The Only Way to Fight Piracy Is to Cut Prices

The Media Piracy Project, published last week by the Social Science Research Council, reports that illegal copying of movies, music, video games and software is “better described as a global pricing problem”, and the only one way tackle it is for copyright holders to charge consumers less money for their wares.

The study lasted for three years and focused on regions of the world such as India, Mexico and Russia, where piracy is rampant due to the price of software being five to ten times higher relative to local incomes than they are in the US and Europe.

In developed economies, prices for content are driven down by a thriving market of suppliers who compete on price. In many emerging economies, films and other copyrighted material are distributed by large multinationals who often operate near-monopoly control of the local market.

They cite the example of Russia, where legal versions of the film The Dark Knight sold for $15 — roughly the same price that consumers would pay in the US. But with wages much lower in Russia, that price represents a much higher percentage of consumers’ income.

Lowering the cost would curb software piracy by some amount, but wouldn’t defeat the entire piracy. There will always be college students who are bored and too poor to buy video games or music, or people too afraid to make a purchase without a demo, or even people who just don’t want to spend more money on genuine media content.