Do pirates or captains succeed in digital media?

Some fantastic questions from the participants in our next BLN discussion dinner on the Future of Digital Media. We asked the 24 participants to submit questions for discussion prior to the event and this is what we got. One in particular made me smile and I would love to get any thoughts from others prior the the event. The question is,

“Do pirates or captains succeed?”

  • Should content owners move into the advertising eco-system? If so where and how far?
  • What is the future for the ad-funded entertainment industry in the digital future?
  • What are your companies doing to embrace tablets and how, if anything, will they change the way you, your staff and your clients will work in the future.
  • Is there a future for ad-funded, high quality, content?
  • Should (non content) companies be creating more digital IP that aligns with their core products/services?
  • How to get Web, Telecoms and Content worlds to intersect and work more closely together towards more compelling user products?
  • What is the best way to capture value from online content?
  • Why is there such a large digital market in the US and relatively little in the UK?
  • Will Hollywood studios lose their controlling position in the content ecosystem in the digital age?
  • We want to prepare for going international as fast we can – how do we achieve it?
  • Do pirates or captains succeed?

“Pirates or captains?” reminded me of the talk that the amazing and inspiring CEO of Balsamiq, Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni, gave at this year’s Business of Software – Do Worry, Be Happy. He had an almost infinite list of things to worry about as an entrepreneur and had found ways of bringing strength from all of them.

There were three things that he specifically did NOT worry about though,

  • Asking customers for money – it is normal to pay for things.
  • Pirates
  • Lack of time

His argument for not worrying about pirates was pretty simple. The more pirates want to pirate your stuff, the more popular it is and the more popular it will become. No one bothers to pirate shitty software. Take the fact that people are pirating your software as a great compliment and recognise that most people are honest enough to buy the real stuff.

Peldi Guillzzoni at BOS2010

Peldi Guillzzoni at BOS2010

Peldi is clearly an unusual individual and takes almost the opposite stance to the corporations in the video and music industries, but he may just have a point. What do you think?

Our Digital Media Discussion Dinner participants.

  • Chairman, Invenias
  • Director, Goetz Partners Limited
  • Director Digital Product & Consumer Technology, Pearson
  • Director, Videoplaza
  • Founder & CEO, Audioboo
  • Director, The BLN
  • Founder & MD, Cognitive Match
  • General Partner, TLcom Capital Partners Ltd
  • Corporate Development, All3Media
  • CEO, iMeta Technologies Ltd
  • Founder & Chairman, Diagonal View
  • Founder & CEO, Tweetmeme
  • CEO, Aframe
  • Director of Future Media & Technology, Channel 4
  • Co-Founder & CEO, Playfire
  • Founder, The BLN
  • Investment Manager, NESTA
  • CEO, Six to Start
  • Chairman & CEO, Yudu
  • Investment Manager, Seraphim Capital
  • Managing Director, Pure Grass Films
  • Relationship Director – Global Markets, Silicon Valley Bank
  • Partner, Dorsey & Whitney
  • Founder & CEO, myvideorights
  • CEO, Saffron Digital

7 responses to “Do pirates or captains succeed in digital media?”

  1. Peldi says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for mentioning my talk. I wanted to share this if you haven’t heard of it yet, as it might be relevant:


  2. “The more pirates want to pirate your stuff, the more popular it is and the more popular it will become.”

    Incorrect. The more people steal your IP the more people steal your IP.

    One of the bgigest downsides of the internet has been that people now expect things to be free and feel completely fine in stealing it from you. Just because something has zero cost of production to an end user does not mean that there is no cost to an organisation in producing it. Often the costs are hidden – by not paying for something, an individual will not be giving money to an artist to further their career. This stifles creativity and innovation in music, the arts, cinema and video.

    We should be clear that a thief is a thief.

  3. Thanks Peldi, thanks Charles.

    That pretty much sums up the case for both sides of the argument!

  4. Mark says:

    Throughout the history of internet start ups pirates have been ever present but while they make a big noise and have been irritating to existing corporates, their longevity is always limited though their impact can be long lasting.

    Napster made a lot of noise then imploded.

    Pirate Bay made a lot of noise then went away.

    Established legitimate companies will always have recourse to the law, will use the law to their maximum ability to prevent those businesses from succeeding but will usually benefit in the long term from the innovation that those on the edges of the law bring to stagnant and stagnating industries.

  5. Darren says:

    Really interesting thoughts and wonder if one of the answers lies in how you ultimately go about generating value from your content – if, in the case of the music industry, an increasingly large percentage of major artists revenue comes from concerts/tours and associated merchandising then the pirating and distribution of the artists music could be argued to be a great marketing platform for the larger value ticket?

  6. Richard says:

    Captain Jack Sparrow we all rather liked. There are pirates and pirates. The small innovative but ultimately incompetent ones should not be a distraction. Those that aim to profit big time from the IP of others should be taken on. They are more easily targeted and therefore ultimately often get defeated. Proportionality of response is essential in matter of internet piracy. Zap the the big bugs and tolerate the mildly annoying dung flies.

  7. Roger says:

    Awesome group of people. Really sorry to miss this and a great discussion already.

    For what its worth, every healthy industry will see some pirates. I think Richard’s point, “The small innovative but ultimately incompetent ones should not be a distraction”, is well made.