This isn’t Stand By Me, and I don’t want to split-up a fight by dying of a wound from a stray knife. But I do want to talk about piracy and lean on a couple of pieces published by Matt Gemmell and Harry Marks.

Matt Gemmell wrote about how it’s better to develop for iOS because piracy isn’t an issue, as it is for Android. Harry Marks agreed, but picked up on a previous piece by Matt Gemmell advocating music and movie piracy.

After you filter through the emotional charge, cancel out any conflicting hypocritical statements, you can pare away the arguments presented in both pieces by Gemmell. They make an interesting and thought-provoking read.

Marks concluded from Gemmel’s posts:

Here’s what I’ve gathered:

  1. If you’re a software developer trying to make money, locking things down means you get paid and you don’t have to live out of dumpsters for the rest of your life.

  2. If you make movies, TV shows, or music, piracy is okay because we’re the ones getting dicked over by a locked-down system designed to put food on the tables of content creators.

That’s not what I gathered from Gemmel at all. But his aggressive writing doesn’t win him any favours and can easily lead to being misinterpreted. Write angry; read angry. Are all producers equal, or are some (software developers) more equal than others?

The key message, Gemmell did make:

We’ll buy stuff if it’s convenient to do so, and if the price is reasonable. Any sensible business would thus have as its goal “make our stuff convenient to buy, and price it reasonably”.

Piracy might be driven by horrible Digital Rights Management (DRM) for purchased (not rented) content; perceived high pricing; inconvenience of purchase & delivery process; and exclusive access, e.g., Game of Thrones cannot be bought by everyone. I assume —and please correct me if I am wrong— that you must live in America and have a TV subscription that includes HBO to access Game of Thrones.

I live in the UK and subscribe to Spotify, Netflix, and LoveFilm. These services let me listen to and view an unlimited amount (from limited catalogues) of music, TV series, and films. Good enough, cheap enough, and with plenty enough choice for me. Renting rather than owning. Existing in the cloud, where DRM is not a concern.

I wonder how much piracy has been mitigated by these services? I wonder how fair a deal content creators are getting, and if new business models are able to support great new music, TV, films and books.

I’ll save discussion of Abandonware (primarily old games that are no longer for sale and no longer supported by their original creators and copyright holders) for a future post.

Ultimately the way to mitigate piracy is:

  • make it reasonably priced
  • make it easy to buy and download
  • allow anyone to buy it (never turn down people who want to give you their money)

And bonus points for purchased content (not rented content):

  • allow people to download and keep it offline
  • no DRM