The Solution to online piracy is actually quite simple, yet easy to dismiss as being too radical. The main problem we have in trying to solve online piracy is that we keep trying to use legislature to make new laws that control online piracy. Unfortunately, these methods tend to be restricting to users and fail to solve the real problem. The true problem comes from the system of how digital products are sold. Using legislature to solve these types of problems does nothing more than put a bandage on a broken system.
The video below shows an interview with Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and blogger who invests in internet based companies, and shows this idea of changing how the digital industries sell their products.
The slate needs to be wiped clean and new methods need to be introduced in how digital products are sold. These methods will need to discourage online piracy rather then not allowing it. If we can make online piracy pointless to conduct, then it will gradually die out. At the very least, it will be reduced to a manageable level.
One type of method that is being used to discourage online piracy is the idea of selling your digital products for free and allowing your customers to pay what they want to pay for them. This may sound crazy, but it does appear to work. The music group Radiohead and the video game company Humble Indie Bundle, for example, both allow customers to pay what they want to pay for their digital products. This means if a customer believes the groups music or games are worthless then they do not have to pay anything, or if the customer believes the groups’ music and games are worth $100 each then they can pay that. Interestingly, the two groups didn’t see any losses in profit for their free material. If anything, their profits increased. The graph below shows Humble Indies profits compared to the average video game’s earnings. This method not only creates a stronger more loyal bond between consumer and producer, but also, more importantly, discourages online piracy. Why go out of your way to steal the material when it is for free at the groups’ website.
Another example is Louis C.K., (seen below) a comedian who self produced and sold a video of his act on his website for just $5. What’s more is that Louis made it where you could use the video any way you like after buying it. This means there were no copyright restrictions on it to violate. If Louis had stuck to the normal routine of producing and selling the video through a large company, then the video would have been sold for $20 and would have had copyright restrictions on it that prevented the customer from using the video in any way the company didn’t want them to. This way, according to Louis, “You only pay $5, and you can use the video any way you like.” Once again, this method helps reduce online piracy by making the video cheaper, meaning those who would have conducted online piracy when the video was $20 may now actually buy it for $5. Also, without any copyright restrictions, it becomes impossible to break any laws with the video after one buys it.
Once these methods become more mainstream and used by more groups in the digital product industry, online piracy will become discouraged to the point where most people will stop conducting it all together and it will eventually die out.