I’m fascinated by the relationships that have been forming between famous torrent site The Pirate Bay and creators of books, music, games, comics, and other forms of media. Piracy is a touchy issue, with people proposing a great number of “answers” to the problem. Some say it needs to be stopped at all costs — even if that means censoring the Internet — while others impose their own restrictions to limit it or make threats to try to cull it. A few even embrace it.
It wasn’t long ago that we were all talking about SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have an enormous negative impact on the web and information gathering. It led to an equally huge online protest. In fact, we’re still talking about it.
The chance of piracy infecting more video game systems also created a stir not long ago, with one developer swearing to stop supporting a whole platform if it continued. It would leave his studio “no choice,” he said.
Maybe that’s the case for him, but the act of piracy is a choice in itself, and that means the way we handle it is a decision that creators must make for themselves. There is, arguably, no one right way.
Companies have introduced digital rights management on games to eliminate piracy and watched the restrictions not only show no effectiveness but also punish legitimate users.
Now some are opening lines of communication with pirates to stem the flow of illegal downloads and encourage sales. Sometimes, that tactic is crazy enough to work. It did for the makers of the Zeno Clash game, who put aside their pride and righteousness and talked respectfully to pirates on their home turf. It led to noteworthy success for the developers of Anodyne, who then made $12,000 (a big deal for indie gamemakers) in a three-day period and saw more positive results just from featuring their title on the front page of The Pirate Bay. It cost them $7 to do the promotion.
They’re not the only ones. Over 1,000 artists signed up to participate in The Promo Bay when the torrent site, previously under threat of removal, introduced it early this year.
Author Paulo Coelho did it.
And just yesterday, so did Eisner and Harvey Award-winning writer Mark Andrew Smith with his baseball-themed horror graphic novel Sullivan’s Sluggers, offering the first two issues of his comic for free.
The comic was on Kickstarter, too, from May through June of last year and raised roughly $92,000 more than its target goal of $6,000. Then it appeared on the crowdfunding platform again and saw even more success.
The way we think about piracy is clearly changing. Yes, it’s still a serious problem, but addressing it might mean coming up with a better solution than launching a full assault.
What are your thoughts on piracy and how we need to approach the issue moving forward?