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Piracy and the Evolution of Entertainment Marketing

Several months ago, a nice post was written by a Green Options blogger, supporting purchasing music on-line strictly for environmental reasons. I will take this further, also including software and movies and other reasons for which buying such things on disks should be dropped in favor of other means, means which wouldn’t even require servers to be kept running non-stop. Greedy distributors certainly won’t have any of this, but maybe someday greed will stop ruling our world. One can dream, right?
I have written what I think about software piracy and how programs should be marketed to make it fairer and more affordable for all before, even added another idea to that topic later, but now I mean to go into more detail. If you read those posts you’ll notice I’m repeating myself a lot in this one, but you can’t go into detail without explaining where you’re coming from.

Looking at it from the environmental point of view, it’s perfectly obvious that buying software, music or movies on disks is very harmful. You have resources used and pollution caused by the production process, as well as materials that will, sooner or later, end up in a landfill. And that’s just for the product itself, but you have to keep in mind that an entire system is set into motion to distribute that product. Materials and products alike must be shipped from place to place, which once again uses resources and causes pollution, not to mention requires a certain infrastructure which can only be created by scarring the environment. On top of that, storehouses and shops are required to store and sell those products, taking up space, using more resources and causing more pollution.
On the other hand, as that Green Options blogger pointed out, the sale of digital versions is not without its own environmental costs. They are significantly smaller than those of the disks, but they certainly exist and we should aim towards eliminating them as much as possible. Why keep servers running non-stop to store and make available all the things people might want to purchase, with all the added environmental costs of that, when there is another way?

Next, let’s look at matters from a financial point of view. Manufacturing the disks, boxes, manuals, guides and all other things that may come with software, music or movies certainly costs money. Then you have the costs associated with shipping, rent for the space used for both storage and sales, the necessary furnishings and equipment for those locations and salaries paid to the people handling it all. This system also requires distributors, multiple layers of them actually, and they take a very large share of the profits despite not being involved in creating the product. Or not involved in any good way at least, since they often get in the way and make the creators basically ruin their work in one way or another for “marketing reasons”.
Digital sales, the way the concept is currently understood, also come with their own financial costs. Those servers aren’t cheap and neither is the power required to run them. You also need a specialized team to ensure they’re operational at all times and fix any problems that might arise as soon as possible, not to mention the costs associated with the actual space they occupy, including the necessary furnishings and additional equipment. On top of that, the bandwidth used by the customers when they’re downloading their purchases also needs to be paid for. This model could perhaps avoid the need for distributors, but it requires an initial investment which many might not be able to cover from their own pockets. Large content producers could afford it, Radiohead’s case being the best known recently, but for the smaller ones it would be a hard path to take.
Also, both of these methods have another kind of added costs. They use copy-protection technology, which certainly costs money to develop and implement, but which will always be cracked by those who are determined enough. It’s simply a waste, and not only from a financial point of view.

When it comes to ease of purchasing and use, disks are once again at a disadvantage. It’s certainly far easier to download something from a file-sharing network than it is to go and buy it. In order to buy it, you need to search for a shop that has it in their offer, make an order and wait for delivery. You may also find that the product you’re looking for is no longer in stock and you need to either wait or look for another shop. Such a purchase also requires direct contact with other people, which is a problem for those who are shy, and you may also need to adjust your schedule in order to be available when the shop is open or when the delivery can be made.
Digital versions fare much better from this point of view, since the products can never be out of stock, the purchase may be made without any direct contact with another person and the customer is usually able to enjoy the product immediately, without needing to go out or wait for delivery. Still, purchasing a product without any interaction usually requires a credit card and that is a problem for some. Also, the need to search for a shop that has the product you’re looking for, or for the producer’s site in case distributors are left out of it, is not eliminated, plus that if those sites have technical problems there could be delays. Downloading a product from such a site is also likely to take longer than from a file-sharing network.
As for the copy-protection methods, those are probably the worst problem when it comes to ease of use. They limit the devices you may store the products on and the ways in which you may use them, they make the first use more complicated by requiring registration or entering certain information, they may cause compatibility issues or even make a legitimate buyer no longer able to use their legally purchased product… As I keep saying, those who wish to get around them will always do so, but legitimate users keep being hindered by them.

