The Five Steps To Stopping Media Piracy

We spend a lot of time bashing big media conglomerates around here, and not without reason: they have a lot of bad ideas.

It’s not limited to our favorite punching bag, the music industry. The movie industry is currently trying to put Netflix out of business, and starting to realize that Netflix and its users are fairly patient…and not going anywhere. The publishing industry is shakily laughing and putting a good face on the fact that Apple is getting ready to totally destroy the most profitable sector of their industry just like they did with music. And it’s beginning to dawn on television networks that, oh yeah, cable is beginning to price itself out of existence and driving customers to use the Internet exclusively.

But you know what? They’re just trying to do their jobs. So we thought we’d help. Here’s a five step plan, guys, to stop media piracy in its tracks. It won’t eradicate piracy completely, but it’ll be a lot more effective than any law you try to write.

Step 1: Let Go Of The Current Economic Model

Seriously. Look at the music industry: they clung to the idea of selling albums at $15 a pop while flailing desperately for another idea, called the “Tarzan” model. Then they slammed into a tree, whic is called the “George of the Jungle” business model.

It’s not a fun thing to do, but you, as companies, need to accept that the future is legitimate customers simply refusing to pay more than they already do for your products. In fact, they’ll probably want to pay less, not because they can get it for free, but because they just have so many options to get it legitimately. Why would somebody buy a DVD for a movie they can stream on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, if they just wait?

So, let it go. It’s baggage holding you back.

Step 2: Digitize Everything, and We Mean Everything, As Quickly As Humanly Possible

It doesn’t matter if it hasn’t seen the light of day since two weeks after its release: if you can possibly put it out there for sale, put it out there for sale. Because we guarantee you somebody, somewhere, wants to buy it, and when they can’t they pirate it. You’ve got to meet your customers halfway here.

Essentially, you’re shifting from a premium business to a volume business. Instead of a customer buying one $20 album, you have them buying twenty $1 songs. Instead of paying $30 for a hardback book, you sell them six for $5.

This goes doubly for new material. Once a movie hits DVD, it should also be on Netflix and available for digital download, and by “digital download,” we mean “something people can store on a hard drive and back up.” Once a TV show airs, it needs to be on Hulu a minute after the broadcast ends. There’s no excuse for this to not happen.

Step 3: Reject Anything That Limits Cross Platform Use

Proprietary file formats, DRM, locks, all of it — throw it away. It’s not just useless, it’s worse than useless — it encourages people to steal.

There’s nothing customers hate more than restrictions on stuff they own. And they do own it. They didn’t license it from you, you’re not loaning it to them, they paid money and purchased a product. They need to be able to use that product any way they wish. Otherwise, they’ll pirate a copy when they’re told they can’t because…well…why shouldn’t they? They’ve already paid for it!

Step 4: Tiered Pricing Is Your Friend

Part of the reason the film industry isn’t nearly so far up the creek as the music industry is the simple fact that, if you wait long enough, you don’t have to steal a movie. It hits theaters, then DVD, then streaming services and cable. All it takes is a little patience.

Give the customer options: let them buy at a reasonable price, rent at a reasonable price, or pay for an all-you-can-eat option. It’s not a coincidence that digital music is seeing real growth now that most customers can get the songs they want legally in the way they prefer.

Step 5: Work With Your Customers, Not Against Them

Look, not to put too fine a point on it, but your customers hate you. They buy your products, but they do so grudgingly because, not unreasonably, they think you view them as dangerous thieving slime to be dragged into court at the least provocation. You tend to have terrible labor practices. A lot of your products are viewed as subpar crap. And worst of all, you act like a bully to demand premium prices for said subpar crap.

It’s not a great place to be.

So, listen to what your customers have to say, and, more importantly, act on it. For example: how hard would it be for a gaming company to publish a few indie games digitally? Not very. And it’d build goodwill in the community.

Your costs of production have been cut and are dropping all the time. Use these tools, cut your overhead, and start giving all the people what they want. It’ll do wonders for your bottom line, or at least make your customers like you a bit. And won’t that be a novel experience?

(Image courtesy Aaron Escobar on Flickr)