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The Pirate's Dilemma by Matt Mason

This article was inspired by Matt Mason's The Pirate's Dilemma . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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How Piracy has changed the Commercial Marketplace

“One man’s copyright terrorist is another’s creative freedom fighter; many forms of piracy transform society for the better.”

How can you or your business deal with the piracy of your work? Rather than fighting a legal battle, you can use piracy to your advantage.

America has a history of pirated intellectual property. For example, Thomas Edison’s sound recordings were seen as piracy in action by musicians themselves. Edison felt that his work was pirated, as filmmakers who used his movie making technology originally created Hollywood in the West as they fled from the inventor and the licensing fees he wanted.

The punk rock genre embodies modern piracy. “Punk capitalism,” a term coined by U2 singer Bono, alludes to the merging of society’s concerns and a marketer’s interests. Outlaw radio stations and disc jockeys have followed in the footsteps of punk rockers.

Since the late sixties, music remixing, finding aspects of a work and reorganizing them into a new product, has thrived as a form of personal expression in the worlds of music and film. Even Nike has taken advantage of this trend by releasing limited editions of its Air Force One sneaker.

With the invention of a Web site called Napster, online file sharing has become a new craze, as digitized music was traded among millions of people. Though record companies were originally hostile towards consumers who shared music, they discovered that suing customers was not an effective business strategy. Now, “Creative Commons” allows fans to remix music, while the artist maintains control over his or her work.

The visual arts have adopted the pirate mentality, as graffiti artists have rejected the mainstream advertising culture and created their own forms of personal expression that take advantage of public spaces.

In a digital age, piracy has crossed over into the realm of software. Before Microsoft came on to the scene, software engineers originally intended to create a more democratic system of computing, without proprietary concerns. The do-it-yourself philosophy has influenced the digital world from Wikipedia to YouTube.

Realize that piracy can benefit society by creating new markets and take advantage of the new revenue channels as they present themselves. You will be more open to new creative possibilities if you try to see the world through the eyes of a pirate. Piracy can actually affect social change, as the early creators of hip-hop realized when they tried to use their remixed music to end gang violence.

Take advantage of youth culture’s insistence on individuality. American Apparel, developed by Dov Charney, earns $250 million annually, as it appeals to hipsters by being a brand without logos. Though you can advertise your product all you like, bootlegging can spread news of your work quickly. Piracy is inevitable in this day and age, but with a creative approach, you can use piracy to your own advantage.


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