Top Photographer On Why He Doesn't Care If His Stuff Is Pirated
from the why-can't-everyone-be-this-sensible? dept
Trey Ratcliff is an extremely successful photographer, who specializes in HDR photography. His blog Stuck in Customs is the top travel photography blog on the internet, with over a million views each week.
Naively, then, you might expect him to be a typical artistic fat-cat who regards every act of piracy of his photos as a personal insult that in a just world would be avenged by amputation of limbs and life incarceration at the minimum. Actually, he uses Creative Commons licensing for all his work, and has just written a wonderful post with the self-explanatory title "Five Reasons Why I Don't Care if My Stuff is Pirated - A New Way of Thinking", pointed out to us by Paul Newport, where he states:
All of my stuff is pirated. Everything from my HDR Video Tutorial to eBooks to Apps. Fine. It's all there on PirateBay and MegaUpload and all that stuff. Here are the reasons why I don't mind
He then goes to list five reasons that show a deep understanding of why piracy happens, and why it isn't necessarily so bad for those whose works are pirated. For example, Ratcliff points out:
Theft of bits are like the Tic Tacs that get stolen from the 7-11. It's the cost of doing business on the Internet.
That is, the actual loss is trivial (bits are practically free), and you learn to live with it because of the counterbalancing benefits. He also has a belief in the innate goodness of people:
Many people that pirate stuff now from me just don't have any money. But, they like me and want my stuff.
After all, that's why they pirate it. And if/when they eventually get their finances sorted out, they'll remember Ratcliff's generosity in allowing them to download his stuff for free without conducting a witchhunt as a result, and pay it back by buying from him. As he says:
Pirates are not cretins riddled with immoral behavior in every part of their life. These are all generally good people who would gladly support me, their friendly local neighborhood artist, if they could easily afford it. They can't now, but they will be able to some day...
He mentions another very practical reason not to dismiss pirates as the enemy:
Pirates have friends that have money. It's still word-of-mouth, the most effective friend-to-friend marketing in the world. If pirates like what you do, they'll tell their friends.
That's an important point: even if the pirates don't buy stuff now, they may well spread free publicity that drives sales elsewhere. If you vilify pirates, you are spurning an important part of your unofficial marketing department.
Finally, Ratcliff gives one central reason why he's not really that worried about piracy:
Last, and most important, as soon as I opened everything up, our business has grown and grown.
But he also notes:
piracy is not the reason that revenues are increasing, but they are not hurting revenues
The curious thing is, the same is true of the music and film industries, which continue to thrive despite all the online piracy, as Techdirt has pointed out in the past.
In other words, everything that Ratcliff says in his extremely wise post about photography also applies to music and films. But whereas he accepts the need for "A New Way of Thinking" as he puts it, and can even see that piracy is beneficial to him in many ways, the copyright industries cling to their traditional perspectives, and insist on fighting this "scourge" with ever-greater ferocity in the face of their continuing failure to expunge it Ė with huge collateral damage to the rest of us, as SOPA and PIPA make clear.