, that wouldn’t make your company rich, but it would cripple me on my low income. Do you accept that you’re sending people demands for significant amounts of money, with the threat that if they don’t pay up, they’ll have to go to court for a great deal more? When crimes are committed, the usual practice is to go to the police, and then the criminal is arrested and eventually goes to court. Circumventing the process of law, by threatening people to buy their way out of a court case, strikes me as something pretty awful to do. This is why we appealed for your company to stop this, and I guess I’m repeating that appeal here.

Also, you assert that most other publishers are doing this. I have heard of no examples in recent months. Could you name some for us? And finally, why are you only taking this action in Germany?

Many thanks — I really appreciate your time on this, and your patience with my stance.”

This fell into the weekend, and so Nowakowski’s reply, directed through PR in the US, reached me this afternoon. He says,

“When it comes to methodology, while I cannot share exact details, it does in its essence rely on IP identification, however, we do take into account individual cases. And once implication of innocence is reported and proven (ie. Someone actually bought a legal copy of the game but downloaded a torrent version for whatever reason), we may waive the claims. In fact, there was a single (one) case like that, and that person was not ultimately fined, and everything was fixed very quickly via email with no hassle for that person. So there is also case-by-case individual approach which does eliminate error as much as it is possible. Taking into account the fact that this action really does not target staggering amounts of people as some sources in the internet claim, such an individual approach is in fact possible. I can only restate — we have not been made aware so far of any case of the innocent person who would be targeted and made to pay the fee or taken to court.

About threats — let me put it like this — when you get a speeding ticket or a ticket for causing a car crash or for any other felony — do you consider that a threat? Because it works pretty much in the same way. Maybe I am confused, but I do feel that not doing things that are wrong is a good way of staying out of trouble — there seems to be an implication that we are bad guys because we are trying to deter people who illegaly downloaded our game from doing that by means of this action. I am a little bit at a loss with this way of thinking. Especially since at the same time, we do take great pains, and even went to court to win the no-DRM case for the people, so that our customers can enjoy the game without any hassle. Also, I want to state clearly that this action is not circumventing the process of law as you are suggesting — this is actually a possible, fully legal action, allowed by the courts and state and regulated in a similar way as the speeding tickets are, for example. It beats me that, honestly speaking, we are being spoken badly about because we are trying to deter people from illegal access to our title.

As for the question of other publishers — I am not at freedom to share the names of these publishers. I can only confirm I have spoken to some of them who are using the service and to developers who do the same, and I do not assume that they’re taking similar action – I know this is the case. Why has our story been blown out of proportions? I do not know, but I do recognise this is a great to story to cover, and the only thing we can really do is to answer as honestly as we always do in everything that concerns our company and the games we make.

Regarding Germany — it is about access to accurate data, which is allowed by the state. Regulations do not work in a similar way in all the EU countries. Germany does. The process would be possible in many other countries, but in some, the Davenport case would be likely to repeat itself. We cannot allow oursleves to target innocent people. This was never the intention and never will be. The moment we hear innocent people have been targeted, we will take immediate action.”

I want to applaud CDP for the amazingly open and frank way they have responded to this debate, even though I personally am extremely against their actions, and disappointed to see there is no sense of contrition or remorse about the devastating effects such actions can have on an individual. It is great that they are so passionate about ensuring errant accusations are quickly dealt with. And yes, of course piracy is a crime, and no, I am not defending piracy — that is not the point here whatsoever. But when the punishment is so disproportionate, and the efficacy is so ridiculous, I struggle to see any other way to interpret such actions beyond threats for money.

It is not blackmail. But it is often perceived to be. And that, to answer Nowakowski’s confusion, is why the company is receiving such a hostile reaction.

Doing things like this, things that really help no one, are a desperate attempt to do something.

Regarding the speeding ticket example — and clearly I’m speaking from the perspective of the UK, and don’t know the details of the rules in Poland — they do not compare. If I am caught speeding, I receive a fine of £60, from the government. If I pay it within two weeks I pay only £30. I also receive three points on my driver’s licence. If I dispute the fine, I am allowed to challenge, and perhaps take the process to court to prove my innocence. That is not what is happening here. Here, this practice traditionally works by people receiving letters designed to scare them into paying an enormous sum, massively more than the cost of the game/film/CD they downloaded (usually justified by their also having uploaded, and therefore distributed the product — much easier to classify as a crime — but the fine in no explained way reflecting this). If they don’t pay the sum, then they will be taken to court, and will have to pay a great deal more, they are told. Possibly tens or hundreds of thousands. We haven’t seen a copy of the letters being sent out in Germany, and it’s possible that they are worded very differently, but what they will be saying is, “Pay this large sum or you will have to pay a very much larger sum.” Which is where those whiffs of blackmail appear. Even though, I very strongly stress, it is not.

It is for this reason that it is not as simple as the company simply trying to defend its product and discourage piracy. And for another. This doesn’t do anything about piracy. CDP’s own (unproven) estimate for piracy figures is 4.5 million. According to TorrentFreak they sent out a couple of thousand letters in Germany, although Nowakowski says above it’s not as high as is reported. Let’s guess at, for the ease of maths, 1,000 letters going out. That means when pirating the game you’d have a 1 in 4,500 chance of receiving a fine. A 0.001% chance. It’s not exactly a figure that’s going to scare people. Sure, it adds that frisson of fear, because there is a chance, and it’s unlikely that people are going to have a spare grand kicking around to get out of trouble. But 0.001%? That’s not a deterrent. It’s a lottery.

