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Piracy Your Rights Online

Has Any Creative Work Failed Because of Piracy? 1115

Andorin writes "Anyone familiar with the piracy debate knows about the claims from organizations like the RIAA that piracy causes billions of dollars in damages and costs thousands of jobs. Other studies have concluded differently, ranging from finding practically no damages to a newer study that cites 'up to 20%' as a more accurate number (PDF). I figure there's got to be an easier way to do this, so here's my question: Does anyone know of any creative works that were provably a financial failure due to piracy? The emphasis on 'provably' is important, as some form of evidence is necessary. Accurately and precisely quantifying damages from p2p is impossibly hard, of course, but answering questions like this may lead us to a clearer picture of just how harmful file sharing really is. I would think that if piracy does cause some amount of substantial harm, we would see that fact reflected in our creative works, but I've never heard of a work that tanked because people shared it online."
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Has Any Creative Work Failed Because of Piracy?

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  • Short answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:17PM (#32861962)


    Gone must be the days when a creative work was loved for its contribution to the arts... Plato, Socrates -- failures, all of them, because their works are no longer copyrighted and thus can no longer make a contribution to society. /sarcasm

    • Excellent call! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:39PM (#32862130) Journal

      When I first read the title, I thought that kdawson (I know, I know) was asking if a creative work failed in the sense that no one accepted it, it was not disseminated, etc. Then TFS says "financial" failure.

      Problem is, the question (in any aspect) is too one-dimensional. Paul Gauguin was a financial failure, as were most painters who weren't sponsored by some aristocrat or other. Yet one would hardly call his (or their) works "failures" in most aspects of the term. Meanwhile, even in just the one aspect - money - well? Today, just try and buy an original Gauguin and say it's a failure. I dare you.

      Even with recent/modern creative endeavors, the question is stupid. If you're creating a work of (art, music, or similar) just for the money, that creation is almost guaranteed to suck. See also the products of Britney Spears (...remember her? no worries if you don't), "Lady Gaga", or whatever manufactured 'star' of the moment you care to name. Viewed dispassionately and apart from the personality, the music quite frankly sucks ass. If we shift to works of writing, you can almost always tell at which point a writer loses his/her passion for the craft, and instead just does it for the money - the quality drops accordingly. Visual art? Heh - I'll pick on The Simpsons... about five years ago, it was glaringly obvious that Matt was just doing it for the paycheck.

      But anyway, long story short - IMHO, the only way a work succeeds or fails is in the metric of how widely accepted it is, and in how long it remains in the public consciousness. The successes become treasures that never die in spite of passing centuries, the failures are forgotten in less than a decade no matter how widely marketed.


      • Re:Excellent call! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ehrichweiss ( 706417 ) * on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:46PM (#32862196)

        It was either Hugh Hefner or someone else at Playboy who said that they realize that their work is pirated and while they have been known to crack the whip when it got out of hand, they also realize that at least their work is good enough for someone to consider to pirate and that it keeps them in the public view even if they aren't directly making money from it.

        • Re:Excellent call! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @07:35PM (#32862986) Journal


          "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy."

          • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:43PM (#32863410)

            Back in my highschool and university days, I pirated a lot. Reason was money. I had little discretionary income so I'd take things where I could get it. However as I've gotten older and moved on to the working world, I've little need to pirate stuff. I simply buy it. It is faster and easier, plus I really do like doing the right thing.

            Few, if any, sales were lost to my piracy. I simply could not afford the things I was pirating.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by kz45 ( 175825 )

              "Few, if any, sales were lost to my piracy. I simply could not afford the things I was pirating."

              It's not a lost sale, but it changes the mindset of people, which results in lost sales. If everyone knows they can get something for free (and continue to download it for free), eventually, they will just expect it.

              Look at iPhone apps. Since most are .99-$1, if you try to sell one for $30 (no matter how good it is), you will most likely not get any sales because people expect it to be cheap.

              This is why compan

              • by dubdays ( 410710 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @11:17PM (#32864138)

                This is why companies need to fight piracy. If not, they will lose the ability to sell any product.

                I'd argue this. Competition is what scares these companies to death (and primarily for them, potential competition). Piracy might be one piece of the problem for them, but as far as I see it, they have a much larger issue: value. People will pay for something if its value is greater than or equal to the price. Think of Blu-Ray. To many, the value of having a copy of a movie was not the $25-$35+ the movie companies were charging for them at first. But, as is usually the case, the price came down over time, and now people are buying them for $15-20, or maybe $25 for a new release. Also, players are selling much better. It's true that those did come down in price as well, and it's hard to determine if the price of players dropping caused the price of the media to drop, or vice versa. However, I have talked to a lot of people about this, and from what I have been told, and I do agree, is that people couldn't justify paying an extra $10-20 per movie just to have the hi-def. In other words, they would have bought the player if the discs cost about the same as DVDs. So, basically, prices went down, sales went up, and value stayed the same.

