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Ironic game gets pirates to feel the sting of piracy.


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#21 slicer4ever   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3412

Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:58 AM

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 09:34, said:
I think there are some problems. The first one is, the "illegal" game must be legal, since it was uploaded by the copyright holder. Whilst it's true that many downloaders wouldn't have cared about this, and may be people who pirate other games, they aren't pirates of *this* game. This also feeds into the myth that torrents always equals piracy - yet I might go to bittorrent to download say, a Linux ISO, an Open Source game, or this game that they've legally made available themselves.

from my understanding, until they posted this article, noone was aware that the uploader was them. thusly anyone whom downloaded the game was fully and intentionally pirating the game.

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 09:34, said:
Consider, why weren't there pirated versions of the non-crippled game to download on bittorrent? (Especially since their game has no DRM to make this hard.) This suggests that had they have not made the game available themselves, there would have been few people pirating it.

who said there weren't? they just tried to make themselves the most appealing.

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 09:34, said:
If I stand outside a food shop I run, and hand out free items of food, I don't then get to whine "95% of people STOLE from me", when I was the one handing it out. True, in this case the people wouldn't know if it was legal or not, but it still amounts to entrapment, with all of the associated problems that brings, and it makes any associated research or statistics unreliable.

if you are standing on that street corner with 5 other people also handing out your food, how does it invalidate the statistics if people just happen to choose you instead of someone else?
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#22 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 841

Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:43 AM

from my understanding, until they posted this article, noone was aware that the uploader was them. thusly anyone whom downloaded the game was fully and intentionally pirating the game.

But it isn't piracy, it's legal - even if one thought they were (I mean yes, I'm sure plenty of people thought they were, but intent doesn't effect the legality - after all, there are plenty of clueless people who think it's always legal to download if it's "free" on the Internet, and in this case, those people would have been in the right).

who said there weren't? they just tried to make themselves the most appealing.

if you are standing on that street corner with 5 other people also handing out your food, how does it invalidate the statistics if people just happen to choose you instead of someone else?

So how many other versions were being pirated before their version was added? What did the statistics look like before they added theirs? What's that, we don't know? That's my point - the stats are worthless.

Given that the blog says that they can measure by both the anonymous data sent to the server, and that their "cracked" version has a separate ID, it should be possible to provide stats for all three of:

1. Legal version of the full version.
2. Pirated version of the full version.
3. Their so-called "cracked" version that they distributed over bitorrent.

But the pie chart labels only (1) and (3). So either the numbers of 2 were neglible; they're ignoring (2); or they've miscounted, or something else that makes the stats not tell us very much.

I appreciate they wanted to make their own modified version to give a message, but it would have been interesting to see the typical stats without them encouraging the so-called piracy with an actually legal version. Plus it would have made the message more meaningful - there's a difference between "These people are pirating a game - let's slip them a version with a message" and "Let's hand out free but crippled copies of a game, then accuse them all of being pirates just because they didn't buy it".
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#23 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1737

Posted 01 May 2013 - 11:35 AM

Just because someone "provides access" to something does not automatically mean they have granted permission for use or any form of copyright licensing for the content. 

 

I post photos online for vistors to view. This does not give them any rights to take those photos off my site and save copies for other use. The only rights I've granted them are to obtain temporary copies downloaded from the site in the normal process of viewing a webpage. Nothing more. 

 

"it is there" is not the same as "It it there and licensed for us to use". 

 

But it isn't piracy, it's legal - even if one thought they were (I mean yes, I'm sure plenty of people thought they were, but intent doesn't effect the legality - after all, there are plenty of clueless people who think it's always legal to download if it's "free" on the Internet, and in this case, those people would have been in the right).

 

So yes, without a software license and release from the creator, or some other form of actual authorization, this is still very much the same as piracy. 


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#24 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1175

Posted 01 May 2013 - 11:54 AM

This reminds me of how the Arkham Asylum games had a hook in to the DRM that disabled an in-game feature (the gliding ability) and then they caught several people posting of their forums complaining about the "bug". 

