Quick List Of Successes In Which Copyright Didn't Matter

from the not-exhaustive dept

There's sort of an odd back and forth that happens at Techdirt, where we spend a great deal of time highlighting all the success stories of artists and creators that managed quite well without operating under the stringent guidelines of intellectual property laws. Glyn Moody recently covered one such story in Psy, creator of the nearly unfathomably popular Gangam Style music video. As happens so often when we post these stories, some detractors consider Psy an “anomaly”, despite how often we cover these stories, and as though mainstream label successes of Psy's size weren't also “anomalies”. So perhaps it would be useful to have a post that wrapped up a non-exhaustive but multi-creator list of folks who have embraced piracy to further their own success.

That's exactly what Geek.com has put together, putting four other creators alongside Psy with brief descriptions of how they spurned copyright and were successful in spite of, or perhaps because of, that decision. The list includes names you should recognize by now, from Cory Doctrow to Louis CK and on to Peter Mountford. But one new name you'll see on this list is Shahrzad Rafati.

Where most content producers see pirated video as a negative for revenue, Shahrzad Rafati saw an opportunity. Rafati started Broadband TV in 2005 with the aim of monetizing and legitimizing pirated video. The Canadian company searches video sharing services, looking for copyrighted material. Instead of removing it, Broadband TV re-brands the content, includes relevant ads, and reposts. What once was infringing video has become a revenue source.

Rafati realized that people uploading videos aren’t doing it to be malicious. They just really enjoy the content and want to share it. A heavy handed approach to enforcement won’t work long-term. Broadband TV currently works with some big name partners like the NBA, Warner Brothers, Sony, and YouTube. The company also has a YouTube channel called VISO where users can watch sports, movie trailers, and news programs.

Like the others, where Rafati had success is utlimately in identifying what people wanted and figuring out an amicable way to intersect that desire with content producers to create yet another success story. But, what you'll notice in these stories, the first step is in identifying and satisfying a public's need or want. What they never start with is a knee-jerk or angry reaction to that need.

The list is growing, regardless of what critics might suggest. If major media wants to get on board with these kinds of stories even further, they can win. If they don't, then I guess we'll just keep collecting the names and stories of others who do it better.

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Comments on “Quick List Of Successes In Which Copyright Didn't Matter”

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47 Comments
Robert (profile) says:

Just a few exceptions

The generality is quite simple, piracy has devastated the music business and the 2.1 million people it employs in the USA alone (95% are lawyers). It’s gotten so bad that Aimee Mann has taken to cleaning houses, it is true, I saw it on TV.

The movie industry, despite losing $17 billion per month since the 1970’s when the VCR strangled women at home, has lost 3.7 million jobs each year! Catering companies and florists, for example, can’t find any other company to have as customers. They only service the movie industry. No one else. They are also laying people off (in addition to the 3.7 million per year) and closing up shop.

It’s all Google’s fault because they won’t limit searches to just the legitimate content, and after its windowed release of 96 days because the longer people wait, the more they want it. They don’t have other sources of entertainment. Seriously, videogames were a temporary fad, only supported by comic book collectors like that guy on the Simpsons.

There are no real success stories or those in the list would have brought back all those jobs and billions in revenue.

We all know Pirate Mike and his TechDirt minions are the real people behind Google’s power and takeover of the Internet for the sole purpose of stealing intellectual property.

It’s all part of the Streisand Effect, as outlined in Wikipedia.

There is no quality of art outside of the corporations and all you pirates want to do is destroy what’s left so there’s nothing but cigarbox music about the long lost days when artists were swimming in money thanks to our now broken system. It’s all your fault you evil pirates! We’ve bent over backwards to see straight and you still steal us blind.

/s

Ninja (profile) says:

While the effort is appreciated by those among us that have a clue, I don’t think you should even bother about the usual critics (including but not limited to techdirt trolls).

They will simply turn a blind eye to all the evidence because this new model is not profitable for them or doesn’t fit their pre-set point of view. Worse, they will refuse to see it even if it IS profitable simply because these new efforts require leaving their comfy zone and accepting that there are different ways of doing it right. It’s not only in the religion field that we’ll find intolerance and fanaticism.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There was a psych study done years ago where people were placed in a closed room, not told why they were there, and not told how long they would be there. After a day they became irrational after two day the experiment was called off. I tried searching for it on Google and couldn’t find a link.

The point is the content industry is a closed industry much like that closed room experiment. They have their own language, society, power structure, and 100 years of tradition. It is in no way surprising to see them behaving the way they are. They are circling the wagons and burying their heads in the sand denying that anything is wrong, and that the things going on outside their closed society will not affect them.

