The vicious cycle of piracy?

February 3, 2010

A few years ago I discovered that Wizards of the Coast had started selling PDF versions of pretty much the entire catalog of TSR-published original D&D, AD&D, and AD&D 2nd Ed material, all at quite reasonable prices. I’ve been fond of the Planescape setting ever since I was first introduced to it, and I impulsively bought the majority of the AD&D 2nd Ed Planescape manuals. You known, in case I ever get suddenly transported back to the 90’s or something. I later lost those precious, fully-paid-for bits in a hard drive crash, and didn’t bother redownloading them again because of reasons which seemed reasonable at the time. I mean, the vendor I bought them from will surely let them download them again whenever I decide to. What could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward to the present. Finally setting up a reasonable backup scheme jogged my memory of previously lost bits, and I decided to try downloading new copies of those RPG manuals. And… the vendor still exists… I’m able to log in… they have my complete order history… they have download links!… and – no. Apparently WotC pulled the plug, stopping all e-book sale of their both current and out-of-print material, including re-downloads of already-sold titles.

Of course, a quick search turned up Rapidshare-hosted copies of all the books I’d purchased, which I felt no scruples about downloading. But chicken or egg – are the books so easily available because WotC removed them from legitimate channels? Or was the pull in the first place a response to widespread piracy? Either way, I don’t see how WotC is benefiting.

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