“Spotify really does not compete with Itunes, or with these retail store based services. Spotify directly competes with piracy, we are capturing users out of a piracy based environment and provide them unlimited access of music at their finger tips. They could share and sample music for free.” – Sean Parker, Spotify.
We live in times, where ‘Media Piracy‘ has become a definite ‘Way of life’. The Copyright Industry may not like it, but that is the way, it is. In fact, I’d like to think that ‘Piracy’ is one of the important issues that have emerged, evolved and continues to exist (or resist enforcement) as an important subset of the ‘Open Ecosystem‘ and ‘Digital Economy‘ of contemporary times. That may also be the reason, where you will find a lot of posts associated with ‘Media Piracy’ and ‘Copyright Infringement’ in this blog. It is also one of the main points of focus of my research.
There are two types of approaches used by Copyright Holders to generate returns and address the problem of Piracy – ‘Revenue Enhancer Modes‘ and ‘Piracy Beater Modes‘.( I don’t know if these terminologies have been coined by someone else, but in any case, I think that the names are quite apt.) Revenue Enhancer Modes typically are typically used to maximize profits, while Piracy Beater Modes are used to minimize losses. A Revenue Enhancer mode typically has little or no impact on Piracy, while a Piracy beater mode, if successfully scaled in ‘quantity sold/user views’ can cumulatively become a Revenue Enhancer.
Any business model or legitimate service that typically charges money for the consumption of legitimate copyrighted media content, without having a sizable impact on piracy (or no impact) is called a Revenue Enhancer. A business model or legitimate service that may or may not charge money directly from the user for consumption of legit copyright media, but which has the potential to disrupt the Pirates market is called a Piracy Beater. For e.g Selling a single music album ( consisting of 5 or 6 songs) in Itunes for Rs.100-120 can be called a Revenue Enhancer Mode, where as music subscription services that allow users to listen to music for free on the Internet and allow them to download Unlimited songs/albums for offline hearing at Rs.100-120/month for listening like Saavn, Gaana and Airtel’s Wynk can be an example for Piracy Beater modes.
A legitimate movie disc being sold locally for Rs.30 is an example of a piracy beater but when the same movie is provided online digitally to be viewed at a cost of Rs.30, it is more equivalent to a Revenue Enhancer mode. This differentiation in understanding is important because a physical pirated disc costs Rs.20-30 whereas an online piracy service does not charge the customer any money at all, atleast not directly. So, when a legit provider provides a service online even for as low as Rs.25, it should be considered as a Revenue Enhancer mode.
In today’s times, when the life span of a movie has shrunk down badly, Revenue Enhancers are best employed in the nascent stages of a movie or in the immediate aftermath of a music album’s release. After a certain point in time, ( typically days or weeks, or a month at max for a successful movie) returns from Revenue Enhancer modes start to shrink down. It is during the period of a revenue Enhancer that ‘Anti Piracy‘ activities or ‘Promotional‘ activities for a movie are also at their peak. Once the nascent time period is over, Piracy Beater modes start to become active. Revenue Enhancer modes typically fade into the background, while Piracy beater modes slowly take over. The arrival of Piracy Beater modes co-insides with slowly reducing PR activities and also declining Anti Piracy operations.
Revenue Enhancer Modes try to maximize revenue on a ‘Per Person basis’ while Piracy beater modes attempt to monetize on a ‘Mass Scale‘. More over, Legitimate revenue enhancer modes tend to leave possibilities (unavoidable in a modern Digital World) that can be exploited for infringers or Pirates. ( I plan to do a seperate post on this statement). Attempting to exploit PiracyBeater modes for such digital loop holes yield no additional benefits of any kind and are there fore logically irrelevant.
Revenue Enhancer Modes typically have no competition with Piracy beater modes, although Piracy Beater modes may compete with Revenue Enhancer Modes. For e.g a Legitimate copy of a movie can be seen freely on Youtube. If the same movie is available on other paid platforms like Google Play/Movies or Itunes, most users who have watched the movie for free on Youtube are less likely to watch the movie on the pay to watch services.
One possible exemption to this broad characteristics of Revenue Enhancers and Piracy Beaters might be quick, first time broadcast of new cinema on private satellite TV. These days, first Broadcast on TV typically happens within 1 or 2 months, from the first theatrical release. Traditionally in the pre Internet years, a Tamil movie would be broadcast after a period of 2 years**. There was some sort of a minimum time period back then. With the advent of digital internet piracy, it simply doesn’t make sense to delay broadcast of a movie for so long. More over, in such a spurious environment, where every day gets delayed, the chances of the potential broadcast viewer seeing the movie, through a pirated disc simply increases.
So, modern day broadcast combines the best features of both modes. It attempts to generate revenue by ‘scaling in numbers’, ‘supported by advertisements’, which from the viewer’s point of view is like a Piracy Beater mode*, yet is done as soon as possible, now typically within weeks of a movie launch in Theatres, making it appear like a Revenue Enhancer mode, from the perspective of a Copyright holder.
*Unlike viewing a movie on an Internet service like Youtube, where advertisments are minimal, and the user experience is not disturbed, watching a movie on TV can be quite painful, considering the number of advertisements, played between the movie. No matter what the quality improvements, Broadcast TV it cannot compete with Piracy on the ‘uninterrupted’ front.
** Back in those days, the AD intro would sound, “Indhiya Tholaikaatchigalil mudhan murayaga”. These days it sounds “Thiraikku Vandha Sila Maadhangalile..”