Lagging indicators

Researching piracy in 2008 and 2009, we found that copies of the titles we were tracking were often downloaded where the book was otherwise not available. This was not exclusively the case, but it got us thinking that barriers to access, including territorial rights, might create conditions in which piracy flourishes.

We concluded the primary research in 2010. It was an investment, and none of the publishers we spoke with between 2008 and 2010 was in a position to fund an ongoing study. Still, we took away a good deal of insight, loosely gathered under a banner that said "piracy is the consequence of a bad API".

Although the formal study is history, I've kept an eye open for data that either challenged or supported our initial conclusions. Most of what I've come across amplifies what we found in 2009.

An example was posted last Thursday by Andrew Wallenstein, writing for Variety. Wallenstein was covering remarks made by Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, at a media, communications and entertainment conference sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Using "The Hunger Games" movie as an example, Sarandos pointed out that subscription access will start in Latin America, reaching Canada three months later, the U.K four months later and the U.S. seven months later. He goes on to say:

"The U.S. will actually have the slowest access to 'The Hunger Games' in a subscription model online, which I think is incredibly dangerous for distributors in terms of having this global platform, and global knowledge of when things are available, and regionalized availability dates. I think it will only encourage piracy in a way that is going to only grow."

Earlier this year, I researched and wrote "Territorial rights in the digital age", a white paper prepared for Livres Canada Books. In it, I cited part of a 2010 post from Diesel, an independent eBook retailer:

"The vitriolic feedback we've been getting from many of those who've been unable to purchase the eBooks they want to read, in the country of their choice, really drives the point home that all is not well with the state of international eBook marketing."

We now operate in an environment in which any book (movie, song, television show .. the list goes on) is immediately made visible around the globe. There's no stopping that. We need to adapt to that reality sooner rather than later, or people who would otherwise have paid for content will be trained to go elsewhere.

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.