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You Wouldn't Download A Car

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Sean Black's picture
We have all done it at least once. Being a pirate. The scum of the figurative Internet Sea. Illegally downloading a crisp 1080p movie. In truth I have contracted scurvy from the amout of those I have. Thinking about it, it’s a lot easier to be a pirate nowadays than it was circa 1650.
 
Does being a pirate make you a bad guy though? In here we like to focus mainly on broadcast but it is worthy to consider a broader scope; like the music and literature industries.
 
Certainly we have heard tons of stories that piracy is causing artists to lose money (through advertising in some cases) – billions of dollars – and preventing them from continuing to create art. And this makes a lot of sense because if you have a piece of content, illegally, then why would you pay to own it again.
 
So you are taking money right out of the artists' pockets. Well, no not really. Those who are in the broadcast/entertainment industry (or any profitably relative industry) will tell you of the vast number of people who work in the production of, say, a movie. They say you are stealing as much from the director as you are from the popcorn-maker at the cinema; where you would have watched the film.
 
Of that, I’m not so sure. Consider a situation where, at a vending machine, a person discovers that cold drinks are being mistakenly sold for 5c (instead of the usual $1). That person then goes and tells his colleagues and they jump at the opportunity.
 
If the drinks were not being sold for 5c those colleagues would probably not have bought a drink at all. Those sales are thus sales that the vending machine would not have made anyway. This is much the same with Internet piracy. It becomes a kind of advertising.
 
Author Neil Gaiman eloquently lays out another example of how piracy is becoming advertising (and also of where this argument is going):
 

 
Lending some kind of validation to Gaiman’s hypotheses is an academic paper (tl;dr) that came out of North Carolina State University by Robert Hammond. In there he determines that, contrary to popular belief, Bittorrent piracy boosted music sales.
 
Looking at this kind of empirical and academic evidence it seems fair to agree that piracy has a greater purpose other than illegally owning some content. There are occasions where a certain torrent site becomes ‘The Promo Bay' (3 guesses which) and independent artists post their content as torrents, as a kind of advertising.
 
 
Using the example Gaiman gave of who discovered their favourite author from being lent a book. The same can be said for other content on the Internet. The more a piece of content is pirated, the more likely it is to reach potential audience members and potential buyers.
 
Buyers who would spend money on artists’ future content, buyers who would, without piracy, never have made that transaction. And buyers who would tell their friends about the content – creating a larger potential audience. Of course this is not the case all the time, for all content, but the chances go up and that, frankly, is good enough; it is the entire point of advertising.
 
It is definitely short-sighted, and occasionally wrong, to look at the immediate effects of piracy. If smart, industries would take advantage of this (free) ‘medium’ to distribute and advertise their content (there was a rumour of Iron Maiden doing this but that turned out to be false). Because obviously if the content is good enough, viewers will spend their money.
 
If this new advertising medium is viable and becomes actively used in promoting content, then advertising companies could potentially lose revenue. And obviously they would want to prevent that. Which is why they churn out ridiculous stats about piracy.
 

This new medium is just something that advertisers will have to adapt to and deal with. This is not me advocating piracy or trying to 'stick it to the man.' This is trying to look to the future of advertising given contemporary trends. Because piracy is a trend that has proven it will not go away easily.

I wouldn't download a car? Fuck you, I would if I could.

 

Do you have anything to weigh in on? Am I completely wrong? Feel free to speak up, and let me know, in the comments.


Be a scholar, and follow me: Sean Black