Monday 9 August 2010

piracy and the lost billions a modern day fairy tale

I wanted I to attempt to write a piece of fiction, a story if you will, a flight of sheer fancy that my inner soul would dictate and that I would transcribe, something that would have interest enough for you to want to read and that special something that made you read on in the hope of experiencing more, but alas I feel I am not yet ready to address my imagination and post of the many wonders that it can create, well not quite yet anyway. So instead I want to explore another’s  piece of fiction, one that they profess to be true, a claim that I believe is nothing more than lies and this fiction that I refer is none other than the claims of lost sales that the world's music royalty’s collection agencies have bandied around as proof that their industry needs further protection against the ravages of piracy.

Piracy is such an emotive world and I suppose that is because it conjures images of swashbuckling men of ill repute pillaging the high seas and oceans, killing and maiming as they went, images of cross-bones and buried treasures with maps of burnt edges where x marked the spot. This was a fantasy world one that never really existed; sure there are pirates that loot the high seas but the image that is embraced by the majority is that of the way that Hollywood and the movies and television industries have painted it and told of it nothing more than fiction.These pirates are greedy killers that would no sooner kill their mother if it meant more loot in the kitty, so I am sure it's no surprise that this is the image that the RIAA and other liked minded organisations have chosen to paint of p2p networks and the file sharer’s that engage in this practice. It is no doubt buoyed on by the existence or the Pirate Bay the nemesis of copyright and arch-enemy of the music, film, television and any other industry that relies on artificial locks to constrain consumption of an abundant good.

The campaign goes along the lines that you would not steal a physical item so why would you download an illegal copy, and because it’s illegal that downloading it is stealing and that by doing so you have chosen to steal rather than purchase and in the process deprived the owner of the said item, not a physical item but a copy of an intangible concept but a sale. They can still sell an indefinite number of copies of the item and you obviously were not going to buy the item, but that is a lost sale.From this point it is relatively easy task to extrapolate that every illegal download is a lost sale and just multiply the numbers by the retail price and presto you have the budget surplus of the USA as the cost of piracy. Everybody seems to know that these figures are dodgy and recently an US Government Accountability Office said that  “illicit nature of piracy means there is no real way to quantify actual losses, and that some studies have in fact shown piracy to have a “potential positive economic effect.” Yet these organisations continue to sprout these claims as non fiction, however when, copyright holders warn of lost jobs and revenue that piracy is causing they fail to address that a lost sale is not actually a lost sale, but a lost opportunity the money that customers may have spent at your industry is being redirected in other areas of the economy.

Companies can no more mandate that people buy their products or offerings than an artist can guarantee the success of their latest album. Although file sharing has shifted the market from physical to digital there is no reason why companies can not encourage participation in delivery platforms that the consumer and their customers are willing to pay for or of course they will go else where. Technology has disruptive effects on legacy industries and innovation and adaption is the only path to survival.  And finally I might suggest the real evidence that the clams of lost sales are bogus is that if what was has been suggested as lost sales is in fact true why are governments not suffering larger deficits due to the crippling loss in tax revenue that these lost sales would have caused?  Why because they governments never budgeted for this tax revenue because the revenue is not stolen it never existed at all.

What do think are the losses caused by piracy a work of fiction? Leave me a comment I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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