Almost every day we can read or hear some of the old-guard media assholes slowly turning their heads and understanding that piracy in it’s current, most common form – the digital download – is not a crime. But there’s still a long road to travel. Luckily, there are people in the influential positions not scared shitless to say how they really think things are.
Just few weeks ago Jason Holtman from Valve, one of the biggest game production companies in the world, was talking at Game Business Law Summit, explaining the ways to really solve one of the huge reasons why people do digital downloads instead of paying for the stuff. Now this is games, but the same thing goes with film.
“We take all of our games day-and-date to Russia,” Holtman says of Valve. “The reason people pirated things in Russia,” he explains, “is because Russians are reading magazines and watching television — they say ‘Man, I want to play that game so bad,’ but the publishers respond ‘you can play that game in six months…maybe.’ ”
“We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly,” Holtman says, explaining that Valve makes sure their games are on the shelves in Moscow and St. Petersberg, in Russian, when they release it to North America and Western Europe.
The final sacred cow that Holtman took a stab at was the issue of piracy. “There’s a big business feeling that there’s piracy,” he says. But the truth is: “Pirates are underserved customers.”
I think the last line is really one of the best ways to put the problem, and the companies – in game, film and music – who understand this will evolve their products and distribution to meet the needs of the people out there and will survive the next 5-10 years.
A British distribution company Revolver tried this also few months ago, and released their horror film Mum & Dad simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD, as a download, and as VOD. One would think that since this has never been done before that the industry would be following with a great interest on how the new radical approach – which really tries to deliver a film day-and-date to all media distribution platforms – would work. But instead, the cinema association wrote an open letter and asked the cinemas across UK to boycott the film, since it’s taking them out of business.
So yes, there’s still a long road ahead, a lot of concrete-headed wankers scared as hell and ready to put their full arsenal and throw it against the new technology.
But the ex-boss of EMI Norway, Per Eirik Johansen, puts it very clearly:
“No one has ever won a battle when fighting against new technology,”
Mr. Johansen used to be a valiant fighter against pirates while still working on EMI, but now that he’s working on his own label, he has come out of the closet and is talking his mind freely.
He now believes the music industry’s fight against piracy has been useless and says he disagrees with the assertion that illicit file-sharing is the same as theft. Referring to an earlier EMI anti-piracy initiative, Johansen noted, “The message of that campaign is that there is a reason why we have copyright, and I agree.”
“But the main thing is that a whole generation already violates copyright, and the only thing we can do now is find better solutions,” he says pragmatically.