I’ve touched on this before but the huge brouhaha about Securerom protection that has surfaced again, the question of “Do we own our are we just leasing our software?” leads me to revisit making profitable price point decisions to discourage piracy.
The problem is that when manufacturers and distributors sold unprotected software (or replace that with movies, music, or games), people would make copies of it for their friends. Is that the same as shrinkage in a store when a shoplifter steals a game from the shelves and runs home with it? It is.
Change the statement around – are you making a backup, archival copy of your software in case your original is destroyed by a fire, earthquake or stampeding horses? That should be allowed.
Is the price that a company charges (or you charge), fair? Does it reflect a reasonable mark-up for the time, effort and start-up costs that you have paid? Is it steep because you know that people will want to have it and it is a must have game or library of music?
There is nothing that can beat the price of free and once something is let into the wild, there are people with the equipment, talent and skills who will work at cracking protections and getting the product released into the wild.
Movie studios understand this and are working on distribution models and changes to try and prevent this. If a hit movie like The Dark Knight is out and has a limited time to make money before it is pirated and shows up on the Internet and peer-to-peer sharing, what about something that didn’t make millions and just ends up not being bought?
Education for morality only works a little bit, especially when you dangle the word “Free” in front of somebody. Should the person who gets free software be imprisoned or fined? Though the answer is yes, the reality is the same with real shoplifting and store shrinkage. Most court systems and police agencies are overwhelmed with more serious cases and the issues get prioritized depending on the cities, states and nations that the crimes take place in.
Internationally, the US can try but it cannot change the world. Other nations have to do their part as well or we will have to continue to accept software “going into the wild, untamed and free” as part of our lives. It looks to be that way for the next few years. Some nations turn a blind eye to piracy and once something has been received and pirated, the Internet allows for almost instantaneous distribution.
One of the prices we pay as business people for a truly world wide web, is instantaneous communication and the resulting distribution.
If you, as a business person, can keep reasonable non-intrusive protections in place and have a reasonable price point (what the market will bear), you might encounter less piracy. If your product takes off and is a hit, it hopefully shouldn’t matter and you will be able to afford better legal teams to help police copyright infringements.
The two sides will always be in our brave, new and improving technical world:
1. Business will try to make something profitable and protect their investments.
2. Human nature in most people is that if they have something that they like/love/need will they will want to share it with somebody else. Look at the explosion of social networking sites and you will see that I am right. If the person who is sharing also wants to make out that he or she is a great friend, etc they give their friend a copy of the software, song or even photocopy the recipe for making Mint Chocolate Chip brownies from the book on cooking recipes they bought twelve years ago from the remaindered section of the bookstore.
My own opinion is that there will always be shrinkage, piracy, etc and the way around it is to minimize it by education, selling products at reasonable price points to make reasonable profits and make the customer feel special so he/she will stick around or if he/she goes, they will come back and buy some more stuff!
Thoughts and alternatives are always welcome! Just a reminder that I only take comments for about a week or so to give the blog that “minty fresh chocolate chip cookie feeling”.
Kim Greenblatt talks about profitable price points and free piracy in his blog, profitable.