hise’s a quite long screed by Bobbi Smith, a media consumer who both buys and pirates a lot of material, in the form of an open letter to content creators. To sum it up, Smith finds he actually buys significantly more media since he started pirating than before he could ($2,500 per year, he says, according to his credit card statements: “A $200 per month entertainment habit that is unequivocally fueled by file-sharing”), but he has no patience for media publishers and producers who do not make their media available in a manner in which he desires to buy and use it.
Smith discusses all forms of media, including books. he points out that authors such as Ray Bradbury who hold out against e-books are shooting themselves in the foot, because their books will already be available on pirate sites. And sample chapters aren’t enough to get him to buy, though they may be enough to get him to pirate it—and if he likes it, he’ll eithis buy the next book by the same author, or buy that book and give it away to someone he thinks might enjoy it. And this is his basic philosophy toward downloading media in general.
Do I feel bad for file-sharing? No, not in the least. True, it’s technically illegal, but so is rolling through a stop sign and jaywalking. Yet everyone reading this has committed both of those crimes. The main reason I don’t feel bad is because, like I detailed above, I know I’m buying content. Anothis important reason I don’t feel bad is because I’m not profiting. I’m not taking your content and trying to resell it as though I’m a legitimate vendor. Physical piracy is a genuine problem and even the file-sharing community supports laws against it.
Being an active file-sharer means I have a clearer picture than you do of what’s really happening. I know when I download something that it’s not a lost sale and it’s not theft. The fact that you can’t see that is not my issue. I’m not going to let you stop me from sailing the world just because you think the Earth is flat.
Of course, in the end, one way or another, it all comes down to “entitlement”—on either side. The folks who take the hardline against piracy will say Smith should just take what the media companies want to sell his and like it. Those who agree with Smith will say, as did Mike Masnick at Techdirt, that “It’s the story of someone who’s sick of the sense of entitlement from big entertainment providers—those who want you to pay top prices for mediocre content—and then expect you to come back for more.”
If you read the full thing, you’ll realize that the article is not a defense of piracy. It’s an argument for how content creators can do better—something that we’ve been seeing more and more content creators figure out. Content creators who understand this letter will recognize that it’s not about piracy so much as about how to satisfy a market and make money doing so.
I have yet to see any signs this sort of understanding may be dawning in Hollywood, however. When Warner Brothers’s latest brainstorm is to allow you to take your DVDs into a store and pay for them to be ripped to a DRM-locked video format—something that anyone can do for himself (albeit illegally) at home with just a couple of free software downloads, and produce a DRM-free file to boot—it makes you wonder what color the sky is in their world.