Minecraft Creator Says 'No Such Thing As A Lost Sale'
Last year we wrote about how Minecraft developer Notch (Markus Persson) had been quite vocal in saying that worrying about piracy was a waste of time, and it was much more important to focus on giving people a reason to buy. And has he ever. The game keeps selling like crazy, and we detailed how he was raking in a ton of money, despite not caring if people were using his software for free.
In a short presentation at the Independent Games Summit he elaborated on those positions and again told people to stop worrying about "piracy" and focus on giving people reasons to buy. He dismissed the standard party line on these issues:
Piracy is not theft. If you steal a car, the original is lost. If you copy a game, there are simply more of them in the world.
There is no such thing as a 'lost sale'... Is a bad review a lost sale? What about a missed ship date?
The "lost sale" point is one we've raised a bunch in the past, but people have a lot of trouble grasping it. There is no such thing as a lost sale, because a lost sale just means a failure to get people to buy. And that's a marketing issue, not a legal one. If a "lost sale" is illegal, then anyone who gives you a coupon to buy their product instead of a competitors is "causing a lost sale." But that's ridiculous. And that's the point Notch is making. There are all sorts of reasons people might not buy from you -- and most of them may be your fault. So it's your job to convince people to pay for something -- which he's clearly done. As he notes:
If you just make your game and keep adding to it, the people who copyright infringed would buy it the next week.
Another report of the talk showed he expanded on the "copying isn't theft" concept:
A lot of big companies try to make piracy like theft; I wouldn't steal a car, but I would 'steal' a good design. If I liked another person's apartment, I would try to make mine look like someone else's... but that's not stealing.
And, of course, he's still making money like crazy. While it doesn't look like he posts historical data any more, he does show a running tally of the past 24 hours, and as of me writing this, he's sold 10,348 copies in the past 24 hours (out of 36,612 registered). At 15 euros a pop, that's over 150,000 euros in the last day -- for a small indie game. And these numbers have been going on for months. It's not even a situation where there was a big boom and then sales dropped off. It appears that the game just keeps on selling.
But it's impossible to make money because of "piracy" right?
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CITIZEN UNITED v. FEC
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I always love the videos created by The Story of Stuff, and I think this video resonates with me even more than most of the other videos. This one helps explain the results of the Citizen United V. FEC case, which allows corporations to free speech in the same context that actual human beings have free speech (which I think is a really bad idea). Watch it!
http://storyofcitizensunited.org –– COMING MARCH 1, 2011 -- Season Two launches on March 1st with The Story of Citizens United v. FEC and an exploration of the inordinate power that corporations exercise in our democracy.
Do E-Book Users Need a Bill of Rights? (Librarians Think So)
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This isn't the first time a company has tried to use DRM to extend the publisher's rights beyond those granted by the constitution, and it will definitely not be the last. Copyright is only indented to prevent the commercial duplication of material to "promote the sciences and useful arts", but large media production corporations seem to think it's to ensure they make a profit.
Bluray movies can limit playback resolution if you don't use HDCP capable cables (like HDMI), and HDCP capable cables allow a device to restrict playback to certain devices (like block input to your receiver because it will allow 1080p playback though non-HDCP cables, or not allow you to connect your bluray player to your Home Theater PC).
In the 90s Adobe created an ebook format that was only readable by their proprietary tool; they sold public domain books and then did not allow people who bought the book to copy and paste text from the book.
Before the Itunes and the Zune Marketplace, Microsoft had the Microsoft Media Mall; it was an extension of Windows Media Center. When Microsoft launched the Zune Marketplace, they closed the Media mall and all the DRM verification services. Anyone who purchased content from the Microsoft Media mall was unable to burn CDs of the content they purchased, nor could they restore their content if they purchased a new computer. Those customers lost the content they purchased when they purchased a new computer.