                Software, however has a completely different problem, even though it still stems directly from value. 10-15 years ago, if you wanted to do high end photo editing, Photoshop was the only real game in town. As time progressed, so did technology, and programmers were able to write photo editors with much more ease, and distribution of software matured. No longer did someone with a large program have to pay a company to do CD stamping, box design, etc. Now we even have quite good OSS to do many of the same things (GIMP, obviously). So, now the value of any particular piece of software is declining due to competition, not to piracy. Professional photographers, I promise you, will still shell-out for a legitimately licensed copy of Photoshop. If they don't need something quite like that but still want support, maybe they buy Paint Shop Pro or the like. GIMP is for those who want the freebie (don't get me wrong--if it was a closed product, it would sell at a decent price, assuming it is as well known as it is now).

                So, I guess I just see it as simple economics, and piracy is nothing more than a barely discernible blip on the radar. What has changed the game is competition, but some companies just want to whine about pirates who cost them practically nothing in lost sales (maybe increase sales in a try-before-you-buy way). They are trying to scare the competition out of the marketplace in order to keep the value of their products high, because once you have multiple options for doing the same kind of thing, the value of all programs in the group begins to fall off a cliff do to competition. Seems pretty simple to me. Play the piracy card, scare away new entrants to the market, keep the value of your stuff high, and you have it made.

                • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @05:20AM (#32865264) Homepage Journal

                  >>Software, however has a completely different problem, even though it still stems directly from value.

                  I knew the person that wrote some popular BBS code. I'm tempted to say it was Searchlight BBS, but it's been a long time.

                  He released it as shareware, got massively popular, but he said he made hardly any money out of it. And the people that were pirating it would constantly ask him for tech support, as well. So it's not quite true that software has no overhead.

                  He was kind of bitter about the whole thing, and really hated software pirates because they screwed the small guy a lot worse than companies like Microsoft. Even though the dollar amounts are obviously much larger for Microsoft, if he can't put food on his plate writing software, the software is going to go away.

                  So, TFA - there's your answer.

              • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @01:07AM (#32864544) Homepage Journal

                You missed GP's point. Today, he has money to waste on entertainment. He just PAYS FOR IT, because it really is faster, and easier. The pirate who wants to play Super Duper Mario Brothers Meet the Exterminator and Predator has to find a download, find a crack, apply the crack, etc ad nauseum. Then, he probably can't play the online version, which includes the "value added" appearance of Alien.

                Piracy is work, in case you hadn't noticed. People who are willing to spend no money, no time, and no effort to get their games/music/entertainment have to do without.

                I agree, companies need to fight piracy, but following a mindless nazi doctrine that all pirates are evil and should be exterminated is as stupid as stupid gets.

                Jim Baen, over at Baen Books came to understand that. He fought piracy by giving away books. [] Somewhere on their site, is a rather long discourse, in which Baen Books proves that every time they give away a book, especially an older, out of print book, not only does Baen realize a profit, but so does the author whose books was released for free.

                Wake up and smell the coffee. Cooperating with the pirates can be lucrative.

                Game producers could take a hint, and release a "pirated" version of their game, put it up on the torrent sites, sit back and allow the wider community to pay for distribution - then wait for a lot of pirates to come back and pay for the "value added" version that includes Alien.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kz45 ( 175825 )

          "It was either Hugh Hefner or someone else at Playboy who said that they realize that their work is pirated and while they have been known to crack the whip when it got out of hand, they also realize that at least their work is good enough for someone to consider to pirate and that it keeps them in the public view even if they aren't directly making money from it."

          Why don't we hold the GPL to the same standard? When it's used in proprietary projects and not the source of the project is not given out for fr

      • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:24PM (#32862522)
        The real damage caused by piracy aren't the works which were created and then failed to produce return on investment (this is all to easy to do without piracy), the real damage is done in works which are never created in the first place due to the perception that piracy would make them financially irrelevant. The poster is all concerned with "provably," but really, if you sit down with any group of investors and propose a new creative project, the provable effect of piracy is when the investors walk away from a project because they won't get their money back before pirates saturate their market with ripoffs.

        Even in patented space many works (especially medical devices) struggle to make a profit before patent protection runs out. Patents are more beneficial to the world at large in this respect - ideas which can be realized in a reasonable time are pursued, and then within 20 years they become public domain. The effective infinite life of Copyright is wrong on so many levels. I think a reasonably time limited copyright scheme would be more respected / less violated, and more productive in the creation of new works, as opposed to the infinite repackaging of existing brands that we have today.
        • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:55PM (#32862730) Journal

          ...the real damage is done in works which are never created in the first place due to the perception that piracy would make them financially irrelevant.

          This was my initial thought too. However what I don't understand is why the technology sword does not cut both ways. It is true that technology makes it far easier than it has ever been before to pirate material but it also makes it far easier than ever before to produce that material. Unlike the past there is no need to risk a massive budget on every new act. Give the riskier acts smaller budgets and see what they can do with them. After all if they are less popular they will probably also be less pirated and the ones which do take off can give you a great return on your small investment.

          • by hitmark ( 640295 )

            heck, some of the more impressive creations have been done on shoestring budgets. I dont think star wars had much to go on back when it was made, for instance.

            then there are projects like pioneer one: []

            if donations keep ticking in, that series could in theory go on forever rather then be killed off by some media exec because it fails some arbitrary metric or other.

            i wonder, what kind of hardware would it take to render babylon 5 quality animations today?

          • by turbidostato ( 878842 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:58PM (#32863750)

            "what I don't understand is why the technology sword does not cut both ways."

