Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Piracy means you sell more stuff


Just read this wonderful article from the mucho talented Cory Doctorow, ( who, as luck would have it I just worked on something for ) via, on how giving his books away online is actually boosting the print sales of those books for him. Apart from the many great points in the article, I found this bit really quite telling:

"David Blackburn, a Harvard PhD candidate in economics, published a paper in 2004 in which he calculated that, for music, "piracy" results in a net increase in sales for all titles in the 75th percentile and lower; negligible change in sales for the "middle class" of titles between the 75th percentile and the 97th percentile; and a small drag on the "super-rich" in the 97th percentile and higher. Publisher Tim O'Reilly describes this as "piracy's progressive taxation," apportioning a small wealth-redistribution to the vast majority of works, no net change to the middle, and a small cost on the richest few"

So, based on some actual academic research, ( as opposed to the usual bleatings of a music company executive perhaps ) it would seem that piracy can actually help sales, at least in the music industry, ( and according to Doctorow in the book biz also in his experience ) at least, if you're not already one of the highly successful mega rich who are really going to hurt for that lost million dollars or so when they decide to renovate their summer vacation mansion in the Bahamas or something.

Which probably explains why we're told piracy is so evil. It hurts the big guy and benefits the smaller operators. Surely, we can't have that.

I'm conflicted when it comes to comicbook piracy myself. On one hand, comics are hard to find for many people, so downloading is at times the only way. On the other hand, for smaller publishers, every sale really counts. We're not all huge corporate entities like Marvel and DC. But perhaps I'm mistaken that it hurts the smaller publishers now? On the other hand, those comics can still be very hard to get in the real world, depending on retailers and location, so...who really knows.

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