Mike is constantly warning unless they begin to change soon their businesses will fail from doing to little to late. With things like the SEC regs on crowd funding due sometime in the near future, funding of movies will be routed away from the big studios to more nimble, less guilded (actors), and non unionized groups. Add to that digital distribution of films to theaters and it is a game changer.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh articles like this aren’t aimed at the usual critics; I don’t think there’s anyone around who has had to put up with their ‘logic’ for more than a week before realizing they will never admit that they even might be wrong about something.

Rather, articles like this are for the people still on the fence, not sure which side to take, and more importantly, not sure who to listen to when it comes to the laws and business tactics discussed here.

out_of_the_blue says:

Timmy, Rita Hayworth* was "discovered" at a soda fountain.

(*Or some famous “movie star”.) You kids seem to think these ANOMALIES are only possible NOW on “teh internets”.

‘As happens so often when we post these stories, some detractors consider Psy an “anomaly”, despite how often we cover these stories, and as though mainstream label successes of Psy’s size weren’t also “anomalies”.’ — STRAWMAN argument, plus the latter successes are INDEED ANOMALIES but then embiggened by The System. All I want to know is how to leap from total unknown to total success, otherwise, you are just trumpeting anomalies (to “prove” whatever you wish) without understanding the least about the process. Big Media has its star system that produced (as said at time) the “cultural phenomenon” of Britney Spears. — Explain HER success, Timmy. Or Justin Bieber. Or Lady Gaga. Gotta take counter-examples into consideration or you’ve no workable understanding of anomalies.

Then are many Born Rich kids such as “Nicholas Cage”, actually Nicholas Coppola who just may have had hidden help at becoming successful despite modest talents.

Zakida Paul says:

Re: Timmy, Rita Hayworth* was "discovered" at a soda fountain.

“Big Media has its star system that produced (as said at time) the “cultural phenomenon” of Britney Spears. — Explain HER success”

Sheep who will rush out and buy what the big media companies tell them to despite being complete rubbish? Same with Lady Gaga – it cracks me up that people consider her ‘different’ or ‘edgy’.

I can’t explain Bieber’s fame because that defies all logic.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Timmy, Rita Hayworth* was "discovered" at a soda fountain.

I think we just found one of Justin Bieber/Lady Gaga/etc fans. All the nonsense and delusions that usually come from ootb are starting to make sense to me. I’d be like that if I had to be exposed to this kind of music.

In time: I do listen to one or two Lady Gaga songs. But Justin Bieber?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Timmy, Rita Hayworth* was "discovered" at a soda fountain.

Hey, don’t bash Justin Beiber music too much, it’s become a valuable tool for paramedics to check for head trauma at the scene of an accident without having to use any expensive equipment.

Simple procedure really, when they run across an accident victim, and they want to check to see if they have suffered any head trauma, they merely need to pull out an mp3 player of some kind, play one of his songs, and then ask the recipient if it sounds like something they’d want to listen to more than once. If the answer is ‘yes’, then into the ambulance they go, they’ve obviously taken a good knock to the head. If ‘no’, then while they might be otherwise wounded, their head at least is okay.

Joking aside though, I must say, using Beiber in a pro-copyright argument is all sorts of hilarious, given he was discovered, and thereafter became famous, from singing along to other people’s songs, without having paid the original artist first, which last time I checked is something maximalists consider to be an absolutely horrible crime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Timmy, Rita Hayworth* was "discovered" at a soda fountain.

Joking aside though, I must say, using Beiber in a pro-copyright argument is all sorts of hilarious, given he was discovered, and thereafter became famous, from singing along to other people’s songs, without having paid the original artist first, which last time I checked is something maximalists consider to be an absolutely horrible crime.

Its not a crime when they can exploit the person doing it.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Timmy, Rita Hayworth* was "discovered" at a soda fountain.

No, no, no. You must tell me how to succeed and make a $100 million movie without actually having $100 million dollars to begin with and how to do so from complete obscurity and without any talent or effort, or else you’re not offering real solutions!!!

Zakida Paul says:

4 Key Traits Of Successful Independent Artists

They realize that marketing is a key factor in their career – Social networking has made this easier than ever and more and more artists are realising this.

They Have A Good Online Base – This should go without saying. Build a relationship with your fans rather than treating them like wallets with arms and legs and they will support you

They don?t burn bridges out of frustration – If things do not go your way, don’t throw a strop, pick yourself up and try again. Every new business model will have teething problems but it is through our mistakes that we truly learn. They existing industry gatekeepers could do worse than learn this one.

