The Queen’s Christmas Message

It being Christmas and all that I am going to try end this entry on a positive note. I promise. We do have to start in a deep pool of bilge because that’s what the Internet is made of.

Another few months brings another half arsed special about piracy care of The Inquirer. All the usual chess moves. The proponent starts by disallowing the word ‘piracy’ and starts congratulating himself on how much assistance torrents provide for all humanity. Sales haven’t gone down? Must be us, couldn’t be the work of the musicians and labels. And here it comes again: Radiohead. Why not NIN? C’mon man it’s like fish with no chips. Radiohead and NIN, proof positive of the glorious future of loss leading marketing.

Maybe if I spell it out again, because none of these experts ever seem to get it.

If you buy a business – a chip shop perhaps – part of what you buy is the ‘goodwill’, which is the existing reputation, custom, location and intangible aura of a successful shop. It’s not all physical goods – and not all goods are physical. A business is worth more than the ‘plant’.

A band also has ‘goodwill’ – the reputation that has been built up over years of market operation. Bands such as NIN and Radiohead had years of record company money spent on building their reputation. When they took themselves online they were successful because of the mainstream record companies not because of their opposition to the mainstream. A band that does not have ‘goodwill’ cannot survive on free downloads and the mythology promoted by those that offer pirate downloads is misleading the poorer bands that try to emulate their idols.

And the worth of a pirate website is based upon the accumulated goodwill taken from the vendors. If you have well known products from Adobe and Steinberg you will have more visitors and more donations / advertising income. It’s a business.

A band such as NIN is able to provide free downloads as a ‘loss leader’ exactly the same way as a department store uses a sale to get customers in, hoping for ancillary sales. Excessive discounting and free give-aways can also be used to cripple competition – something exploited notably by Roche, Microsoft and Walmart. It is not a noble act and shouldn’t be painted that way.

This leads to the particular instance: I was pretty disappointed to see that somebody was torrenting a game called Machinarium. This is a point and click adventure with wonderful artwork and great music from Jakub Dvorsky and friends, not long graduated from art school in the Czech republic and running a little design company called Amanita.

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You can play part of the game online for free and if you like it you currently pay the princely sum of TEN BUCKS for this, the soundtrack and the previous game. No risk, low cost, no DRM, no excuses. And yet some lamer Robin Hood wanna-be is ‘sharing’ this game to save people from having to pay a shitty $10. That’s just woeful, and all the sweety pie talk of the torrent clowns looks really cheap when you see a small company get kicked in the face like that.

I don’t know these people. I like what they do and it makes me sick to see anyone punished for making art by those who equate their hard drive storage to penis size. So I’m asking you to at least go play the game and maybe buy it for Christmas, because it’s a good thing and needs praise. People say I don’t seem to like anything – here’s something I like.

As I’ve said before I can understand when the goods are rare or abandoned such as out of print movies, or the intention is to make something new out of the old. Hell, even a kid that’s going to one day buy that copy of Ableton Live when she gets an income. But please, dear lord, no more Radiohead.