Yesterday I was somewhat saddened when one of the Kickstarter projects I have backed sent an update out notifying all backers that someone had publicly posted a copy of the PDF from the project online on a Russian hosted filesharing forum. Presumably, this was someone who backed the project which made it all the sadder that they had the appalling lack of respect to just distribute the material in such a way. This PDF represented a huge effort by its creators and had been produced as a result of the pledges of over a thirteen hundred separate backers, and in this respect I believe that to publicly distribute the material was stealing not only from the publisher but from all of those backers as well.
There were numerous messages of support from backers of the project and the publisher in question dealt with the issue in a professional and pragmatic manner, taking the necessary steps to submit requests to have the materials removed and to ensure that a more secure mechanism is used to distribute subsequent PDF’s to backers. But, the amount of unnecessary effort this has caused him cannot be underestimated, not to mention any potential revenue losses resulting from the action.
I had to ask myself what the idiot that posted it in this way was looking to achieve? And I’m afraid that the truth is that there were probably two drivers. The first is, looking at the filesharing site, that it was clear that many people are requesting copies of newly published files and that by contributing they seek to perpetuate the ongoing sharing of future material. But secondly it was clear that it was an act of vanity, a deluded self importance that he was able to rapidly fulfil the request of some other person for this material only a few days after publication, and frankly thats just sad.
We enjoy an incredibly diverse hobby, where, by and large the stranglehold of the bigger companies that threatened to ruin the industry in the late eighties and early nineties has been broken by the power of the internet and the ability for smaller independents to publish high quality materials at reasonable prices. Where cowd-funding and print on demand technology, tablets and e-readers have transformed the way that many of us will now buy and use our games and resources.
Like many I recognise that the acceptance of an element of filesharing is inevitable, especially if we want to avoid the proliferation of DRM technology which inevitably restricts the devices we can use and the software we need, and in truth if you want to share a PDF with your gaming group, well maybe thats fair game. Who knows one of them might then buy a copy of the physical book if they like it. But what is really important is that we don’t mindlessly abuse this technological freedom to the detriment of our hobby. That the wholesale and indiscriminate sharing of files isn’t allowed to proliferate and to subsequently deter and damage independent publishers.
In this case it would have cost a backer of the Kickstarter a whole $15 for the finished PDF (and a bunch of other material as well), and lets face it $15 isn’t going to break the bank for anyone who really wants a copy of a good RPG sourcebook. Even after the project had finished the same PDF is available on DriveThruRPG for $20 – that’s a little over £12, or slightly under 15 Euros. When this kind of mindless “piracy”, (a term which I think glorifies the whole business), is perpetrated it isn’t just the publisher that loses out on a few dollars, its all of us that enjoy the roleplaying games industry that will lose out in the long run. Actions such as these are truly damaging to smaller independent publishers.
So please – don’t accept materials from filesharing sites, and do report such abuses when you come across them and by so doing, help protect our industry, our hobby and our passion. Rant over…