Game piracy is an activity in which people make and distribute copies of a computer or console game without authorization from the game's developer and owner of the game's copyright. Estimates about the rate of game piracy vary, with some companies claiming rates as high as 90%, while others have more conservative numbers. Concerns about game piracy have led companies to use a variety of techniques to attempt to subvert piracy, ranging from making versions of their products available for free to having complex processes to validate their products when people use them.
People commit game piracy for a number of reasons. Some people do it for profit, purchasing legitimate versions of games for the purpose of copying and selling them. Some game pirates sell hard drives or discs loaded with numerous games, so that people can purchase a large package of pirated games. Other people copy and distribute games for friends so that they can save money, or because they do not realize that what they are doing is considered piracy. For example, if a game allows people to have five copies installed and someone passes copies to four friends and they in turn pass it on, the original purchaser would have been contributing to game piracy by handing out the legitimate versions.
Copyright holders are frustrated by game piracy because it deprives them of the profits they might have made from the game. Companies which release their games for free can also suffer from game piracy, as consumers may be sold pirated copies of games which can legally be obtained for free, or consumers may get a pirated copy which has been loaded with malware which will damage their computer or gaming system. Safety concerns have become an important issue for many game companies as piracy becomes more sophisticated.
Some measures to prevent game piracy include the use of registry keys which users must use to validate products when they load them, along with the use of certifications which cannot be duplicated so that consumers will be assured that they are purchasing a genuine product. Companies have also used techniques like providing automatic updates for their products which will flag users who are playing with a pirated version of a game and releasing trial copies or copies with limited functionality so that people can try out games for free without needing to pirate copies.
People can be prosecuted for game piracy under copyright infringement laws. Depending on the extent of the piracy, people can face fines and jail time for pirating games. People who unwittingly use pirated games, such as someone who bought a game which was advertised as legitimate, will generally not face penalties as long as they can prove that the purchase was made in good faith.