“Creative” coping mechanisms to deal with online piracy

Last Wednesday was the anniversary of intellectual property rights code here in the Philippines, and a certain government agency spearheaded the commemoration by destroying pirated CDs of Filipino musicians. I was thinking then, how will they do it with online pirated content?

The Internet is a double-edged sword for businesses that thrive on and gain profit from copyrights and IPR. With the organization having direct access to the audiences, marketing no longer requires a big sum of money; the company just needs to be online. Talents are also all over the net – it is not the case of finding a needle in a haysack. On the other hand, creative outlets are losing money because of piracy, which I bet will not stop in the next few years.

Youtube creates stars – No copyright infringement intended
With the possibility of content co-creation through the social media, we witness unknown faces gain momentum and enter the mainstream business by means of (unintended) copyright infringement. Marie Digby gained popularity with her cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella getting over 16 million views. Arnel Pineda got the Journey lead when the old guys saw him singing their song on Youtube. Sony Music signed up Taiwan’s Susan Boyle, Lin Yu-chun, after his rendition of I Will Always Love You became a Youtube sensation.

It’s not only those who copy mainstream stars get famous online; indie stars also get the chance of their lives through this. With traditional media congested with only those who can pay for spots, the idea of getting heard, followed, and supported via Youtube, Imeem, Last.Fm, among others, is priceless. Moymoy Palaboy, while they are contract artists at GMA, found popularity online with their standout, comedy lipsynch videos.

They have became mainstream, but their ways are still Youtube indie! ๐Ÿ˜€

In a similar fashion, anybody can be a book author through social media. Who needs a publisher to fund for printing of a book when you have Scribd and DocStoc in the Internet? Your eBook can be downloaded anytime and can be read at the convenience of your reader. A good example would be our reference reading, Brian Solis’ย  The Essential Guide to Social Media, which is available on Scribd and was already read 55,476 times, rated 84 times, and awarded as Scribd Rising. The idea of selling eBooks online is priceless – minimal capital (or none at all) and no one gets a percentage from your profit, just you.

You don't need a publisher online

The adventย  of the social media obviously empowered the individual by giving him/her the venues to reach out to different audiences, with a very little investment involved. However, online content creation and sharing paved way to a problem for mainstream production, publishing, and recording companies: piracy.


Collaborative piracy

Piracy has always been two-way. Pirates pirate stuff, because buyers buy them. With social media however, it worked in so many ways. A legitimate buyer uploaded copyrighted content, Google search reveals it, someone will download it and share with friends. Or it can be, someone inside the company leaks the stuff, everyone will share it with everybody else. The Internet has definitely elevated piracy into something more complicated, because of the untraceability of users involved, but nevertheless, we love it and mainstream companies abhore it.

According to Wikipedia, music sales dropped $6 billion in just four years: from $38 billion in 1999 to $32 billion in 2003, and there are researches proving that online piracy and file sharing is detrimental to international sales of copyrighted music. Another non-shocker: 95% of music downloads are pirated. It’s free, convenient, and no one will be running after you despite piracy being classified as theft. On the other hand, CNN considers eBook piracy as the next big piracy thing with the boom of eBook readers like Kindle and iPad (Although I was thinking, why just now? I owned pirated eBooks of ChicLit, James Patterson, JRR Tolkien, and others since 2007). Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol was downloaded 100,000 times for free from file sharing sites 24 hours after the official eBook was released.

Sites like Suprnova.org, N4p.com, Torrentbits.org, and Phoenix-torrents.com have been closed down already after lawsuits were filed against these torrent/file sharing sites.

Coping mechanisms

While there are efforts to address breach of intellectual property ownage and copyrights online, the number of free download sites are still at par with the number of sites closed down. And while everyone’s waiting for a “Webstitution (Benavidez, 2010)” and government intervention to reinforce copyrights, intellectual property owners and companies try their best to cope with the situation that might cost them their livelihood.*

Pirate Coelho. World-renowned author of The Alchemist Paulo Coelho openly supports free distribution of his books in e-format online. Others might think it’s a desperate act because he’s giving away his books for free, but sales prove otherwise. I, for one, got hold of The Way of the Bow, one of the short stories included in his collection Like the Flowing River. Then I bought the book after a few days. And the next thing I knew, I was already buying Coelho books every month. I don’t know the psychology here, but it worked for him (His publisher, though, does not support him in this endeavor).

