Learning How To Benefit From Piracy Is Not The Same As Endorsing Piracy
from the basic-logic-101 dept
John Gunn, the General Manager of a DRM company, alerted us to a blog post he wrote taking me to task for the post I wrote last week concerning a software developer who didn’t freak out when his app was cracked, but used the experience to learn what the market wanted from his app. Gunn’s post is slightly odd, and a bit troubling to me, in that he says that, by showing how this developer learned to use the piracy to his advantage, I “crossed the line” I have always avoided, and “actively promoted the criminal act of software piracy.”
This is both wrong and misleading at the same time. First, my position is nothing new. I have always said that content creators need to learn how to take advantage of unauthorized access. In fact, that’s been a common theme throughout this site from the beginning. Saying that content creators can and should learn to take advantage of such things (and then highlighting those who do so successfully) is, in no way, condoning the actions of those who partake in unauthorized file sharing. My position has always been directed to the content creator, and both recognizes the reality that unauthorized file sharing exists and will not go away, and then looks at ways to use that to your advantage, knowing it’s there.
Gunn’s second point is to claim that there are “far more efficient and reliable methods” for a developer to get feedback from the market. That may be true (though, actually, I doubt it), but again it doesn’t change the fact that unauthorized access will occur. And, given that, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of it? Nothing about using piracy for market lessons is mutually exclusive from those mythological more efficient and reliable methods. Then, Gunn goes back to the old, disproved claim of DRM defenders: that the only real message from pirates is people want stuff for free. Considering just how often we’ve shown examples of people happily paying for things they can get for free when given a reason to buy, rather than being treated as a criminal by DRM providers, it’s simply a myth.
Finally, Gunn, posts a series of questions for me:
Why use the denigrating term “freaking out” to describe software publishers who act to protect their assets and revenues by using an effective DRM solution or by pursuing action against people that steal from them? Wouldn’t you do the same?
The term “freaking out” was descriptive and, I believe, accurate. Many software developers get so focused on unauthorized access and file sharing of their software that they miss out on the fact that there are business models they could adopt where that issue goes away. They miss out on the fact that throughout history, so called “piracy” has almost always opened up new, and much larger, markets. So, “freaking out” is proper. It shows a response that is out of proportion with what would be a reasonable solution, such as figuring out a way to take that activity and use it to their own advantage.
As for the issue about “protecting assets” using “an effective DRM solution… against people that steal from them?” Well, the answer should be obvious. First, it’s not about protecting assets. It’s about limiting activity of customers. Limiting activity of customers is the same thing as limiting your market and making your product less valuable. If you’re in business, your goal should always be making your customers more satisfied and more interested in doing business with you, rather than “protecting” or limiting. As for an “effective DRM solution” well, such a thing has never existed, so I don’t know what he’s talking about. Finally, as someone who claims to be a regular reader of Techdirt, it’s odd that he would call unauthorized access “stealing.” It’s not. Claiming it is doesn’t change things at all. In fact, claiming it is stealing makes it nearly impossible to figure out a way to respond reasonably and leads to, yes, freaking out.
And, finally, to the question “wouldn’t I do the same?” The answer is no. I wouldn’t (and don’t) limit my customers. I’d put together a business model where it doesn’t make sense to do so. I would put together a business model where I get benefits the more my content is spread widely — rather than taking an adversarial stance against my customers. Plenty of folks are doing so today, and are finding stronger and better relationships with their customers and bigger and bigger businesses. And, when my customers do something new and unique with my content, I’d learn from it and encourage it in order to make my future work that much more valuable.