Skip to content

Is it illegal to pirate a free game?

Piracy involves making unauthorized copies of games, whether paid or free games. So pirating any copyrighted game is generally illegal, though the laws vary by country. While it may seem harmless since you‘re not paying for free games anyway, there are good reasons why you should avoid pirating free games.

Breaking Laws and Risking Lawsuits

Piracy directly violates copyright laws in most countries by distributing unauthorized copies. According to the FBI, illegal reproduction or distribution of copyrighted work is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Even if a game is free, the developer legally owns the rights to distribute it, so piracy infringes on their ownership. Lawsuits from developers like Riot Games and Blizzard have demanded up to $150,000 per infringement from people who pirated their games.

More Ways You Can Get Caught

  • Using torrents or illegal game sites leaves you open to monitoring by authorities.
  • Your internet service provider may send violation notices and throttle your connection speed.
  • Accounts like Steam can get permanently banned for piracy, losing access to libraries.
  • Anti-piracy software like DRM can detect illegal copies and get your accounts banned.

In a study, 1 in 10 gamers admitted to pirating games recently to save money – but is it worth the risk?

Hurting the Developers Who Make Free Games Possible

Free games rely on good faith that players will support developers through in-game transactions or promotions. According to research firm Newzoo, free games will generate $124 billion in 2021, relying heavily on small payments from non-pirating players. Piracy undermines this by cutting into the potential revenue developers may rely on. For indie developers especially, just a few thousand lost sales can be crushing. According to game developer intrviews by IGN, piracy demotivates developers from creating games and hurts innovation.

Pros and Cons of Pirating Free Games

Pros Cons
Free games Illegal activity
Avoid in-game payments Risk account bans
Play old abandonware games Expose computer to malware
Access restricted games Devs lose potential revenue

Safer Ways a Fellow Gamer Can Get Free Games

Instead of sailing the high seas for booty, try these legit ways to play without plundering your coin purse, matey!

  • Free-to-play games
  • Giveaways from developers
  • Limited free trials
  • Game bundles
  • Free weekends
  • Beta access
  • Using gaming wishlists and waiting for sales
  • Trading game codes with friends

Demo versions are a great way to test the grog before ya buy the whole keg!

Preserving Abandonware – Arrrr! There Be Dragons!

Abandonware sites let ye play old games no longer sold in stores. While technically still illegal according to thar DMCA, some scallywags view it as the only way to preserve out-of-circulation games. However, try services like GOG first to see if a legal version be available. I recommend supporting these fine companies legitimately acquiring licenses to preserve classics!

How to Support Developers as a Pirate Turning a New Leaf

Redeem yourself by purchasing legal games in the future, especially from indie developers. Beyond buying games, here be other ways to show support:

  • Write reviews
  • Rate games
  • Engage on social media
  • Promote on streams/videos
  • Provide feedback and bug reports
  • Make fan art
  • Purchase merchandise

Even small contributions make a difference, helping indies stay afloat! For the sake of the gaming industry and future plunder, I say it‘s better to play a game legally and become an advocate than risk having no games left to play at all! What say you?