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And this is why it looks like a cash grab, despite CDP’s protestations that they aren’t making serious money from this. (Although, let’s be clear — if it is 1000 letters, and the fine is €750, that’s still three quarters of a million Euro. I’m not so sure that’s a figure to be so easily dismissed.) Because it only affects an insignificant minority of those who have pirated, it will only likely stop that 0.001% of pirates from doing it again, and then, only catch those who hear about the story, don’t figure out the statistics, and get scared (a tiny minority). So no matter how accurate it may be (and the admission that there was one false accusation so far does rather knock down that “100% accuracy” previously claimed), it’s still completely ineffective. Let alone the opportunistic appearance gained from only conducting this in Germany because individuals’ privacy are already concerningly compromised.

Oh, and one other thought. Regarding the statement that if someone had bought it, then torrented it after, they would let that go. Why, CDP, is that OK, but someone who torrents it, then buys it, is not? Which is to say, why not send these people letters demanding the €40 for the cost of the game? Since the person who torrents to replace his purchased copy will be uploading just as much as he who pirated before buying.

Obviously there are very many who believe pirates deserve what they get. That was made clear by many commenters, and disgusted developers who got in touch with me. I believe that punishments should match crimes, not be based on fallacious claims of piracy equaling lost sales (the only basis for justifying the huge sums that’s ever been given), and certainly not appear to be scaring people out of money to avoid a proper judicious process of law. (One that the music industry keeps learning, to its cost, isn’t automatically on their side.) I understand CDP’s frustration. They see their product being taken without people paying, and they see it happening on a large scale. This upsets them, and they want to do something about it. It seems the situation is very unfair, as there is nothing that can be done about it. And doing things like this, things that really help no one, are a desperate attempt to do something.

And that is why I personally continue to plead with CDP to stop this practice. I believe there is a good reason why people are reacting so negatively to your actions. I believe your actions are wrong.

RPS has offered CD Projekt a right to reply and they are currently considering it.

John Walker is a writer for Rock Paper Shotgun, one of the world’s best sites for PC gaming news. John is Britain’s leading adventure gaming specialist. Follow him on Twitter.

Republished with permission.


  • What a shame. It started out as a decent article, then plunged full into bias, misrepresentation, logical flaws, and wilfully ignoring common sense answers to some of the questions raised.

    his doesn’t do anything about piracy. CDP’s own (unproven) estimate for piracy figures is 4.5 million. According to TorrentFreak they sent out a couple of thousand letters in Germany, although Nowakowski says above it’s not as high as is reported. Let’s guess at, for the ease of maths, 1,000 letters going out. That means when pirating the game you’d have a 1 in 4,500 chance of receiving a fine.

    AKA: Even the torrent site says it’s a couple of thousand, *but I’m going to reduce it even further than that, for no good reason, simply to make my point seem more valid*

    Which is to say, why not send these people letters demanding the €40 for the cost of the game?

    …legal and operational costs? Adding a level of deterrence into the action?

    If I dispute the fine, I am allowed to challenge, and perhaps take the process to court to prove my innocence. That is not what is happening here. Here, this practice traditionally works by people receiving letters designed to scare them into paying an enormous sum, massively more than the cost of the game/film/CD they downloaded (usually justified by their also having uploaded, and therefore distributed the product — much easier to classify as a crime — but the fine in no explained way reflecting this). If they don’t pay the sum, then they will be taken to court, and will have to pay a great deal more, they are told. Possibly tens or hundreds of thousands.

    REALLY? He’s arguing that in the UK, you either pay your ticket, or you can go to court and if you lose you won’t pay any more than your original ticket cost?


    If you brought that to court and don’t win, you better believe you’re going to be hit with costs. So it’s exactly the same situation, only CDP are stating that if you go to court, that’ll cost you anyway?

    ..only, again, it isn’t:

    We haven’t seen a copy of the letters being sent out in Germany, and it’s possible that they are worded very differently, but what they will be saying is, “Pay this large sum or you will have to pay a very much larger sum.”

    …so, a good three or four paragraphs there are based on the author’s assumption of a letter that’s been sent that they haven’t received a letter/transcript of, and never even seen, but is hypothesising that it threatens in a way that is reminiscent of blackmail.

    This isn’t journalism, it’s internet arguing in article form.

    • Have you ever actually read a legal letter that follows this format? They’re very specifically worded to imply that if you don’t pay the fine, you WILL go to court and you WILL lose and you WILL pay a hell of a lot more money. That seemed to me to be the problem the author had, if you’ve read any number of letters that demand money to avoid court, it’s a VERY safe assumption, they are intentionally worded to be threatining and to scare you into paying the immediate sum.

      • Yes, I find it hard to imagine the letter being polite and apologetic. “Excuse me, we think you might have pirated our game. We would like you to pay 700 euros, but if not, that’s ok. We might take you to court where you might lose up to ten times that amount. Wouldn’t that be awful? Sorry to bother you.”

      • Fair enough – so their lawyers are following the standard format of letters for similar legal situations, like millions of other companies in a wide range of markets….yet this is CDPs problem how?

        Why are they bad guy on this point? What are they supposed to do, not use lawyers for legal matters*?

        • but as CDP points out in their responses, they very thoroughly researched and reviewed the process. I agree with you if CDP had no prior knowledge that it would be worded like that, but I think that that’s probably very unlikely. If they looked into it like they said then I doubt that they would be unaware of it, but they went forward anyway, which is why they’re getting blamed.

