Eroding the Pull of Piracy-A Bilateral Approach

This morning I came across a two articles that offer insights as to how another effective front is being formed in the war against online piracy.  The first piece,   “Piracy Threatens Digital Growth”  from Tech Central, highlights the need for media companies to “embrace” technology in order to “keep abreast of” consumer demands:

…the two biggest challenges facing content producers and distributors are piracy and regulation. “Most consumers don’t see piracy as a crime, or they see it as a victimless one,” she says. “The industry needs to shift consumers to the legitimate end of the spectrum.”

Some media companies, including film distributors, are considering releasing content on all platforms simultaneously because ease of access and timing are two key factors in getting consumers to pay for content.

The second, is a report cited by Terrance Hart in a blog post on  Copyhype, that analyzes the impact France’s controversial 3-strike anti-piracy law has had on illegal downloads (and legitimate sales).

HADOPI’s numbers show that, contrary to the claims of copyright skeptics, the law did not threaten “vast swathes” of French internet users with punitive measures based solely on accusations. Instead, it seems to have achieved its purpose of educating users…consumer awareness of HADOPI has increased iTunes sales in France by over 22%. And a report by HADOPI itself after 17 months of operation showed that the clear decline in online piracy coincided with a rise in quality and quantity of legal cultural offerings.

Taken together, these two pieces offer compelling evidence that ongoing efforts to fight online piracy should include a bilateral effort to alter consumer habits–via legal means (legislation) in tandem with the continued development of new business models.   As Hart eloquently points out,the goal of France’s law was not to punish downloaders, but rather to encourage legal consumption.  So far, results are encouraging.  The success of France’s 3-strikes law demonstrates that consumers, if gently dissuaded by the law from illegal downloading, will purchase content from legit sources (i.e. iTunes, etc.).

On the other front, in terms of commerce, it’s clear that, as technology evolves and platforms improve,  those in the business of creating content are moving quickly to adopt new distribution models, releasing popular content to worldwide audiences, on a multitude of platforms, simultaneously.  The BBC recently utilized this new approach with the UK season premiere of  their  the hit TV series “Doctor Who” on September 2nd.   Rather than force U.S. fans to wait (and thereby encourage illegal downloading), BBC America made the series available to American viewers within 6 hours of the program’s initial broadcast in the UK.  ABC (Australian Broadcasting) followed suit, offering the series via their premium service within minutes of the UK broadcast.  This is good for business.

Moving forward, content creators, and those who represent their interests, should continue to apply pressure to those entities that profit from piracy (cyber-lockers, ad providers, and payment processors) while also directing attention toward the consumers of illegal content.  Rather than demonize them, let’s do as France has done and use the law to divert them  toward  affordable options that provide immediate access to the content they’re so anxious to see. Hart noted that a voluntary  “graduated response” agreement between U.S. ISP providers and the content industry is set to begin in coming months.  If  U.S. content creators, corporate and independent, are smart, they will be poised to leverage this alliance by matching their distribution models to meet customer demand.   Consumers and creators will gain,  and piracy profiteers will lose.

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