This post by a fellow blogger has questioned whether piracy is a bad thing. In a previous post of my own, you may recall, I explained why I now avoid pirating anything and I stick to this as my reasons for doing so are as valid as ever. However, to pretend that piracy has no good effects at all would be silly. That is what I want to highlight today.
- It allows for a far more convenient means of accessing content.
- It has forced companies to rethink their distribution channels and how to provide convenience to consumers. Ebooks, itunes, streaming services such as spotify and hulu all provide much of the convenience of piracy, but with a fee structure.
- It acts as a marketing tool. It provides exposure for authors and musicians, allows more people to come into contact with their works. Ultimately, many “true” fans may buy the works after hearing about it or after experiencing a pirated version.
- It allows for much wider access to works, even to many who could otherwise not afford it. (This argument is somewhat hampered by the fact that internet access is a luxury in most areas of the world, including South Africa)
- It forces companies to think about other ways to monetize their digital property. Many webcomics are licensed under Creative Commons, which means they can be shared freely. The authors make money by selling complementary products (such as posters, books, shirts, etc.). I doubt this would work well for TV shows, for instance (though memorabilia do sell well).
I do not think these things make up for the negative effects of piracy as a whole and they certainly do not make it ethical. I do, however, agree with irevuo that piracy is not something that can easily be stopped (probably it is impossible) and businesses need to realise this. They will need to learn to use the parts of piracy that don’t harm them to good effect.