Isn’t Piracy good for the Entertainment Industry? (Or rather any industry).

avatarJust before starting with the post let me quieten up the skeptics out here, confirming – one that there is no mistake with the topic typed and two that I am not here to promote piracy. I know piracy is a crime (Even my industry has seen much loses based on piracy) having said that, I have a perspective which I want to present here. Whether it’s worth thinking this way or not is definitely an individual’s personal choice.

We see frequent changes in our lives on daily basis. So when we gauge the changes across a century it has to be tremendous. Last century we saw, how Entertainment shifted from been a luxury to a necessity. How munching hot popcorn watching the coolest stars on the big screen was an experience everybody flocked for. The industry saw growth which was almost guaranteed. By the end of last century, if you could create a buzz about the flick, you knew you have reaped the costs even before the release. The start of this century brought a quick turn to this. People started stealing their lovely flicks. Words like piracy, torrents, P2P and internet downloads were as common as these flicks. Today you can download almost any movie via these methods (Won’t reveal the how to).

But there’s a good thing about this. As already highlighted creating a buzz ensured that the movie will have house full shows for a week at least. Slowly the quality of experience started degrading (in some cases at least), and the Buzz was increasing day by day. So how come piracy be a solution to all this. Well, here we go.

A recent post at torrentfreak post says – “Avatar” is the highest downloaded movie on the internet from last 15 days in a row. On the other hand as we know Avatar has already crossed the 1.3 billion dollar $ mark. What’s the reason? There are even good amount of audiences who believe Avatar didn’t have a good story at all! So with all this pessimistic stories popping why is it making a ton of moolah at the box office? You know it has got to be something. A torrent download or a poor script is simply overruled by the awesome “never-seen-before” 3D experience that Avatar has. People are stilling going on, just to experience that. These are simply not comparable. The overall experience has gone to a different level altogether. Same is applicable to a simple comic movie. Where do you laugh more, at home on a pirated movie or in the theater?

When we talk about the Entertainment industry, how can we forget our Rock stars and their albums which did millions in sales? Today, these songs are now just a 5 MB file download and can be available even with a google search! How destructing is that. But to hear a song downloaded from internet and to enjoy a live rocking jam session of Metallica on stage is simply not comparable. The upcoming stars of tomorrow don’t have deep pockets to launch themselves and I believe you will find more and more artists spreading their free music across the Internet. Happily! So what will earn them their hard work? The experience of listening them live in concert.

All this will undoubtedly affect many artists who will fall prey to this transition. But that’s the way we will learn to adapt and this industry will evolve. There has already been a buzz created with the new 3D TVs getting launched, but I believe size does matter and it will take time for these big screens to come home and give a theatrical experience of Avatar 3D with the comfort of being at home. Only then these torrents will make a dent on the profits and it will take a decade more, until then this experience is not just downloadable.

So, what I am proving here. Just that the quality of experience has to be taken at a different level. A level that piracy can’t beat easily. The next couple of Avatars need to have good scripts, as the 3D experience is ‘already experienced’ and it might not drive masses to the box office. Your experience has to be un-replicable by a download! Not all movies can be Avatar types and not all bands can be as rocking as the Metallica, but then you are not supposed to get on with all of them, right? If it’s a luxury, it has to mesmerize.

Just before winding up, one more experience from my industry (software). There has been enough piracy around here too and there’s no “different experience” here to guarantee profits. But we seem to have found some solution to this too. Slowly from high end proprietary devices we are moving towards low end open devices. Two developments are very important to note. One is called SaaS (Software as a service), something like projects from 37 signals where you pay small monthly charges and the whole show is managed online. The other development too is on the same lines. The buzz around Google Chrome OS. The basic idea is to throw a device with an OS as cheap and as open as possible. Then manage the whole show in the cloud on internet and earn revenues. If these model work, the chances of multiplying existing profits are quite high. And finally as it is often quoted, if you couldn’t pirate Microsoft Windows, how many of you actually would have bought it? (Rather afford it?). More than 80% of the losses due to piracy are not losses at the first place. Think about it.

“PIRACY, n. Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.” – Ambrose Bierce (src)

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Tamahome Jenkins January 13, 2010 at 3:13 pm

IMO, software piracy is different than media piracy. If you are stealing software that you are then using to make money, then that is wrong. However, if you steal software that you simply evaluate because you wouldn’t purchase it anyway, I say no harm no foul, plus that’s publicity for the company (if you like the product).

On the other hand, media piracy is all fair game. As you’ve proven with your Avatar example, if Hollywood (or Bollywood :) makes something that people like, they’ll pay to experience it. I’ve turned around and bought movies that I downloaded before just because I wanted to watch the special features, and I wanted to take the DVD to other people’s houses. The same goes for music. I’ve become fans of certain bands based on the less than legal means I used to hear their music. Then I went to their concert. Which does the band benefit from more, concert tickets or album royalties?

In this day and age, the rules of copyright and licensing seriously need to be re-examined. Plenty of people and companies have demonstrated that if you make something worthwhile, people will buy it, even if they have the option to acquire it for free. The problem is when people make crap that consumers don’t want to pay for. People looking for the best value for their money isn’t stealing.

Chanda Himanshu January 14, 2010 at 4:14 am

Agree to you Tamahome. But if you have an advantage from the software (not monetary advantage) than there is another discussion on whether to pay or not to pay. Specially in case of marketing software, where the software creates a buzz but its your product that the customer pay for. Who will you credit more? I believe the SaaS model that I talked about will do away with all these thoughts.

This all is definitely forcing a change in the Business Model of many industries. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

Dynasty Web January 13, 2010 at 4:29 pm

You have some valid points in your article because the quality of some movies that were downloaded are not good movie quality films as you would see in the movie theater. I couldn’t imagine downloading Avatar and getting that same experience I had at the movies. I think most people feel the same way who actually downloaded the movie and really wanted to see it in person instead.

The thing is I believe only the United States have a law on piracy. Other countries don’t have this law. In China, they can upload a movie legally. So a lot of movie uploads comes from other countries legally. There are websites where you can watch a movie online without downloading it that was downloaded from another country.

Tamahome Jenkins January 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Actually, most countries have signed the Berne Convention, which is the main international copyright law. In China, piracy is illegal, but the problem is a lack of enforcement, and plain, old willful ignorance. According to Wikipedia, “Since almost all nations are members of the World Trade Organization, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights requires non-members to accept almost all of the conditions of the Berne Convention.”

The U.S. and Europe is where the high-dollar intellectual property is created, so they have an incentive to enforce copyright law 😉

Chanda Himanshu January 14, 2010 at 4:17 am

@Dynasty Web and @Tamahome, Thanks for sharing your views. I never knew about the Berne Convention. And yes its easy to share stuff made by others as it doesn’t cost you a dime. I believe if the problem is to be solved it requires a joint coordination (almost impossile) or else the industry has to change the path and profit from something else. Thats what the whole idea is 😉

Dynasty Web January 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I learn something new from you every time. This is why people, including me, need to do their research before believing others. This was good to know and a really great topic.

Rahul Ramchandani January 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

I dont fully agree that piracy is good for any business…
Piracy is good only when its about luxury and an aspirational brand and u want the ORIGINAL thing…

Chanda Himanshu January 16, 2010 at 5:15 am

Hey thanks for your feedback Rahul. Its true that we want the orignal product. As far as I understand you are talking about books, Tess and other stuff where fake brands are created. By Piracy I dont mean that. But still at the end of the day, it is people who are buying that stuff and paying for it. As businesses we need to evolve to the next level where such piracy and copies are simply not replicable. Thats what was the central idea of this post.

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