Online Piracy the Greatest Threat to… Pirates!

Just reading through the documents from WIPO’s December meeting of the Advisory Committee on Enforcement, and in particular looking at price comparisons between the retail versions and the pirate versions of CDs and DVDs.

One thing stood out to me, that these products are very highly valued by people, no matter how they manage to acquire them. The retail markets might be relatively small, but the prices when you look at purchasing power parity with the US are stratospheric. Presumably fear of parallel importing is one restraint on more accessible pricing strategies. Another might simply be cultural bias, in that entertainment executives hang out with an international elite rather than the local street.

The other thought that occurred, was that online piracy looks a far greater threat to the disc piracy business than it does to either local or international entertainment production and distribution companies. If people stop buying from the rug on the floor that’s an existential threat to the vendor, not just an irritation. Nor do those vendors have the option of moving their own business online.

Of course if the business all moves online anyway then those at the end of the disc piracy supply chain are going to be out of work no matter what. But the work WIPO is doing here is a good reminder that the world is much more complicated than we might like it to be. And that, in such a dynamic system as the global entertainment business, displacement happens in all sorts of interesting ways. Perhaps we should be encouraging torrent trackers for the effect they might have on the kind of pirates who have disc pressing plants, and guns to protect them with.

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