  • Instead of price gouging $700 why not pay double the amount of the game, i find double fair, the price of the game and some for lost revenue.

    I dont agree with what CDP are doing but i suppose they have their publishers dribbling in their ears about this.

    Don’t get me wrong, its not fair to let pirates just walk away but $700 isnt a justified amount, all it is, is just holding someone by the ankles and shaking them to see what comes out of their pocket.

    • That’s not much of a deterrent. And that’s the point. They’re not after punitive damages – as they said in the article, they’re making very little back from this (presumably, the cost in identifying the pirates is significant), but they are attempting to change the culture of piracy.

      The current feeling seems to be that it’s a consequence-free action. Only a hefty deterrent can change that.

      • Heartily agree.

        Issue is that this is being spoilt by other providers. Im behind CDP on this one and im all for providers removing DRM (or moving to methods like steam) but there are other providers who are just encouraging this more.

        CPD have gone out of their way to do a global release at a fair international price to disadvantage no-one. This cannot be said for many other developers.

        We talk about the “culture of piracy” but theres little mention on what LEAD too it – the cause of the pirates. Talking about region based price gouging, invasive, destructive and at times illegal forms of DRM, staggered or ignored releases and even ignorance of entire regions of consumers.

        When you treat people like garbage for so long you need to expect at some point they will stop taking it. If instead of fixing the problem you treat people worse, then all you do is exacerbate and inflamed issue.

        We reach this point now where someone who is trying to do the right thing gets burned – and are taking HARSH measures to try and resolve it. I feel sorry for the people getting fined but it is their fault. And im sorry for CDP that the other players have bought the industry to such a point that it has come to this.

        • I downloaded the american version after paying for the AU censored version, they can now send me a letter asking for 700 euros and I can either pay that or pay court costs. How is that fair?

          • CDP have already said that they take into account individual cases. And that it has already been waived the fine for someone that had bought the game but also torrented a copy. So I would say in this instance that you would not be fined.

    • Cost of game + cost of finding pirates+ cost of collection agency+ Cost of lawyers

      The game was drm free. Copiers have no excuse this time.

  • I agree with the speeding ticket analogy completely. A crime is commited, a fine is sent out, the person being fined has a chance to contest this fine. They even gave an example of someone who produced a legal copy of the game and the fine was waved.

    As for the disproportionate amount of money, it is disproportionate to serve as a deterrent for future piraters. If you could steal something get cauht and then ONLY pay the asking price more people would do it, its not punishment its a slap on the wrist.

    • Yes but if you speed you are fined by the law under agreed terms by the government, not one developed to deliver the best result for a corporate entity’s bottom line.
      I believe that was John’s point.

      • +1. This was my interpretation. Fuck pirates, seriously fuck them, but fines are for elected governments, not private companies.

      • Can’t say I am sympathetic to pirates, and David above makes a great point about why piracy exists (it is not just about being cheap), but the speeding ticket analogy is incorrect. A speeding ticket is handed out by an authority – someone authorised under the relevant law to do so, not a company with a financial interest (which is CDP) – they are basically saying we think you are guilty so pay up, unlike the law that has to have proof first.

    • Who says a crime has been committed? All they have is an IP address. It might not be you, the recipient of the legal letter, it might be someone who used your network, or you’re on an ISP who has a dynamic address scheme, or any other myriad factors.

      It’s a protection racket. You could pay thousands to go to court and fight it if you’re innocent, or pay less and make the problem go away. That’s not justice. It’s extortion.

  • I am absolutely on the side of the publisher in this case and disagree with the author of this article almost entirely.

    CDP: “There seems to be an implication that we are bad guys because we are trying to deter people who illegaly downloaded our game from doing that by means of this action. I am a little bit at a loss with this way of thinking.”

    This x1000.

    There seems to be some bizarre mentality that stealing isn’t really stealing if it happens online. There would be quite serious consequences for people stealing from stores (or the company’s warehouses, which might be a better analogy); why should people who obtain games illegally expect to be left to enjoy the fruits of their piracy?

    • Not saying I agree with piracy (I most definitely don’t, especially in the age of steam sales where if you wait two months you can get it for 50% off, but i digress), but if you steal from a store, that item is then gone. Data can be forever replicated freely, so that’s where the “stealing” definition tends to develop cracks. It’s not like you’ve denied the item to a willing purchaser.

      • I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but that exact argument is the one used to justify piracy. The notion that digital items have real-world monetary value is an idea still in its infancy.

        • Oh yes, I know. I was just pointing out the difference between stealing something like a chocolate bar and downloading some code. There is disparity there, and illegal digital reproduction needs its own legal definition.
          Then again, there’s an age-old question that asks: Is it possible to steal something of which there is an infinite and ever-present supply?

      • the disc stolen from the store isn’t the stolen item, it’s the DATA on the disc that is being stolen, when you buy the game you are essentially buying one copy of the DATA. there are no cracks here.

        • Although when you steal a CD from a store you deprive the publisher of a legitimate sale from someone else. But when you download the data it still stays there and can be legitimately purchased multiple times. Does that count as a crack?

          • When you steal an item from a store there are actual costs in production and distribution that you are denying from the developer. When you torrent a game from peers the developer loses nothing. Does that count as a crack in the analogy? All the way up to the supreme court of the USA they have noted that infringement and theft are not equivalent ( Dowling v. United States (1985)).

