I was playing an online game recently where a guy was sharing links to a YouTube video where you could get Counter-Strike, Half-Life, and the original Halo on PC all for free. Of course, anybody with common sense can tell you that’s not a good idea for a multitude of reasons. King among those reasons would be just how fishy the offer sounds. What is purposed is comparable to the cool looking pair of shades at a Dollar Store, with the compromise most likely being a nasty Computer Virus. While that’s bad in and of itself, what’s even worse is the legality of it all.
Now, before I start, I should preface this by saying that I am not an expert when it comes to law. I’ve never studied, nor ever looked into too hard, but I at least know the surface of it — don’t steal things, don’t murder, don’t do drugs, etc. If I screw something up here, please correct me. It shouldn’t take an expert to tell you Piracy falls under the former listing, as it amounts to stealing from whoever created or is responsible for the product you’re downloading. What constitutes piracy is questionable at best. In regards to releases from this year or just a few years ago, it’s absolutely an act of theft. In regards, however, to 10 years ago or even 20-30… well, that depends. It’s considered theft if somebody still owns the rights to whatever is being downloaded and they’re active about that property. As the original Half-Life and Counter-Strike games are still up for sale and are heavily promoted via discounts, it’s a safe bet to say that pirating them can’t fall under the trapping of a legal grey area. As for Halo, that’s an uncertain bet. Microsoft — clearly — is still pursuing the Halo franchise as it’s their main cash cow in the Video Game market and has been for many years. Despite this, I don’t believe the original Halo: Combat Evolved as seen a release on the PC since it’s boxed-copy version in the early 2000s’. Halo 2 did see a similar fate in 2007 (I believe), albeit one chained up to Microsoft’s then-new Games For Windows Live program. With this in mind, it’s probably not too safe to snatch a copy of it but it probably won’t bite you too hard right now.
This post, of course, is not just about whether or not you should take up this specific offer. All offers that cost either nothing or little-to-nothing almost always have a Catch 22 to make up for their lack of budgeting. In the case of downloading old PC games that have a slim chance of ever being sold again, the catch is that they may not run properly on Modern PCs’, if at all. With catches like these in mind, it’s a good idea to apply common sense to any offer you’re given. If you see a YouTube video offering links to the original Half-Life (or any other similar game) while it’s still being sold, maybe consider the overall legality of it before you pursue that download. Nearing a contrary, if you see a short 3-second video with a robot saying “links in the description” and decide to download it, it’s your fault you got that virus… also, it most likely isn’t legal, to begin with.
I write this warning because I had to talk somebody down from taking the very specific offer. Not everybody can think on their toes on a whim, so I decided to write this if you ever find yourself in a similar circumstance.