The only way to be beat content pirates is to join them, claims author and digital strategist, Matt Mason.
The author of The Pirate’s Dilemma – How Hackers, Punk Capitalists, Graffiti Millionaires and Other Youth Movements are Remixing Our Culture and Changing Our World, told an audience at MipTV that the limitless opportunity of digital content piracy and sharing cannot be stopped.
"The bad news is it's going to get a lot worse. Copying is going to become more of an issue for more industries," said Mason.
Yet rather than head to the courtroom Mason proposes that the act of piracy should be viewed as a mark of innovation rather than theft.
Former pirate radio DJ Mason said that the reason people listen to pirate radio is that it is playing unknown or underground artists, and typically is closer to emerging talent. Commercial radio stations, on the other hand, are constrained by advertising, record companies and agents.
While attention is given to movie piracy, Mason said sites such as BitTorrrent are also streaming TV shows that have yet to be picked up by international TV networks, giving them a cult following outside their home markets.
Since freetards are "an incubator of innovation", Mason said both ISPs and the content industries should "embrace the chaos".
"These periods of chaos become the new order in the end. The smart thing to do is copy pirates. If you can't control it, and people keep doing it and want to share this content, really that's a market signal that there's something going on outside your market," he said.
Mason cited iTunes, YouTube and Hulu as examples of this way of thinking, offering access to content that had previously only been relegated to pirate transmission.
If it's smart, the established industry can sell things that pirates can't copy, Mason said: convenience, customer service, and user experience. For example, he said, cinema box office receipts are still growing in some countries, in spite of movie piracy. Mason attributes this to the cinema experience: "If the experience keeps getting better and better, we’ll be okay," he said.
Transmedia also "pirate-proofs content", he said. When consumers can access some legal content for free, he said, content creators should back this up with more options to pay for extra content. "Now we're seeing the content industries get much more aggressive about innovating, variable pricing. Anything that legitimises the behaviour and makes it part of the new normal is a great way to go," he said. ®