  • Interesting article, well worth the read, I’m with you Mr. Walker on nearly every point, I don’t fault CDP for pursuing pirates, but there’s something unsettling about the method they’re using. I think it’s worth considering that another reason people are having such a bad reaction to this is that for most of this year CDP have been the new poster child on how to handle DRM and more importantly how to treat your customers extremely well, they’ve become that company gamers can point to when someone says ‘How else are companies like Ubisoft meant to combat piracy?’ and say ‘Like intelligent, decent human beings, that’s how.’

    This method isn’t in line with that image at all, and while that’s not CDP’s fault at all, they never claimed they wouldn’t pursue pirates in a threatening manner, the blow to the consumer who put them on a pedastal is no less real. (If my boss is the nicest guy in the world and makes me feel incredibly welcome and secure in my job and then first me after making a mistake, it’s still his perogative, but I’m sure as hell still going to be shocked by it, and probably a little hurt too, despite that fact he’s well within his rights (granted he might not be.))

    It’s just such a stark contrast in policy, they seem to be arguing that yes we want to treat our customers well, BUT THESE ARE PIRATES NOT CUSTOMERS!!!
    Well that’s fine and dandy but what i personally took from your DRM stance was that you took that route because it was rational, and in regards to it you were entirely transparent, which the opposite to what’s happening now, ‘trade secrets’ so that you don’t have to give evidence? The idea that I can be convicted of something without being shown the evidence that proves my guild it asinine.

    • Actually they have stated quite clearly that they are amenable to exceptional individual circumstances. If you did nothing wrong, you contact them and work it out (an example was mentioned in the article). If you did do something wrong, then you’ve got no leg to stand on.

      • I’m not sure what you’re responding to here sorry. You seem to be saying it’s okay to accuse people without showing proof as long as they can prove their innocence? Isn’t this the exact opposite of what we strive for in a fair and just legal system? Guilty until proven innocent is, again, archaic and asinine.

        • Actually anyone has the right to ACCUSE anyone of anything. Unless it’s truly defamatory, in which case there are laws to protect the defamed.

  • Copy write infringement is not a crime. Speeding can be a matter of life and death and if you are caught doing so you pay the price. Downloading a game off the internet is such a mundane triviality and gets way to much attention.

    • Maybe to you, but to the people whose lives literally depend on income from their intellectual property, be it games, music, writing, etc. it is a matter of life and death.

    • Public indecency is not a matter of life and death, but fines still apply. Why? It’s a deterrent against future ‘anti-social’ behaviour.

      Why should copyright infringers get off scot free? I don’t think criminal conviction or jail time is the right answer, but I absolutely support the notion of hefty fines to deter future piracy.

      • Fines imposed by the Government I’m fine with. Fines imposed by private companies, as in this case, are fairly questionable. For starters, their not subject to the same rules of evidence gathering.

        • If you have a problem, you can contact them and/or contest the fine. Take them to court. If it’s a frivolous law suit, they’d have to pay your costs.

          • And that is exactly the problem; they should have to take each and every individual to court and proof their guilt (no class-action); I must not be required to do the same to proof my innocence!

          • That’s not a realistic option for most people because the upfront costs are too great, including appeals and such, they’re likely to bankrupt the individual before the case is rejected.

      • Monetization is not my problem. The development of the motorcar put almost all horse and buggy whip makers out of business. Should we viciously pursue Ford and GM because “buggy whip makers depend on this income stream for life and death”. Of course not, technology changes and allow new things. People need to adapt or they go out of business

  • I personally think if they are serious about deterring or educating pirates then they should be saying ‘We know you are a pirate, pay $99 (the value of the game you pirated) or we will take it to court. If you do it again we will take immediate legal action’

    Then people would be more likely to go ‘Fair cop, I did it. I will pay for it and learn my lesson’ and they are less likely to risk doing it again. By circumventing the legal processes and charging a completely arbitrary number plucked from the CEOs arse they are just going to piss people off.

  • Yeap, totally with CDP on this.
    Your a poor student who doesn’t have the money to pay a fine? Don’t break the law!
    I am sorry but I have no sympathy.
    This culture of entitlement around pirating is getting ridiculous.
    And even more so in Australia where now you have options such as ozgameshop for cheap games. Not to mention GOG and Steam with their sales.
    If you don’t have money right now why not try something old-fashioned like saving? I know crazy as that seems these days in a world run by debt but it is possible to save money if you try. Then it feels even better when you buy something with the money you have saved.
    Also 700 seems rather reasonable when you compare what some companies are fining people.
    There is no point in charging a fine of just the cost of the game as it does not take into account the price involved in capturing pirates. Also, there is no deterrent for the pirate. The fine needs to be an amount where someone goes “ok I won’t do that again” but isn’t ridiculous like thousands of dollar claims that we have seen.
    But even then it really does go back to the point of – you dont want to pay the fine? don’t pirate!

    • So did you read the article? The whole point is that CDP is using traditional, unreliable methods of identifying pirates, and then trying to scare them into paying. The author has clearly called them out on it. We don’t know that those people receiving fines are correctly identified, and on top of everything else, the guy from CDP is saying people need to prove their innocent. That should be setting off alarm bells by itself.

      I mean, I love how this company treats me as a customer. However, I’d hate to be one of those people accused as I share web access with 6 other people – how the fuck am I meant to work out what their doing?

      • Yeap, I read the article did you?
        CDP stated they have processes in place to act on individual cases where the person thinks they have been unjustly targeted.
        “…we do take into account individual cases. And once implication of innocence is reported and proven (ie. Someone actually bought a legal copy of the game but downloaded a torrent version for whatever reason), we may waive the claims. In fact, there was a single (one) case like that, and that person was not ultimately fined, and everything was fixed very quickly via email with no hassle for that person. So there is also case-by-case individual approach which does eliminate error as much as it is possible.”

