So You Are Earning From Ads And Think Piratism Is Okay?

There’s one thing software pirates haven’t really thought about. They argue that software needs to be free “since it’s not stealing”. Even if somebody spent tons of time to create the software, it’s okay to use it for free. And it’s even okay to show ads on your pirate site, and get revenues. That’s what the Prison Bay is doing – and people say it’s totally cool.

So, with that logic – it’s okay for me to steal all the code/art/assets you’ve done, put them somewhere (outside my servers) and collect ad revenues. If you have code a game, I could rip all the art and use them in my game – since that’s not stealing.

Let’s suppose you are in favor for piratism. You think it’s okay to pirate games. And, you currently make free games (flash or downloadable, doesn’t matter).

Now, would it be okay if I’d pirate your game, and then use it totally free in my site (but so that the actual game is not hosted on my server, but rather as torrent file on users servers – I just link there) and then I switch your ads to my ads. I’d be pirating your code, and I would get all the ad revenues.

If you think that “it’s okay to pirate games” (even if it means that some people will lose their income), then naturally you must also accept that it’s okay to pirate any “code” (and art) and use your code and art in my game – right?

I mean, if you create a picture. It’s not really that I’m stealing your picture. You still have it. I just go out and show the pic (hosted in some free image hosting site for example) to my site visitors, and get revenues from ads.

That’s totally okay, right?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Okay, that was merely an example :) Techcrunch for example charges about $10k per ad spot per month… and they have some millions of pageviews. It really varies.

  2. 18k$? You probably far from what they get. My company once buy ad spots on TPB, and it’s not cheap, that’s all i can say.
    And also for seeing the numbers of a site that make twice traffic as TPB, with 18k$, you missing some 0 ;)

  3. @jalf: Do the math. Hosting 20 million visitor servers doesn’t cost 10k per month – more like 10k-20k per year. With 100 000 monthly impression one can generate like 300 bucks depending what sort of ads are shown and who is paying them. Showing 60+ million ads (they seem to have several ad slots) each month makes 600 times more -> like 18 000 bucks per month. And these are just example figures, worst case scenario could be anything from 6000 bucks… to something what techcrunch makes (10k+ per ad, and they have 5-10 ad slots which ads up).

    TBP hosting fees (since they don’t even host anything, but only do searches) must be much less than what they are earning, or:
    1) they are really bad at handling advertising



    With that being said, I’m not saying if the decision was right. I kind of think that this can make piratism even worse.

  4. So where is this money TPB has made off their ads? As far as I know, there was no evidence given for the claim that they made millions in ad income. You’d think that kind of money would be traceable, wouldn’t you? You’d think the prosecutor could get access to that kind of information. But as long as they haven’t, I fail to see how we can accuse TPB of profiting off your work. Where’s the money? Do you have some data on the rates they get from their ads, on click-through rates, on how large a proportion of their users have adblockers on, number of unique IP’s viewing the ads and so on? If not, your claim that they make millions of dollars is worthless.

    And once again remember that TPB has done zero active piracy. They have not posted a single .torrent link. They have not linked to illegal material. Their users have done that. I think that’s an important distinction. TPB might be illegal, but not because they’re guilty of piracy. At worst, they are guilty of failing to police their users.

    There are plenty of ad-supported forums and bulletin boards out there as well, which users are able to (ab)use to share pirated files. Are the developers of the forum software guilty of piracy as well then?

  5. And you know what, some little kids don’t pirate games even if their parents don’t buy them games.
    There are also other solutions for kids who have no money.
    There are a lot of free games.

    I even heard of some creative solution game developer had for kids who had no money and wanted to play their game.
    They gave a few free copies to kids, and in return the kids were spreading the word about their game.
    I think that is a solution were everyone can be happy with.

  6. A person who is over 18 have no excuses to pirate a game, whatever the price is.
    If he wants the game so much, then he can work for it.
    I can understand a little kid pirating a game, because he is not capable of making a lot of money, and little kids like a lot of games.
    Its kind of like chocolate for kids. Most kids love chocolate, and if you won’t buy chocolate for them, they might try to steal it.

  7. The motive behind hacks (which are something completely different to mere pirating) is usualy to increase a program’s quality (or flex some muscles as with hacked NES roms). This means, the original program was flawed, for example by including ads. Because, let’s face it, from the customer’s perspective, an ad is just some sort of bug (unless you do sports games where banner ads are commonplace in RL).

  8. “no analogy doesn’t hold”. Let’s step back a bit:

    – pirated copies (aka hacked version, that removes the possibility for the developer to earn money)

    how’s that different from:
    – stealing your work, hacking it (removing your ads) to remove the possibility for you to earn money

    — how that analogy doesn’t hold? I’d be curious.

    TPB offers links to pirated & hacked materials, earns money from ads on their site.

    I offer links to the pirated & hacked work of yours (not hosted on my servers, but among users), and then earn money from ads on my site.

    — how come that analogy doesn’t hold?


