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