So, at this point in time if you’re not aware of SOPA and the PIPA legislation you must be living in a cave, or don’t use the internet at all, and so aren’t reading this anyway. So I’m not going to bother explaining either of these bills. You know what they are.
On the bright side, they’re effectively dead. What supporters they have have backed out, opposition is rampant, hell even the White House is set to shoot them down if the House or Senate were to pass them, assuming they still have the numbers to make that happen.
Unfortunately, while these particular bills seem unlikely, this is not the first nor is it likely to be the last time such things will be proposed. Which is troubling. I understand the concerns of intellectual piracy. Piracy is wrong. Period. Don’t try to defend it to me, such arguments are fallacies. However, having a stranglehold on the distribution methods is not an acceptable answer.
There is a better way. I don’t pretend to know just what it is, but I like to think that I am part of something that may just figure it out. Webcomics give their content away for free. I have to wonder, what would happen to sales if Hollywood used our business model? What would happen if a movie was released, officially, free for your viewing pleasure online with simultaneous release in theaters? Would theaters really suffer? As it is, no one really likes going to the movie theater. It’s always full of noisy people interrupting your viewing experience, sticky floors, and that one drunk dude who inevitably pukes up his popcorn. But maybe, having seen a film at 1600×900 pixels, Jeff would gather up his six best buddies and go see what he now knew for certain to be an awesome film on the big screen, and BE HAPPY to pay the $12 for the privilege. Having seen the film for free, perhaps sales would actually spike.
Maybe that’s a fantasy. I don’t pretend to know for sure. But I have to say, the only way to really prevent piracy is to change how people feel about paying for content. If they don’t know, or think it’s crap, or simply don’t care they’re not going to shell out. But for quality, people will pay through the nose. Changing people’s minds is the only way to bring about change. No law, no regulation, no penalty, nothing will make things change until you change their minds. Change their minds. Make them care.
So how do you make an audience, a market, care? You open up. It really is that simple, as far as I can tell. The most successful production companies are the ones that put themselves into their product, and truly wish to share it with their audiences. When you put up pay walls and lock things down with regulation and excessive licensing, you push people away. You give off the impression that you want to keep whatever media you’ve created for yourselves, that you only begrudgingly allow others to see it because they’ve bribed you with money. Is it really so surprising that there are those who wouldn’t think twice about sneaking a peek without paying up?
I don’t know how to end piracy. I don’t know if my business model translates to any other media type. I don’t even know if the webcomic business model is a viable model writ large. Perhaps it’s only rare exceptions who make it work. But I do know, without hesitation that I, as a consumer, will eagerly pay top dollar for media I enjoy and/or enriches my life. And the harder it is for me to acquire my beloved movies and books and music and comics through official channels, the more likely I am to walk away.
And so in parting thoughts, I shall sum up the business model for the new millennium in four easy steps:
- Make it Awesome.
- Make it Accessible.