I agree whole-heartedly with this, I think it is the only sound approach to digital media. I'm not Stardock, I'm just one lone programmer with a handful of apps out in the world, and I do something that makes other developers' heads spin: I pirate my own products! I take my software, add an NFO file with instructions and an installation code (where applicable), and post it to torrent sites, Usenet, "Digital lockers" etc. What's wrong with my @$*#ing head ? Nothing! This actually helps me net more sales in the long run. Why ?
Because: Software pirates make up the oldest and largest social network of all time!
I have lost count of the times someone admitted they found my software on a torrent site, loved it and decided to pay for the next version, or their friend had pirated it and told them about it. I'm just one guy with a day job, writing commercial apps as a hobby. I don't have a million-dollar advertising budget, and I don't want one. I get better results for free, just by leaking a ZIP file to the internet.
Do you honestly believe Microsoft would dominate the PC operating system market today, had MS-DOS not been massively copied back in the '80s and '90s ? I remember the day DOS 6.0 was launched, people stood in line to buy it, then ran home to make copies for their friends and relativers. For every box sold, there were at least 5 or 10 copies made, if not more. We used to have "copy parties", where we would all meet up in someone's basement with piles of floppy disks and let our friends copy whatever they wanted. Microsoft didn't go bankrupt, they're the biggest software company in the world thanks to all that free distribution.
As a developer and CREATOR, I certainly want to earn a bit of money doing what I do, but I'm not so foolish to think everyone should begrudingly pay my asking price. I'll even go so far as to call it a "suggested price". There is no fixed, tangible cost associated to a copy. Whether my software is used by 10 people or 10,000 it's all the same to me. Heck, I've even donated cash to fellow programmers, just because I liked their software so goddamned much.
Another twist I'd like to share is my own consumption habits. Obviously, I know my way around the digital underworld. If something exists out there, I can probably find a cracked copy in about 30 seconds. I still don't mind paying for software if I consider it worth the money. Prime example: I downloaded Portal, and I liked it a lot. When Portal 2 was released last year, I signed up for Steam and bought a legal copy. In the 12 months since then, I've spent roughly $1500 on Steam games. I didn't have to, I could have gotten all of them from torrent sites, Usenet, DirectConnect or what-have-you. I could have saved myself $1500, but I didn't, because I wanted to pay. Some of them are old games I already had cracked, played through and beaten. I wanted to give money and show gratitude to the developers of those games for providing me great entertainment.
I wanted to use Steam because it offered a better experience than hunting through sketchy warez sites or having to download 2-3 different releases before finding one that actually works (stupid racers!). It was a service that provided what I wanted, when I wanted it (now), delivered the way I wanted (direct download). How hard was that ? I don't want to walk or bus to the mall, to buy a box with a shiny disc in it, that I still have to spend 30 minutes copying to my PC or console. I have this high-speed internet, USE IT. Steam does, and that makes me happy. A happy customer is a paying customer.
By most people's definitions, I'm an "evil pirate" because I can and do copy software. On the converse, I probably outspend 90% of gamers out there, and I'm not alone. There are others like me, we're not in it to get free stuff, we're simply adapting to the ever-changing tech landscape. I'm now trying to apply that same flexibility to the music world, hoping to launch a unique record label that embraces the very same idealistic attitude shown by Stardock and other online pioneers. We're not here to punish pirates, we're here to make money doing what we love. I don't love DRM and it doesn't make anyone money, except the crooked bastards who invent and license DRM schemes. I say, to HELL with those bastards!
I'm not convinced that copyright itself has any merit in today's world. There are millions of "ideas people", dime a dozen, and they all think they're god's gift to humankind. What the world needs is less ideas and more action. It's great that someone invented Superman, but the concept of Superman is old and worn out. Ultimately what drives the content isn't the Superman name, it's the writers, artists, film directors and fans. They're the ones putting real hard work into it. Why should Siegel and Shuster's legacies be skimming benefits when they personally have contributed very little, if anything, to the franchise ?
I think copyright should be modest, maybe 5 years, after which it falls into the public domain. There is no sense in locking ideas away behind a paywall long after the novelty has worn off. There is no competitive edge when the enemy is your own community.