        So your point is rather invalid.
        Also at the moment it is only speculation on how the pirates are being found. IP is one way but it sounds like it is more complicated then that. Without know how this is occurring we can not simply say these methods are unreliable.
        Also CDP have stated that not one of the people that has received this letter has said they didn’t do it. Sounds pretty reliable to me.

        • How is my point invalid? That paragraph is consistent with what I’m saying: prove your innocent or pay up. In this case, prove you bought the game. What about those people who just didn’t pirate it? How do they prove they didn’t? Sounds like complete BS to me.

          • Also, in the article they admit it is based at least partially on IP. Without revealing the other components the whole thing becomes incredibly suspect – if they want to make accusations, they damn sure better front up the evidence.

          • So far there has not been one incident of someone claiming that they did not pirate the game.
            So whatever means are being used it seems to be accurate.
            There are many ways that you could prove you did not pirate the game. Receipt just being one.
            And they are not saying they don’t have evidence. Just that they are not going to tout that on the internet. Obviously the company that they have hired for this does not want to be telling everyone how they do it to protect their business.
            Also we don’t know what the letters they sent out look like and they could include a component saying that if you want the evidence we have we can send it to you. As in when you receive a speeding ticket from a camera you can ask to see the photo.

          • That’s totally unacceptable – if they have evidence, they need to present it publicly, as they would with any other legal matter. Its not enough to simply say they have evidence.

            As for the claim no one has denied it – what does that mean? If it means no one has fought it in court – well of course not. I don’t see any evidence anyone has paid it either. Of course, under their guilty until proven innocent approach, it doesn’t even seem possible to demonstrate innocence, so it seems moot.

          • No, they don’t. They would have to show the person they sent the letter too. But they don’t have to come out and say “Hey everyone look at all this evidence we have and this is how we got it!”

            And no again. Obviously, CDP have offered a way for people who believe they have bene falsely accused of bringing the matter up with them without going through the courts. This has not happened. Admittedly this may not be absolute proof that someone innocent has received one of these letters but it is pretty telling.

            I would assume that what has happend here is CDP has sent these letters and given people the following options:
            1) pay the fine
            2) advise them that you believe you have received the letter erroneously and work with them to sort the matter out.
            3) have the matter taken to court.

            I see no problems with this at all.

      • Reminds me of the day my parents received a letter from Telstra saying that somebody was port scanning and if caught again the case would be forwarded to the police.

        I had, and still don’t, know how to port scan, yet I was blamed by my parents. Clearly it was a case of mistaken identity. Now imagine isntead of a politely worded letter saying a warning was given, receiving a letter saying “PAY ME NOW OR PAY ME MORE LATER IN COURT”.

        CDP: Eat a dick. I don’t care about your righteous morals, the second you said “100% successful” and then admitted you’d fucked up, you lost my support because you’re clearly peddling bullshit.

        You done goofed.

        • Actually no. CDP are not saying that they made an error. They said that there was one person that did pirate but also bought the game. They worked with that person and they waived any penalty.

    • I think you are missing the point of this article. It is not the amount of money that is the problem but the way it is extorted. If something is so secret that it can not be told, than alarm bells should go off (bit like drug testing in sport). Additionally, if someone “charges” you as being guilty with out a trial and one has to proof his/her innocent even more alarm bells should ring.

      It are the methods that are flawed, the approach to justice and the reasoning behind all of that are unacceptable.

      • It is not extortion. Extortion is illegal. CDP are working within the law.
        It is legal for them to do this.
        They are also not saying they don’t have any evidence.
        They do. And I am sure they will provide this on request by the recipient of the letter but at this stage NOT ONE has argued they didn’t pirate the game.
        I really don’t see a problem with this IF the correct checks and measures are in place to make sure the person being accused has a right of reply.
        It is clear that CDP has said they will look at each individual case if the person has a problem. And they have already waived the fine for one person who has complained.
        This tells me that they are being careful about this.
        Lets face it, it is not cost effective for CDP to take to court every single person that has pirated the game. They will go bankrupt. There has to be a way for them to re-coupe loss of income that is not overly strenuous on them. And a way for them to dissuade people from pirating their games>
        This seems like a reasonable way to do it.

    • “Also €750 seems rather reasonable when you compare what some companies are fining people.”
      The fact the movie industry is doing worse doesn’t make this much reasonable.
      It’s still 983 US dollars. A look at has the Witcher 2 selling for $23.39AU or $24 US.
      A little math tells us that’s 41 copies worth.

      So sending these letters out to a thousand people, nets them as much as selling 41,000 copies. That hardly seems right.

      A penalty should match the crime, if you ask me they should ask for double the cost not 40X, they should provide the evidence, and they should send them to everyone who looks like they’re pirating.
      Assuming the 4.5M pirated copies figure is accurate, CDP could make way more money than they are with this setup, everyone would get hit and say “yeah this sucks I won’t do it again” and nobody would complain about the huge amounts they’re asking for.

        • Yeah, they really need an edit option.
          Otherwise, people can just go “your grammar is slightly incorrect you obviously have no idea what your talking about!”

      • That is current price.
        If anything it should be based off the RRP at release.
        You also have to factor in the cost of capturing the pirates, sending out the letters which would likely have to be done by a lawyer etc.
        And you have to make it high enough where people are deterred from doing it again.
        All of this comes into play when you factor the cost that should be paid by pirates.

