A latency issue

From time to time, I’ve described piracy as “the consequence of a bad API”. In publishing and elsewhere, we have designed content-delivery systems that thwart reader desires and encourage unwanted behaviors, leading to piracy.

Translations and territorial rights provide examples, something fully explored by Baldur Bjarnason last June. I’m sorry I missed his work when it was first posted on the Bookseller’s FutureBook site, as it spells out the way that frustrated demand can start a vicious circle for published content.

In a simple summary, Bjarnason captures that circle:

  1. “Restrictions lock out a large group of interested buyers.
  2. "A segment of those buyers form a piracy group, reasoning that they can’t be harming anybody because none of them could pay even if they wanted to.
  3. "A community is formed that grows used to getting stuff for free.
  4. "The existence of the community readjusts the audience’s expectations of what is right and what is wrong.
  5. "Piracy becomes endemic and impossible to eradicate, even if you do address all of the concerns that caused the groups to form in the first place.
  6. "Attempts to take out the communities result in massive consumer backlash because the consumer now expects these things for free.”

As Bjarnason goes on to say, “I’m not arguing right or wrong here, just that this is what happens. Ignore it at your own peril.”

Bjarnason then applies his generalized model to the specific case of territorial rights. In doing so, he illustrates how a failure to fully consider the global market puts the future of publishers at risk.

As a professional colleague said to me recently, “The world has changed. We have not.” Windowing the release of eBooks and negotiating rights by country used to be considered reasonable practices. Today, they feel like tactics that increase the likelihood that we’ll encourage the behavior we seek to avoid.

Consumers are not the enemy. Time is. As Doc Searls writes in The Intention Economy, “Show me a good print medium, and I’ll show you a latency issue.”

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.