By МихаилБанчев (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

by Gil Zvulony, Toronto Copyright Lawyer

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau has embarked on a slick public relations campaign to discourage piracy of movies on the internet. (See video below).

I doubt this will change people’s behaviour, but it is an interesting attempt.

The counter argument is that, in some cases, piracy may actually increase sales. I have seen this argument when it comes to software piracy. It goes something like this: The potential customer wants to use the software for personal non-commercial use. He or she obtains an illegal copy and gets used to the software and becomes a fan of the product. At some point the user realizes that he must pay for it in order to use it for work purposes. The software company benefits because the user probably would not have been exposed to the software – and is now a customer. I suspect Microsoft Office’s success is owed to this dynamic.

I can see similar logic in the case of movies and music. Radio stations “give away” music to their listeners, much like television stations “give away” movies. (The stations still pays royalties). The more airplay a song or movies gets the more exposure and therefore the more copies are sold. I do not know of any studies to support such a conclusion but I think it is worth looking into.

What do you think?