How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Internet Piracy

Hey Guys,

I get asked a lot about internet piracy and how much it affects me.  Pretty much anybody who’s ever tried to sell (or buy… or download) anything digital has thought about the piracy issue and felt a sort of odd sense of mixed emotions.

Let’s talk about it.

Internet piracy isn’t really *stealing*.  In fact, the provider doesn’t lose any specific copy.  To the average person, stealing is when there is a thing over there, it doesn’t belong to you, you take it, and now that thing is over here (and not over there).  With internet piracy, there is a thing over there, it doesn’t belong to you, you take it, and… it’s still there.  It’s almost like the never-ending stairs trick in Mario 64, where you run and run and run and then you turn around and you’re right where you started.  Everything’s still there!


So, if it’s not stealing, is it… copyright infringement?  Well, not really, because most of the time people aren’t selling your digital content.  They’re not actually gaining very much for it, if anything.  Well then… is it plagiarism?  Hmm, no, not that either.  Nobody’s trying to pass off the work as their own.  In fact, when people download content they do it almost entirely because it’s yours.

So what is piracy then?

I usually call it free advertising.

That’s good, now say, “Yarghhh!”


I’m a professional poker author with a very niche clientele.  I sell books to people well-versed enough in the online poker world to know who I am.  That probably constitutes <1% of the American poker community, let alone the global one.  In short, the vast majority of my target audience have ZERO idea who I am.  Not only that, but a lot of them would probably love the content (that’s a self-call, which is Dartmouthese for a not-so-humblebrag).  Simply put, there is a massive untapped audience that, short of me winning the WSOP main event, are unlikely to ever know who I am or that I wrote a book about poker.

Now, in the good-old-days, achieving market awareness was a task for lots of cash, friends in high places, and Don Draper.  Today, though, things are a bit different.  Ask Antoine Dodson how fast the internet spreads market awareness.  He’ll probably tell you that if you’re afraid of piracy, you are “So Dumb.  You are Really Dumb.  Fo’Real”.

Here are some reasons why many people, including Rovio CEO and Steward of Upset-Poultry Launching Mikael Hed, think that Piracy is actually a pretty good thing:

  • Brand Awareness is a viral affair now.  So, a leaked copy of an app, document, or song, could turn into millions of new customers, not dozens.  
  • Piracy is virtually impossible to defeat by brute force.  So, trying to stop it completely is a losing battle.  Don’t cling to the status quo, embrace the change.
  • A quality product leads to happy users.  Happy users want moar moar moar.
  • When you have a lot of users, you can combat piracy with a two-step solution; 1) release at a low price point and 2) ramp up DRM protection (or not).  Think itunes, Spotify, Netflix, etc. Lots of users means lots of exposure and, if people love your content, they’ll buy it if the price is right.
The last comment I probably wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t observed it myself.  I’ve been selling ebooks for a long time now, and they’re fully pirated all over the internet.  Yet I still receive the occasional message along the lines of, “I really want to purchase your book because I think you did great work and I want a legitimate copy”.  I’m always kind of stunned when this happens, but to me it represents a relatively large number of people who think that but don’t feel the need to email me about it.
To conclude, in the internet era the name of the game is exposure.  Get your product out there– if it is high quality, people will enjoy it, share it, and your brand will spread.  If it’s low quality, well, that’s just too bad.  But when you get that emotional, knee-jerk reaction (“I listed my product at $39.99 and now these people are taking it for FREE!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!”), remember that piracy represents the golden triforce of sales:  demand.  If people demand the goods, specifically your goods, you’re going to be just fine.
Until next time,

PS:  Reshare this post 😉

PPS:  Music of the day:  Ben Folds ft Regina Spektor


5 Responses to “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Internet Piracy”

  1. horabora says:

    I bought your book after downlading it, and printing it.
    Just because I liked the content anf felt you deserved something in return. Easy game was lots of food for thoght to me.

  2. Pokeratu says:

    This is a very interesting point of view, especially coming from an author of poker books. Keep playing good and money will come, or keep writing good content…!

  3. macphineas says:

    Never heard of you or your books, and just randomly came across this, but you’re absolutely right about what a boon piracy can be for everyone but the Don Drapers of the world. Fans get stuff for free, and whoever created that stuff get more fans, who then will buy more stuff to support people who make stuff they like. I can’t even count how many times I’ve done that…

  4. Kozy says:

    This is so spot on. I pirated Easy Game, read two chapters and immediately went to Amazon and bought it. I felt I would gain way more value than the sale price, and couldn’t in good conscience not pay you for it. I have since emailed the amazon link to every friend of mine that is interested in poker. Thanks.

  5. goof says:

    I’m in your target audience and I just finished watching a “free” video I just now realized I could buy from your site for $39.99, and I’m now considering buying your book and possibly getting some coaching sessions.

    I may do neither, and then well it’s kind of a waste, but I’m closer to doing something than I would have been without the pirated video. (It’s on youtube btw and is your 3betting video. I don’t know if you knew that or if it helps get it taken down, but I figured I’d at least mention it.)

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