Fighting Online Piracy Without Legislation - Tips For Content Creators
Piracy, Censorship, SOPA?
Anyone who spends a lot of time on the internet is likely to be aware of SOPA and other ongoing attempts to 'eliminate' internet piracy.
Check out this article for why SOPA was so bad. A petition to the White House resulted in a statement against the bill. In that statement, the White House suggested that content creators and website owners come up with their own measures to reduce piracy so that legislation would not be necessary.
Since then, I have spent quite a bit of time coming up with ways in which small publishers and individual content creators and rights holders can, indeed, reduce piracy. SOPA and PIPA have been defeated...for now...but similar legislation could rear its ugly head at any time.
Provide Free Samples
One of the primary reasons why people pirate media is that they are not sure an artist or writer is worth paying for.
As a result, they will pirate a track or a story or a piece of software just to find that out. The best way to fight this kind of piracy is to make it unnecessary.
Many musicians have found that making one track from an album free to download increases sales of the album. I know photographers who have built a highly successful business model by licensing some of their work under creative commons for non-commercial purposes, then selling commercial licenses and commissioned pictures.
For writers, you can place free samples on your web site or on an article site that takes creative writing. One other option is to submit short stories to e-zines that do not charge readers but do pay writers. There are quite a few of these around, usually funded by advertising. If you can sell two or three stories to these magazines, link them to your website. Some writers have had great success by writing a four or five novel series and giving away book one.
By making legal free samples available, you get people to come to your website to see your work and some of those visits will translate into sales.
Make The Legal Product Worth More
One of the negative consequences of the current war on copyright is that in many cases legally purchased copies end up being worth less than pirated ones. Egregious software DRM that causes the program to crash if you lose your internet connection, unskippable previews in purchased DVDs, ebooks that cannot be replaced if you lose your reader or phone - all of these things reduce the value of legal copies and punish honest people.
Instead, work towards making legal copies worth more. Distribute a poster with your CD, give out unique one-time access codes with your software that give players access to discussion forums, etc.
It is hard to beat free. It is impossible to beat free if the free version is actually better.
Be somebody people want to buy from. This means, first of all, not being an idiot all over the internet. Don't post on social media when you have had one too many.
This does not mean being some kind of non-entity, either. It's fine to espouse strong views, as long as you don't flame people. Learn to debate instead of arguing.
Post pictures of yourself. People want to buy from real people. Make the pictures match your product - if you are writing serious non-fiction for business people, you may want to pose in a suit. A fiction writer, on the other hand, might benefit from a more casual, candid shot. Make yourself look "cool."
Treat everyone you meet as a potential customer - because they are.
Take A Reasoned Stance
Don't go around ranting and venting about how the horrible, mean pirates are costing you sales. I have actually said I don't care that much about the occasional bit of piracy - as long as the pirates tell people if they like my work.
On the other hand, going around saying piracy is perfectly fine, go ahead, do it, is shooting yourself in the foot. It is not 'fine' and copyright violation is still illegal. However, many of the measures taken against it are far, far worse than the original "sin," as it were.
The most important thing to avoid is characterizing everyone as pirates. Nobody likes to be assumed to be a cheater or a thief. (Which is another problem with DRM - it assumes by default that people are going to steal).
Use Good SEO
Make sure that if somebody googles your name and free, the very first thing they see is your site.
If, for example, you google 'Jennifer R. Povey free', the first thing you will see is my G+ profile. The second thing you will see is the free stuff page on my web site.
Keeping it that way may become more challenging as you get better known, but if you work at it, the casual person who might be inclined to pirate the odd story, track, or picture, will instead see "Oh, hey, there's actual freebies being given out" and go there instead.
Make sure that once they are on your site, they can easily get to where they can buy your stuff and you should be set.
We do not need to legislate the pirates away, but rather to out-market and out-sell them.