Piracy is Good

Bob Cramblitt reports on Matt Mason’s talk from Business of Software 2007. To sign up for BoS 2008, visit www.businessofsoftware.org

"Greed is good," said the Gordon Gekko character in the movie Wall Street.  Although it goes against most established thought about software, Matt Mason, author of the upcoming book, The Pirate’s Dilemma (www.thepiratesdilemma.com), says that piracy can be good.

Mason, a former pirate radio DJ, makes the compelling argument that piracy drives innovation by exposing flaws in the current marketplace — the music business is a prime example.  Historically, piracy has been imbedded into the very fabric of business, especially in America, a nation practically founded on piracy.

Having your work copied can be a powerful force in the market — think about mods in the gaming industry or designer copying in fashion. And, pirating doesn’t necessarily hurt the marketplace as much as one might think: Despite all the pirating of movies, Hollywood had its biggest summer ever this year.

The dilemma comes from the thin line between when piracy does good for an industry and when it does harm.  I have a feeling that Mason’s book, with a cover blurb by Seth Godin, will be a "must read" for business book readers.