How Do We Know That Piracy Isn't Really A Big Issue? Because Media Companies Still Haven't Needed To Change As A Result Of It
from the calling-their-bluff dept
One of the positive outcomes of the debate that has raged around SOPA/PIPA is that more people have looked at the facts, rather than listened to the rhetoric, surrounding piracy. In particular, the copyright industries' hitherto unchallenged claim that piracy is destroying their business is finally being challenged – not least by reports like "The Sky is Rising" that consolidate industry figures to show that things are really looking pretty good across the board.
Another indication of that new attitude is the incredible response elicited by an article in Forbes entitled "You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You", which has received over 3600 re-tweets on Twitter, and nearly 10,000 shares on Facebook. The basic argument will be familiar enough to Techdirt readers: that the war on piracy can never be "won", and that what is needed is a change of attitude on the part of the media companies. The article concludes:
Treat your customers with respect, and they’ll do the same to you. And that is how you fight piracy.
Pretty obvious, you would have thought, although strangely it isn't to the media companies.
The author of that piece, Paul Tassi, has followed it up with "Lies, Damned Lies and Piracy." Although this has proved far less popular than the first one, I think it's better, because it offers some original insights where the other went over well-trod ground.
I particularly liked his closing thoughts:
If the industry is struggling, I just don’t see it, as their projects are getting bigger and more costly with each passing year. When a movie bombs or a show gets cancelled, no one ever says “oh, well, piracy.” Rather, it’s the quality of the product that accounts for such failures. Even with relatively high piracy rates across all forms of media, we’re still seeing blockbuster films, shows and games released at a higher rate than ever, and profits to match.
There are three really key points packed in there. First, that the media industries just aren't struggling, despite their cries of woe. Secondly, what causes real financial harm to the film and music worlds are bad products that lose huge amounts of money and disappoint audiences. And finally – and most importantly – if piracy really were so life-threatening to the copyright industries, and if their bottom lines really were in danger, then they would have tried something other than begging lawmakers to protect them. The fact that they haven't, as Tassi emphasizes, means that there is no real pressure on them to do so: people still buy lots of stuff, piracy isn't really a problem, things are working.
I think the media industries would love to kill piracy with a quick piece of legislation that blacks out every torrent site on the internet, but I don’t think they want to fight it so much that they’ll change their entire distribution model on a dime, which would actually go a long way toward truly competing with piracy. The reason things are the way they are is because they’re working. Despite the fact that even though yes, every piece of media is available on the internet for free somewhere, people are still buying.