(Norwegian info: Dette er en engelsk versjon av «gratulerer med våte bukser».)
You may know the expression «peeing in your pants to keep warm». It means that to pee in your pants to stay warm, may be a good tactic at the moment. But in some minutes, you will regret it, when your wet pants gets cold much quicker than they did before the peeing…
On friday the 17th of April, the record- and moviecompanies won some really wet pants.
The Judge in Stockholms tingsrett handed down a guilty verdict to the founders of The Pirate Bay, who now face a year in prison and a fine of 30 million Swedish kroner, about 3.6 million US Dollars. The Pirate Bay appealed the decision immediately.
Read the whole verdict in Swedish here (pdf-document).
The copyright holders are of course cheering, and Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters’ Guild of America says to Cnet News:
I would like to tell the Pirate Bay the same thing everybody has told us for the past 10 years. They should go out and find a new business model, one that doesn’t involve profiting from stolen property…What everybody who steals music should realize is that e-looting is not a victimless crime. Everyone who does it is hurting themselves. They are killing the music.
Let me just start by saying that I’m not defending The Pirate Bay. I don’t download other people’s legal works, and I don’t think others should do it either. But I have serious problems with the tactics of the copyright holders, and I have even bigger problems understanding why the record companies, movie companies, tv stations and game companies don’t understand how the internet has changed everything about how you do business.
And here’s why:
1) They don’t get any money
Even if The Pirate Bay lost, the money will never be paid. There are no money to be found at The Pirate Bay, and the founders say that they would rather burn the money than pay. The artists and the copyright holders will get no money from this trial.
2) Major advertising campaign for The Pirate Bay
The last few months The Pirate Bay has got almost as much PR as Obama. Almost. Even your grandmother now knows how bittorrent works (see our Creative Commons licensed video about bittorrent – in Norwegian – but the graphics should tell the story even if you can’t decode the Norwegian. It would be interesting to see the traffic numbers at The Pirate Bay, now that the copyright holders have decided to put a huge, bright spotlight on them. And leaving themselves in the darkness, angering their potential customers even more:
3) Even more angry customers
On forums, Twitter, Facebook and blogs, people are really angry! Some say thay as of friday 17th of April never are going to buy a single album or movie anymore. The copyright holders are risking boycotts and even worse sales. I think the case against The Pirate Bay is an amazingly stupid strategy, and I wonder who convinced the copyright holders to do this? «What if we made our customers even angrier? Especially the ones who are setting trends, and finding new artists!»
4) Impossible to stop
A verdict in Sweden will take three to five more years, as the case needs to be tried again higher up in the court system before it is all settled. In five years lots will have changed, and even today a ruling against The Pirate Bay wouldn’t mean a thing.
The Pirate Bay servers are spread all over the world already, and even they don’t know where they rent servers. So even if The Pirate Bay gets a verdict in Sweden, they can continue just as before. Nothing will change.
What should have been done
I’ve been working with marketing for years, and in marketing we often do a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
What is the strenght of The Pirate Bay? It’s free and quite easy to use.
What is the weakness of The Pirate Bay? It’s illegal to share other people’s copyrighted works via bittorrent. And for most people, it should be possible to make easier ways to download and use music, movies and tv than using bittorent.
What are the opportunities? Moving the «pirating» customers over to easy-to-use paying solutions.
What are the threats? Many! Record companies could go bankrupt, people have got used to not paying, you can’t stop filesharing because the pirates are always a step ahead and so on.
It seems to me that the copyright holders have done a sloppy analysis. They figured out that The Pirate Bay is free, and ran to their lawyers. And forgot about the easy part.
The copyrights holders have to make sure that their solutions are easier to use than The Pirate Bay. It’s not that difficult. To play a tune found on The Pirate Bay you have to…
– type name of tune
– download torrent file
Often there are few seeders, and often there are only crappy copies. You often spend quite some time finding stuff unless it’s on the top list at the moment.
This can of course be done easier and better.
1) You CAN compete with «free»
Spotify (Norwegian article) is an excellent example. Dead easy – two steps.
– type name of tune
– hit play
iTunes on the iPhone is another example. I’m sitting in a cafe, and hear something I like on the stereo or even from the people at the next table playing with their phones. I’m starting Shazam and wait 12 seconds. It finds the tune, I click the link and end up in the iTunes store, hitting «buy». To minutes later I have a legally bought copy of the tune on my iPhone.
It is possible to make things easier than illegal downloads. Try making better products and telling the world about them instead of silly campaigns comparing downloading with graveyards (Norwegian article) and lawyers. Carrots, not whips.
Sit down with the telecom companies, make subscription plans where data traffic when downloading of legal music is free, so that kids don’t have to ruin themselves just to download music via 3G/Edge when on the run.
