In news following on the feels of the legal case between AFACT and iiNet (covered in an earlier blog entry), James Burt of Brisbane has found himself owning the most expensive copy of Super Mario Bros Wii in the world after being fined over one million dollars for illegally distributing the game online about a week before its official release.
Now, I’m not at all surprised that this fellow has copped it big time. I would believe that given the forensic evidence collected he’s realised he either had no leg to stand on or a remotely plausible rebuttal. As a result, he’s simply agreed to settle for a dollar amount that looks like a telephone number and would likely declare bankruptcy.
I reckon Nintendo went after this guy on the basis that he put a bit of a dent in their worldwide release of this flagship software title for the Wii rather than purely on the basis of copyright infringement. I guess I would also be pretty peeved if I had sunk a whole lot of cash into a major software release and someone spoilt my party.
One problem I do have is the size of the fine. I think I would be fairly safe in an assumption that this guy would not have a couple of million dollars in cash or assets to his name. Nintendo would be lucky to see 1% of the fine come their way let alone see its court costs paid.
So then, why the huge sum? Even if this guy was responsible for 15,000 copies @ $99.95 a piece, is this even a realistic sum to retrieve from the average individual? I wouldn’t think so.
Plain and simple, this guy has been made an example to others doing the same thing. Those with significant assets such as houses, investment properties and vehicles would have a lot to lose, not to mention the impact it would have on their families and financial independence.
Perhaps a million dollars is a small price to pay for a short term piracy deterrent (given that they aren’t going to see any of it) but I would argue a far better measure would be to reduce the cost of the software in the first place. I remember Nintendo games on previous platforms pushing AU$90 with the excuse that ROM chips were expensive to manufacture. These days, discs are a few cents each and Australia has had a long history of being price gouged when it comes to video games (both for consoles and PCs).
Makes you wonder why the modding and import market is so popular.
Personally, I firmly believe the video game industry has to share some of the blame for piracy when legitimate avenues are pegged well above what would be a reasonable cost.