Your common sense guide to stopping piracy

Amazon announced that it's now the world's second-largest digital music retailer behind iTunes. And as Don Reisinger points out, this illustrates the value of giving people what they want in a fight against piracy.

For the past decade, one of the most important debates raging in the tech industry is on the topic of piracy. Some people say that it should be stopped with the help of lawsuits and others suggest it can only be done by being slightly nicer by forcing people to pay for media. But whatever happened to the common sense route? Surely it has been espoused before and some even follow it. Why are some organizations so far behind?

As Amazon has proven, allowing people to do what they want actually works in an environment where they can easily get the same song elsewhere for free. In other words, why fight city hall when all you really need to do is agree?

Believe it or not, there is a way to almost entirely wipe out piracy once and for all. No, it's not by suing those responsible or forcing people into situations. Instead, it's by giving us what we want in a nice package for an affordable price. Does that sound so hard?

As Amazon's director of digital music explains, "Songs sold without DRM, at high quality, with album art, that's the best way to get people to buy music instead of stealing it. DRM is a way to punish people who are buying," he says. "Offering a great product at a great price is a way to combat piracy."

For once, I've heard someone espouse some common sense on the topic of piracy.

Unfortunately for the RIAA and the MPAA and the rest of these fools who have no real knowledge on consumer behavior, people are not necessarily looking to steal music and movies, but they are willing to do it if they're not being afforded the respect and product they want.

Piracy is not as much a fight against people stealing as it is a fight against the very foundation of trust. Today's companies have no idea what consumers want and just because the business started with services like Napster where people freely downloaded songs without paying for them, it doesn't necessarily mean that that's what everyone wants to do.

If that was true, wouldn't iTunes and Amazon have a difficult time selling songs instead of becoming major competitors in music retail? In my mind, the average person really wants to do the right thing and buy songs whenever possible. But if things are made too difficult to do that, why would they?

Let's face it -- the current state of downloading is abysmal. Sure, you can get onto iTunes and download your favorite tunes at $0.99 per song or head over to Amazon's service and pay $0.89 (or more), but what else does it offer? Does it give you album art? Check. Does it give you high-quality sound? Eh. Does it give you the option to do what you want with that song you just purchased? Amazon's theoretically does, but aside from EMI songs on iTunes, you can't.

And so, for those that don't want to use any other service besides iTunes, they decide instead to find a song they want elsewhere and download it illegally so they can have all of the options we've come to expect in a CD.

And isn't that where the major issue is? With a CD, you can bring it wherever you'd like and can rip it onto any computer in your home and upload it to any device you own. That CD has album art and any extras you that comes with it. But when compared to a digital download, all of the extras are thrown out the window.

Sure, you can have album art on iTunes, but you can't do anything else with the songs except play them on Apple devices because the recording industry is deathly afraid of watching the world's second-largest music retailer sell songs to pirates and giving you too many options with your music.

And once again, the idea of trust works its way back into this discussion. Where is the trust from the movie studios and the recording industry? Why don't they trust that people will not steal songs and movies and buy them instead?

Maybe it's because they're not so innocent themselves.

As mothers have been saying for years, the guilty will always assume guilt. Let's face it -- the record labels aren't the squeaky-clean companies they try to claim they are. Just ask the artists. How many times have you heard cases where the artists see pennies on the dollar while the fat cats running the record labels walk away with the lion's share of the cash? Once again, the guilty will assume guilt.

But I digress. There's no debating the fact that piracy is a major problem for the entertainment industry and so far, it really has lost a significant revenue stream to the problem. But in its attempt to stop piracy, the industry is going about it all wrong.

In order to stop piracy, you need to play nice with the pirates and stop playing the enemy. The RIAA and MPAA should give up their lawsuits, lay down their arms and extend an olive branch to pirates by standing by as record labels and movie studios finally give in to the demands of pirates and give them what they want -- more compelling reasons to buy at a more affordable price.

The future of this industry rests snugly on the Internet and there is no changing that. The organizations that fight pirates must give up their enfeebled idea of stopping piracy and listen to the public. Trust me, it's their only hope.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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