      • “A look at has the Witcher 2 selling for $23.39AU or $24 US.”

        Which brings us to the next logical question of why the game is still being pirated when it’s so cheap.

        Pirates will be pirates no matter what. People pirate the humble indie bundles ffs.

    • Rant about how pirating is bad is relevant to this article how? This is about the methods used to combat pirating, I’d say 99% of people here agree you shouldn’t pirate video games, and that not being able to afford them isn’t a valid justification. So you hate students, can’t say I’m a fan of your grammar, or lack thereof.

      • From the previous articles I have read about the pirating issue your 99% seems overly optimistic.
        It’s relevant because every article that comes out about piracy includes people listing a whole bunch of reason’s why it is perfectly ok for them to pirate and the justifications they make for themselves. And, the methods used to combat piracy is one of the main arguments people put forward for pirating in the first place. Just look at what people write on any article about Ubisoft’s DRM for instance.
        The methods that CDP are undertaking are perfectly legal. And so far no one has come out and said they didn’t do it.
        How exactly would you want them to chase down pirates if not in this manner?
        Take everyone of them to court? This is economically feasible for them?
        Also, me hating students is laughable. I was one for many years with multiple degrees. Do not make assumptions bases one grammatical mistake and also I’m not a fan of derailment tactics in a debate.

        • Yeah – I actually do think they should take them to court. If its too expensive for CDP, too bad. In this scenario their relying on the individuals inability to afford to defend themselves, so why should I pity their inability to mount a case.

          • So you are basically giving the green light to everyone to pirate away since it will be impossible for the developer to take everyone to court. And I bet you will complain when people stop making games too, or when stupid DRM is put on games. Which would be the only options left.
            How exactly do you want CDP to tackle pirates?

  • My only issue is the circumvention of the legal system by intimidating people into paying money on the threat of a court case.

  • The thing that really disturbs me about all this apart from the people commenting here who are approving the use of intimidation and near extortion. Is that the video game industry is not shriveling and dying, it is growing exponentially. Gaming is more mainstream today than it EVER has been. The industry makes billions upon billions.

    The witcher 2 wasn’t a failure, it shipped over a million copies to fairly good reviews. I’m assuming the financial situation at CDP can’t be to bad when they are going to the expense of hiring external companies to harass and intimidate private citizens.

    I frankly do not see the reason for this witch hunt if you will excuse the pun, like most heavy handed approaches to “correcting” piracy you really only damaging your own goodwill and credibility. I purchased the witcher 2 off steam and am seriously considering never buying another game from CDP or GoG. I cannot in good conscience accept that threatening civil litigation against individuals if you do not pay us a large sum of money to be vastly more morally repugnant than the act of copy write infringement itself.

    • Did you consider the possibility that the letters are a warning as much as anything? A way of saying ‘we are watching you – SO BEHAVE’ more than they are an attempt to bankrupt the parents of pimply torrenting teenagers?

      • If they’re just warning people then they should ask for the funds associated with purchasing a copy of the product and a “don’t do this again or we’ll send in the lawyers” comment… rather than an inflated demand for money.

  • The statistics are a bit dodgy in this article.

    If you’ve got a 1 in 4,500 chance of receiving a letter, that is 0.02% — not 0.001%. Further more, if the letters are only being sent out in Germany, the chance is going to be somewhat higher if you live in Germany, and 0% if you live elsewhere.

    This doesn’t necessarily invalidate the arguments in the article, but it dodgy stats certainly don’t help.

    • That’s a good point.

      That 4.5 million pirated copies figure, if accurate, would be a *worldwide* figure. How many of those 4.5 million pirated copies would have been downloaded in Germany? Oh, I don’t know…probably a few thousand? How many letters did they apparently send out in Germany? A few thousand?

      Looks like the numbers add up to me.

      • Now you are relying on dodgy statistics.

        If we assume that the 4.5 million pirates are uniformly spread over the world’s population (roughly 7 billion people), then roughly 0.064% of people are pirates. Given Germany has a population of around 81.8 million, you’d expect it to have a bit over 52,000 pirates.

        With that in mind, there are probably far more than that in Germany: given that they have better quality Internet access than most African nations (for instance), you’d expect them to have more people using BitTorrent.

        So I’d expect the number to be in the hundreds of thousands at a minimum.

  • How’s this for an idea.
    Send them a letter offering them the chance to pay full retail for it (or some other reasonable amount). Failing that they can challenge the claim in the court.
    It’s like saying “We caught you, you have the opportunity to come clean now.”

    I think this approach feels a little more pragmatic and would be met with less hostility.

    (Proceed to point out why this won’t work)

  • Another person who is WITH CDP.

    They said when Witcher 2 was released they would pursue pirates & now they are pusuing pirates.

    I see this as the Author (from RPS) HAS PIRATED & is now trying to justify it & using the no DRM as an invitation to pirate…

  • The difference between a speeding ticket and what they are doing is that a speeding ticket is a penalty from a legally sanctioned authority of the government backed by evidence, a documented and established method of determining guilt and professional witness testimony on request. All they are is a company who is threatening people with no legal authority and who are providing no proof or documented methodology. And the reason they are only doing this in Germany is because if they tried it in many other countries and accidentally sent such a letter to someone who was innocent, they would be legally liable for considerable compensation for their actions, whereas I believe in Germany the laws are less restrictive regarding such notices, as are the limitations regarding the methods by which evidence is gathered

  • If DRM is the wrong way to stop piracy…
    …and the threat of legal action against pirates is the wrong way to stop piracy…
    …it seems the only truly foolproof method to repel pirates is to either make the game free

    …or not make a game at all.