My solution to all of this is to sell only the right to use the product, not the actual copy. Get rid of all copy-protection measures, let people obtain their copies of the products either way they see fit and then only pay for the right to use them legally. Of course, some might still want disks, boxes, manuals and so on, but they will have to pay a lot more for them and this will act as a deterrent, which is a good thing for the environment. But I’m quite sure that all other potential customers would be very happy if this would happen. They would be able to legally use their software, music and movies without any of the problems associated with purchases right now and also pay significantly less. Or they would pay significantly less if the content producers wouldn’t get greedy and only ask as much as they would have made from the sale of the product on a disk, after deducting all the costs associated with manufacturing and distributing said package.
Distribution would be handled by file-sharing networks, after the content producers would initially make it available from their own computers. That eliminates the entire production and shipping chain, including the distributors, meaning that all revenue would go directly to the content producers, who are the ones who are really entitled to it. And if they would stop being greedy and set the price in such a way as to reflect the elimination of all those additional costs, the product would end up costing only a fraction of what it costs now and that will certainly make far more people want to buy it.
Making such products available would no longer be a crime in any way, as you wouldn’t need to have a license to use them if you only store them and make them available for download. This would most easily be implemented for software, as purchasing the right to use it could mean you get a code that you have to enter in order to be able to run the program, meaning that if you don’t actually use it you have no need for the code and therefore no need to purchase it. Of course anybody could make valid codes public and there would be no need for purchase, but that’s being done anyway and, as I keep saying, methods of protection are only effective in hindering legitimate users.
There would also need to be very convenient means of making this purchase, and I can think of several. For those who have credit (or debit) cards and wish to use them, the easiest way would be to be able to buy the right to use the product directly from the content producer’s site. Still, other methods of payment would have to be available for everyone else, and those could include checks and direct money transfers from various sources, but there should also be a way to pay by SMS. Some small additional fees might be added depending on the method used to make the payment, such as the credit card handling fee or the communications operator’s SMS charges, and those should be clearly specified so people would know exactly how much they’re actually paying for the product itself.

Many people will say that eliminating all protection and legalizing the free distribution of copyrighted content will make even less people actually purchase it, but that’s the distributors’ brainwashing doing the talking. So-called “piracy” does not lower sales! Even now people who wish to purchase such content do so and those who don’t still won’t either way. Making such content harder to “pirate” will not increase sales, it will only make fewer people be able to enjoy it. I think we don’t need to pointlessly take away things that people enjoy, there are few enough reasons for happiness in this world as it is.
There is also the issue of eliminating an entire industry, namely the content distributors. If you think about it, they wouldn’t be entirely eliminated, as some people would still desire to own copies and all the other things that come with them, but they would end up catering mainly to a niche audience. That would make them far less important and certainly far less wealthy, which is something I have absolutely no problem with.
Instead, what this would do would be making such products far more affordable and easier to purchase and use legally (and adding a direct renting system, where you purchase usage rights for a limited amount of time for an even smaller price, would make it even better). That would certainly translate into many more buyers, not less, and with distribution costs out of the way that means greater profits for the content creators, who would then truly benefit from the results of their work instead of being at the mercy of their distributors more often than not as the case is now. That means both the creators and the users would benefit greatly, and they are the two groups that matter when it comes to this.
In addition, something like this would virtually eliminate the real piracy, and by that I mean those who earn money by selling products they did not create. That’s something I’m firmly against, making a profit from somebody else’s work, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so against distributors as well. Yes, I see distributors and actual copyright pirates as being quite similar and would like it if people would fight against them both equally.