 

This is much sweeter and so satisfyingly ironic that I wish all games did this.

 

Just imagine if a game had such hooks to its copyright protection that rendered it unplayable at some stage due to some in-game effect. Seems like a nice curb to piracy... certainly better than full-time internet access requirements.



#25 slicer4ever   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3412

Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:14 PM

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 11:47, said:

Quote
from my understanding, until they posted this article, noone was aware that the uploader was them. thusly anyone whom downloaded the game was fully and intentionally pirating the game.

But it isn't piracy, it's legal - even if one thought they were (I mean yes, I'm sure plenty of people thought they were, but intent doesn't effect the legality - after all, there are plenty of clueless people who think it's always legal to download if it's "free" on the Internet, and in this case, those people would have been in the right).

you are the only person talking about legality, as if the game devs are going to try to sue everyone whom downloaded their version. as far as i am aware, they have no intention to do that. the point of doing this was to demonstrate the severity of piracy on the gaming industry, when you are seeing games whom entire consumer base is made up of those that attained your game through questionable means, that stings.

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 11:47, said:

Quote
who said there weren't? they just tried to make themselves the most appealing.

if you are standing on that street corner with 5 other people also handing out your food, how does it invalidate the statistics if people just happen to choose you instead of someone else?

So how many other versions were being pirated before their version was added? What did the statistics look like before they added theirs? What's that, we don't know? That's my point - the stats are worthless.

Given that the blog says that they can measure by both the anonymous data sent to the server, and that their "cracked" version has a separate ID, it should be possible to provide stats for all three of:

1. Legal version of the full version.
2. Pirated version of the full version.
3. Their so-called "cracked" version that they distributed over bitorrent.

But the pie chart labels only (1) and (3). So either the numbers of 2 were neglible; they're ignoring (2); or they've miscounted, or something else that makes the stats not tell us very much.

I appreciate they wanted to make their own modified version to give a message, but it would have been interesting to see the typical stats without them encouraging the so-called piracy with an actually legal version. Plus it would have made the message more meaningful - there's a difference between "These people are pirating a game - let's slip them a version with a message" and "Let's hand out free but crippled copies of a game, then accuse them all of being pirates just because they didn't buy it".

what i am getting from this argument is that your trying to make the point that because they released the cracked game themselves, they brought this onto themselves? sure that's a possibility, but it's one i find laughable at best, and i suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

this is also a problem that is easily seen in the indie film industry. for example John de lancie and Lauren Faust created a brony documentary through kickstarter, they added in their own funds and decided to not take any profits until after the film was released, and make a return from those whom brought the film. Unfortunately, even with the huge support of kickstarter and the brony community, when it came time to release they saw massive piracy of the film, and little significant sales to recoup what they themselves had put into it. Now then, I don't want to argue about rather they should have put in their own funds, or what they were thinking when doing that. that's been argued to death already, it's the point that even through that seemed to have a solid crowd source, piracy effectively killed any real returns, making the film more risky to place on services like netflix, or cable tv.

At the end of the day though, piracy exists, and if company's see always online drm as the only way to curb it, then that's going to be what happens. I feel bad for the film and music industry, because at least with games you have a bit of control, other media is pretty much at the mercy of people not pirating them.
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#26 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 18144

Posted 01 May 2013 - 04:05 PM

I'd guess that the percentage of pirates who simply wouldn't buy/play a game at all if there was no pirate copy available is very high... which leaves a small percentage of pirates who actually would pay for the game as long as they were unable to steal it.
In my experience, the majority of pirates are opportunistic like this; they're only playing these games because they can pirate them, if they can't pirate them, then they don't play them.

 

That's assuming that all the pirates actually play the games they are pirating. I would hazard the guess that many of the pirates, because of the vast amount of content they download, play for about five minutes before moving on to something else (unless it's a blockbuster hit).

