Tuesday, April 12

Ethics: Digital Downloads

I got into a discussion with my friend the other day about Ethics and the like.  This particular discussion was centered on whether or not it was ethical for gamers to download/scan/ photocopy the codecies for Warhammer 40k and Fantasy. I wanted to bring it to the internets to see what you crazies all think.

Before we get into this discussion lets first cover the ground rules... I am not talking about "Illegal,"  Often what is illegal is not unethical and what is unethical is not always illegal.  So don't give me the answer 'its illegal so its unethical,' that is a huge waste of a brain if that is all the logic your head can come up with.  If you feel that it is unethical explain how and why and under what circumstances might it be ethical. Also, just to be clear I am not condoning or supporting illegal activity, I am only looking to have a discussion.

To help us in this discussion I turn to our friend, Webster:  "Ethical: In accordance with principles of conduct that are considered correct, Esp those of a given profession or group."

Now that we have the ground rules set and the definition in place lets talk about a few scenarios.

Scenario 1: You come to a game store and the person you are playing against has a space marine army that is not painted, he tells you he will be using his SM models as tyranids, he then pulls out a photocopied Tyranids Codex.  When you ask him if he is trying things out before buying the army, he says "No. I just wanted to play Tyranids today."  Is this an ethical use of the codex?

 Scenario 2: You show up to the same game store for a pick up game.  You see a friend flipping through a binder, as you look at the binder you notice that there are 'tabs,' saying "Space Marines," "Blood Angels," "Tau," "Necron," "Eldar," etc.  you notice all the codecies the Rule book and all the FAQ's are in this mega binder.  Your friend isn't playing any of the armies (He has a codex for his army) and from time to time at store tourneys the binder will be used to verify lists. This binder is also used to help new players in deciding what army to play because the store doesn't have 'store copies,' and won't let you look at copies for sale.  Is this an ethical use of the material? What if all the material was downloaded from the net? What if it is copies of things "the group," owns?

Scenario 3: You own every codex written as well as both versions of the rule book, which you bought at retail.  While getting ready for a long road trip you scan every book into a PDF form so you can have 'reading material,' on the drive... You also plan on using the PDF's at the table while playing in a tournament to check opponents wargear and such. Is this an ethical use of the material?

Scenario 4: Similar to your "Tyranid," opponent in scenario 1, but you are planning on buying the goods (Codex included) if you like the army.  you are just using the photocopy/PDF to help decide if you like the army. Is this an Ethical use of the Codex?

There you go folks... Open-ended discussion here, which one is ethical? Are they all unethical?



  1. My take;
    Scenario 1, totally unethical. Maybe, maybe, if the guy was a friend of mine, going through hard times, so far below water he was drowning in debt and in desperate need of a game to relieve some stress.

    Scenario 2, Borderline. The store should be trying to get store copies for exactly this purpose.

    Scenario 3, completely ethical. Among other things, copyright law allows this, if my understanding of it is at all correct.

    Scenario 4, borderline again. If it's a copy of a friend's dex, or a store dex, less so, but something downloaded, more so.

    Maybe I'm lucky, but my local environment is friendly enough that if you want to try out an army, or leaf through a codex, there's very likely someone that will let you play, or read, theirs, and my flgs has store copies of almost all codexes and army books available behind the counter.

    Then again, I also own every codex, and pick up new ones when they come out. They're worth it, to me, for the reading material alone.

  2. Wow, that a lot of stuff.

    Scenario 1: Unethical. I would say this because the pdf has been printed, and has directly replaced an actual codex, and there is no intention to buy.

    Scenario 2: I would say this is ethical. This is actually the primary reason I have quite a few pdf codices. The fact is is that most stores have "Store Copies." I don't want to have to spend 3 hours looking over a codex at a store in order to decide if I want to play the army. It also does not replace a purchase, and probably helps with the ultimate purchase by introducing new players to all the armies and allowing them to choose the best fit. He also has a codex for the army he plays, and therefore is not just trying to get freebees. To me, intent matters.

    Scenario 3: First of all, for all involved, never use an ereader for writing lists or checking stuff, they are far too slow and unresponsive for the massive page flipping back and forth required. Back on topic, Ethical. The player has already purchased the material. In addition, he is not even increasing the number of copies in use (e.g. Even though there are now 2 copies of the codices, only one will still ever be in use at one time).

    Scenario 4: Borderline to me. It seems to me like $30 for a codex is a pretty small price to pay to test out an army. I always look over the codices but if I am at the point of actually proxying up the army and play testing, I want the actual codex.

    Ultimately I think that for me, it comes down to intent and use. If you are using the codex in place of buying an actual codex, then there is an ethical problem. If you wouldn't buy the codex, and don't use the pdf's the same as a codex, then your fine.

  3. The only one I have a problem with is 1, but I'm pretty much cool with piracy. If a guy asked me to play a game like that, friend or not, I'd laugh at him and walk away.
    On a separate but related note... I'm always amused at the "I need to have the codex NOW" players. The players that have to have the info before everyone because they think it'll give 'um an edge. I understand excitement, but it can be ridiculous at times. Most of these people are keen on 'breaking' the Dex (*cough* Cruor Vault *cough*), or trying to plan their new shiny army (*cough* Duke *cough*). Its the dex breakers that think they'll have the advantage. Congratz, you figured it out 30 seconds before everyone else did.
    I have no problem having Dex's copied or on PDF... but a counter point to this is the lively hood of your local store. I get unbearably peev'd when a person comes into a local "barely surviving the recession" store with an internet bought army, a pirated PDF of his codex, and look what I can get look how much cheaper I got this on . You sir, are a douche. Icing on the cake is the "look at this awesome army that I had commission painted." Sooooo.... you're saying that you don't give a crap about the local store, the only real reason a guy like you would ever find anyone to ever play anyways, and that you're army is like Joan Rivers (cheap and not originally yours). Get a life, or go away. (oh wait, you don't realize you're a douche... right.) Ok, that's my rant on ethics.

    Nothing Follows
    Carry on.
    Immortal out.