Even though SOPA and PIPA have been defeated, it seems the issues of piracy and copyright infringement are just getting started. Even without giant axe-wielding legislation, sites that peddle in pirated wares can still be terminated faster than you can say Seal Team 6. While conventional wisdom makes sense in the conventional world, once you go digital everything changes. Some smart and savvy members of the entertainment industry have realized that maybe trying something unconventional may be better for everyone. While speaking at the Midem conference in Cannes yesterday, CEO of Rovio mobile Mikael Hed, developer of the fly-away success Angry Birds, suggested that some piracy may actually be good if it increases the fan base, “if we lose that fanbase, our business is done, but if we can grow that fanbase, our business will grow.” Hed’s idea is simple, more fans means more business, as long as it doesn’t hurt the fans’ experience or the brand itself. He also noted that Rovio has begun to look at their customers as fans, not users, “We do that today: we talk about how many fans we have. “
While artists and developers across all entertainment mediums have been experimenting with varying techniques to address the growing concerns of piracy, none have done so more open and honestly than popular comedian and really angry bird Louis C.K.
In December Louis C.K. released Live at Beacon Theater (If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go download it right now!) on his website for $5. Underneath the download link was a simple statement, “No DRM, no regional restrictions, no crap. You can download this file, play it as much as you like, burn it to a DVD, whatever.” It was wildly successful, and 12 days later Louis himself not only posted a thank you to his fans, but actually released a screenshot of his PayPal account and a description of what he was going to do with all of the money, keeping roughly 20% of his earnings and giving the rest to his staff and various charities.
It is safe to say that Mikael Hed and Louis C.K. are quite different people, one makes games and the other says things I don’t feel comfortable typing. Yet they both have reached a simple conclusion about how to conduct business in a digital world; respect your fans. In the face of obvious success, will the rest of the entertainment world adapt or continue to fight a losing battle?