No matter what you feel about USA Today founder Al Neuharth (who certainly elicits quite a strong reaction from many people), he revealed a very interesting story about a decision made in the early days of USA Today in an interview
on the 25th anniversary of the paper. It's a story that the entertainment industry, busy in its plan to sue college kids, could learn a lot from. Apparently, soon after USA Today launched, some college kids stole some of the cool looking vending machines USA Today was using. Neuharth then took what may seem like the counter-intuitive step
in dealing with it:
"Our lawyers, as lawyers are wont to do, said, "Let's sue the bastards." And I said, "Like hell we will. Let's find them and we will make them our distributors." And we did that."
Every time we write about why it's dumb for the entertainment industry to enforce its copyrights in doing things like suing YouTube, people yell at us for taking away the rights of content creators. This is a misreading of what we've been writing. We've never said to take away their rights -- just that they can be better off if they choose, of their own will, to ignore those rights and use the fact that people are using their content to their advantage. It's the same thing here. Neuharth clearly would have been within his rights to follow his lawyers' advice and "sue the bastards." Instead, he realized that it could make a lot more business sense to realize that these "criminals" could be a lot more useful. Clearly, they were "fans" of USA Today, so why not use that to the company's advantage and make them distributors, helping to promote USA Today? It's the same thing with the entertainment industry today. For those who decide not to enforce copyrights, and actually encourage their best fans to promote and share their content for them, it can help get a lot more attention, a lot more fans and open up many new avenues for profit.