Uncopyable Values in a Copy-Friendly World Wide Web

Since I wrote about piracy, there have been a few new articles brought to my attention, and I’m sure there will be more.

First, Better than Free by Kevin Kelly argued that since digital media is so easy to copy, copies are worthless. He offers eight “things that are better than free”: immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, and findability.

If you want to watch a video about the topic, watch Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business by Wired’s Editor in Chief. The key quote: “Every industry that becomes digital eventually becomes free”.

Assuming that this market shift is true, you can expect the participants in the old market to want to keep things the way they were before, when copies were scarce and valuable. Hence, so-called Digital Rights Management (DRM), copy protection, lawsuits against fans, and proprietary hardware and protocols, none of which are adding value for the customer.

Of course, we can’t assume that the market will shift entirely to free copies. Still, there are business models based on making money from things besides the copies. It would be silly to dismiss them because you are afraid of change or don’t want to work harder to continue making money. That’s the free market at work, and you can join the RIAA/MPAA in complaining about how unfair change is, or you can adapt to the changes.

Of course, you could also challenge the idea that piracy is even that significant of a problem. Stardock’s Brad Wardell wrote about it in Piracy & PC Gaming:

Now, I don’t like piracy at all. It really bugs me when I see my game up on some torrent site just on the principle of the matter. And piracy certainly does cost sales. But arguing that piracy is the primary factor in lower sales of well made games? I don’t think so.

The reason why we don’t put copy protection on our games isn’t because we’re nice guys. We do it because the people who actually buy games don’t like to mess with it. Our customers make the rules, not the pirates. Pirates don’t count. We know our customers could pirate our games if they want but choose to support our efforts. So we return the favor – we make the games they want and deliver them how they want it. This is also known as operating like every other industry outside the PC game industry.

Zing.

Thanks to PlayNoEvil for the link to Wardell’s article.

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