Sampling widgets. To promote legitimate buying of singles and albums, recording outfits release 30-second sneak previews of songs in iTunes and Amazon, then after some time, they include the whole songs in the artist’s official website and/or iLike widget on Facebook. Columbia Records brought sampling to a higher level – it released the complete tracks of Glee – Journey to the Regionals through a widget five days before it was officially released. It was definitely a big risk – there is a software enabling users to record anything playing on your Web browser. The risk was worth taking, though. No singles were released from the album but it debuted at number one in the US Billboard 200, with 152,000 album copies sold in its first week.

The risk was all worth it.

Publishers also release chapter samples, even full book samples on Scribd. Major publishers like Random House and Simon & Schuster have partnered with Scribd to conduct trial tests and attract readership for the books of their authors including Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark.

Social media participation. What better way to learn from the conversation than to be in it. Record companies would report to Youtube users who upload copyrighted content, then they turn to VEVO, a commercial entertainment outlet, to upload the video by itself. In April, Lady Gaga’s VEVO video of Bad Romance became Youtube’s most popular video ever with 234 million viewers and counting. And what makes the VEVO venture successful is that Lady Gaga’s videos are all in this account, so the tendency of the user is to view the copyrighted videos in that licensed account and not anywhere else.

As in our discussion in class, the implication of all these social media and Internet in our practice is to be critically open to changes and adapt to these changes. Online piracy and copyright infringement are things that concerned companies and outlets need to adapt to, but to face these challenges, to stand out and sell, and to adapt for real requires competence and creativity.

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5 thoughts on ““Creative” coping mechanisms to deal with online piracy

  1. The idea of free books is great, although I really still prefer real books to virtual ones (the screen hurts my eyes O_O). But wow to your assessment of the benefits of free merchandise. I really never thought it would have any benefit on the authors/artists themselves, besides getting more fans and followers.

    On kind of unrelated note, all these free stuff can actually signal the decline, or at least the lessening of capitalism. The fat cats no longer control everyhing, since again, more and more are subscribing to this kind of living.

    • It can be benefitial or detrimental to ‘capitalists,’ depending on how they would see and utilize this online sharing. I am reminded by the Goldcorp Challenge from our reading. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I don’t prefer eBooks as well, but I try to give it a shot whenever I feel like buying a new book. I’d like to see if it’s good enough and worthy of my allowance. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. I didn’t know there are free Paulo Coelho books online! I’ve always bought hardbound versions of his books and I can say they’re really expensive. *saves link*

    I am not a capitalist nor do I produce things that will make me earn money so I don’t know how much piracy hurts their industry. In my opinion, as long as the free stuff online is not used to make money for the people who upload them then it’s forgivable.

  3. “The internet is a double-edged sword.” You got it exactly right mina. Thinking more deeply, everything in this world can be a double-edged sword. That can be inevitable and irrefutable. But what makes all the difference? It is the one who bears the sword. Agree?

    And yes, Ms. Minustheinkstains, ebooks doesn’t give you the same sense of accomplishment and enjoyment compared to real books. It’s just so different. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. The issue of piracy is something that’s not very easy to address. And as you explained, especially for concerned companies, it’s something that they will need competence and creativity to deal with.

    My focus now though goes to role of the individual. And I have three questions I thought of after reading this entry:

    First, what is our stand as individual users on the issue of piracy and second, how should we deal with it? Now, this is something I honestly must say I have a hard time answering myself. Because while our family has decided no longer to buy anything pirated (DVD, music CDs, etc.), some of the software and music we have on our computer were still downloaded off of “sharing sites.” Given that example, my third question is, where do we draw the line between “sharing” and piracy?

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