            You nailed it.

            That's because it is not art what is endangered by technology but an industry that made a profit out of a scarcity that technology has avoided.

            This is the false debate much pushed by those in control of the old bussiness model (of course): they talk about art when they want to say "my industry as I knew it" much as an ice seller talking about how those new devices, the refrigerators, are going to make a disaster and then no one will be able to have freshed foods at home (because ice sellers are going to be out of bussiness).

        • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @07:35PM (#32862988)
          You are begging the question.

          How many walk away because their product will not make a profit... based on how many in the past have failed, due to piracy? You have to have one before the other will happen. So, the question is: have any actually failed? If not, why would they walk away?

          The Movie industry has been crying foul (one major studio CEO recently said in a speech that piracy is "killing the industry")... while that same industry has been racking up record profits. Sorry, but that made my bullshit detector go off the charts.

          The music industry has seen declining CD sales... but there are numerous possible reasons for CD sales to be in decline without even considering piracy (like the fact that the music industry refused to change and give people what they want today). Some of those reasons no doubt actually apply.

          So the question still comes back to: has anything really failed financially because of piracy? And "creative accounting" is not acceptable... we all know how the movie studios make movies look like they are losing money so they don't have to pay out percentages. An example from just the other day was how Harry Potter brought in $977 million (almost a billion) dollars, yet the studios used creative accounting to "show" that this most successful series of all time "lost" $167 million. And the courts are starting to call them on it.

          I do agree that the extension of Copyright beyond all reason needs to change. Copyright was created for the good of the public. But the public does not benefit if the Copyright lasts 100 years or more!
          • by Tom ( 822 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:50PM (#32863710) Homepage Journal

            The Movie industry has been crying foul (one major studio CEO recently said in a speech that piracy is "killing the industry")... while that same industry has been racking up record profits. Sorry, but that made my bullshit detector go off the charts.

            It should. Back in their lawsuit against the video recorder, the movie industry put in a sworn statement that they would go bancrupt unless the video recorder would be outlawed.

            The fact that this perjury was never followed up on is one of the reasons they continue to think they can tell blatant lies in full view of everyone and nothing will happen to them.

        • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:32PM (#32863332) Homepage

          if you sit down with any group of investors and propose a new creative project, the provable effect of piracy is when the investors walk away from a project because they won't get their money back before pirates saturate their market with ripoffs.

          Which investors? Which project? Citations needed.

        • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:40PM (#32863388)

          1. The law needs to be built on facts: If there aren't some provable cases, how can the law impose punitive damages fairly? Remember, for the US, there's the cruel and unusual punishment angle - if there are no provable cases of piracy stifling creative expression, then one of the grounds for the law's severity is undermined, and so the argument that the law is unconstitutionally cruel gains weight.

          2. How can there possibly be works that were never made because of piracy without there also being works that were attempted and failed? Are you seriously claiming that every film that bombed at the box office for one reason or another somehow proves the producers have perfect judgement about avoiding the risks caused by piracy, so they never attempt to make the ones that fail from that cause? If the various Heaven's Gate's and Howard the Duck's don't prove that Hollywood, at least, can fail abysmally to evaluate risks rationally, then no wonder you're arguing against proof, because to you nothing what-so-ever can be proved. Admit that they sometimes get it wrong, and if piracy is one of the factors in any significant way, there will simply have to be the product that failed from piracy. Provably.

          With that said, a possible damage caused by piracy might well be works never created in the first place. If there are some provable cases where someone can demonstrate investors at least should have walked away because of piracy, then we can infer that piracy caused damage, either in the form of losses if they went ahead anyway, or your 'damage if the project was never made'. But claiming that piracy causes only the type of damage that, by you, can't be proved is also claiming that a bunch of big commercial content holders have perfect track records - obviously false to fact.

      • Re:Excellent call! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Antisyzygy ( 1495469 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @07:21PM (#32862898)
        To be fair, Lady Gaga has a LOT more talent than Brittney Spears.
      • Re:Excellent call! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @10:08PM (#32863806) Homepage

        Even with recent/modern creative endeavors, the question is stupid. If you're creating a work of (art, music, or similar) just for the money, that creation is almost guaranteed to suck. See also the products of Britney Spears (...remember her? no worries if you don't), "Lady Gaga", or whatever manufactured 'star' of the moment you care to name

        Lady Gaga does it all for the money? You've got to be the biggest blistering idiot I've seen on slashdot. She went to NYU, performed in burlesque shows, and writes the songs she performs--not to mention she came from humble beginnings. And for Britney Spears, she has averaged 1 album every 2 years so she is definitely not "forgotten". You don't know anything about the stars you've mentioned and you don't know anything about the performance art of Lady Gaga. You're just another jackass blathering on about how much he hates a certain genre of music. It's very easy throw out bullshit and get a crowd of idiots to agree with you as you've so wonderfully demonstrated. Well, I'm here to tell you that you're an ignorant buffoon and you don't know anything about the artists you've listed. Maybe you should mind your own business and listen to whatever it is you listen to--probably a chest full of 8-track's of the Bee Gees, Chicago, and Styx.

        Also one more thing. EVERYONE DOES IT FOR THE MONEY. If you're going to hold artists to the money standard, then I want to see you go to work and refuse to accept your paycheck. Go ahead. DO IT. Stop being a hypocrite.

    • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by djconrad ( 1413667 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:05PM (#32862362)
      Socrates never wrote a damn thing, and the critics still ruined his career.
    • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:33PM (#32862606)

      The short answer is also wrong and based strictly on your support of piracy and not the facts. I'm a writer/director and it's well known in the independent community that if you release a film you either have to sell distribution foreign and domestic at the same time or release it foreign first. Once it comes out in the US it will be pirated within days and no one will risk releasing it for sale in most territories. The Southeast Asian market is largely worthless due to rampant piracy. I was told by a distributor nearly ten years ago that my first film was selling side by side with 100 million dollar films in Malaysia for a $1 a copy. Foreign used to be a good market for independents but it has most dried up over the years due strictly to piracy. In the US it's gotten hard to even get a distributor because everyone is focusing on higher profit studio films. You can argue over the impact on big budget studio films but to say there's no impact is is denying what the ones on the ground are dealing with every day. I'm planning to be out of the film industry within two years because it's already nearly impossible to sell films as it is. What's happened is in order to hang onto their tightening profit margins the studios are squeezing out the independents. Anyone that thinks film profits are going up hasn't done their homework. Actual ticket sales have been falling for years. Increased ticket prices have somewhat offset the drop but they've maxed out what people will pay for tickets so over the next few years the box office take will start to drop. DVDs are faltering and over the next 18 months most of the brick and mortar stores will close up. There's less profit in the download rental services so that's more loss of revenue. Most of the films count on theater money to at least break even. The industry bet the farm on 3D out of desperation. It'll never last so one day those cash streams will dry up and films will become unprofitable. Already fewer films are made and released. It's not that people are watching fewer films they are simply starting to find ways around paying for watching films. The marginal films will die first but don't expect to see many blockbusters in ten years. George Lucas was dead on when he said by 2025 the average studio budget will drop back to 3 million dollars per film. That's more like what it was when he started out and that's without adjusting dollars. So what? How many 3 million dollar films have you watched in the last year? I'll bet they are mostly on the SciFi Channel. That's the future that is being created in large part due to piracy.

      • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:48PM (#32863436)

        I wish they would go straight to $3 million films. Cut out the overpaid actors, there's a great start. There are plenty of talented actors who would fill the headliners' shoes completely, and possibly better. The only reason they get so much money is because the name draws people into theaters.

        look what happens then. $25 million payday to star in a medicre movie, and the star agrees to do it, and their box office value starts dropping. They are using my ticket price to hire someone I know so I evaluate the movie on its stars instead of its plot. Then audiences enjoy the movie based on its writing or cinematography, or hate it for those reasons plus the actors' poor delivery.

        I loved Cruise in Tropic Thunder until I realized it was him. I can still enjoy the movie but it makes me feel uncomfortable because I've seen so many of his overacted crapfests. I loved Vanilla Sky despite him, mostly because the story was stolen (Obre los ojos) and slightly updated. There are people I will see in any movie because they only select good scripts and good directors/producers to work with, and the result is good. The actor does the filtering for me.

        Box office name recognition is the worst thing to happen to movies ever. I'm not just talking about actors, I'm talking about expensive licensing deals too. Pay a bunch of money, make a Batman movie, and it doesn't matter how terrible it is you're a millionaire. Video game movies, novel-based movies, anything with a well-known name. Name recognition is crap.

        Get a good script, good actors, and actually spend money promoting it like they do the big blockbusters. That's how you get people in the seats. Stop spending money on name recognition and the costs go down and audiences will return to movie-going. A $3 million movie with a $3 million advertising budget needs to sell maybe a million tickets to break even.

        Actors and licensees don't need to be set up for life on one movie. If acting is your job, you can live on $500k per year. That will cover plane tickets and expensive clothes. Do 2 movies per year and, minus taxes and expenses, you'll have a very comfortable life *working*, not spending my ticket money on hookers and blow and mansions for MTV's Cribs.

        Let's have the $3 million movie movie, I'm all for it.

  • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:18PM (#32861968) Homepage

    Then people will pay for it.

    If it's half-good it may still be worth listening to/watching, but not necessarily worth to pay for. (I'll wait until it comes on TV)

    And then there is the rest - that's mediocre at best. Downloaded, test listened and then scrapped.

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:56PM (#32862284)

      Then people will pay for it.

      If the quality is good enough then some people will pay for it.

      Chances are, some people also will not.

      We know that artistic works can be commercial successes based only on those who do play by the rules and pay for what they take. If this were not true, all kinds of businesses would have failed already. But this is missing the point, twice.

      Firstly, only a proportion of people, probably a rather small proportion in some industries, is supporting the work that many people enjoy. Those people are getting screwed, because they are paying considerably more than their "fair share", while the freeloaders contribute nothing.

      Secondly, we do not know how much better the incentive would be to create and share more and better works in future if everyone contributed in return for what they take today. Although it's popular to think of Big Media as The Enemy(TM) around these parts, the reality is that a lot of commercial creative work is made and distributed by much smaller organisations, which use a lot of the money they bring in just to pay the salaries and invest the rest in a very few new projects, often only one at once. In a lot of cases, the entire business at risk of failure if any of those new projects doesn't make it, so relatively few new projects are attempted. Instead, much of the follow-up work winds up repeating a previously successful formula that is likely to be a safe bet, rather than going for something innovative that might be a better product with rich rewards, but also carries a much higher risk.