They aren?t afraid to invest in the career – If you don’t spend money, you won’t make money but it is not about spending the most money, it is about spending it wisely.

Marilynn Byerly (profile) says:

Tired old examples

Doctorow makes his money as a celebrity expert, and through his paper book sales and his movie deals. The free ebooks feed the other sources of income.

Most writers don’t have their books in every bookstore like Doctorow, they don’t have movie deals like Doctorow, and no one would pay them a penny for their opinions. They do have everything to lose if the only readers they have read them for free.

Konrath used the Doctorow model to his own advantage, but he’s not been hustling this method since ebooks became such a large part of the market share of income.

One of the most important points about all these successes is that the copyright owner CHOSE this method. No one chose it for them so you can’t use it as an excuse to upload an unwilling participant’s copyrighted books on a pirate site.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Tired old examples

How many of those are actually being shared compared to Doctorow? Obscurity is their problem!

And you missed the point of the article. Copyrights were not used to cripple access. That’s the point! People did not use copyright as a negative reinforcement tool, as the music industry does. They left their monopolistic privilege abilities out of the equation.

No where in the article does it say such successes are an excuse to download for free. In fact there are so many discussions of the contrary here. Yes, some will never pay and would never buy if free wasn’t an option. But many more will buy when reasonably priced (price fixing fines in 2003 ring a bell?) and most importantly, available!!!!

And again, obscurity is the real killer. So 5 people shared your book, 200 bought it. That means NO ONE KNOWS YOU EXIST! That ain’t the end of the world!

If 5 people bought your book and 200 shared it, it means you a) you didn’t offer anything worth buying (package or content) and b) you’re obscure and need to worry about publicity far more than the 200 who shared your work.

Name a case where there are 5 purchases and 50 000 downloads ? Caveat: must be legally available and not just 5 copies available for purchase either!

Marilynn Byerly (profile) says:

Re: Re: Tired old examples

I was talking about a specific example, Doctorow, used in the article, not the whole article’s topic. Doctorow is a very unusual writer because he has incredible market access which very few writers have. That makes him a very poor example in discussions like this.

As to obscurity. A normal person who is murdered in a gruesome manner is no longer obscure for a short time, but I doubt many people would want to become well-known for this reason.

In the same way, most authors don’t want their books becoming well-known in pirate circles because a vast majority of us who are pirated don’t see any improvement in our bottom line. All it means is that our next book goes up even faster at the pirate sites and the download numbers keep increasing.

Most writers are perfectly happy to be obscure and get payed by those who do read us.

In other words, writers are rarely fame whores. We write for cash and are proud of it.

Using illegal download numbers and sales numbers as comparative tools is disingenuous since the numbers mean nothing in comparison. All that can be said is that the more famous the author, the higher the illegal downloads. The more obscure the author, the lower the downloads. Yeah, like duh!

And owning a copyright is “monopolistic?”

Gee, does owning a car or a house make you monopolistic? Am I a monopolist because I own the copyright of five novels I spent years writing?

The truth of the matter is that copyright is owned, a vast majority of the time in the creative fields, by some individual or a small group of individuals, not some corporation. Stop demonizing those of us who work hard at our creations and spend many unpaid years learning our craft.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Tired old examples

In the same way, most authors don’t want their books becoming well-known in pirate circles because a vast majority of us who are pirated don’t see any improvement in our bottom line. All it means is that our next book goes up even faster at the pirate sites and the download numbers keep increasing

Do you have any evidence for this claim? Nice work comparing piracy to murder btw.

Marilynn Byerly (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Tired old examples

Thank you. Nothing like an over-the-top metaphor to get a point across. Of course, lots of writers are having their careers murdered by low incomes and contemptuous pirates so maybe it isn’t so over the top.

As to evidence, there is no way to collect information for a valid study comparing ebook sales to ebook theft, but I belong to several groups with thousands of professional authors. According to anecdotal evidence from many of them, yes, there is a correlation between an increase in pirate theft to lowered sales.

Some who have been very successful for almost ten years as straight-to-ebook authors have watched their sales numbers fall as illegal download numbers soar. I know some “New York Times” bestsellers whose digital sales have become ridiculously low as illegal downloads increase and sales of their backlist has plummeted.

I’ve had others tell of fans who complain to them because one of their books isn’t available for free on the pirate sites and don’t see the irony is the complaint.

I also know of over a dozen authors who are good friends who have simply given up their careers because they are so dispirited by the thefts, the contempt of those readers, and failing income.

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Tired old examples

Are they advertising? Are they just praying people buy?

I was having an email exchange with my fav artist (which of course blew my mind) regarding such things where he said the same thing, anecdotal address book of now unemployed people.