  9. Where i live, most people that pirate games does it because here the games cost double price compared to north america and europe. Here you have to pay over $70 for some new released games. An Xbox Arcade costs $350 compared to the $230 price in north america. BUT the people’s income is a 1/4 of the income in north america. So here is so difficult to have original games, but is so easy to get the pirated version. I’m not telling that is a fault of the game companies, but maybe if you pay a price according your income you will not feel like they are trying to stole your money.

  10. “So, it’s okay to steal your work, remove ads from your product (=pirated material is hacked, copyright notices etc. removed) and then collect revenues from ads that are on my site? Now I got it right?”

    No, you just cannot make that analogy hold.

  11. uuorp: “People will notice that you are stealing stuff so they will stop to support you…” Yes, that’s the point… why do you need to enforce copyright then?

    Juuso: Why do you care if somebody can steal art from you? how does that affect you?

  12. well, by “switch ads” I also could add the fact that Flash games (for example) have ads on their site (that has no link with the material).

    So, it’s okay to steal your work, remove ads from your product (=pirated material is hacked, copyright notices etc. removed) and then collect revenues from ads that are on my site? Now I got it right?

    “I agree that no money should be made off any distribution.”?
    – Then why people go to TPB which obviously is earning six fig yearly income from the site (and having a search engine for 20 million visitors (and not even hosting any of the material) is heck no costing 100k yearly.

  13. TPB ads are site ads, they are in no way linked to the material stream.

    I find we are mixing apples and pears when the money becomes involved.
    I agree that no money should be made off any distribution. this is where the true black market is, in countries where the real prices are outrageous compared to average income. Mixing filesharing with the people who pump out millions of copies of titanic dvds is a mistake.

  14. downloading a game to play it without paying, is not comparable to downloading it, putting in your own advertisement and redistributing it.

  15. your analogy does not hold. nobody is switching the advertisement. that is a completely different matter.

  16. The argumentation doesn’t really work too well since most (probably 99.99%) pirates never created anything of sellable value themselves.

    They can’t really (REALLY) answer a question like that since it’s much easier to say or think “Yeah, I’m fine with all that” when they haven’t seen their hard work copied all over the internet.

    There are some pirates who may have the true knowledge to answer the questions with a “yes” honestly but most pirates are just copying because it’s free and without any consequence for them whatsoever.

  17. there’s not logic at all in your words.

    -downloading a game doesn’t make me any profit,
    steal art and game code to collect ad revenues, yes.

    If you are not good enoguh to make your own art assets and code to make a decent game you will have to find another job pretty soon.

    People will notice that you are stealing stuff so they will stop to support you…

  18. First let us define revenue:

    The amount of money that a company (or in this case, a site) actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned merchandise. It is the “top line” or “gross income” figure from which costs are subtracted to determine net income.
    Source: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/revenue.asp

    Ok now that we are clear of the meaning of revenue, let us look at the interesting thing called net income:

    A company’s total earnings (or profit). Net income is calculated by taking revenues and adjusting for the cost of doing business, depreciation, interest, taxes and other expenses. This number is found on a company’s income statement and is an important measure of how profitable the company is over a period of time. The measure is also used to calculate earnings per share.

    Source: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/netincome.asp

    If the cost of running a site and the revenue is equal than the net income is 0. Hence, free.

    If sites are making a profit from pirating software, games, movies, etc. than yes it is quite wrong. If no profit is gained, then no one is receiving anything thus no theft is being done.

    Some software is insanely expensive. Adobe, Apple, and Autodesk are companies that develop industry standard software that is important to learn. Say a kid wants to learn it, how could they? It’s expensive. Only the rich can afford such software and perhaps rightfully so. Pirate it, learn it, and now you have someone who can use that software for the benefit of a company or whatever.

    Any profit from someone’s work is quite wrong. Let’s not forget that a huge chunk of profit goes to the company before anyone in the creative developments. Musicians see pennies for CD and Online sales (the big source of income is their shows). Movies follow a hierarchy with the producers and distributors on top and things trickle down; writers, directors, actors see only a small percentage of the actual profits. There are exceptions for every category so this is a generalization.

    My argument to pirating is simple: I wasn’t going to pay for it anyway. My reason isn’t because I don’t want to, it’s because it’s a) too expensive b) not worth my dollar c) archive. One day, online pirating may play a major role in archiving things from the past (It’s seen with old operating systems, games, music, etc.) Again, pirating shouldn’t be something profitable. If you have the money, buy it. If you don’t, what’s the harm? The person couldn’t afford it anyway.

    The gap between “Internet Piracy” and “REAL life Piracy” is so huge, it should never be compared or even considered related.

  19. Why would people go to the rip off if they can go to the original site at no cost?. Plus, at the original site you get to communicate with the original author.

    Of course, the rip off can try to scam you into believing he is the original author. But that’s a matter of attribution, not copyright. I agree 100% that attribution should be given to the artist.

    And once we all agree attribution should be given to the artist… if the pirate copies your game and put it in you site he is doing you a favor. People will come to your site to see what else do you have.

    Also, why would I go through the trouble of getting your free game through bittorrent when I can just play it for free at your page?

  20. Not at all. But then, I’m not a fan of pirating things either. I think it can have it’s place, in lieu of trial software, or when discovering a band. But; support to the great coders/artists/musicians is always due.

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