      If you doubt this, consider the number of game studios over the years that have produced a string of enjoyable titles but not survived a single bad one. Of those that have survived for a long time, ask yourself what proportion of their recent titles are new and how many are just the latest in a franchise with little real change from the last one. Ask yourself how many popular sci-fi shows that plenty of geeks enjoy still get cancelled in their infancy, because they don't bring in enough money almost immediately for those who bankroll them to continue writing the cheques until the series is established.

      Now ask yourself, if there was both more money in the bank following a previously successful product and a greater potential profit from any new project, does this make it more or less likely that new and innovative products will be given more of a chance?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Risen888 ( 306092 )

        Chances are, some people also will not.

        So what? It's not like anyone's losing any money in that case, because the money wasn't there in the first place. Those that wouldn't have bought it wouldn't have bought it.

        I don't see how this is any different from making copies of cassette tapes when I was 10. That was also rampant at the time, everyone did it, they even put out specially designed tape decks that would play through the cassette at double speed specifically so you could make copies of it without havin

  • Actually Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:21PM (#32861986)

    A film producer had his film stolen, and the thief got a lot of money for the screenings.

    The producer that ended penniless: Georges Melies

    The Thief: Thomas Edison []

    • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:38PM (#32862124)

      You ever hear about hollywood accounting? Virtually anyone important enough that they'll receive "points" has been defrauded by their own studio/label.

      You'll figure out why the RIAA/MPAA are so anti-piracy as soon as you grok that single fact. Any distribution channel or even publicity that doesn't trace back to efforts they may label their own will create a scenario where they face more serious lawsuits from their talent, plus more talent founding competitors.

      It's time to put this dog to sleep. Don't buy their shit. Don't talk about their shit. Don't even watch their shit pirated unless you absolutely must based upon your childhood comic book consumption.

      The next two time you feel like watching a movie, try Let The Right One In and Primer. I promise you they're both better than anything released by Hollywood during the last 5 years.

    • Re:Actually Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:35PM (#32863356) Homepage
      The more I learn about Edison, the more I view him as the Bill Gates of his day.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:22PM (#32861990)

    Huh - I've never heard of a retail outlet that failed because of women stealing bras from the packages, but it's still illegal and wrong.

    There are a tremendous number of people who have grown up in an age where it is so easy to copy information, and where it is so easy to self-publish so you *think* you're creative, and the idea that it's not theft to benefit from someone else's hard work just because their work is easily copyable in a boggles my mind.

    YOU sell widgets in a store, don't you? You and your store should definitely get paid for that. I write music for a living...I should only get paid for the first copy sold?

    • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:48PM (#32862202) Homepage Journal

      I write music for a living...I should only get paid for the first copy sold?

      Depends. If you're any good, I'd like to see you paid for about 7 years after you wrote the work. Then I'd like to see your work go into the public domain to be used by others in any way they want, for free. Meanwhile, you're going to write other stuff, because you're good at what you do, aren't you? If not, fuck off and stack shelves for a living, like me.

      The big problem at the moment is NOT that people are copying stuff, it's that artists (well, publishers really) are demanding payment for works for literally hundreds of years after they were first produced. That's wrong, and it must stop because without a public domain, you can forget about anyone producing any art at all.

    • by Erikderzweite ( 1146485 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:38PM (#32862638)

      It's all about information distribution channels. Read about the outcry of book publishers and some authors about public libraries in the beginning of the 20th century -- same arguments as today. Should a writer publish a book which anyone can read for free? Where is the profit in this?
      Well, the profit is, of course, that people in districts with public libraries buy more books. You cannot print and sell a book that you have no right to distribute but it is OK to lend it thus distributing the knowledge. To give a friend a copy the book is also OK in my book (pun intended) because of three reasons (all of them apply to music as well):
      -- I'd most likely give or take the whole book for some time instead of buying a new copy if it is not possible to copy it.
      -- If a person likes the copy it will more likely buy a new book from the same author.
      -- No author or publisher can strongarm me to buy their book -- they have to convince me, make me want to buy it. Called marketing it is. I am much less likely to purchase a book if the publisher is copyright-crazy or plain greedy.

      Same applies to modern media -- the author is the only person who should decide how to sell his work but good luck forbidding sharing. You'll shot yourself in the foot anyway.
      If you create a product that can easily be copied than it will be copied. You can try and fight it, you can try and profit from it. Your call. Don't like the distribution media? Make live concerts only. Couldn't care less.

      To make it clear -- I am strongly opposed of the people that illegally make profits from other's hard work. Only the author has the right to decide who sells his works and (e.g. with software) on what conditions a copy should be used to earn money. But sharing involves no financial gain for anyone and therefore the author doesn't actually lose anything -- in fact you get free publicity and expose which will more than cover any theoretical loss you might have suffered from sharing.

