Why don't Media Corporations Co-Opt Piracy?

Today I'm going to tackle Piracy. Piracy is considered a dirty word, defined as "the unauthorized reproduction or use of a copyrighted book, recording, television program, patented invention, trademarked product, etc.: The record industry is beset with piracy".

The theft of anything of value is considered an immoral and unethical act in civilization (going as far back as the Code of Hammurabi and The Ten Commandments, because it deprives the original party of their good.

The capitalistic point of view is that what I earn, is mine, and stealing what's mine is theft. The valuable things ("apples") are property of the individual. The communistic / marxist point of view is that what's earned by individuals is shared by the community and always accessible. The valuable things ("apples") are distributed evenly as property of the community.

But the digital point of view says we can make duplicates of media, with no loss of value to the original...and ethical behavior is undefined.

If I steal an apple from you, you may go hungry tonight, but I will be full. But if I could "copy" that apple (with a matter duplicator that takes a value-less, shared element, like dirt on the ground, and recombines the atoms into said "apple"). Would it still be theft? Neither of us go hungry, since we now both have apples.

Ever torrent anything? It's quick, easy, and community-oriented. Plus, you have access to a huge library of media (music, television, movies, images, books, etc.) These works are shared by a community using Peer-to-Peer technology, and considered theft, even though the original copies are never taken. The multi-media corporations of the world (everything from Viacom to Hulu/NBC to EMI) hate piracy because it's so prevalent, and it's so difficult to stop. Once a file is copied, and shared, it's difficult to stop the dissemination.

But why stop it? It's an efficient way of disseminating your work. It would be like an apple farmer trying to stop the creation of "matter transmitters" from copying their apples... They're not able to! The savvier solution would be to create their own matter transmitters to directly transmit their apples.

Why don't Media Corporations Co-Opt Piracy?

Problem: a popular, digital television show is pirated from a media corporation, and torrented by the torrenting community

Case Study Solution_ Media Corporation (e.g. Hulu) creates their own torrent application, to build their community of "seeders" who share their network's work

Pros:

  • Authorization for users to log in and out of the system for torrenting_ want access? then sign-up
  • Advertising can be show anywhere in the application
  • Metric-tracking to show how often a show is shared, watched (if the software has viewing capability): I hate that wonderful shows are killed off because of shit-metrics (i.e. Nielsen Ratings). Firefly would still be around if people would track Torrent metrics
  • Custom extensions for sharing and opening torrented files (i.e. .hulu, or better yet an open-standard torrent extension): this is a bit grimy, since I hate polluting extension-types if we can normalize them into an open-standard, but maybe this will push for such a solution)
  • Directory capability for posting and listing recently torrented shows
  • Rewards for "premium-seeding" users : discounts or beta-test access capabilities_ give back to your community!
  • LOW-to-NO Infrastructure Costs: the sharing is done by the user community, on the Peer-to-Peer technology framework

This last point is clutch_ think about how much bandwidth and storage Netflix uses_ almost 30% of peak bandwidth usage was used by Netflix users in the United States in 2011. Instead of having to pay for a deep technology stack, have a cluster of dedicated servers seed out the original files, then the community will take care of the rest.

Cons:

  • Initial Capital Investment in Software Development (you can always ping Dom & Tom for that!) On the other, what corporations have that individuals don't is vast amount of capital to invest in such ventures.
  • Pirates always be Piratin': even with a software app, a big, healthy, well-instructed community, and a media-campaign that puts you on every "must-have" platform on the planet...Pirates still be piratin' yo. You can't keep them out, and what's free is free. But big guns bring to play what pirates normally can't: Money. Money to spend on engineers, designers/aesheticians, UX/UI folk, lobbyists to promote their policies in government (or community-outreach) campaign goals (i.e. open-source format, adoption in less-than-welcome countries, integration in school systems, etc.))
  • DRM (Digital Rights Management): even IF you have a great network, distribute these medias, people can pull them, post them, and re-distribute out of network. DRM is PITA (pain in the ass; get with the acronyms yo!), and there's stop-gap solutions, but to be honest, I think technology wins the day in supporting what people want. Dr. Ian Malcolm taught us, it's that Life Finds a Way.. But that's a discussion for another day... Point is, this doesn't SOLVE that problem, but then again, neither does anything else currently working. This solves the distribution-system of piracy, which I believe is a major hurdle.

You can't stop technological efficiencies (unless you still have stock in horse-and-buggy corps). What you CAN do is learn from it, adopt their practice, their technology, and leverage with your core values and marketing models (advertising, subscription models, free-to-play, etc.)

When people find a way to beat the system, I always wonder when the system will steal from the ingenuity of the people.

As a final thought, you cannot beat technology. The concept of matter duplication, at least at the digital level, is here. When it extends to physical objects (which we're starting to see in the Maker community), the concept of currency as a whole, and what is "value", will need to be revised, and ethics again re-determined.

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