Sit down with top designers and workflow spesialists and make suggestions for new interfaces for music – and movieshops online. Why is it still easier for me to buy an airline ticket than a 99 cent music file (except when I’m using iTunes)?
2) One world – not 200 countries
The copyright holders seem to think that we still travel the Atlantic in a ocean liners run on coal. So they operate with licences that ignore the fact that people don’t care about countries and borders anymore. A cool remix from Brazil? A catchy tune from Indonesia? A cool website from Australia? A designer making lovely stuff in Canada? A shoe made in Iceland?
People don’t get why there are tunes in Spotify I can’t hear in Norway. Take a drive across the border to Sweden and use the WLAN in the first café. And you can hear it! People don’t get why there are thousands of movies for rent in iTunes in the US, and NONE anywhere else in the world. People don’t get why you can’t see the tv-shows on YouTube outside the US, or the series on Hulu. We have heard the excuses, but we don’t see why it STILL is a problem. Why isn’t this all sorted out by now? The internet is 20+ years, how long is it going to take? Why isn’t it possible to make standard contracts that make it possible to sell an artists tunes everywhere in the world, once he or she is signed to a label?
What are young people spending the most time using on the internet? Social networks. Across the world. Not caring about whether a person is in this or that country, where he is born or where she lives.
3) Now. Not in a while, but NOW.
Imagine I’m a fan of Lost (I’m not, but lets pretend). I read online that the latest episode is airing in the US. Why can’t I buy shortly after it’s aired and see it here in Norway? Not tomorrow, but now? Yes, I know about the deals the Lost producers make with tv-companies all over the world, I’ve been working in the media for almost 20 years. But what if I pay US$ 100 for an episode? I still can’t buy an episode. They won’t let me. They don’t want my money.
It doesn’t take three weeks for news to get across the world anymore. We DO get to know the news in Europe the exact second they happen in the US. Because of Twitter and other social networks the world is now truly one. Everything is happening at the same time everywhere. Except records, movies and games.
Colleague and good friend Eirik Solheim made a comic about «How Bob the Millionaire became a pirate» in 2005. It’s still 100% true – four years later. The copyright holders haven’t learned a thing in 1 500 days…
I still can’t buy American series here in Norway, even I pay two extra digits. I still can’t use iTunes or Hulu to stream movies. I can’t even rent the movies from my local cable provider Get until several weeks after they have premiered in the US. Why is this? Why is it ok that I pay NOK 100 (about 15 US Dollars) to watch a movie at the cinema in Oslo. But it’s not ok to pay NOK 100 to stream it at home? When I’m at the movies, there are more people and companies between me and the people who make the thing. When I’m at home, they get more of my money. Why don’t they? Why do I have to travel to the cinema to see it legally? It doesn’t make sense, espacially when you know that travel makes the earth less green and I tend to fill up on unhealthy snack at the cinema…
One of NRKbetas readers, Frode Svendsen wrote a comment on another article about The Pirate Bay verdict (in Norwegian). He told about a speech by Cory Doctorow (of Boingboing fame) where Cory told about Valve – the game company. They decided to launch games in Russia the same day as in the US, «zero-day» launching. Earlier they waited 1-3 months when launching new games in Russia. When they started using the «zero-day» tactic, the number of illegal copies in Russia dived.
When Britney Spears was launched in the US, it took over two weeks before her album showed up in iTunes Norway. And by that time, the kids had downloaded it on The Pirate Bay.
We live in a time of «instant gratification» – people want their needs to be fulfilled right now. The copyright holders may dislike this, but they can’t ignore it. «Next week» and «later this summer» just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Only NOW works.
So congratulations to record, movies, tv- and gamecompanies. You and your lawyers and strategy consultants just wet your pants big time. It’s nice and warm right now, but it will get even colder than before in a short time.
And just to clarify: I don’t support illegal filesharing at all. I buy my music at iTunes (BTW, why did it get to be 2009 before DRM was removed…?), at amiestreet and 7digital. I use Spotify at home when we’re having parties, and we buy lots and lots of DVDs – which I rip and put on the computer (with a sad heart – I’d rather buy them as files with no DRM from someone nice).
I have friends that run record companies and friends that are musicians. They see their works on The Pirate Bay and people that don’t pay. They suffer from illegal file sharing, and I do understand the problem this is for people who live from what they make.
But I almost go Hulk-green when I see the headless strategic work being done by the copyright holders. They have content that people want, that people want to pay for. But do they want to sell it to us? No, they don’t. It’s fascinating and sad.
Also see TechCrunchs «Hollywood Has A Great Online Distribution Model — If You Hate Selection». Lots of excellent points!
A final note: The views expressed here are mine, and not in any way the official view of the Norwegian Broadcasting – NRK. NRKbeta is NRKs Norwegian Technology website (our English about-page), where we write and live with new media and technology. From time to time we publish articles in English when we have content that have appeal outside of Norway.
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