Last week, the Social Science Research Council published the results of a three-year study on piracy in the “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies” report. The report concluded that price was the overwhelming issue contributing to piracy around the world. In a post for thinq_ summing up the study results, James Nixon described an example from the report:
They cite the example of Russia, where legal versions of the film “The Dark Knight” sold for $15 — roughly the same price that consumers would pay in the US. But with wages much lower in Russia, that price represents a much higher percentage of consumers’ income — the equivalent of a US buyer shelling out something like $75 on the film. Pirate versions, says the report, can be obtained for less than a third of the price.
In February, a group of contributors got together at a workshop and came up with piracy guidelines. Of the five points outlined in the “Don’t Make Me Steal” manifesto, only one addresses the price issue.
At my request, Magellan Media founder Brian O’Leary, who has done extensive research on piracy and P2P file sharing, reviewed the report summary and the manifesto website. He offered his take, and his preference, in an email response:
I strongly prefer the approach taken in the “Don’t Make Me Steal” manifesto. Although higher prices can encourage more people to pirate content, the debate is about more than just prices. Concerns about convenience, availability and usability (the absence of onerous rights restrictions) factor into individual decisions about what and whether to pirate media products.
This doesn’t refute the Social Science Research Council’s claim that higher prices in lower-wealth countries can lead to piracy. It does suggest that it may not be enough to just lower prices. I do agree fully with the SSRC’s conclusion that enforcement has limited impact. Content producers are better off looking at a mixture of localized prices as well as widespread efforts to make their products convenient, widely available and interoperable.