The Creative Commons license, first developed in 2002, makes it easy for content creators to open their works beyond what current copyright law allows. Though there are a few variations of the license, all of them allow for readers to share an artist’s work freely. I support this, and I’d like to tell you why.
Meet Joe Copyright
Joe Copyright is your average copyright holder. He wrote a novel and he wants to make money from it. If a pauper in Nepal wants to read his book—unavailable outside the US, costing far more than the pauper can scrounge up in a week—Joe thinks that pauper should have to pay for the book. Never mind that Joe’s book might inspire the pauper to devote his few rupees to an education and to go on to discover a cure for cancer. That pauper must pay.
What Joe Doesn’t Know
It’s really, really easy to pirate work and not get caught. There isn’t a thing on Netflix that you can’t get without paying for that subscription. And yet Netflix is turning a profit. So is Hulu, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and every single station on cable, satellite, and network television.
But how can this be? Wouldn’t it save so much money if all of their subscribers just started downloading content?
Yes, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that, despite all philosophies to the contrary TIME = MONEY.
There comes a point in many people’s lives when the time it takes to research and pirate a show is more valuable than a subscription to Netflix. And at that point in their lives, these people turn to subscriptions.
The same is true in every field. Very, very early on (in the US at least), kids stop borrowing books from the library and start buying them on Amazon. Music lovers turn from Spotify Freemium to Spotify Premium. Pirates grow up, or get better jobs, or just start wanting to contribute to the content creators who have given them so much joy in the past.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em
The people who pay for a content creator’s work are not the people who pirate it. Pirates are poor, young, and have a lot of low-value time on their hands. Payers have jobs, money, and absolutely no time.
What’s more, pirates eventually grow up, and they aren’t likely to forget the artists whose stories so inspired them in their younger, poorer days.
Be cool, Joe. Let them have it. Their lives are difficult enough already without being in risk of jail time already. And trust that they’ll pay you back when they can.
Back to Creative Commons
I don’t think its enough to privately decide not to press charges if someone pirates your work. For one thing, its sneaky, and the message you’re still sending the world is “don’t do it.” For another, it doesn’t win you any brownie points.
Now I don’t mean to say the only reason to make your work freely available is good press, but really, it’s a big part of the reason. To the people who care, supporting open culture with a creative commons license is cool beans. They’ll be more likely to learn about you and your work knowing that you’re doing your part to contribute to the great human discourse.
Go all the way. Pick a Creative Commons license and let the world know you care about the Nepalese pauper who’s going to cure cancer. Give the pirates something to look for the next time they’re out raiding download sites for new media.