We’ve been down this road at least two times now. It began with the music industry and the RIAA suing and alienating customers despite evidence that the people who pirated music were also the same people who bought the most CDs.
Then there is the video game industry using draconian systems like SecuROM in order to lock down their software to the point that people are forced to download illegitimate copies in order to play the game they paid for.
Right now we are in the midst of fighting the same battle with the video industry and the MPAA. Already there have been lawsuits filed against people for illegally downloading copies of The Hurt Locker, and I imagine that an investigation would reveal that the majority of those people actually watched the movie in the theater.
Amongst all this ridiculous behavior stands a man of reason: Berth Milton, CEO of the Private Media Group. Now, I’m not going to spend much time discussing Mr Milton’s professional business other than to mention that it’s in the adult film industry. I honestly don’t think the content is germane to the conversation, but more the insight that Berth Milton has. Milton has realized that you can’t stop piracy, and goes so far as to say that, “… it’s a lost battle,” and that “It’s a new world and we have to accept it.”
Already this man seems extremely intelligent to me, and then he knocks it out of the park with this comment: “We will be extremely happy the more people are pirating our content and the more they look at it.” I couldn’t agree more. In a world of piracy you have to accept that the people who are pirating your content wouldn’t have paid for it anyway but at the same time you are getting brand and content recognition. Even if they didn’t pay for it the first time, if they enjoy the content and are then given the opportunity to purchase some of your content in the future they may pay for it in order to get a better quality version or even because they want to support your content.
Milton is also looking at other ways to make money off of his content instead of just selling videos. Given that people are pirating his content, he is trying to think of other ways to leverage that brand recognition. Instead of treating his videos as the product to sell, he’s looking at it as more of an advertising means. Just like a billboard can cause you to want to drink Coke, products placed in Milton’s videos may entice people to want to purchase those products for their own use.
Trying to stop piracy is like trying to soak up the ocean with a single paper towel: it just isn’t going to work and you look like a fool for trying. Milton has the right idea, and hopefully the rest of the video industry will catch on as well. Instead of suing their customers, why don’t the video producers try to come up with other ways to make money off of us instead of just by selling us videos?
Another interesting way to look at the piracy issue is to treat piracy as competition. For example, when faced with downloading a TV show for free illegally that can be watched on any device versus purchasing the same hour long episode for $2.99 that you can only watch on an approved device, which option do you think the person is going to choose. However, if the content is priced more affordably (like $0.99) and you are allowed to watch the video on any device you want and are guaranteed a certain quality, people may actually pay for the content. This has already worked for music. It wasn’t the lawsuits that stopped rampant music piracy, it was the fact that you can now buy songs for $0.99 or less and play that music wherever you want without copy protection restrictions.
Too bad the MPAA and U.S. Copyright Group haven’t learned from watching the RIAA alienate their customers. At least there are some people like Berth Milton that get it.