Know your enemy

I feel I have to restate a point that’s been made countless times in the software/media-piracy debate. Listen carefully, all you hollywood bigshots and record company moguls reading this…

The main reason people pirate your content is not that they don’t want to pay for it. The main reason is that they don’t want to wait six months to even be able to physically transport themselves to their local video or music store between certain hours and pay for it! This is not an option when your consumer is lying in his couch and wants to consume right now!

The only way to beat piracy is to offer the same convenience than it can offer, or preferably more. You have to change your business models. When your new movie opens at the theaters, make sure it’s already available for payable download on your site. In both high and low quality. From high bandwidth servers. Make sure the payment is for the licence to download a certain movie, and once you’ve paid you can download it as many times as you want. Most people probably won’t do it more than once, anyway.

That’s all you can and should do. You can tell people to not spread the downloaded movies among their friends, but you shouldn’t check up on them any more than you did when people were copying VHS tapes. It doesn’t hurt you that much.

And no, I don’t think that it will hurt the box office very much either. Most people feel that there’s something special about going to the movies, even if they’re the proud owners of badass HTPC setups.

About music – paying lots of money for music is no historical world order that is being disrupted. Your entire industry is about 50 years old, and it probably won’t get much older unless you make some radical changes to your budgets, distribution and general attitude. Beatlemania is over, and nobody’s buying those Ringo coffeemugs anymore. You’re facing critical consumers that have strong opinions about what he or she should pay for music. There’s not much logic in being able to go to the library and consume world-class literature for free, while having to pay $20 regardless of if you want to enjoy Britney’s latest offering or research the historical implications of Chuck Berry’s second album.

Your free lunch is over. The world around you is changing, and any introductory business school course will tell you that this is something you should take very seriously and be prepared to rapidly embrace and adapt to. To quote (with no context whatsoever) my old computer science professor – “If you do not learn this, you will die”.

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3 Responses to “Know your enemy”

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