What To Do When Artists Who Otherwise 'Get It' Freak Out Over 'Piracy'

from the wait-it-out dept

A few weeks ago, reader cofiem sent over a blog post from musician Darren Hayes complaining about recording studios shutting down and blaming "piracy" for it. This morning, our submissions engine is getting overwhelmed with submissions about Wil Wheaton's rant against someone who posted a copy of Wheaton's audiobook, saying the guy is "stealing" from him.

Of course, we see content creators complaining about "piracy" or falsely claiming that it's "stealing" all the time -- but these two cases are slightly different. They're both cases where the content creators seem to be folks who otherwise actually do seem to "get it." They both do an amazing job connecting with fans, and setting up smart "reasons to buy." Hayes, for example, created a DVD "collectors' item" to go with his latest album. And he has a fan club setup, that encourages fans to pay a small fee to get all sorts of valuable (scarce) extras, beyond just the music. Wil Wheaton, of course, has been online for ages, and really interacts with lots of fans, and when he released his audiobook he made it cheap and didn't put DRM on it at all.

In other words, these are both the sort of content creators who are doing all the kinds of "right moves" that we talk about all the time, and seem to be getting rewarded for it. So, of course, it's disappointing to see them overreact and go a bit on the ballistic side when they see people sharing their works in some format -- but it's not that surprising. It's a perfectly natural reaction if you're not immersed that deeply in thinking through the long term implications of these things to simply not like it when people treat your works in a way other than you intended. There's nothing really wrong with that.

However, the question then comes up about what should be done about it. How do you respond to such people? It seems the smartest thing to do is to openly explain the other side of the coin: how these efforts can be embraced to further all of the really smart things that these content creators have already done. It's about getting them to realize that as scary as "the new world" is, one of the things they have to come to accept is that they can't necessarily control what others end up doing with their works. They can't dictate the terms by which fans will be fans. But, what they can do is try to put in place systems and models that benefit them when such things happen. Use that free sharing to encourage people to become stronger, more committed fans, and open up new places and opportunities to potentially offer them a reason to buy -- on their terms -- down the road.

It's never a huge surprise when someone who hasn't thought through this stuff carefully starts ranting about pirates and "stealing." But when it's someone who otherwise seems to get it, the situation is more one of disappointment. However, in most cases, those folks are at least open to listening to reason, and listening to their community, who can explain back to them ways in which they can benefit, rather than complain or blame. And, in fact, with Hayes, it looks like he took some of his community's words to heart and noted that there can be future models where "piracy" isn't necessarily a huge problem (though he's still unsure of how it works). Hopefully Wil Wheaton will listen to his community as well -- and let them point out how many other authors who have put their works online for free have seen that it tends to increase their fan community and increase sales over time.

Filed Under: business models, darren hayes, piracy, wil wheaton

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  1. identicon
    Michael Kohne, 7 Oct 2009 @ 4:55pm

    Wil Wheaton...

    Where is Wil's response wrong? I mean, he owns the copyright on the work, and he sells it. It's not like he's uselessly wasting money on lawyers - he just called the guy out for being a jerk and a pirate. OK, yea, he used the word steal, which isn't correct. That's a relatively minor point, don't you think?

    If you think Wil has over-reacted then you've got no understanding of human emotion. You CAN'T ask creators not to get annoyed by people who pirate their works. It's not reasonable.

    And you can't expect them to just let it blow over them and go on. When you get annoyed, you have to let off steam somehow. And Will did it by calling a pirate a pirate in public.

    Will this make one whit of difference to the actions of the jerk in question? Probably not. Does that matter to Wil? Probably not. Now that he's said his piece, I expect that he'll go right on with all of the cool stuff he does that connects him to his fans.

    You probably need to cool down just a little - taking everyone to task publicly for every incorrect use of the word steal is not really necessary.

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