This is a guest post by Nikhil Somaru. Nikhil is tech-head open-source junkie with a spiritual edge. He left South Africa in search of Truth (if any and is currently imbibing a system of philosophy known as Vedanta in India. In his spare time, he listens to Wagner and wonders just what he’s gotten himself in to. He can be contacted on twitter or facebook.
Last week we discussed issues around piracy and theft. I mentioned in that post that content creators do not really suffer the consequences of piracy, and I’d like to expand that argument in this post.
There are a few points to consider:
People pay for value that they perceive
I’m going to make a philosophical proposition here that human beings are inherently good. This is an ideal that we all tend towards and is reflected by the common themes found in most systems of law, morals and ethics around the world.
Most people do not pirate content with an idea of getting something for nothing. In most cases, it is simple a situation where “you have that, I want that, easiest way to get that from you is to copy it.” The solution then is not to make your content harder to copy, as this can often hurt sales, but rather to make things as easy as possible for the customer to purchase what they want. That’s it.
Exposure via distribution is more important than the sale
Yes, for U2 and the like, exposure no longer means much. Their achievements are propagated by a vast network of paid marketing experts, fans on social networks and passive word of mouth on the street.
But for the smaller guys, exposure is what determines your positioning in an industry. It’s through exposure that you build a market for your creations. Creation of a market is equivalent to the perception of value mentioned above. People now value your creation and are willing to pay for it. It’s just up to you to get it to them efficiently, to choose a distribution model that is easy and accessible.
Even on a bigger scale, companies such as Microsoft encourage the piracy of their own software. Even when Windows XP knows that you have a pirated version, it never ever locks you out. They would rather keep you in their market than lock you out. Forward thinkers are able to recognise the value of having market share rather than the primitive idea of just looking for a sale.
Sharing can increase sales
A case in point is an elaborate research study conducted by The Japanese Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI). The study aimed to look at the effect of file-sharing on a specific series of Japanese animation. It concludes:
Estimated equations of 105 anime episodes show that (1) Youtube viewing does not negatively affect DVD rentals, and it appears to help raise DVD sales; and (2) although Winny file sharing negatively affects DVD rentals, it does not affect DVD sales. Youtube’s effect of boosting DVD sales can be seen after the TV’s broadcasting of the series has concluded, which suggests that not just a few people learned about the program via a Youtube viewing. In other words YouTube can be interpreted as a promotion tool for DVD sales.
Thieves do not pay
We must admit that there are real pirates out there who want to get something for nothing. They are a rare breed of parasite, but they do exist. But these are the people who go to elaborate measures to avoid paying for things. These are the people who would not have bought/accessed your content if they could not pirate it. These are the people who will pass your content on and help create a market for your products. You have lost nothing from them and are probably gaining exposure from them.
The bottom line is, if you’re a creator, just concentrate on doing what you aught to. Make the best possible stuff you can make. The best in any industry will tell you that it was consistency in action in a particular direction that brought them success, not time wasted in worrying whether they were going to lose money as a result of piracy. Any true artist (in the broader sense of the word) will tell you that at the point of inspiration, he has no thought of benefiting from his creation. In fact, such a thought will probably impair the quality of his creative impulse, and thus his creation.
It’s time for a paradigm shift into an open, idea exchanging society. It’s time for humans to live up to their humanity, and stop sacrificing our freedoms for the sake of selfish, money driven ends of a select few.
Your thoughts, comments and ideas, as always, are welcome.