An earlier post about the content creators who long for stronger anti-piracy protections generated quite a bit of buzz. While several of our interview subjects didn’t go so far as to support SOPA or PIPA, some of you pointed out that there are ways to foil online pirates without enacting any new anti-piracy measures. (Here’s a brief rundown of how entrepreneurs would be impacted by these bills if they were passed.)
Some of you thought the lost revenue that comes from piracy is structural — something content creators must simply accept. Commenter MrMichaelRichards wrote: “The sheet music business got destroyed by the photo copier. SOPA at the time would have made it a crime to own a copier that anyone copied a Beatles songsheet on ... The loss of income to some hard-to-catch copying is a necessary price for freedom of information.”
But commenter bd1885 and others said there are already examples of content companies making a profit on the Web: “ ITunes, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora are all examples of the content industry adapting.”
Commenter eine1 gave several examples of how a fair price and easy access can make users more likely to buy content online than to steal it: “For one, price digital products accordingly. Since the incremental cost of a digital copy of something like a song is massively cheaper than producing, labeling, and shipping a CD, the digital copy should be much cheaper. Right now you can buy a lot of music for $1 or less a song, and lo and behold, people buy a lot of them. It’s easier and more convenient than trying to pirate it (at least in the U.S.).”
He also used the example of comedian Louis C.K.’s recent success with releasing a video online and charging $5 for a download, an example that Alexis Ohanian also referenced in our interview. “Another thing that is going to have to happen is the cutting out of middle men. A lot of entertainers have enough of a following that they don’t need to give 90% of the revenue to old media. A perfect example is comedian Louis C.K.’s latest stand up special that he sold for $5 on the Internet for download ... He’s grossed well over $1 million doing so ... Sure, plenty of people pirated it, but as I said, a lot of those people wouldn’t have paid either way. What Louis C.K. did do is made it attractive and easy for people who want to pay.”
Someone else pointed out the self-publishing phenomenon, which in some cases allows authors to sell their intellectual property digitally and make a living without going through “old media” publishers. Commenter CJMARTIN04 wrote: “Author J.A. Konrath makes quite a bit of money publishing for the Kindle, Nook and other e-readers even though a lot of what he publishes is available for free on his Web site. People see the value in what he does and want to compensate him for it accordingly.”
But others of you brought up the fact that current copyright laws are outmoded and also must adapt.
Commenter westrim writes: “Just as the content industry must adapt, so too should Internet companies whose systems, sites and networks enable copyright infringement. If content creators can have people on staff to hunt down infringing material, Web sites can likewise have people on staff to make sure that stuff doesn’t get posted in the first place. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is almost 14 years old, and many of these internet companies are going to oppose any attempt to modify it just as much as they’re currently opposing SOPA. Everyone should adapt — the content creators, and the Web sites who must wake up and admit that some of their users are violating the law and others’ copyrights through their services.”