Pirates Are “Undiscovered Customers,” Receive Government Money

It used to be pirates were looked down upon by game industry and Hollywood, but with piracy continuing to flourish, it now seems as though modern-day Blackbeard is getting some long-deserved recognition.

At a game business law summit last Wednesday, Jason Holtman of Valve, the publisher of the popular Steam game distribution service, stated that pirates make up “tons of undiscovered customers.”

pirateIt is time that industry recognize pirates. The illicit downloading and distribution of copyrighted material has played a pivotal role in computing since day one. Software and video game companies have long complained about this, but few have realized that piracy is something that is here to stay.

Rather than continuing the impossible task of fighting piracy, the industry needs to find a way to cater to this new customer base. Valve has done this very effectively. They found that many users overseas pirate their products because they read about them online, but video game publishers often wait months or years before releasing games in foreign markets, if at all. By making their games available in piracy hotspots like Russia at the same as in North America, they have cut down on bootleg sales and downloads.

In what would seem an unusual turn of events to Americans, the Swedish political group Young Pirates, or Ung Pirates, has received 1.3 million kronor ($158,958 USD) from the Swedish government. The advocacy group, part of Sweden’s legitimate Pirate Party, claims to be the third-largest youth group in the Scandanavian country. Its goal is to reform copyright law and remove the patent system.

The money came from the country’s Youth Board, which is tasked with stimulating youth activity in the country. As a group that promotes political activity among youngsters, it is entitled to government money just like any other organization in Sweden.

With more and more people around the globe turning on computers for the first time, many of whom are from lesser developed nations, piracy will continue to increase. Though this illegal distribution of copyrighted goods may not be an ideal market model, industry has the ability to innovate and transform to cater to this new group of customers. Once this happens, Jack Sparrow will find himself with a rather large hole in the side of his ship.

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