Why We Steal From You,
And How To Stop Us:
For years now, the record and movie industries have been waging non-stop war against us, their consumers and fans. They are fighting for survival of the current business models and revenue streams, which are under an incredible assault from electronic piracy in the form of bootleg or ripped CDs and DVDs, P2Pfile sharing, bittorrents, and rogue websites hosting downloads. This is a massive problem- almost every single person under the age of 50 has at some point stolen from these companies in one way or another, and they are justifiably pissed off about it. I think that they have every right to defend their copyrights and do their best to prevent the illegal free use of the products that they have paid to create, distribute, and market. I do not, however, think that they are going about it the right way. Here is my advice, which will be ignored, further cementing the demise of old media (enjoy your slow death, guys):
- We steal because it is easier, not because it is cheaper, so make it easier to buy your products. Ever since iTunes made it drop-dead simple to buy new music, I find it easier to find and get a song on there than any other method (it takes ~1minute and no effort). I do not buy CD’s anymore because I can get them on iTunes with far less effort. That said, I hate DRM, and the crippled iTunes tracks makes it very hard for me to move and listen to my purchases on the 3 computers I use constantly. I know many people buy songs legally, then steal a copy of the same songs on a P2P site just so they don’t have to deal with the DRM. This doesn’t just apply to music- many people don’t like going to the movie theater, waiting a day for Netflix to arrive, or going to a store to rent a movie- we’d much rather watch it right now. With Apple’s new “rentals”, Netflix’s “watch now” online feature, and On Demand offerings, it is becoming easier to legally pay to watch a movie at home at your convenience than it is to steal it online or rip a DVD. Take notice of this trend, and capitalize upon it. Make it so that we can quickly, reliably, and easily access your product- anywhere, anytime. Focus on finding ways to make it much, much easier to pay you than to rob you. Believe me, we don’t enjoy installing software, setting up configurations, troubleshooting, and finding what we want online. We are lazy, not cheap.
- We don’t like paying for crap, so stop making it. I have never regretted a single dime paid for a good film or album. But I did stop going to the movies because I was sick of being bilked out of $12 every time I went out, and I pretty much never buy an entire album anymore. We hate dropping money and time on your products, only to discover that they don’t just fail to meet their own hype- they often are only hype. I realize that you are a business, and as such a pretty basic requirement is that you need to make money. But it is time you realized that your product is entertainment, and you are not delivering good product anymore. Stop thinking of money first and product second- swap the formula around and the profit will come in droves. There is a reason that there is no “Citizen Kane II: Return of the Kane”- your predecessors knew that quality stories came first, and if a film made money it didn’t necessarily need to be turned into a franchise. Instead of Transformers 2, or American Idol 27, can we please have new, exciting, interesting films and music? Don’t you remember why you got into the business in the first place? Didn’t you once love movies and music? Don’t you want to make the next great American Film or Album? Stop chasing our money, start chasing our interests.
- Never wage war on your own customers, it’s mean. Part of stopping us from stealing from you is going to have to involve you not being dicks about it. If you didn’t come across as greedy, ignorant, evil Luddites, I think more people would have a problem stealing your hard work. I know many people that would not blink at downloading the latest Spiderman movie, but who will go out of their way to pay for a copy of an indie film. Why? Because we don’t like being theives, we never have; but we don’t feel like you matter- you are faceless, lawsuit-happy conglomerates of evil intentions, and as such, stealing just doesn’t seem like stealing when its against you. I have never, not once, stolen a movie- in DVD form or otherwise. I am deeply, deeply insulted that you call me a criminal with your condescending anti piracy commercials before watching the film that I just paid to see. Screw you. If you really want to win this one, you need to change your image. We are not in the right on this point- we are very, very much in the wrong, but if you want to stop us, work on being lovable, it will make the fight easier.
- Recognize that there will always be piracy, and accept that fact; put the needs of the many above your fears of the few. Instead of making it hard for everyone to get and consume your product because some people steal from you, focus on making it so that anyone who wants to pay you can do so more easily. Abolish DRM (you already are starting to; kudos; now do it all the way), those who want to break it can, and those who don’t want to break it still have to, just to watch the movies they bought from you on their iPods, or listen to the songs they “own” anywhere they want to (you and I both know that nobody actually owns the music or movies, it’s just a limited license to enjoy it, isn’t it!). You cannot win your war on piracy any more than the U.S. will win against drugs or terror, internalize that, learn to accept piracy as a given, and start to deal with it realistically. You can reduce it so much that those who steal are numerically insignificant, but not by making your product annoying to access for everyone. There are still real life pirates sailing the seas of the world, but they are nowhere near the numbers they used to be. Take realistic precautions and legal action against those who steal from you as a defensive strategy, but don’t make that you entire focus.
Look around you and take stock of what is happening. You have the technology now to give us any song or video in the world, almost instantly, at extremely high quality. On demand is amazing, Netflix, Google, and Apple are going to be the next major movie distributors (you thought you guys were going to keep control of that one didn’t you?), and there are unsigned artists outselling your talent and keeping the profit all for themselves. The iPhone deal was rejected by every carrier in the US except for at&t, mainly because they were desperate. Now look how that turned out. Apple demanded a change in the way phone manufacturers and service providers share profits, and in the process created one of the most impressive subscriber increases in the history of phone companies. Innovation is scary, but necessary. If you continue to sit on your crumbling fortress walls much longer, we won’t invite you to the next big party, then what will you do? Probably blame piracy for sinking your ship. Too bad, you could have won this thing.