The problem isn’t piracy, it’s your product and publisher.

<provocative opening statement> A common saying you hear now a days in arguments about piracy is “I think people should get paid for their creative work”.    Yeah, well I don’t. </end troll-bait>

I think you should get paid for how well the free market likes you and decides to pay you.  It is your job to figure out how to be a businessmen and make money.

But I’m just an author and don’t understand business!

Then hire the person who is supposed to understand these things — a publisher!  It’s their responsibility, it is why you hire them, to make money in the marketplace with your creative work.  Historically they’ve been quite good at this.  Now that the market has been made more competitive (piracy is, after all, just a competitor to the work a publisher traditionally does) guess who are the ones complaining loudest?  That’s right, the folks who are supposed to be competing in the marketplace — the publishers.  Rather than compete against a competitor they are complaining for regulation to help keep their business afloat.

To paraphrase Gabe Newell’s Piracy is a service problem:  If you are being pirated, it means there’s something wrong with the service to begin with.  Somebody finds it more enjoyable or values more the experience of pirating your work than to get it via the channels you are offering.  Therefore you need to find a way to make your product more valuable than the pirated one.  Let me repeat that: It is your responsibility, as the person who wants to make money, to find a way to make your users happy enough that they want to pay you.

I don’t know of any other example of a business where I can launch my business, make money, have a competitor come in and then beg the government to make them go away.

Anybody who is complaining that piracy hurts their business is simply avoiding the problem that they aren’t providing a product that the marketplace likes enough to make money. Sure, piracy is incredible efficient so it makes your problem harder but that’s not the marketplace’s fault. Technology’s job is to make life more efficient and better for end users, I like to call it progress.

So rather than legislate to defend the old business models of a sector which was supposed to be market savvy to begin with, why don’t we let the market be efficient and have people innovate and let the businesses or technology that can provide the most end-user value win?

Discuss.

8 comments

  1. As far as constitutionality goes, I quote from article 1, section 8, enumerating the powers of congress.

    “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

    I believe that this is exactly the right you claim does not exist. Now I do think that current law pushes the balance too far in the direction of copyright holders. What I find very curious is the very different protection terms for patents (20 yrs) and copyrights (life of author + 70 yrs). Does it really take ~5x longer to profit from a copyright than from a patent?

    I think you would agree that the extreme case, where after years of your life and/or millions in R&D, a competitor could use and profit from your work (and sell it at a price that could put you out of business) without putting in that money or effort would be a defective system.

    • I disagree on all counts. Re: Consitution — it provides ‘exclusive rights’ for ‘limited times’. Nothing about ‘guaranteed profits’ or ‘life + 90 years’.

      As for your last point — it’s called disruption. It’s what Silicon Valley does. Take a look at Nokia, for example. Something better came along (the iPhone and Android) and their whole business goes away. Progress happens, as a business you learn and change and take advantage, or you go away. If the government hinders this process I claim THAT would be the broken system.

      • In the case of Nokia, someone else produced a better product, but what if someone did not improve on your product, but in fact produced the EXACT SAME PRODUCT?

        Take the example of a pharmaceutical company that has just spent half a billion dollars developing and testing a drug. They must now recoup those losses (as well as losses for all the failed drugs) to make a profit on it. Now that it’s clear that this drug works, company B immediately comes along and starts producing the same drug at a price that company A can’t match if they ever hope to turn enough profit to develop another drug.

        I would call that a situation that is openly hostile to innovation, and that is the kind of case that copyright and patent law is meant to prevent.

        • First, you’re talking about patent law with the pharma example. I think the current system for pharma patents works well, the 10 years that they are given exclusive rights over their inventions IMO is a good compromise. I don’t think your argument applies to copyright though, which is what I’m really concerned about as it is the area most disrupted by modern computers & the internet and is the industry fighting innovation the hardest.

  2. Here’s a somewhat similar story where a municipality in NC decided to create it’s own network and be an ISP. Apparently following a failed lawsuit a new law was passed preventing other local governments from operating their own consumer ISPs (Link to the actual bill in the blog post).

    Blog: savencbb.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/wilson-largely-exempted-but-nc-takes-a-big-step-backward/

    The main difference here is that the competition being outlawed is exclusively municipal. Then again, there are many places where towns are incorporated entities. Should they be excluded from offering certain services?

    • I forgot to mention that this comment is in response to the statement about businesses outlawing competition. There is no opinion or statement made with regards to piracy or intellectual property.

  3. This is a very high-moral-ground, pro-competition argument–just as long as you define someone taking a copy of content you created, and doing so without your permission, as “a competitor” rather than “a thief” or “a leech.”

    In aggregate, people taking copies of your content could be viewed as “competition” to your desire to make a profit from that content. Just like shoplifters, robbers, burglars, and light-handed employee pilferers could be considered “competition” to a retail shop. This is, however, “competitor” in the sense of “impediment” or “opponent” rather than the more usual sense of “an entity in the same business as you.”

    Shops, hotels, restaurants, farmers, and all manner of other businesses have responded to exactly this “take my valuable stuff without compensating me” form of “competition” by encouraging governments to forbid and punish such activities. Thus all those laws against theft, fraud, taking by deception, embezzlement, and the like.

    You ask publishers to “find a way to make your users happy enough that they want to pay you.” Well, they have, more or less. Copyrights, piracy laws, piracy prosecutions, etc.–they are the anti-theft provisions of the digital world. They are highly imperfect. But so are anti-shoplifting laws.

    You may disagree with the value of such legal protections. But I daresay there’s no major human commercial activity that *isn’t* protected by legal prohibitions and punishments. Why should the digital realm be any different? Yes we’ve made technical progress that makes copying (“piracy”) much easier; but progress in human behavior and patterns of economic activity comes more slowly.

    • My argument is that the digital world is fundamentally different from the physical. Copying is the name of the game, it costs as close to nothing as you could imagine yet also creates tremendous value. When you define ‘theft’ in the real world there is one party who loses X amount of value of the stolen goods and the thief who gains X value, and the original owner is tangible in a worse position with every act of theft. This is entirely not the case in the digital world. Our laws are treating these activities as if they are the same, which if you use legacy definitions of these words then sure, they could be seen that way. But I argue that is doing society as a whole a great disservice. Times have changed, the value proposition of a good is remarkably different in the digital world and we need to treat it as such to maximize societal value and progress.

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