To continue my guessing, I think even more download but don't even install (or ever intend to install) the game. They are more 'collectors' than players. (Pokemon pirates - gotta catch 'em all).

I find an urge in myself to collect DRM-free indie games that I purchase legally through Humble Indie Bundles or Good Old Games (see an example of this here). I haven't even played half of them (mostly because they came in bundles). If I didn't pay for games, that urge to collect would still be there.

 

I wonder how many people download, collect, and organize open-source software?

 

I agree that download rate != lost sale rate. You'd first have to calculate install rates (you'd lose alot of the pirates there), then actual booting up the game rate (you'd lost some more), people who installed the same game on multiple computers (a small percent), and then arrive at the "pirates who played for more than two hours" before you find a truly "lost sale"...

 

Then you have to figure out whether you lost the "sale" because:

1) The pirate didn't have money (poor, or a kid without a credit card)

2) Didn't care that it was wrong 

3) Tricked himself into believing it isn't wrong

4) Or didn't realize it was wrong (just ignorant about copyright law and digital distribution)

 

How many "Download Free Games Now!" websites do you think there are, generating ad revenue for chinese companies? Do people who visit them realize that the games aren't made by the website or that the website doesn't have permission to display it?

 

How many people accidentally pirate movies on YouTube ("Hey, it's ran by Google. Google wouldn't do anything illegal, or the government would stop it!"), simply because they were on a YouTube channel that was actually legit, but clicked on another video and unintentionally switched channels and didn't realize the TV show they were now watching was uploaded by a random internet user who didn't understand copyright issues?

 

Mind ye, I'm not saying the existing copyright laws are fair either. dry.png


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#27 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 18144

Posted 01 May 2013 - 04:22 PM

Just because someone "provides access" to something does not automatically mean they have granted permission for use or any form of copyright licensing for the content. 
 
I post photos online for vistors to view. This does not give them any rights to take those photos off my site and save copies for other use. The only rights I've granted them are to obtain temporary copies downloaded from the site in the normal process of viewing a webpage. Nothing more. 
 
"it is there" is not the same as "It it there and licensed for us to use".

Technically, yes it does. At least in the United States.

It doesn't give them permission to redistribute it - but if you intentionally provide access to something like a photo, there is a legally right to download and duplicate and alter... but not redistribute.

I can shift the time I want to view it (time-shifting), such as has been declared legal by the Betamax case.
I can shift the format the object is in (format-shifting), such as converting it from PNG to JPEG.
I can shift the place or device I view it on (space-shifting), by say, moving it from my TV to my computer.

I can modify it for my personal use in whatever way I please. I just can't redistribute it. At least, such was the laws in the United States before the Digital Millenium Copyright Act complicated some things with semi-contradictory laws.

I can't "circumvent" a DRM system. So the majority of the above now changes on a case-to-case basis - is it technically "secured" or isn't it? What counts as circumvention and what doesn't?

Why is recording a TV show with Tivo legal, but recording a Netflix movie illegal?
Why is recording a TV show (when you're paying for the channel, not the show) legal, but digitizing your own DVD collection (that you purchased, not renting) illegal?
Why is Google/YouTube not breaking the law by hosting stolen content, but the civilians viewing it are?

Our copyright laws need a vast overhaul - but even with our existing confused semi-contradictory copyright laws, yes, people do have the right to download and save photos you post online, and to "use" them. Just not publically redistribute the original or altered versions.

 

Personally, I think using recording devices for skipping over commercials automaticly in broadcasted TV wrongfully deprives the broadcasters of their revenue. But I haven't thought out a good legal solution to it that is actually just and fair to businesses and consumers. I'd rather err on the side of giving consumers more rights than err in favor of businesses, but with things like multimedia (which isn't consumed by use and is digitally reproducible), it's really difficult to create laws the are fair to artists, consumers, and artists that build off of the work of other artists - like Walt Disney's entire success: all of their famous movies were their own interpretations of other people's work centuries before - but woe to those who try to build off of Disney's works, or you face the full force of a multi-billion dollar corporation's lawyers .. and their friends in the government who create the laws.


