A Lack Of Scarcity Has (Almost) Nothing To Do With Piracy

from the misunderstanding-the-premise dept

Took a week off from my series concerning the economics of abundance, but wanted to jump right back into it this week. I started out with a discussion on how the number zero seems to screw up otherwise sensible people when it comes to economics, and followed that up with a post on the economics of abundance is not a moral issue. I had planned to move on to more about the actual economics, but the responses have delayed that for at least a little while.

Some of the complaints about the last piece highlighted one aspect that perhaps I had not made clear: unauthorized downloads, "piracy" or "stealing content" (if you want to use those phrases) have almost nothing to do with this discussion. People criticizing the posts on this topic keep going back to the idea that this is all some big defense of such practices when nothing is further from the truth. This series is very much written from the perspective of the producer of content, not the consumer. That is, we're trying to make clear the basic economics so that the producer of the content can use that to his or her advantage. So, the lack of scarcity we're talking about is based on the fundamental nature of the content: that it has zero marginal cost to make a new copy once the original is made. That's a simple fact that has nothing to do with whether or not people are making unauthorized copies. That nature of the content is fundamental. So everything that we're saying here applies just as much to content if there were no "piracy" at all. If there were an industry where there was a lack of scarcity, but no piracy, the information here would apply just the same.

Now, I do say "almost" nothing to do with piracy. The way that unauthorized copies play into this discussion is in the realization that they're a fact of the marketplace. That is, they're helping to accelerate the impact of that lack of scarcity, and only helps to highlight why the producers of content need to pay attention and make changes sooner, rather than later. Many of the recent actions taken by organizations like the RIAA, the MPAA and the BSA represent a fundamental misunderstanding of this fact. They believe two things that are absolutely wrong. First, that the lack of scarcity is only due to piracy and, second, that there's some way to really stop piracy. Both of these things are wrong. The lack of scarcity is due to the fact that the content has zero marginal cost -- which is true no matter what, and unauthorized copies are always going to be an issue. So, based on that, why not try to understand what happens when you have a lack of scarcity and how to profit from it, rather than fighting the obvious trend?

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  1. identicon
    Ferd, 4 Jan 2015 @ 10:01pm

    Re: one other thing

    An example?

    They proved you can sell crappy quality music via a horrible program and make a very good profit.

    Personally I would never buy from them because of the quality and how DRM limits my freedom to backup MY property and causes a moderate to high chance of losing all the money I have spent when a hard drive fails or an account can't be accessed.

    Why? Convenience.
    Non partisan studies show that if a company makes it easy to get content at a reasonable price people will buy rather than pirate it.

    There is a business model that works.

    It has also been shown that people that pirate content spend more money on average on legal content but that is not germane.

    Just imagine if there was a place that people could buy FLAC and whatever Apple lossless music format is or high quality H.264/5 movies for 1/5-1/3 the current price without DRM?

    I live outside the US and can't get music or movies here in any "legal" way except via horribly expensive physical media or streamed via Netflix which does not work very well due to limited bandwidth.

    I would happily pay $3-5 for a CD or movie which I could download and watch when I wanted. but I can't and I see the reason as GREED by the **AA members so I do what I have to.

    As an aside I can go to a nice theater for $2.25 but hate the noise, floors, etc.

    I can also buy CD's for .75 and DVD's for $1.50 but I don't as I much prefer downloading directly to my PC, phone or tablet.

    Why? CONVENIENCE! Get it?

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