Pirate Week (or how I stopped worrying about piracy)

Content creators need to stop worrying so much about pirates.

It’s a big enough issue around digital products that it always comes up when digital content (music, stories, art) is discussed. But it gets far more attention than it deserves.

So this week, as I head out to GenCon, we’re having PIRATE WEEK over here at ideatrash. First we’ll review why it is (and isn’t) a problem. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the two types of solutions, and then we’ll get into the meat of the solutions themselves.

This is a real issue for me – I discovered the first torrent with some of my work on it just a week or so ago.

You’d think that digital piracy (or theft) harms content creators in pretty straightforward ways. Every person who pirates my story is one less paying customer. By and large, that’s true. But there’s one important caveat.

That’s assuming everyone who pirates my story would have paid money for it. I definitely will be losing some money, but I can’t easily calculate how much. On top of that are the compelling studies showing that piracy helps everyone but the very top sellers. I don’t think that statistic justifies piracy; why would you pay for something that you got (illegally) for free? (There is an answer, though – more on that in a few days.)

So from the point of view of content creators, we’re definitely losing money to pirates, and maybe getting some benefit – but we don’t know how much, or when, or how. That’s a crappy way to do business. So there still needs to be a way to manage and reduce pirate activity around our own works. And that’s where we’ll pick up tomorrow – look for “Being Boarded by Pirates”.

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  1. August 4, 2010

    There'll be a compendium post on Saturday. I might bring that to Hamlet Au's attention (of course, feel free to point him or other relevant folks in this direction before then). While my focus is primarily on authors, I actually developed some of these thoughts thinking about SL copying anxieties.

  2. Baloo
    August 4, 2010

    For the love of the metaverse, please post this to the Second Life blogs…

  3. annotoole
    August 7, 2010

    Given the people commenting on some in this series appear to be out of touch with the reality of the recent refinements of the copyright related legislation then perhaps you would like to, at the same time, clearly explain what the existing law is and whether or not you are promoting illegal behavior.

  4. August 7, 2010

    Good questions, annotoole.

    Commenting on the law is a dicey area – as I am not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination – and a friend of mine who IS a lawyer quickly points out that copyright law is … complicated. Here's my shot at it, though:

    When you say "refinements", I'm guessing that you mean the 5th Circuit Court's ruling regarding breaking DRM for fair use purposes. That's great – but currently only applies to the 5th Circuit Court's region. I do believe it will cover the whole US later.

    I am not condoning piracy at any point. It is, quite literally, robbing me and every other content creator.

    It is a fine line. You have to acknowledge piracy's existence without condoning it. Given that piracy exists, I approach it as a disease to be managed. The question I ask is this: "How can I reduce piracy as much as possible – and make what's left impact content creators as little as possible."

  5. August 7, 2010

    I'd forgotten about the LoC decision as well. Engadget has a great plain English breakdown of what some of this means for end users as well. (I've also noted both of these in the summary post that will come out today.)

  6. Baloo
    August 7, 2010

    It's also important to minimize the impact on the fair use rights of the consumer as well, which is why the Fifth Circuit ruled against DRM.

  7. August 8, 2010


    I agree that fair use rights are important – but that's an ideological argument. I agree with it, but that's not my point here. If the ideology alone was able to convince businesses to drop DRM, it would have been long gone. My purpose here is to show how it's bad for business.

    That – and competition from non-DRMed products – will have a larger, faster effect than court rulings.

Comments are closed.