Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SOPA - How to Deal with Piracy

If you don't know what SOPA is, basically, it's the government trying to pass laws that allow them to block websites that distribute copy written content. That includes sites like youtube, blogger, reddit etc..

SOPA is trying to help the "piracy" problem on the internet.  Content providers might agree that there is a piracy problem, and users might disagree saying the internet is free, and if I can get my hands on your content it should be mine.

This isn't about SOPA though, this is about how to stop piracy.  However, when I say stop piracy, I'm not talking about a technical solution to physically stop a pirate from stealing your content.

I believe the real way to stop piracy is to offer a product that is far beyond better than the raw content itself.  Most of the time with digital content, it is not JUST the raw content that is important.  For example, If I run a video training website, My website allows users to view videos in multiple sizes, create bookmarks, save my last watch position, embedded chapter data, language translations, on screen sub titles and more.  So now, if someone steals my video file, and puts it online for the world to steal, the person who illegally downloads a copy will get none of my features.  All they get is the content.

Apple & iTunes
Let's take a look at how Apple solved the music piracy problem.  If you can remember back in the days of bearshare, kazaa, morpheus, limewire and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs, mainly used for music, they were the main headache to the music industry.  Sure an individual artist may have lost a little bit of money, but in total this was really hurting the music industry.  Then Apple comes in with iTunes and solves the problem.  We will give users a free application for mac and pc, where they can very easily, and graphically find all of their music, download high quality versions as many times as needed, and even sync all that directly with their iPod.  To top it all off, a song will cost a mere 99 cents.  That solution was huge.  Years later, iTunes is the number 1 online reseller of music, and you don't hear the music industry complaining like they did in the past.

So how did it work?
iTunes identified the pains of peer to peer file sharing.  They were ad supported, virus ridden programs.  The songs were generally crappy quality, and searching was not that easy.  Searching for 1 song could yield 40 results, which one was good? Which has a virus?  iTunes is a very fast, easy to use application, offered by a trusted company, for free with out ads, that is also aesthetically pleasing. Couple that with a little bit of money, most people that would have stolen before, now have their solution. Of course there are those that don't care and will still steal the songs, but those numbers are not significant, and would steal no matter what you do.

How can this solution be applied to other digital content?
The answer is to offer a FAR BETTER experience around your content than the content alone can offer.  This works with blogs, news, video, audio, any type of media.  If you have text based content, offer more site features for that text.  Ability to share, save the text, create a feed from it, more articles like the one your reading on the page, save for later, bring the content to mobile.  All of this your site can offer, that a pirate can't.

This doen't solve all kinds of piracy problems, but it does shed light on how a site can cut down on stolen content. There are 2 types of pirates.  Those that will steal no matter what, and those that steal because you're not better.  If you offer a good product around your content, your users will stay, and will pay.  People want to pay for good work.  You will always have people that steal, and you will never be able to stop them, but they will not hurt you.


  1. People still steal music using online all the time, and record labels still sue people for it; only difference between then and now is news media doesn't care any more, old news. iTunes did not solve the problem, but it made a more efficient way for people to buy their music if they want to buy it; if some one doesn't want to pay for music, they will still find a way to steal it.

  2. Granted I didn't finish reading your blog before posting that and see you said people will still steal, but I do believe the number is larger than you think. Even with using iTunes people steal the music by downloading it and giving the files to all their friends.

  3. I agree they still steal, and will always steal. And sure, it might be a bigger deal than I make it sound, but before, everyone stole music because there was no advantage to not stealing it. Now, statistics show, way more people than ever are buying music. The music industry doen't just not care anymore, they now get paid for digital downloads, that's all they really wanted

  4. Also the record labels are taking larger cuts from the musician's concerts, and giving more of record sales, because more money is made off if shows than the music itself.

  5. 90% of the time I pay for the content I get (I'll admit I'm guilty of not paying sometimes). Usually I want to pay because I want to support whoever it is that created the content, either because I'm such a fan of the music or want to see more content created along the lines of whatever it is I'm watching. I'm a subscriber to and pay them monthly, but I torrent all their videos all the same because I don't like to use their site to view them. The content is very professional and high quality, but I prefer to use my own video player to watch them and not have to worry about streaming, using a clunky flash or web player, or how well my internet connection is doing at the moment. I like to label them and stick them in folders as well because I don't know when I'll get around to watching some of them. It could be soon or it could be years from now. I was never into torrenting music, I've always used iTunes. I think you're right about iTunes though, they set up a strong mold for doing the right thing. I think it's easier to pay $10 for an album and have it easily found, downloaded, and organized within their application than it is to go through the hassel of having to torrent it. It's worth the $10 or $15 dollars.

  6. I think another part of my desire to download videos instead of viewing them online is due to the fact that I know that the web is unreliable. It changes everyday, and a website that is there today may not be tomorrow - the content is out of my control. Tomorrow the site could be broken or changed or gone all together, or my internet could be down. And I like to have total control over what it is that I'm purchasing. I like the feeling of having a physical copy of it on my hard drive. It's like a squirrel gathering nuts...