Monday, July 20, 2009

Respect

One thing that I fervently believe high-value information publishers need to understand is that it's probably not a good idea to engage your customers in a copyright arms race.

What do I mean by "copyright arms-race?" I'm talking about publishers who have a strategy of doing anything and everything they can to make it hard to share their work. I believe that if a publisher adopts this approach, he should not be surprised when his customers (who really are good, honest people most of the time) start devoting significant time and energy to defeat any and all controls and restrictions on sharing copyrighted works.

The music recording industry is probably the best example of this. They tried everything they could think of to ratchet up control over users' copying, including annoying "Digital Rights Management" schemes for online purchases and lawsuits against file sharers.

That strategy resulted in music fans adopting an "anything goes" attitude that basically declared that anything that could be done to defeat the copy protections was fair game. Rather than appealing to the decent character of their customers, record companies aroused the warrior instinct inside music fans. The music fans then proceeded to win the war of piracy and cause significant pain for the recording industry.

I absolutely believe that publishers have the right to control the copying of their work, and they have the right to impose technological tools to thwart copying. However, I also believe these rights should be exercised wisely. Just because it's a right, doen't mean that you have to exercise it. In many cases it is wiser and more productive to have a light touch.

Respect your customers and they might just respect your copyright in return.

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