The subject of “Copyright Laws” are a topic of heated discussion in governments and communities since the dawn of time. While I honestly think that copyright laws have good intentions, I believe that they are being abused to make more money for the publishers without any concern for the consumers or a bit of common sense.
The age when copyright laws were conceived was before the digital age. Back in those days, it made sense that I would not like my hard work being copied and me not making some amount of profit from it. But fast forward to today’s digital age and things are a bit different. I’m focusing solely on the copyright of digital things like video games, movies and the like.
While it is true that illegally copying a digital work hurts the developers of said work. I think that they more than make up for it in a few weeks of release of the work. Say that I make a movie by spending 1 million US dollars. When I release it in theaters, I make about 5 million dollars. After a while, I release the DVD edition and make some more money, say about 1 million dollars from the DVD. I think I can afford to have people copying my work after I’ve made 6 times of what I put into it.
Publishers tend to look at copying as someone stealing money from them. But if I copy something, how am I stealing from you when I never gave you the money in the first place. And also, if I copy something, it means that I like it and maybe I’ll be willing to pay for it in the near future. It’s like free advertising just in this case, you’re giving the whole thing for free in order to attract them towards the future works you do.
Take me for example, when I was little, I used to buy games from local shops. At the time I had no idea that they were pirated and the such. But that piracy helped me build an interest in games over the years and now I have a steam account worth a fortune. I even bought old games I liked back in the day just because I think the developers deserve some form of payment for making my life full of fun.
It works in much the same way many people. They may not be willing to pay a large sum up front for something they are unsure of, so they pirate it. Sometimes it’s more of a financial problem, sometimes an availability problem. For instance, Fallout 3 wasn’t released where I live so I had to obtain a pirated copy in order to play. I really liked it so I ordered the DVD when I got the chance to do so even though I completed it long before that.
In the case of any digital work of art, piracy is like free advertising. It brings people closer to the particular series of work and they may be more willing to pay for it in the future. Publishers should not look down upon piracy like they do now. They should be more open to the idea. It’s not like they can completely eradicate it from existence. Piracy will continue whether publishers like it or not. And the amount of money, time and energy put into fighting digital piracy is better put in actual productive work in my opinion.
There’s also the fact that by the time a pirated copy of any digital work is available, the publishers and developers have made more than enough money. Most piracy communities are considerate enough to wait for some time before releasing a pirated version. Even the ones that use pirated copies understand that the developers worked very hard to create something that people like and they should get payment for making people’s lives a little better.
Of course, what I said till now is not completely valid when it comes to productivity and office software. In the case of software, it’s a constant development effort that needs funding to keep going. There’s also the fact that if you’re using such software to make money then you should pay for the software. Using a pirated copy of software, like 3DS Max or Photoshop, is may be acceptable for learning purposes but it’s not acceptable when you’re using it to make money. The developers put a lot of effort into making it and you should pay them back for it. How would you take it if you make something, a useful tool for example, and everyone is using it to make money but you, the author of said tool, is not making a single dollar. If you’re using a piece of software to make money, the developer of that software is entitled to receive compensation for the hard work they put into it. It also allows them to improve the piece of software so you can do more stuff with it.
However, the model that companies use in the case of productivity software also needs a little bit of modification. It’s not a big deal to charge someone for a software if they’re making money by using it. But the same cannot be said for someone learning the software. While some companies like Autodesk and Microsoft have special programs for students, I think the same programs should be applied to anyone willing to learn about the software. In other words, companies should not charge from people not earning money with their software, or, those that are just learning it. Of course, when it comes to non-commercial use, the things do tend to get a lot more complicated but it should be sorted out and software should be made more generally available for use.
So in short, publishers of works like video games and movies should lay off the copyright war and think of piracy as helpful advertising. And, publishers of productivity software should try to be more considerate of people just starting to learn the software. I’m curious to see how long this copyright war continues and who wins, if any side will.