Saturday, March 31, 2012

Getting paid, voting with your wallet and free samples.

This is the next post in a series exploring criticisms of file sharing (part one, two, three.) Again, this is not a rebuttal, it's how to get a pirate to buy.


I agree 100%. If Chevrolet hires you to work on the assembly line, you deserve to get paid. But file-sharing critics seem to also be saying that if I make my own perfect copy of the car, Chevrolet deserves to get paid even though they didn't sell anything. I understand this particular criticism is more nuanced than the example I gave, but just because a studio makes a movie or a label makes an album, they don't deserve to get paid for sales that didn't happen. And I'm not talking about for-profit piracy here, that's a completely separate debate that we likely agree on.

If I legally record an MMA bout on my DVR and let my friend come over and watch it, does UFC deserve to get paid? If I install Fallout: New Vegas on my gaming laptop and then loan the laptop to my friend so he can play it, does Obsidian deserve to get paid? If I loan a Bruce Springsteen CD to a friend who makes a copy, does Columbia deserve to get paid? If I describe in fine detail the plot of The Lorax, does Universal deserve to get paid?

I can understand the critics point: I have (a copy of) the content and I personally didn't pay for it. But if you're going to sit here and lambast file-sharing, then you should also demand payment in every example I gave in the previous paragraph. In each of those, someone got the content without paying for it.

The internet has allowed me to quickly and efficiently make copies of the content my 10 million friends have in their possession. You may see it differently, but we see it as borrowing our friends CDs. And as long as you don't see it that way, you're going to have a hard time collecting from us.


I touched on this in my open letter and I completely disagree. The current sample market is not indicative of the purchased product. But really, that's only part of the uphill battle you're going to have as a content creator. The file-sharing community has moved beyond samples. Proclaiming there's no reason to pirate because of available samples just shows that you haven't grasped where the file-sharing mindset is yet.

We don't deal in samples anymore and we don't feel guilty about it. Just like with the VCR, the industry cried and sued to get us to stop file-sharing but we didn't feel guilty about copying those files in the 80s and 90s. Oh, you missed last weeks episode of Cheers? Here, I've got a copy of it.

Think about your favorite authors and musicians for a second. Did you fall in love with them after hearing their 30-second samples or reading their preview chapter? No, of course not, we both know that's not how it works. Entertainment is a bonding experience that happens over time. With the sheer amount of content that's available, file-sharers skip sampling and jump right to the bond-building stage with or without your cooperation.


I am voting with my wallet. Instead of giving Ubisoft any money, I'd rather invest that $60 in two or three Kickstarter games. The critics would say that I shouldn't pirate Ubisoft's game then. To me, piracy is a form of protest that I believe will be more effective than not purchasing their products.

Let's say under normal circumstances, one million hammers are sold every year and Home Depot knows they sell half of them. Now let's say that in 2012, Home Depot sells only 100,000 hammers. The first thing they're going to do is check to make sure one million hammers were still sold. Once they've confirmed that, they are going to realize they have an issue: either they have piss poor customer service or their hammers are real shitty.

Creative content doesn't work the same way. If I'm not happy with Far Cry's DRM and I decide to buy Minecraft instead, Ubisoft won't see it as a customer serivce issue, they will think they just put out a shitty game. That is not the message I'm looking to convey to Ubisoft. I'm going to buy Minecraft and I'm going to pirate Far Cry. That is my protest.

Here's where it gets tricky. If Ubisoft sees the video game industry growing while their own sales decrease and they see high piracy levels for their games, maybe they'll get it through their dumb heads what they're doing wrong. That scenario is unlikely to happen though, because I have seen time and time again, when piracy levels rise, so do sales.

Next post: How things get disconnected.

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