  • sort of.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:23PM (#32861996)

    I did some work for a man who paid to have drivers written for SCSI harddrives, a while a go, that was his edge over the competition. The competition simply pirated his drivers and sent him out of business. This may not be 'creative works' but the process is the same.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:23PM (#32861998)
    All the projects that couldn't get funding because piracy would reduce their profitability below the required threshold. Piracy can be chilling effect.
  • Halo Series for Mac (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:24PM (#32862008)

    I remember reading at one time that the number of pirated copies vs. legit sold copies was as high as 3 to 1 based on the people trying to connect and play the game online. The end result: none of the other halo titles were released on Mac and one of the reasons cited was because the original was so heavily pirated. Now there may have been other reasons why it was never ported, but that was the cited reason.

  • by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:24PM (#32862014)

    At least by Hollywood accounting practices.

  • I wish I could find the link. The study was commissioned by a book publisher trying to find our how much piracy hurt book sales. Generally when a book is published, sales spike a few days later then drop, and it's a couple of weeks before it's scanned and on the internet. What they found was that when it hit the internet, rather than a drop there was a second spike.

    Piracy doesn;t hurt sales at all, it generates sales.

    Cory Doctorow explains it succinctly in Little Brother. Nobody ever lost sales from piracy, but obscurity guarantees lack of sales.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Orestesx ( 629343 )

      That logic may work from books, where a physical copy is better than a PDF copy on my computer screen. An unauthorized copy of a video game or movie is usually the same if not better (due to drm) than the original copy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Books are a bit of a funky example though, many people still prefer to have the paper in their hand and on their shelf. What you don't see, and why I think copyright laws were first enacted, is the mass reproduction of paper books. I'm not going to argue sales figures over and back, and I don't support the *AAs, but its worth thinking about that music or a movie are almost as good over bitorrent as from a shop, certainly good enough for most people. Once e-ink readers fully mature, we may see the same for b
  • too hypothetical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:24PM (#32862022) Homepage

    The question is inherently speculative. It isn't terribly difficult to find examples of, say a comic book series that was canceled because sales were 10% below what was needed to break even, or a movie that didn't quite make back the investment (even assuming non-Hollywood accounting). The number of creative endeavors which are just on the edge of financial solvency is pretty darn large. But what's essentially impossible to determine is what the actual impact of "sharing" on what-sales-would-have-been was in any given case. The best you could do would be to estimate a general range, and stipulate that any work that was within that range of being profitable "failed" because of it.

  • by mr_walrus ( 410770 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:25PM (#32862024)

    what newer creative works were never done because a previous
    one never succeeded enough due to piracy?

    (so, how would you even define "tanked" for a creative work anyway?)

  • He sega dreamcast (Score:3, Informative)

    by Phizital1ty ( 1755648 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:37PM (#32862120)
    Not exactly a creative art, but the sega dreamcast was the last sega game console because the copy protection on the games was so easily bypassed that many people didn't buy any games.
  • by tchdab1 ( 164848 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:39PM (#32862138) Homepage

    It would be useful to compare this survey with one that estimated the gains or productivity arrived from fair use of other works. What literature, art, music, programs, inventions, etc. derived from building upon other works have contributed to the GDP?

    You can begin by adding most of the annual income and net worth of Disney.

  • The question is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AlgorithMan ( 937244 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:42PM (#32862160) Homepage
    The question is, how many creative works fail because they are taken down, based on copyright... I'd know several fan-made game-sequels, girl-talk, DJ Danger Mouse, bitter sweet symphony by placebo...
  • no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jjoelc ( 1589361 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:43PM (#32862166)

    now.. can you prove God doesn't exist?

    And despite the popular claim of the opposite, you can prove a negative, generally by proving a different paradoxical positive, but still...

    For my actual thoughts on it... I think there is a balancing act to be had in it. If you work is good enough that enough people will buy it to make it a success, then enough people will be willing to pirate it to hurt sales also. One of the big reasons for the online "pirating" today isn't the ease of copying (though it contributes) it is that the balance on the opposite side (copyright) has grown too heavy.

    With copyrights as long as they are now, there is very little content that CAN'T be pirated, by definition. With shorter copyrights, more content would be available unencumbered. If you knew that you could get it legally, for free in a couple of years, (wait for it to come out on DVD... Wait till it is out on TV... etc arguments) would you be in such a rush to steal it? Again, only if the work was "good enough" to warrant the risk. Even then, the risk would have to be seen as less than the costs of buying it legally.

    Not really the whole answer, but enough for a /. post

  • by 6350' ( 936630 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:51PM (#32862234)
    I don't know that I would call it an outright failure, but the PC game "Starsiege: Tribes" from Dynamix certainly got walloped by piracy. I chatted with one of the engineers after the game's launch, and he sadly reported their server stats showing 300k+ people playing the game, with just 70-80k or so sales. They had a complete and utter lack of any DRM (not even a simple disk check), making the game wildly easy to copy. Hell, the install process was just a straightup file copy from CD to HD.

    No two ways about it, the game sold poorly, but was quite successful with players. I certainly don't mean to imply be any stretch that every player represented a lost sale, but I definitely believe that the complete ease with which the game could be copied (ie, right click on the install folder, and select "ICQ this to my buddy") led to very disappointing sales.

