As a rule, I don’t think any content creators deserve to be infringed upon. There mere fact that someone doesn’t like your business model or can’t access a work when/how/where they want do doesn’t give them the right to take it illegally.
However, there’s no doubt that some will inevitably do exactly that. It’s human nature to do it and it’s human nature to try and justify it. But while some level of infringement may be unavoidable, many content creators and copyright holders make things much worse for themselves than they have to be and help create infringements that could have been easily avoided.
So what are some of the ways creators can help cause infringement? There are too many to name but here are five of the more common ones out there and, more importantly, how to avoid them.
1. Not Making Works Available
This one is pretty simple: If you don’t make the work available for legal use, people who want it will have to use it illegally or not at all.
Though it might be difficult to think of content that isn’t available legally online. Depending on where you live and how international licensing shakes out, you may have a lot of content that you either have to pirate or not have at all. The same issue holds true for content that’s in the wrong format or not on the platform that your customers are using.
Making legitimate distribution channels available is the first step to reducing piracy. Even if they aren’t perfect, legitimate customers will turn to them first and there’s no reason to make a pirate out of someone who would make sacrifices to buy.
2. Ensuring Pirated Copies Are Superior
DRM itself isn’t the problem. Valve’s Steam distribution platform is DRM and people largely love it because it improves access and adds new features to the games it sells. The problem is that most DRM is purely selfish and it is designed to limit, not expand, legitimate copies.
If pirated copies are superior to legitimate ones, people will be more tempted to obtain illegal copies. Whether it’s to escape restrictive DRM or obtain a version that’s more easily customized, the pirated copy should never be the better version.
You have to understand how people want to use your content and make sure that the legitimate copies meet those needs.
3. Confusing Licensing
Licensing experimentation can be a great way to build a new business model online, but confusion about licensing can lead to unintentional infringement.
Clear and fair licensing will help users follow the rules and encourage them to do so.
4. Unrealistic Price Points
When you offer a product and set a price for it, you have understand what your audience is, how much they can afford and what they will likely spend on it. If you set a price well beyond the reach of the majority of your audience, you should expect a large number of them, including potential customers, to pirate it.
Many creators intentionally overprice works so they can offer tempting sales later. This, however, is a tremendous risk as, when the price is high, especially if interest is high as well, many may obtain it illegally and not need it when the price drops.
Creators need to figure out what their work is worth and what others will actually pay before putting the price tag on it.
5. Lack of Samples/Demos
Generally, people don’t like putting money down without knowing what they’re getting. Online, this usually means offering demos, free samples or other peeks behind the curtain. Unfortunately, many creators don’t do that and their customers wind up pirating the content with the idea that they will try it and buy it if I like it.
While that sounds fine, many who do pirate, try it and like it don’t follow through with buying it. It’s much harder to close a sale when someone is holding a free copy.
Offer a good taste of what you’re selling and you’ll likely find fewer people pirating your work.
To be clear, none of these missteps by a creator justify piracy nor do avoiding them all mean that piracy won’t be an issue. Instead, it’s simply about reducing piracy and ensuring that as many potential customers as possible pay for your product, whatever it may be.
The hardest part for many creators is taking the time to make honest, practical business decisions about works they’ve invested so much time and money into creating. It can be difficult to detach yourself emotionally from your work to make these decisions, which is why many need help.
However, if you can do it, you’ll likely find that piracy becomes much less of a threat and your business is growing in spite of the infringement that is taking place.