Earlier this year, the chief content officer of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, pointed out that in places where Neflix was available, BitTorrent traffic fell. This is an interesting correlation. Cheap, easily available access to content on most devices without restriction encourages people to happily pay for it without looking for illegal alternatives.
One of my sources in Silicon Valley has told me that there are more users of Final Cut Pro X, Apple’s latest incarnation of their professional video editing software, than every Final Cut Suite user they have ever had. Yet the percentage of pirated versions of that software is lower than ever. This is a piece of software that only costs $299 (compared to the old suite which was north of a grand) and basically allows you to run and install it on every Mac you own or are allowed to use, with no restrictions. Improvements and updates occur automatically using the Mac App Store, so you always have the latest and greatest version.
And that same source tells me that Adobe have seen estimated piracy levels fall (though all of this is admittedly hard to quantify) since launching the Adobe Creative Cloud: Full access to the latest versions of all their pro software (a good few grands worth) for about $50 a month.
There’s a pattern here. Lots of films, music, ebooks and software is expensive, and saturated in lots of restrictive DRM (Digital Rights Management, i.e. copy-protection software) that dictates how and where you can use your content. On the other hand, most pirated content online can be used – and re-purposed – in a variety of different ways with no restrictions. In short, it’s more open, and it’s (mostly) free.
But when content creators publish their content without heavy-handed DRM restrictions, and at a much more reasonable price, then a supply-side effect seems to take place, where more people purchase the content and fewer people pirate it. The content producers (and as a novelist, I include myself in that group) earn more money.
Rather than create more rules and more restrictions on how we can use content, I’m hopeful that a cheaper and more open future is the direction we continue to move in.