    Most games that sell poorly are poorly made games: the market is the final judge of quality. However, I also firmly believe that had Tribes had some basic form of copy protection, the sales would have been much much stronger. I hate that I am now sounding like I advocate loads of DRM, but Tribes represented an almost pathological case with its utter lack of any protection, and I think this wound up hurting sales very markedly.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:10PM (#32862402)

      A good example of the absurdity of the "we wouldn't have bought it anyway argument." If Slashdotters weren't in denial because of their addiction to mass media content and aversion to paying a fair price for it (what rational person thinks 0 is a fair price for something they want?), they'd be able to see that some fraction of those 220k+ people would have bought the game in the absense of piracy. Maybe 5%, maybe 75%. Either way, infringement hurts producers of intellectual property and causes the market to produce and inefficiently low amount of it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JoeMerchant ( 803320 )
      If they have server stats, they could have locked the game via the server - their own damn fault for letting that easy technical solution get away.

      Question I have is: how many of those 300K players would be playing if they had to pay even $1 for the game?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @05:52PM (#32862244)

    YES - Frantic Freddie For the Commodore 64.
    Everyone had a copy - pirated. I meet the makers and they made virtually nothing.

  • by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:15PM (#32862444) Homepage Journal

    Those two consoles are more or less even technically. Most titles are released on both consoles with roughly the same price with the difference being that it is quite easy to pirate games on the 360 but impossible (or at least extremely hard) on the ps3. So to figure out if piracy hurt sales, compare how well often pirated titles sell on the 360 vs the ps3, while taking into account market share differences.

    So if it is substanially less profitable to develop titles for the xbox than the ps3, then piracy hurt sales. Otherwise no. Seems simple enough to me?

  • by RJFerret ( 1279530 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:15PM (#32862454) Homepage

    Okay, so the question is piracy the straw that breaks the camels back?

    It's an easy scapegoat, especially for those who have failures.

    However there was a great article I don't have the time to search for at the moment, which demonstrated the folks who pirate are not the market who buys, and conversely, as has already been pointed out, greater exposure is a wonderful thing. So little is lost to pirates, because they are less likely to have purchased the product to begin with. Meanwhile there is a gain, if they share the product with someone who generates revenue.

    An example of this is free services that try to switch to charging. They usually lose most of their client base, since it's a different market that's attracted to free services than those who prefer paying.

    A LOT is paid for exposure, PR and marketing, imo, piracy should be covered in those budgets and perceived as a boon rather than doom. The key is to get it into the right hands, the reviewer how has a strong committed following, the pirate who has the greatest dissemination.

    Ultimately, what would be most wonderful is to have metrics covering various piracy outlets, to determine which offer the greatest conversion rate. Perhaps those coupon codes redeemable at purchase which already track which outlet was the referral would be useful here?

    Finally, once entities start to take advantage of the (currently free) piracy channels of PR and marketing, and have useful metrics to measure their campaigns, I could see pirates going professional and charging for their services.

    Pirating the pirates if you will.

  • by tazan ( 652775 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:25PM (#32862536)
    That was the most famous one I can remember. It was excellent, everyone I knew had a copy of it. Turns out they only sold a few thousand copies and the programmer quit doing games.
  • by vague disclaimer ( 861154 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:28PM (#32862566)
    The correct question is "Have creative people ever lost out on proper rewards as a result of bootlegging?" The answer, of course, is "yes" and anyone who denies this has never tried to earn a living in a creative line of work. (There are absolutely legitimate questions about whether current IP is the correct response to this problem, but sensible debate requires that the right question is asked first, not an idiotically woolly one)
  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @06:29PM (#32862584) Homepage

    Ok, bear with me for the analogy I'm about to make, because I understand that not all copyright violation is piracy, and piracy isn't theft... but this is like asking if any businesses have failed due to theft.

    What I mean by that is: If the business failed, probably you never heard about it. It's rare that a business would fail due to theft after becoming well known. Real, successful businesses experience theft, and it harms them, but they can account for it in their business model and control it to a degree that the theft does not cause them to fail. But if they don't control adequately, they can certainly fail due to theft. But it's a known, solved problem and so well-known businesses generally do not fail due to inability to control theft.

    On the other hand, if something is pirated a lot of something, probably you have heard of it. Because things are pirated a lot because they're popular. You don't pirate things you've never heard of, because you've never heard of it to know about it in order to think about pirating it in the first place.

    So piracy won't cause something to fail. It sucking will cause it to fail.

    The real question is will piracy have a net positive or a net negative effect on the revenue generated by a popular, successful product. Something can be harmful without causing it to fail. And a secondary question is, is a net negative harm caused by piracy something that cannot be accounted for in the business model, such that the business can succeed despite the harm.

    My guess is that completely unchecked piracy can be harmful, but that there seems to be no way possible to adequately control it. Thus, the business model needs to change from one of selling copies of something, to something else.

    What that is, no one has any clear idea of, and what works for some may not work universally. Thus, the collective constant shitting and re-shitting of the industry's collective pants.

  • Impossible question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dhalka226 ( 559740 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @07:20PM (#32862890)

    Does anyone know of any creative works that were provably a financial failure due to piracy? [. . .] accurately and precisely quantifying damages from p2p is impossibly hard

    Those two are mutually exclusive. If you can't accurately quantify damages then how can you prove that a work's failure was a result of piracy?

    You're just setting up a question that can't be answered so you can go "SEE! LYING RIAA BASTARDS, NOBODY COULD PROVE IT!" That doesn't help anybody in the debates swirling around piracy.

