Piracy Isn't The Problem, A Bad Business Model Is The Problem
from the but,-but,-but-piracy dept
He also then tries to dig in -- especially in the "movie piracy" space to see if he can separate different types of users and participants -- noting that not everyone who shares unauthorized files can or should be classified in the same manner -- though, I still disagree with his terms. If you call someone a "thievery pirate," you've pretty much shut off any opportunity to think about how they might be of assistance to you. Now, I know that those who think that anyone who falls into the classification of "thievery pirate" could never, ever possibly be of assistance at some point, but I think that may be a bit short-sighted from the standpoint of a content producer.
The problem, that I see, is that Barnard then shifts the essay to a "but, but piracy" type of argument:
The argument in favor of abdicating to piracy is that "it's tough to fight" and "easy to copy." This argument is weak and unimaginative. Abdicating is a roadblock to finding creative solutions. It's just as weak as when corporations blindly turn piracy issues over to the Legal Department. Both are devoid of the creative and moral spark to find a worthy solution for all involved.I think there's a subtle, but important, mistake in what Barnard is saying here, and it's in the word "abdicating." While I'm sure there are some folks out there who say something along those lines, that's silly. Most of the folks who talk about embracing new business models and new technology never suggest "abdicating" to unauthorized file sharers. To me, abdicating is giving up. Or, at best, it's a form of "give it away and pray." What we're talking about is recognizing how those folks are a form of underserved customers, and then looking for ways in which they can be served.
Barnard is absolutely right that movies and such have value. If they didn't have value, no one would want them. However, he suggests that part of the problem is that because culture is a shared phenomenon, it's tougher for individuals to realize that someone else "owns" that, as they take a bit of ownership of it themselves, in terms of their experience with the work.
But there is a difference with music and movies that doesn't exist with cosmetics or sundries. With our creative endeavors, we enter into people's imaginations and emotions. It's very personal. Individuals don't maintain clarity of ownership over something that is so emotional and imaginative, since we enter their soul, manipulate their feelings, inspire their emotions. The clarity of who created what becomes muddy.That's an interesting angle I hadn't thought of before, but I'm not so sure that it's the clarity here that gets muddy. I've found over and over and over again, that when a creative artist really does enter someone's soul, manipulates their feelings and inspires their emotions, that those individuals will then go out of their way to continue to support that artist. We see it all the time with musicians like Amanda Palmer or filmmakers like Kevin Smith -- both of whom have fanbases who love to support them, no matter what they're doing.
The choice to download without paying--and most people I've talked to acknowledge they feel as if they should pay but don't want to--is often driven by a sense of anger against filmmakers, as if we were all pompous, elitist millionaires trying to pry $10 out of their hands for something that "really" has no value. Weird. (Frankly, I'm now annoyed by the number of times this meaningless, angry, rote argument is foisted as the justification for piracy and I dismiss it.)What's "weird" to me is that I almost never hear the argument he discusses above. Time and time again when I speak to people who download unauthorized works, I hear quite different stories. They talk about how they don't think the price is reasonable -- or they don't want to get stuck with annoying DRM, or they don't want to have to deal with noisy people at the theater, or who knows what. The ones who actually are touched or moved are happy to support the artist -- but much of that often comes in the form of support for future projects.
We should work on the issues of perceived value and ease of legal acquisition, rather than abdicate to the piracy and buy into the anger argument, or follow the Legal Department lead and attack our consumers.
And this is where I think some of the confusion often comes in in these discussions. No one (well, I'm sure there are a few, but they're a minority) denies that there is value in the works created. The question is where is that value captured. Many content creators feel that it should be captured in you paying up before you've consumed their work for the first time. Many content consumers don't like that bargain. And so they seek out something else. But that doesn't mean there still isn't value created when someone experiences the music or the film. It's that value that Barnard was discussing in the emotional impact of the work. The trick then is not to worry about getting paid for every copy or every download, but to set up all sorts of opportunities for people to support you as a content creator. Now, this can come in all sorts of formats. Fan-funding has become popular these days, via platforms like Kickstarter, and that can work for some artists. Others are doing creative things like selling related tangible goods that are made more valuable due to their connection to music or movies (Amanda Palmer selling off special ukuleles). Others are selling their experience (Kevin Smith is offering a wonderful 10-week "film school" discussing how he made his latest film). Others are selling a wide variety of things (Nina Paley's long list of ways in which she makes money from her film, Sita Sings the Blues).
The point is that we need to get away from "but, but piracy," and worrying about the fact that, yes, some people are going to download the work for free. That doesn't mean "abdicating" to piracy -- it means working to figure out ways to capture some of the value created from those who download. That means setting up all sorts of opportunities where there is additional scarce value for supporting your future works, rather than worrying so much about getting paid for the past work.
Yes, content creates value. Part of the complaint, right now, is who is capturing that value. Many content creators feel that consumers (or other third parties) are capturing too much of that value, and the content creators aren't capturing enough of it. That may be true. But the point is that the way you do that is not by talking about "pirates" or worrying about the one guy over there downloading your work and not paying for it. The way you deal with it is by creating a series of opportunities where you can provide scarce value in the future for a price, and getting people to pay you for it. Some people will never pay. Forget about them. They're meaningless. Focus on the folks who now appreciate your work, and look for ways to get them to pay to keep you moving forward.