if there weren't any pirates
There have always been pirates and there will always be pirates. The reason why we have DRM is that products with the promise to eliminate piracy did appear on the market, nothing else.
Piracy is not free, you have to spend a lot of time into finding and downloading the warez, which can be of dubious quality. People are even prepared to pay for piracy given the popularity of providers warez binary newsgroups. When the balance between time investment, financial investment and product quality of warez copies is better than that of authentic copies, piracy will grow out of control. As soon as the balance of authentic copies is better, piracy will shrink.
Technological progress like P2P reduces the time investment for warez and thus promotes piracy. DRM reduces the quality of authentic copies, while at the same time it provides an intellectual challenge for crackers who jump on to show to their cracker friends how smart they are. This effect makes it technically ineffective. It is sometimes hoped the DRM will prevent incidental copies at LAN parties, but as most gamer know how to find cracks it does not, in fact the industry teaches gamers to find cracks, as removing DRM increases the quality of the product.
And there we are at situation the industry is in.
Now, of course, boycotting a product using unacceptable DRM is both the most ethical and the most effective. However, going to back to the shoplifting analogy. Suppose lamp manufacturers suddenly decide that people wanting light need to identify them using chipcards to the lamp and start making such lamps en masse. Only a few manufacturers care about their customers and keep producing normal lamps.
Of course, the only right thing is to buy the normal lamps, this will force the manufacturers to produce normal lamps again. But this will limit the customer's choices in various ways, instead of a choice out of 1000s of lamps he needs to choose between only a few lamps. It is not unthinkable that in this totally hypothetic situation a black market would come into existance that would remove the chipcard slots from lamps. One can expect that such a black market would attract a lot of sympathy amongst customers that want to buy lamps, suddenly they can get the lamps that they want without the limitations.....
It is in this light that I view piracy of games from publishers that fuck their customers. Legal? No. Ethical? Depends on your viewpoint. Understandable? Absolutely.
Boycott them. Publicize your belief that their methods are unacceptable. Write letters to the management noting how their policies have resulted in you and your friends not buying it when otherwise you would. All of these are more effective than pirating it, which only proves them right.
Exactly. Not buying and not playing it is by far the most effective way of making your wish heard by producers. It is not easy, if developers make an otherwise fantastic game it can be annoying that you cannot play it, and maybe you don't want to punish developers for the sins of their publishers. However, if you want to be taken seriously as consumer, just as businesses often make difficult decisions, so will you have to do as consumer. Buying=doing business. Be a good businessman.