And all of this still assumes that some payment should be required in order to legally use copyrighted content in a non-commercial manner. When it comes to software that does seem logical, seeing as software developers have no other means of income, but even there there should be different tariffs for commercial and non-commercial use where applicable, not to mention that open-source options are becoming better and better when it comes to productivity software.
On the other hand, musicians and movie makers have other means of income and I firmly believe those should be their main ones. Musicians have concerts and also earn something when their songs are played on commercial radio or TV stations, movies earn money by being played in theaters for those who wish to watch them there and also by being aired on TV, and both would still be able to earn something from the people who want to own actual copies on disks and all the other things that come with them. Those should add up to more than enough to cover their expenses and even make a nice profit if they’re good enough at what they do, so there should be no more need to charge people for the content they have on their computers and portable media players.
That said, it would be a nice thing to legally allow such content to be used in a non-commercial manner free of charge, only allowing people to donate something to the content producers if they wish to do so, as a recognition of their merits. It’s been proven to work already…


  1. Dan Waldron says:

    Can you tell me who did your layout? I’ve been looking for one kind of like yours. Thank you.

    June 12, 2008 @ 12:16 AM

  2. Cavalary says:

    Look in the footer for what theme I started from (it’s version 1.1 of that, too much of a hassle to update, would have to redo everything) and where I got the background, after that I just fooled around with it, trial and error.

    June 13, 2008 @ 3:29 AM

  3. Miuriel says:

    You do realize that people that are to shy to go into a shop and buy what they want are not exactly in their mental health. The percentage of those people, among who you can be found, is much lower then the percentage of the people who actually like making some conversation with the salesman during the purchasing. There are also people who would like to see a band playing live, but couldn’t stand the crowd of a concert. We still have concerts, and we will always have stores.

    Some of the things you are saying here, are true. We should be more careful with the environment, and nothing should be overlooked. But because you exaggerate with arguments not related to the cause, the cause will be dismissed from your article.

    June 18, 2008 @ 12:30 PM

  4. Cavalary says:

    Sure I realize that, but I was listing all reasons for which something like this should be done, that’s just one of them, half a phrase in the text… And I certainly didn’t say shops should be wiped out, read it again if you thought that, said they would only cater to those who want to own an actual copy, and perhaps also desire the interaction, this would just let everyone else handle it otherwise.
    And don’t think I was exaggerating with anything, the cause wasn’t only the environment, that was just the starting point…

    PS: Why an external hard drive? And if that can break (been there…), so can the CD…

    June 18, 2008 @ 3:59 PM

  5. Miuriel says:

    I know! That was just the silliest detail in your post here. The other ones are not that silly and commenting on them needs some thinking over and composing. Didn’t have the time yet.

    Environment is the cause. The rest is just a suggestion / idea.

    External hard drive because my laptop is pretty old – I only have 40Gb. But I still like my laptop. It’s like my favorite toy and as long it works I don’t intend to buy a new one. Do you have any other suggestions how to store lots of data? I only know hard drives, disks, or web services like div-share.

    June 19, 2008 @ 1:39 AM

  6. Cavalary says:

    You mean you know why I wrote what I wrote better than I do?

    Oh, laptops, bleah… And no, you pretty much have that covered… Just flash sticks I guess.

    June 19, 2008 @ 11:43 AM

  7. Miuriel says:

    I mean “Piracy and the Evolution of Entertainment Marketing” is an opinion, not a cause.

    If I think about it, I skipped the middle part last time I read it. Long post are hard to follow, and you are not quite a writer. The “Piracy” and “The Future of Selling Computer Games” posts are ok. I agree almost completely. This one is… you are blabbering. Not to mention I hat to read more than 10 pages to understand what you mean. After reading several theses about the gravitation potential of earth, this in not fun! And I am visiting you just for fun!

    So… yes, eliminating the distributors is a good idea. The environment-cause is exaggerated in your case here. You are thronging adjectives to easily. The discomfort of stores does not exist for most people. People like to go into a store and look around. Most people like to go shopping after sitting 8 hours in front of a computer at work. They like the change, not to go in front of a computer again. To replace that, you need virtual reality!

    Not everybody has a credit card? My mother does, and she works in a shoe factory. In 5 years everybody who has a computer with internet access will also have a credit card or some other way of on-line payment. For people without a internet access what you are saying here is useless anyway. I get the idea when it comes to games, and it’s fine, especially since games are played more and more on-line. I don’t get it when it comes to other software. Music does earn a lot of money through concerts and radio. The so called piracy is just making them more famous (people are hearing and then they want to see the concert). Movie not so much! I use to (maybe I still, will see) work in a cinema; people are not coming to see movies in theaters any more / not so much. Television is useless, in my opinion. All the shows I’m interested can be watch on-line when I want and I have the time. Movies do have another way of getting some money: commercials! Just by showing a certain mobile or a certain labels they earn money. I don’t know how they can squeeze a commercial in a Sci-Fi thou. Still they never have enough.

