How it was distributed makes zero difference. As I stated before, even if everyone downloading it intended to pirate it, they failed.
Calling out people who did not pirate a game as pirates of a game is slander - "by definition" as a previous poster was fond of saying. Pissing and moaning about piracy does nothing to improve the situation for anyone.
Besides, they weren't merely pointing out the "delicious irony" (which, ironically, didn't actually exist) of pirates asking for help against piracy. They were sending out press releases about it, in which they somehow neglected to mention that the version with piracy was a separate version, leading to a bunch of articles about heroic indies magically thwarting pirates, leading to their dead-in-the-water game suddenly getting attention and getting Greenlighted.
The intent behind the move was simple: unfairly slam people everyone loves to hate to get publicity to get Greenlighted. The slander was intentional and malicious. It may not have been off-the-mark in any other case, but that isn't the point. The point is the reprehensible behaviour of the developers that everyone chooses to ignore because "pirates".