    • I think you’re missing what most people are focusing on. People are, in my opinion, upset at the *methods* the company is going about seeking justice for the piracy.

  • If you leave your car outside with the keys in, dont bitch that people didnt have the ‘rights’ to drive your car.
    and how many of those car thieves would pay a “request for money” or fine?

  • CDP are doing the right thing imo. This is far better than implementing DRM that ends up hurting legitimate customers for the sake of catching a minority out for a few weeks. After a few weeks the pirates work around the DRM which makes it fall flat on it’s face.

    CDP have been lenient enough in basically letting pirates try the game for free. It’s been out for a few months now. If pirates liked the game, most would buy a legit copy and support CDP. The pirates that didn’t buy it could simply delete the game off their hard drive. If they didn’t do that, then they should have seen this coming.

    I don’t see why people are complaining about CDP taking pirates to court. The pirates have had a few months now to decide whether to buy the game, and this doesn’t affect legit customers negatively at all.

  • What’s to stop people from buying the game after they get a notice and pretending to have bought it before….not hard to dodgy up a invoice if you already have the product in hand….

      • Like I alluded to in my original comment you could create a fake one or just tell them you threw it away (who keeps game receipts anyway), in either case it would be hard to prove you didn’t buy it before hand.

        • There are ways to prove a receipt is fake (example, contacting the store, who would have it on their records). If you “threw it away” then it becomes harder to prove, but can still be done if they ask where you bought it from and they contact the store.

          I keep all my video game receipts…mostly because I actually work in the industry and can claim them all back on tax 😉

  • It’s called extortion.
    Give us lots of money to keep quiet or we’ll dob you in.

    Not agreeing or disagreeing, thats just what it is.

  • This is a rather complex matter for anyone involved and cannot me simplified for a sentence or a paragraph in a comment section of a news blog without opening a multitude of opposing points and arguments about DRM, software licensing rights and piracy as a more general issue.

    I am personally quite happy to see an open discussion that has thankfully not ended in a flame war. To all involved thus far i salute your (relative) restraint.

    I want to say first and foremost that piracy, in my humble opinion, is tantamount to theft – i realize from a purely legal standpoint that this is not the case and i also realize that not everyone has the means to simply “buy the game to try it” and want to know how it plays before they pay. I can appreciate someones justification for this “theft” and perhaps even agree with the reasoning on individual cases, just as much as i can understand why from the laws perspective that there should be no compromise.

    I can appreciate those who say that this is not a criminal matter, again from a purely technical standpoint but at the same time it is being pursued as if it was a criminal matter by CDP, initiating a “fine” to those who they believe have wronged them and threatening legal action to those who attest the claim.

    From a developer standpoint they are trying to re-coup losses they feel they have suffered because of software piracy; they want to be paid for their work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be compensated for a loss of sales, which is their perspective, and i think they are justified in pursuing some kind of renumeration.

    The methods they are using are perhaps not necessarily the most “customer friendly” but as stated in a few previous posts, this is a company that have always gone out of their way to make the experience as customer friendly as humanly possible: Additional add-ons to game content being made free of charge after launch, attempts to make sure localized prices represent the value of the game and creating a DRM free experience.

    As a consumer and a gamer we see the other side of the coin as well of course: A company that is sending threatening letters to people who may or may not have pirated a game and are being told additional costs will come if they fight the charges laid against them. This, again purely as a consumer, would make me think that company were either not very savvy or just plain wrong.

    But then again these people if they have pirated the game may very well claim that the pirated software was just a “test” so they could try the product before they bought it.

    So what does this all add up to in the end? How do we fix this constant battle between those who wish to be paid for their work versus those who feel persecuted? In this case i cannot say but i certainly know how to fix it in the future:


    That’s all it takes.

    Developers, if you make an amazing DRM free experience, with a DEMO for the game available on the same day as launch (if not a few days before) then people STILL pirate the game, then those pirates deserve everything they get. They would deserve to be prosecuted.

    If that DEMO is of a decent quality and represents the game as a whole, gives a snippet of the experience, and also allows you to showcase your game to people who wouldn’t normally consider it. The cost of a DEMO created is far outweighed by the additional customers you will bring in.

    Make DEMOS an industry standard. Make them an industry standard for every major release. The argument about wanting to “try before you buy” is made invalid and this whole “defending pirates” argument wouldn’t even need to happen, because honest people would have bought the game after the DEMO and pirates would have pirated anyway.

    Which leaves the pirates open, and the rest of us safe. Now for posterities sake i will be able to predict the immediate thought that will jump into many peoples heads “Not everyone can make a demo for their game! It costs to much! It’s not viable in the time frame!”

    The answer: The industry should already have this as a standard, the costs should be taken into account in EVERY major release anyway, because the costs of NOT doing it and having this event occur with CDP is far, far greater.

    – Aron

    • Demo’s aren’t a be all end all solution.

      Especially when they aren’t add your CD-Key and download the rest ready.

      Try to convince someone that they need to download a 4GB demo of an 8GB game. in order to try the game, and then if they like it they need to download another 8GB most people who have download caps are just going to download the 8GB pirate version

      Which if you have a legitimate CD-Key 90% of the time will transfer straight to a legit copy unless the release group has repacked it

      I have downloaded a bunch of Steam Rip’s because steam was giving me like 50kb/s in sales period while i could max my connection from a torrent(not to mention i’m removing a cost from steam while doing so)

      Note: It’s rather easy, you download the file’s install the Cracked copy, tell steam to install the game, Close Steam, Copy the file’s from the cracked install to the new steam install directory, restart steam it will verify the cache and providing there are no update’s let you play. At which point you delete the ISO file you downloaded to begin with.


