Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rights and Privileges

I do hate it when people confuse their Rights with things that they are merely fortunate to have. For instance, almost all of us have met people who treat driving as a Right, God-given to them at the age of 16. No matter what they do they feel that, as a Right, it should never be taken from them. Inevitably they are some of the worst drivers because they have little respect for the rules and less concern for others' rights. They are also the loudest to complain when they feel their "Rights" have been violated, even when they have erred. These people have confused Right with Privilege.

So, have you read the Gamer's Bill of Rights? (Edge Magazine, RSS'd via Boing Boing)

Here was my reactions, as they occured:
  • Yeah.
  • Okay.
  • I get that.
  • That sure would be nice.
  • Wait...
  • We need a "Bill of Rights" for this?
  • Are these even "Rights"?
  • Oh Dear.
The last one was the realization that this can only lead to masses of people, most with blogs or forum accounts, decrying many current business policies, often to employees who have no control over them. The sense of entitlement that having a list like this in existence creates far exceeds the sense of entitlement that most gamers already posses. I can already see the pointing of digits, and a wailing of voices; "Remove the DRM", they cry, "Free the games!"

It is not that I disagree. Far from it. DRM is hurting many industries, computer gaming included. Poor advertising practices, and truth-bending always lead to frustration and outrage. Things that are hidden and dubious (be it agendas or programs) will always be outed, and never in a positive light. But claiming any of these standards as a Right is dangerous.

As with any service you buy or good you acquire, you enter into an agreement with the other side. Terms are typically laid out beforehand, and the agreements are typically binding. There are rules for these sorts of things, and people pay good money to go to school for many years to learn them. We merely participate in the shallow end of this pool. Our terms are set by (often) unwritten agreements and common practice or precedent. You pay $$$ for a disc (or download) with the contents of several years worth of labour. Some support is provided, and you often are required to prove you purchased a legitimate copy via some means provided by the vendor. These are the terms; that doesn't mean you have to accept them. You can refuse to buy/play/accept any games that you feel treat you unjustly or unfairly.

Declaring Rights for ourselves in an attempt to protect our pocketbooks and sensibilities from ruthless and shady dealings provides no solution. There is no recourse for companies who violate these "Rights" (unless they stray into Legal ground), and the solutions have and will continue to be the same as with anyone who deals badly in commerce. Out them as poor parties to trade with. Boycott and protest. Show their dealings for what they are and encourage people to become educated about the ways they may be duped.

These so-called Rights are no bad guideline, and define a (perhaps) ideal measuring stick for which producers and developers can hold them selves against. They are a tool, and little more.

We need to be careful what we call a Right, lest we lose the privilege of declaring them.

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