Edited by Servant of the Lord, 01 May 2013 - 04:32 PM.

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#28 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 28604

Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:02 PM

This reminds me of how the Arkham Asylum games had a hook in to the DRM that disabled an in-game feature (the gliding ability) and then they caught several people posting of their forums complaining about the "bug".

Some of the command and conquer games had a system where they did a 2nd DRM check 1 minute into a multiplayer game, and if it failed, all your buildings would explode.
All the initial cracks that flooded onto the scene only disabled the first check, which let you play the campaign, and LAN games for the first minute ;)

The original operation flashpoint also had an interesting system where it would slowly 'degrade' your experience, by breaking controls and features and deleting random files from the game... While telling that a genuine copy doesn't degrade.

#29 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 19790

Posted 01 May 2013 - 08:46 PM

We have implemented many different piracy checks into games over the years.

In one game, you couldn't get out of a car. (You had to crash to get out, which meant some missions were unbeatable)

In another, the cutscenes had black bars to put them in a cinematic view. Failed piracy checks the bars would continue to grow and grow and grow, giving just a tiny sliver of the scene. This would be mostly an okay thing, except several key events happen in cinematic view. Still beatable, but very frustrating.

We had camera shake. Not as extreme as in other games, but for a shooter any camera jitter is bad.

Periodic random reversal of controls. Sometimes up/down were remapped. Sometimes left/right were remapped. Sometimes mouse buttons would remap. Can work around it, but very annoying.

Unable to connect to server. That's pretty normal these days.

Horrible tuning. Detected pirates get very little rewards for missions.


Yet in spite of this, our games have been pirated. I'm always amazed how many crack writers will keep in-game telemetry turned on.
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#30 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1737

Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:55 PM



Yet in spite of this, our games have been pirated. I'm always amazed how many crack writers will keep in-game telemetry turned on.

 

Wouldn't you want people to know about all your hard work and effort to do something cool and interesting?


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#31 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:56 PM

That's assuming that all the pirates actually play the games they are pirating. I would hazard the guess that many of the pirates, because of the vast amount of content they download, play for about five minutes before moving on to something else (unless it's a blockbuster hit).

Though I agree, I think they are using in game telemetry not torrent stats for their numbers in this specific case.

#32 TheChubu   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3971

Posted 02 May 2013 - 01:02 AM

I'd guess that the percentage of pirates who simply wouldn't buy/play a game at all if there was no pirate copy available is very high... which leaves a small percentage of pirates who actually would pay for the game as long as they were unable to steal it.
In my experience, the majority of pirates are opportunistic like this; they're only playing these games because they can pirate them, if they can't pirate them, then they don't play them.

 

That's assuming that all the pirates actually play the games they are pirating. I would hazard the guess that many of the pirates, because of the vast amount of content they download, play for about five minutes before moving on to something else (unless it's a blockbuster hit).

To continue my guessing, I think even more download but don't even install (or ever intend to install) the game. They are more 'collectors' than players. (Pokemon pirates - gotta catch 'em all).

This is a good point. Remember the statistics from Steam? I think it was something like half the games people buy never get played at all. And they hand money for those.


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#33 Krohm   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3017

Posted 02 May 2013 - 01:58 AM

This move is particularly smart. I heard of similar tricks before, starting perhaps from the first Spyro game, but this time they hit the problem completely.

 

That said, I think I'm going to buy The Lunar Bundle this week. I'm afraid it will be a looong summer for me.



#34 Aurioch   Members   -  Reputation: 1276

Posted 02 May 2013 - 06:04 AM

Wow, many interesting posts here.

