You Wouldn't Steal a Car - Pt. 2

Previous post here.

Piracy is typically spun in the media in quite a negative light, but is that surprising considering the sly and sinister nature of siphoning illegitimate copies from shady sources. What is usually passed over though is the impact piracy has had on the creative technology industries, in both positive and negative ways. The cons of piracy have been explored in graphic detail by a vast number of publications, both well-informed and otherwise, and thus I will describe some of the surprising reputable consequences.

For starters, the focus has shifted onto putting the consumer in mind when developing and releasing software. It is now possible for the technologically savvy public to decide the fate of certain products by either purchasing or pirating the aforementioned article. Should the developer choose to implement a particularly draconian user agreement, add unwanted yet required further extensions or pull support for certain formats then internet community tend to boycott sales and make a statement with their pirating. This has already happened in the video gaming industry, with Spore and Assassin's Creed 2, games with excessive DRM (the inability to install more than three times and the requirement for a constant internet connection, respectively), having the honour of being the most pirated game ever and terrible PC sales. Therefore companies are realising that a stance against user freedom will affect their business.

Companies that are more open with both their community and their products are rewarded handsomely. Gabe Newell of Valve, the company behind Steam, has commented on how he doesn't consider piracy a threat, as he finds that providing an adequate service with minimal disruptions or disputes with lead to willing paying customers. The Humble Bundle, a pack of freely-distributable independently developed games which are purchased at whatever price the customers chooses, generates more revenue and attention for the companies behind the titles that a typical discount sale would. Not all of your profit has to come from the product either; Tim Schafer of Double Fine infamously tells fans to pirate their game and then buy two shirts from the company store, as they would receive more of the customer's money that way. Community events and selling promotional items can generate a healthy sum of money on par with the software itself if organised correctly and efficiently.

It's not like having your software pirated is such an awful concept anyway; many developers comment on the upside. Bill Gates of Microsoft says that he doesn't mind as it opens doors for Microsoft products to establish themselves with an individual who will likely then go on and choose their products over competing alternatives. If in easy access of funds to purchase items of software without it affecting other plans then people will willingly pay. With expensive software suites and such regular updates, consumers tend to favour handing over their precious funds to companies they deem necessary or deserving. For a portion of the industry audience, that decision could not be made without extensive usage of the products, which would likely not be available without piracy.

The way in which we receive products in the creative technology industry has developed over the years, but some of the new clients and platforms would not exist were it be for the existence of piracy. I will analyse some of these in my next piece.