      There has also been a history of the Demo or the Full game suffering from different issue’s. I know people who have bought a game based on the demo only to find that something fundamental has changed from the demo to the full game that breaks it on their rig.

      There is also the fact that developing a demo drag’s resources and time away from the real release that could cause the game to suffer

      Onlive is a way to try a game since they can just timelock the game for a demo, the issue is you have no idea if it will run on your computer then, since all you see is a video stream

  • People bitch about DRM, pirate to somehow protest it.

    Studio releases AA game without DRM, people pirate it.

    No sympathy here.

    • Well unfortunately people who simply want to “take the path of least resistance” option when a perfectly viable (and not legally questionable) option is available deserve whatever issues they receive. Download caps aside, you’re basically arguing that piracy is a countermeasure to, what, poor Internet service?

      I sincerely hope you don’t get in trouble for posting the required information for subverting legitimate systems such as steam on this message board as well, but i digress.

      From all of that i also noticed you didn’t have a solution to the current problem.

      Was there something you’d suggest?

      – Aron

  • People need to stop with the “hey they did the right thing, and people still pirated it” bullshit.

    Yes CDP deserve to paid and more so for making a good game without DRM, but this is not how it works. Piracy will always happen. Period. What CDP gets for their niceness? MORE SALES. MORE than they would have if they were DRM-humping publishers like Ubisoft. That’s what is improtant.

    Even to say that we shouldn’t be prasing CDP for doing right by their customers. THIS SHOULD BE THE NORM. We should expect this level of service out of all developers and admonish those who don’t provide that.

  • CDP… I had so much respect. And it’s just gone. Nowakowski is apparently a fantastic writer because he almost managed to get some empathy out of me. Then I remembered how many people I know could’ve been the one to download the game to trial it, regardless of whether they end up buying it or not, then get slapped with a ridiculously disproportionate fine big enough to have large and direct impacts on their entire lives – 750 euros is a hell of a lot of money – with pretty much no way of saying otherwise.

    A fine to just pay for the game? Sure. I still wouldn’t agree with it because I’d like to work towards a world where a person can be trusted to buy a legal copy of a product if they try it, like it, and can afford it. I think things like the Indie Bundle demonstrate how you can make back your money on those who either can’t afford it or the rare few scumbags who just don’t want to pay, from generous people who appreciate your generosity and can afford to put in much more than the average price.

    But I’d understand fining them for the game fee. Agree, no, but understand, and certainly wouldn’t raise a fuss.

    But to charge almost TWENTY TIMES the value of the game, just because legal leverage means you can… All as a deterrant with no regard to what it’s doing to people.

    I think Nowakowski is out of touch. The way he words it and talks about a deterrant makes it sound like people are just going to say, “Oh! I got caught! Well, that’s unfortunate, I’ll just go pay the fine and I guess I shouldn’t do this anymore!” No, most people are going to feel like they just got kicked in the face and will spend a minimum of six months trying to replace what they had to take out of their savings. Provided they have any savings. I know a few people living paycheck to paycheck and they couldn’t afford that fine, like that’s it, end of story, could not afford it. What about them?

    All for an imaginary lost sale? Screw that.

    • I’m sorry but that’s utter rubbish.
      Your telling me that in this day and age you can’t spend 10minutes doing some research, reading reviews, watching reviews etc to find out whether or not you would like a game and want to buy it? You or your friends are kidding themselves by saying “Oh I just downloaded it to try it.”
      How long did these people play it for? Did they finish it? Or did they just go “Oh I will only play for 30minutes then stop and delete it” Somehow I don’t think so.
      You don’t want to run the risk of being slapped with a huge fine that will ruin your life? Don’t do something illegal!
      It is that simple!
      I can not having a bleeding heart for someone that gets caught doing something illegal and then has to pay for their crime.
      Also as has been said fining them the price of the game is ridiculous since CDP will still lose money as they have to go to the effort of tracking the people down, using lawyers etc. These expenses have to be recouped.
      It is this sense of entitlement that is the problem within gaming culture.
      People feel like they are entitled to not pay for things and use all sorts of excuses to justify that. Guess what? You aren’t!
      I could write a whole diatribe on this sense of entitlement that seems to be growing in western culture but this is not the place for it. So I will simply say you are not entitled to steal from someone. No matter what your attempted justification.

  • That site you linked to to scare my balls off is hilarious. Apparently I’ve been downloading cooking shows. A lot of them. On my phone.
    To do this I need some things..
    Need to actually download stuff on my phone.
    Need like to watch cooking shows.
    Awesome lol.

    • I thought it was pretty good, I don’t generally download many TV shows but the only thing it showed me having downloaded was some garbage movie I have never heard of?

      Slightly inaccurate. Still interesting though!

  • Do what ubisoft done to anno 2070, if you pirate the game, you cant progress further in the game according to some gamefaqs board, because you need to buy upgrades that would only be available if you connected to their server.

    It non intrusive and actually let people play the game for a while to judge whether its worthed to buy or not.

    Ubisoft got my respect again just like that

  • I wonder how legal the methods are for getting the comfirmatoin of a pirated copy? If this were to be tested it will void the whole porocess

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