My latest Guardian column, “Why the entertainment industry’s release strategy creates piracy,” looks at the weird entertainment industry practice of defending their right not to sell us the things we want to buy, and the rather more odious practice of asking the public to foot the bill for this strategy:
In a real marketplace, the ability of entertainment companies to stagger their releases would be curtailed by the willingness of customers to put profits ahead of their own desire to watch TV or movies when the rest of the world is talking about them on Twitter and Facebook – and not six months later, timed to coincide with a bank holiday. However, by equating watching TV at “the wrong time” with theft, the entertainment companies have been pretty successful in convincing politicians that the public should foot the bill for this decision through costly market interventions, up to and including a branch of the City of London police charged with finding copyright infringers.
Which brings us back to the empirical evidence on lawful alternatives and piracy rates. The fact that people eschew the black market when there is a legitimate alternative tells you that they’re not thieves looking to steal. Rather, like the notional customer who sneaks in her own fizzy drinks rather than paying for the cinema’s insane markups, they are potential customers whose purchases have been forfeited by a business that has violated rule number one: offer a product that people want to buy at the price they’re willing to pay.