 

I have to agree that majority of people pirate games because it's stupidly easy to do it. Sadly, for now implementing "always online" crap and similar mechanisms is the only way to at least somewhat reduce the piracy. I downloaded pirated version of SimCity 5 with intention to try it (EA/Maxis didn't offer demo) and see if it's worth buying because I have legal SimCity 4 which I love; after being unable to install it I deleted it.

However, always online DRM brings its own problems too (*looks at SimCity 5 launch*), and while for MP games it's completely valid solution it screws up SP games (*looks at Ubisoft*). Tricks like Game Dev Tycoon's are, in my opinion, better for dealing with piracy.

 

A little offtopic, but I'd want to share one nasty piracy check I encountered myself.

It was about 13 years ago. Mom bought me pirated version of Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon for PS1. Game was played pretty normally... until you get close to the end of the game (4th world of 4). You slowly lose access to the 2nd and 3rd world, your gem count starts dropping slowly, so does the egg found count. You lose access to the levels you previously had to and sounds stops in some parts of the game. Soon after that, game forces you back to the beginning of the game, resetting everything.

It's been 12 years since I last put that game in my console and I still want to properly beat it. And it seems I won't get a chance because now it only exists on the internet as pirated version.



#35 Dmytry   Members   -  Reputation: 1148

Posted 04 May 2013 - 12:30 AM

It is difficult to estimate actual impact on sales. Most of sales of my game (and most of the revenue) comes from discount sales (Steam Summer Sale events, etc), so it is clear there is a lot of people who would buy it for a reduced price but would not buy it at a full price. Note that these people *did* buy it at a reduced price - it is entirely false to say that those who wouldn't buy it at the full price were not willing to pay anything at all.

 

It would seem that a huge fraction of pirates would pay something, like $1 .. $2 voluntarily, if they had to login with their credit card at all, and even bigger fraction would pay up if they only could obtain the game at a discount sale. And they don't, and so there is a very significant loss of revenue, easily well over 2x less revenue for indie games based on how discount sales seem to work on Steam.

 

edit: Some gameplay alteration which goes public (like in that game), that's clever. Subtly broken gameplay (e.g. camera jitter) to punish pirates is ridiculous. It decreases the likelihood that friends of a pirate buy it, potential customers are reading pirate's reviews, etc.


Edited by Dmytry, 04 May 2013 - 12:47 AM.

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#36 kraz007   Members   -  Reputation: 130

Posted 05 May 2013 - 02:35 AM

Yep, I got the article on my Flipboard, had a lot of fun with the complaints! You can't get enough irony in this business!


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#37 Descrow   Members   -  Reputation: 106

Posted 07 May 2013 - 05:02 AM

It is difficult to estimate actual impact on sales. Most of sales of my game (and most of the revenue) comes from discount sales (Steam Summer Sale events, etc), so it is clear there is a lot of people who would buy it for a reduced price but would not buy it at a full price. Note that these people *did* buy it at a reduced price - it is entirely false to say that those who wouldn't buy it at the full price were not willing to pay anything at all.

 

Meh, piracy has become the norm in recent years. The "5% sold/95% pirated" is actually so standard

that AAA developers expect as much, and take the numbers with them into forecasts. While a loss of

revenue is, of course, implied, we can no longer *expect* to make money from the 95% pirates. If they

eventually buy the game, that's awesome, but it's not the norm. Therefore, the 5% of people who

actually buy the game have become the 100% of players who are expected to buy the game.

 

Concerning the shenanigans of the publisher we're talking about: They kind of stabbed themselves

in the back by releasing a cracked/DRM free version at the same time as releasing the store version.

The release of cracked versions usually takes at least a few days from initial release. Whether they

could have made more money this way can't be proven of course.

 

Also, the point made is completely correct - by releasing the "Pirated" version themselves, the game

is effectively an official, albeit crippled and free release. While downloaded with the intention of

pirating, it's *not* a pirated version.


