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5 Sep 2013

How to truly and effectively combat piracy

So, you've just made a film, or written a book, or composed some music and you release it for sale. Lots of people buy it, but there are some little buggers out there who just want to take it from you without paying for it. What bastards!

This is piracy and, needless to say, I am against it. I have heard many justifications for it from 'the artists get paid too much', to 'it's not stealing, it's copying', and 'everyone does it'. The fact of the matter is, you are not entitled to that content. Your life will not be affected in any negative way if you do not have it. Dodging payment on something you don't need cannot be justified.

But still people do it.

Why? Three reasons.

  1. The official content is far too expensive. In an era where a cinema trip can cost upwards of a tenner before you even buy your popcorn, this is a valid concern (though still not justifiable).
  2. The content is unavailable in your area, or at that time. There's a reason Game of Thrones is one of the most pirated shows in history (aside from it being fantastic). It's because it is only shown via channels that one must subscribe to, and for someone like me, who only has Freeview, it's not easy to watch until the DVD comes out. And that can be months away; ample time for people to spoil it for you.
  3. It's free. Yup, people pick up things they don't have to pay for. People will take advantage of 'Buy one get one free' offers, even if they won't use the free one. Most of the people who get dodgy copies because they're free, don't end up watching, reading or playing them. I mean, I've got a load of books on my kindle that I've downloaded for free (legally, mind you) that I've yet to read.
So, yeah, nobody does it out of some noble crusade to lower wages of the 1%, they do it because they want the content now and they want it for nothing.

So there are many strategies. Governments have tried to crack down on it by restricting the rights of individuals to do what they want with the stuff they bought as long as they don't pass it on to others. You have the annoying unskippable ad on every DVD. You have loads of stuff happening that tries to stop pirates, yet precious little trying to make them redundant.

So, what do I suggest? To combat number 1. Cut actor's salaries. Seriously, these guys get paid millions. There's no need for anyone to get paid that much. And not just actors, but everyone else involved in the production who earns more than half a million per film. Also, special effects. They're nice, but I think we can all agree that in most cases, they are not needed. With literature, ebooks need to be much cheaper than their paper counterpart. People aren't stupid, paper costs money, but a few kilobytes costs nothing. The authors, editors, and publishers put in their time and money to make the content, but at the end of the day, physical copies of books cost a lot more than a digital file and the end price needs to reflect that.

To combat number 2. Make it available everywhere, forever, and at the same time. If you have a programme on a subscription based channel, sell it worldwide for a quid or so per episode as soon as it is shown. And of course, the price could drop when the DVD comes out not long after. Literature doesn't suffer too badly from this as books are usually available on Amazon in all their shops as soon as released. Unless you're a publisher who wants to push sales of the far more expensive hardback, leaving the ebook release until a few months down the line. Just ... no.

To combat number 3. I don't really have much of an answer for this. If you make content, you want to be able to make a living off it and therefore have the money to support yourself while making more content. However, there is a way around this, and that answer is Kickstarter. I've only recently heard of this site, but it's loaded with possibilities. The idea is that a content creator asks for the consumers to pay for the content before it is created. Anyone who donates a certain amount is then able to get a copy of the finished product, and the creators can then sell the product in other places for a much cheaper rate with every penny being pure profit. They could even give it away for free.

So, if you get a project funded by kickstarter, don't pay a fortune to anyone, and make it available everywhere at the same time, I guarantee that you'll have very little trouble with pirates.

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