The Advent of Physical ‘Piracy’

It’s a WWI Mark IV. Don’t claim ‘unique’ and ‘distinctive’.

I’ve already made a few comments about this story on Twitter, Facebook and G+ but I think it’s really worthy of a full on blog post. The short version, if you don’t want to follow the link, is that some people are already using fabbers to make copies of physical objects or to produce models similar to those produced by certain companies.


Yet again, as with ebooks, gamers seem to be a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting new tech, but companies it seems are still lagging behind.

We’ve been through this before with MP3, we’re going through it with ebooks and movies and the same mistakes are being made over and over again. It sickens me to see companies refusing to learn from history and getting into the same, pointless, expensive, litigious, good-will burning cycle over and again.

The music companies did the absolute wrong thing in going after music ‘pirates’, suing little girls and trying to shore up a broken business model. Until the apple store came along anyway. Even now they’re still trying to stop the various streaming and radio-alike services and yet again, all it’s doing is making people resent them.

We’re still seeing it with films, but the better solution – Lovefilm, Netflix, on demand movies, that’s coming around slowly though companies still seem too keen on doing staggered releases which only feeds piracy as people get frustrated waiting for their favourite shows or films to come out.

Ebooks? We’ve still not quite gotten to the iTunes or Netflix stage there, though it’s coming. Book publishers still seem intent on over-charging for ebooks and, again, doing the frustrating, staggered release model that, again, feeds piracy. Wizards removing their old PDFs from the market is a prime example of a ‘Wrong Move’ in this arena.

Now we see GW making the same mistake only with physical objects. What you have here is not a threat, but an opportunity. GW has had some… questionable business practices over the last twenty years or so (since 1990) and has a bad rep. Here’s an opportunity to fix a lot of that damage and steal a march on competitors like Fantasy Flight or Privateer Press who have been gobbling a chunk of GWs business.

Engage with your fans. Put your patterns up FOR SALE at a reasonable price. Go through your back catalogue of designs, all the way back, scan your old figures. 3D printing doesn’t wear out moulds. You have decades of great designs and games and you could make a bundle off the patterns for playing pieces from all the old greats. Gamers would go nuts for it and you’d get a huge amount of good will and be able to create a trusted space in which hobbyists could share their own conversions, modifications and figures.

If you don’t, somebody will. A company less hidebound, more forward thinking, agile enough to innovate and take a risk with a view to the long term.

Not that anybody ever listens to me…

SOPA, PIPA, Piracy and the Free Internet

I won’t be blacking out my sites or going dark because… well, the point is that the internet has become an indispensable communication tool for the human race as a whole. A blackout, albeit one caused by fear of litigation, is the very thing that these potential American law changes could bring about. Better, in my opinion, to use the internet in the manner it is most useful, to communicate.

There are two bills currently making their way through the American legislature that would kill the modern internet as we know it. They would essentially grant sweeping powers to private businesses, rather than the judiciary, to force takedowns of sites, removal of material and so forth on claims of IP infringement – whether true or not. Costly legal battles aren’t possible for most people and this is just the tip of the iceberg of the problems these could cause, not to mention they’d be ineffective to their alleged purpose – to reduce piracy.

There’s several issues at play here:

1. SOPA has been withdrawn, but it’s not dead. National and international, corporate and private outrage needs to be maintained and focused upon American legislators to ensure that it remains that way.

2. PIPA, another, broadly similar bill, is still a threat and needs as much opposition as SOPA does. This also needs your opposition. You can find tools to oppose both all over the net. Write to your congressmen, your senators, write to the US embassy, fill out petitions, call and leave messages, write physical letters.

3. The USA has far too much influence over the shape and nature of the internet. This is an important international tool and yet laws and actions made by the USA alone can influence how we all interact with the internet globally. This is especially dangerous, ironically, for nations with good US relations in light of a recent extradition incident. When you can be sent to the US for trial for something done in your own country which isn’t illegal, at corporate behest, something is very wrong. Other nations need to take a more active and firmer role in making the internet more plural.

4. Piracy is an issue, but not the issue many think it is. I produce IP and I would like to get cash for every pirated copy of my work out there that hasn’t been bought. It doesn’t work like that though. A pirated copy =/= a lost sale. A fact that seems to be lost on the large companies. Many people simply collect, or download in order to get an idea if they want something or not. I know that piracy has gotten me sales, acting like free advertising and has taken my work to a broader audience than it might otherwise reach. It’s swings and roundabouts, not a simple issue as some would like to make it out to be. Experience gleaned from places like Amazon’s Kindle store and iTunes shows that the key to ‘defeating’ piracy is to make legitimate purchase affordable, easy and convenient. That’s what companies should be doing. Not lobbying governments to become their bailiffs.

Ultimately, in my opinion, a little piracy is the price we pay for a free, useful, dynamic internet. A pool of ideas and thoughts we can all share whether it’s for SCIENCE! for ART! or simply for Lolcats. It’s a price worth paying, just as the existence of trolls is a price worth paying for the opportunity to have true, free expression and idea exchange with an international audience.

Thank you for listening. Normal service will now be resumed.