My question is, what are they doing to stand out? What are they doing to provide a reason to buy? When the sales numbers fall, was it new releases? Or just older stuff that most people might be sampling for free?

Has their fanbase grown or shrunk (fanbase == people interested, not necessarily paying fans)? How’s their pricing? Have they been active on social networks? Have they tried bundling stuff? Not just freakin’ tshirts. To be honest, forget tshirts, make dress shirts with the artist’s logo on it, small but professional.

Then offer interaction/connection – reading chapters with fans on a G+ Hangout or something similar. Tickets are awarded to paying fans via lottery.

Not all of it works, but giving up is the only way you truly fail.

Plus there’s a LOT of competition now, anyone, even me with my piss-poor grammar, can write a book and release it! If I am good at marketing it, that’s competition.

Marilynn Byerly (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Tired old examples

Yes, Robert, they not only advertised as they always have, they increased their advertising in new markets and ereader platforms.

The examples I used are very successful authors with a huge fan base. They continue to write the same kinds of books so they keep the fans they have, and until recently, they had a huge increase in backlist sales as each new book came out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Tired old examples

No offense, but as long as you keep thinking that way, you and your fellow authors will not be able to compete with free.

Books can be reprinted, CD’s, cassettes, vinyl, etc.. can all be reprinted. People knew this. But labels, publishers, etc.. chose NOT to in order to create a false sense of scarcity, to jack the price up.

Consumers won’t do that anymore. There are far better things to spend their money on than overpriced items, locked up like they have more value than they actually do.

In today’s market, if one option is locked down or unavailable at a reasonable price (hint: ebooks cost less than regular books for manufacturing and distribution but many are charging the same price – who’s stealing from who?), you can always get it for free, then buy that video game or DVD or other book that is reasonably priced or easily available.

Part of the problem is some figure “hey, I put my ebook on amazon and people download it for free” when they don’t realize the market is not restricted like it used to be. There are more options, more selection, and I hate to tell you but some might decide to buy something else and acquire a COPY of your work without paying because they would not pay for it even if it wasn’t available for free. They already spent the money on something else.

So you think “then don’t pirate my work” ah true, good idea, now NO ONE reads it and no one buys it. Either way, you don’t get paid, but at least if people read it your work is out there, less scarcity will help you later.

You know what is funny, authors and artists going on about people not paying for their work, like somehow people have loads MORE money to spend on entertainment than before. Don’t know if you noticed but the economy isn’t exactly booming. People are not swimming in cash and being cheapasses. You can tell one another that when you get together and complain, but you’re wrong.

With even more limited disposable income and a far larger selection available, some cheaper (more bang for buck) people will spend differently from what your authors are used to.

I do wish piracy was gone, then you could be told “see no one is buying your stuff anyway, no one is reading it anymore not even for free, so why are you complaining you have to give up because you’re not making money?”

You’d still complain, you’d push for some bullshit legislation that removes the free market parameters to a restrictive market from yesteryear where only artists and authors approved by the gatekeepers who’ll rake in the large cash will even have a chance to release their work!

So while people download the backlogs, a) where are they downloading them from? b) Is there an affordable means to acquire your work in said area? (eg: charging $30 for NIN’s CD in Australia while $17 here) c) They feel they paid for the new one and can’t afford the other, might pay later, maybe spent money on something else d) are they telling others? Numbers increasing? still popular? have downloading numbers increasing from before when sales were high?

So many factors. And with out the metrics to say “Yes these are all in the USA where we have 17 different outlets for out books, our bundles, our unique packages, all priced $10 for just a book or less, ebooks being cheaper, and we sell 20 books a year but 150 000 are traded online by US people” is flat out false and if you really believe those type stats, you’re not going to make a living.

The devil is in the details! And the flood gates are open, ANYONE can write a book and publish it, anyone can release an album or single. That’s how it should be. Cream will rise to the top!

For your author friends, more and more authors who were denied by the publishers in the past are able to release and compete against your author friends.

There is no magic bullet and even if you stopped piracy, as I said before, your sales would not magically return.

So please, focus on trying new things and don’t stop trying! When you stop that’s when you lose. And if it is being done by some large, legacy corp, it’s not a new thing.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Tired old examples

Ugh posted early. What I was trying to say – you can’t sue over theft, because that’s a criminal matter. You can sue over copyright infringement, but that’s not theft.

Also, even if piracy is 100% of the problem like you seem to think, how are you going to deal with it? DRM doesn’t work. Ever more restrictive laws don’t work and are unacceptable for other reasons. So what’s your plan?

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