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#38 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5970

Posted 07 May 2013 - 07:28 AM

It is difficult to estimate actual impact on sales. Most of sales of my game (and most of the revenue) comes from discount sales (Steam Summer Sale events, etc), so it is clear there is a lot of people who would buy it for a reduced price but would not buy it at a full price. Note that these people *did* buy it at a reduced price - it is entirely false to say that those who wouldn't buy it at the full price were not willing to pay anything at all.

 

Meh, piracy has become the norm in recent years. The "5% sold/95% pirated" is actually so standard

that AAA developers expect as much, and take the numbers with them into forecasts. While a loss of

revenue is, of course, implied, we can no longer *expect* to make money from the 95% pirates. If they

eventually buy the game, that's awesome, but it's not the norm. Therefore, the 5% of people who

actually buy the game have become the 100% of players who are expected to buy the game.

 

Concerning the shenanigans of the publisher we're talking about: They kind of stabbed themselves

in the back by releasing a cracked/DRM free version at the same time as releasing the store version.

The release of cracked versions usually takes at least a few days from initial release. Whether they

could have made more money this way can't be proven of course.

 

Also, the point made is completely correct - by releasing the "Pirated" version themselves, the game

is effectively an official, albeit crippled and free release. While downloaded with the intention of

pirating, it's *not* a pirated version.

 

AFAIK the game was DRM free, so there wasn't a need for a crack, allthough it would probably have taken longer to hit the filesharing networks without their help since most paying customers are honest enough to not share games they've bought even if they are DRM free.

 

 

I'd guess that the percentage of pirates who simply wouldn't buy/play a game at all if there was no pirate copy available is very high... which leaves a small percentage of pirates who actually would pay for the game as long as they were unable to steal it.
In my experience, the majority of pirates are opportunistic like this; they're only playing these games because they can pirate them, if they can't pirate them, then they don't play them.

 

That's assuming that all the pirates actually play the games they are pirating. I would hazard the guess that many of the pirates, because of the vast amount of content they download, play for about five minutes before moving on to something else (unless it's a blockbuster hit).

To continue my guessing, I think even more download but don't even install (or ever intend to install) the game. They are more 'collectors' than players. (Pokemon pirates - gotta catch 'em all).

This is a good point. Remember the statistics from Steam? I think it was something like half the games people buy never get played at all. And they hand money for those.

 

Bundles and sales are hard to resist :) i got a bunch of games on steam and gog.com that i've never played that i intend to play some day when i got time :)


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#39 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 28604

Posted 07 May 2013 - 07:52 AM

Also, the point made is completely correct - by releasing the "Pirated" version themselves, the game
is effectively an official, albeit crippled and free release. While downloaded with the intention of
pirating, it's *not* a pirated version.

That's not true, as mentioned earlier in the thread.

Software is copyrighted by default, and without any license from the author, you don't have permission to redistribute the work. It doesn't matter who gave the software to you, you don't have the right to go around making clones of it, which is what all those torrent users are doing. The torrent version comes with no copyright license.

When you purchase the game on the store, you're being given a license to use the DRM-free software, but you still can't go making copies for all your friends, despite it being given to you by the author.

Concerning the shenanigans of the publisher we're talking about: They kind of stabbed themselves
in the back by releasing a cracked/DRM free version at the same time as releasing the store version.

The store version is DRM-free (so there's no need to even crack it), but the "cracked" version is intentionally broken.

Many hollywood companies do a similar thing, where they upload broken versions of their films to torrent sites in a feeble attempt to disrupt pirates (and also to track them and send them legal threats...).



#40 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1737

Posted 07 May 2013 - 08:07 AM

Also, as for the "They released it, therefore it isn't piracy!" BS, if you actually took the time to read you would find this little gem in the installer (for the store bought version, which I assume is also there in their 'pirate' version):

"...Grant of rights

 

Upon [/b]payment of applicable Licence fees[b], we hereby grant You..."

 

I can go to Adobe and download most of their software for free. However that doesn't actually grant me rights to the software itself.


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