  • by gig ( 78408 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:57PM (#32863482)

    There is hardly any money in the music industry anymore. Bootlegging is a tax that most artists can't afford to pay. You have to appeal to a million listeners to get 100,000 to pay. So artists like Lady Gaga have to appeal to a billion to get a million to pay. So the stuff that's being hurt is the stuff with more limited appeal, more niche stuff. Artists who would have sold 100,000 a decade ago now get out of the business, or don't get in at all, or they die from lack of health care in the US. A lot of the infrastructure is gone. Music studios are gone. Local music scenes are much less than they were. The best part of record companies is gone. Live shows cost a fortune, with most going to insurance and security. There are ways you can say it is better for really entrepreneurial artists, but again, that's just a fraction, maybe 10%. Same for artists who can produce their own stuff, it's better in some ways but that's a small fraction.

    In the past, no matter how you listened to music, whether buying CD or listening to FM, or even playing the jukebox at a diner, some money made it back to the producer of that music, incentivizing more music production. Now, there are a lot of ways to listen to music now where no money goes to the producer. The difference between low money and no money is profound.

    In short, the problem used to be that artists with broad appeal would make a ton of money and artists with niche appeal would scrape by, but now artists with broad appeal are scraping by and niche artists are out. If only a small fraction of your listeners pays then the whole industry changes. You can't point to one album that suffered, they have all suffered, even ones that didn't get made. It's a systemic problem.

  • by jvbh ( 930402 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:59PM (#32863764)

    Excerpt from an interview with the author, Marc Goodman at []

    The game seemed popular and received great reviews. Did it do well commercially?

    Nope. Datamost only sold around 5,000 copies of the game. I've gotten email from a lot of people and even met people who know and love the game and you know what? I've never met or talked to anyone who had an official copy.

    Pretty frequently I see the recurring threads on software piracy on various newsgroups. People really believe that there is no impact from their copying software. Well, there is an impact. I couldn't support myself by writing computer games, so "The Bilestoad" was the last game I did.

  • by seibai ( 1805884 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @11:19PM (#32864152)

    I used to work in the independent games industry. In 2004, I designed and wrote a little Action-Puzzle game titled Drop! (feel free to look it up on GameFaqs). We sold it in stores for $10, and online for $5, however, we got $.33 per retail copy sold (blame publishers) vs. $2.50 or so per online copy sold. We sold a few hundred thousand copies or so at retail across a 6 month period (#4 for sales for a couple months, but no one pays attention to jewel case games).

    Here's the trick: the online version had an online high-score system. You could play the online copy for free, but you didn't get access to the shared high-score system unless you bought it. We sold less than 100 copies online, but saw several hundred thousand unique IP addresses hit the high score system every day (and this kept up for years, not just people "trying out the high score system").

    For 6 months of work, I made about $30,000 on that (a couple other guys made similar amounts), which eventually didn't justify the effort - because people who want to play a game don't care about making it possible for the creators to keep making games.

    I work for Microsoft now :P

  • by Whuffo ( 1043790 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @02:56AM (#32864878) Homepage Journal

    I've been writing music for years and sometimes it's really good. Many of you have probably heard some of it - but would never know, because the only way I've ever made any money from this is by selling tunes for commercial use. You might hear it as the background to a educational video or maybe in a low-budget commercial. You'll never hear it on the radio on on the stage - but not because of piracy (although I've had tunes pirated - usually by corporations, not individuals or sailors with peg legs and a parrot on their shoulder).

    The biggest obstacle to making any money in the music business isn't pirates - it's the record companies. Through their control of distribution and marketing they pretty much are the gatekeepers. If you don't sign up with them you'll never be heard. If you do, you might be heard but you'll never get paid. You may see some recording star climbing out of a luxury car or limousine and dressed like a king - but those things are rented by the studio and charged to the artist as promotional expenses; the studios use creative accounting to insure that they keep all the money for themselves. The artist's real lives aren't anything like what you've been shown - if they have a real life at all.

    To add insult to injury, there are "performing rights" organizations like ASCAP and BMI that keep track of who is playing what and make sure that the royalties are collected and distributed to the artists. Or that's what they'd like you to think - they've got the "collect the royalties" routine down pat - but their "pay the artist" routine is still a work in progress - somehow, they just can figure out how to track down the artists so they just hang onto the money. It's a great business for these folks - they've even got laws in place that insure that they'll be able to shake people down and keep the money for years to come.

    If you think that the recording industry associations are there to protect the artist - the truth is that they treat the artists even worse than the way they do the "pirates". In the recent past they've gained new legislation that makes the creative efforts of artists the property of the record company - and the record company can pay the artist as much or little for it as they wish. The artist can't take their creations anywhere else because the law says they belong to the record company.

    In case you wonder why there's "no good music being released" perhaps it's because the talented artists don't wish to subject themselves to the recording industry's abusive practices - if you can work your tail off and not get paid, or sit at home and not get paid - what do you think is really happening? It's not the pirates that are causing artists to stay away from the music business, it's the music business and their practices that has caused the artists to stay away.

    Is this going to change any time soon? No - the government is in the pocket of corporations like these and their mutual back-scratching will continue for many years to come.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"