    And you would like laptops if you have to move often.

    June 19, 2008 @ 7:45 PM

  8. Cavalary says:

    Everything’s an opinion…

    Hey, not asking anyone to follow, just writing so I can try to work the mess inside my head into a human-readable form and then putting it out there just in case somebody else stumbles upon it.

    Pasted it to check, has exactly 3 pages, not more than 10 :p

    Most people aren’t all people, democracy is tyranny by majority.

    I’m quite sure I still won’t have any means of paying on-line 5 years from now, and disagree with the very concept of credit card, spending money you don’t have. And since all of this is personal opinion… Plus that there might be risks in paying with a card, though not as big as some would make them out to be.

    *frowns at on-line games* So what don’t you get about other software?

    As for piracy as marketing, taking the words out of my… fingers. It’s just like advertising, creates awareness even though the vast majority of those who see it still won’t buy the product. But unlike advertising, it’s free!

    I wouldn’t do anything requiring me to move…

    June 19, 2008 @ 8:18 PM

  9. Miuriel says:

    This post has 3 pages, the other 2 links to your older post have another 4 and the rest you can find on the green option blogger.

    The mess in your had is not going to go away just by writing stuff nobody reads. (I just called myself “nobody”). But I’m not making the assumption you actually would like to do that.

    Of course you will not have anything. You need to have some sort of income for that. You are just getting it from your parents, like borrowing indefinitely. If they would use the internet, they would have the means to pay on-line.

    I don’t like the idea of everything connected to the internet. Games – ok. But the rest of my software should work also off line. This “pay when you use” seams to need connection.

    So… You don’t move! Do you eat? I’m trying to figure out if you look like Gollum or Jabba The Hutt.

    OK! You can take care of the minorities! I’ll do the rest!

    June 20, 2008 @ 3:55 AM

  10. Cavalary says:

    I don’t want it to go away, just to get sorted out a bit :p

    They use the ‘net and don’t have means of paying on-line…

    Er, I don’t like the idea of everything connected to the internet AT ALL, said I’m bothered by programs that “call home”, didn’t I?

    As for eating, not much at all, so I’d go for the Gollum idea… Here if you’re so curious…

    June 20, 2008 @ 4:04 AM

  11. Miuriel says:

    How do you sustain this suggestion of yours without connection then?

    I said in 5 years! Even back home they are starting to use banks more and more. People are getting their salaries in a bank account. And with banks comes online banking. It al-ready is, just not that reliable.

    Did I ask for a picture? You made me curios by putting that link. I was quite happy with the image of Gollum in my had. I was thinking more like Jabba, cause by brother is in a similar mess as you, and he’s more of a Jabba. Anyway! I already saw those pictures. I don’t remember how or when. Is there another link from your blog to them?

    June 20, 2008 @ 7:14 PM

  12. Cavalary says:

    The one about splitting programs in parts and selling the right to use them accordingly is just a thought, “work in progress” at best. But the idea whould be to use activation codes, if you choose not to buy all of it there could be separate ones for each part and if and when you get further (in games) or try to use a more advanced function (in productivity software) than what you have activated you’ll get prompted to enter the proper code (one-time only). Buying it on-line is only one way to get that (legally), could also have the option of sending an SMS to a certain numer (with the appropriate fee) and getting one in return with the code or buying it on a card from an “old fashioned” shop. What I keep saying, options for all…

    True, but you think all banks will have such on-line services and any shop will accept payment from any bank in 5 years? Think that’s a bit too fast…

    Hey, I gave you an option, what you chose to do with it isn’t my problem :) And I dunno if there’s another link from here to them, don’t think so, but there are links to that profile in various places, spent enough time making it (back then…) to just link to it instead of filling out profile info on various other sites…

    (Turning into a chat…)

    June 20, 2008 @ 8:52 PM

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