DRM is inherently evil and very bad for the customers. Avoid purchasing DRM protected content at all costs. Think about it; what will all the people who purchased DRM protected content from Itunes do when Itunes closes? (It will happen - maybe not for 20 or 30 years, but it will happen eventually.)
The news that the publisher HarperCollins would be capping the number of times a library could lend a digital copy of a book to 26 has raised concerns - yet again - about the ramifications of our rush to embrace e-books. As one librarian, John Atzberger writes on his blog, the new model from HarperCollins "eliminates almost all the major advantages of the item's being digital, without restoring the permanence, durability, vendor-independence, technology-neutrality, portability, transferability, and ownership associated with the physical version."
Libraries may be on the front-lines of this latest battle, one that makes it clear that issues like DRM and lending policies can have troubling repercussions. Although the HarperCollins announcement impacts just lending through libraries, librarians are quick to point out that it isn't simply their institutions that will suffer.
To that end, librarians have started issuing statements, posting an "e-book users bill of rights" to their blogs. The statement, posted in full below, addresses "the basic freedoms that should be granted to all e-book users."
The Bill of Rights insists that users have access to their e-books - unrestrained by proprietary platforms - and can retain, archive, annotate, share, and resell their e-books. Many of those actions are forbidden if not restricted by e-books.
Should Libraries Avoid DRM Content?
The librarians' statement challenges the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) which makes possessing an e-book a lot less like ownership and a lot more like licensing or subscription. As author Cory Doctorow notes in his story on the HarperCollins e-book lending policy, DRM media is "unsafe at any speed."
I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, "Oh, no, sorry, we didn't mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts," the libraries' answers should be "Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing." Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you'll get morenegotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won't notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?
HarperCollins isn't the first time that access to e-books have been retracted. Amazon set off an uproar several years ago when it summarily deleted Kindle users' copies of George Orwell books.
Is DRM the price we pay to move to digital content? Is it a necessary move in order to convince publishers that their products are (relatively) safe from piracy? Or is this price too high, closing down access to information, art, and literature?
The E-Book User's Bill of Rights
Below is the text of the E-Book User's Bill of Rights:
Every eBook user should have the following rights:
- the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
- the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
- the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
- the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks
I believe in the free market of information and ideas.
I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.
Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.
I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.
I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users' rights.
These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.
Lions, Tigers, and…
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Ever sense Google sent me a CR-48 Chrome OS Notebook, I have been gradually starting to feel the same way. I find it harder and harder to put up with other web browsers like IE and Firefox (but I still have a special place in my heart for opera...), and I have liked Google Docs Spreadsheets better than excel or open office spreadsheet for a few years not too.
I have had issues with Google Docs sense they removed Google Gears support for offline editing (and never implemented HTML5 offline support); however, I think it's much better to have one place where I can store files and edit documents through a browser, especially because I am a Linux user at home and a Windows user at work. Chrome is the way to go.
“A good player goes where the puck is. A great player goes where the puck is going to be”—The Great One
Google made a few interesting announcements this week. First, Google Docs Viewer support for a sheaf of new document types, including Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop and PostScript. Second, Chrome’s new ability to run background apps that run seamlessly and invisibly behind the browser. Third, they released Google Cloud Connect, which lets Windows users sync Office documents to Google Docs. They also announced the Android 3.0 SDK – but despite the ongoing tablet hysteria, in the long run, the first three are more important.
Little by little, iteration by iteration, the Chrome browser is quietly morphing into a full-fledged multitasking operating system in its own right. Oh, sure, technically it’s actually running on another OS, but you increasingly never need to launch anything else. View and edit documents in Google Docs, watch and listen to HTML5 video and audio, communicate via Gmail and its Google Voice plugin, use Google Docs as a file system – and the line between “Chrome OS” and “Chrome on any other OS” suddenly grows very fine.
Google’s long-term strategy seems to be to supplant Microsoft by first building the best browser, then making it easy to move your files to Google Docs … and finally, slowly but inexorably, making Windows and Office irrelevant. Obviously no one will abandon Microsoft products wholesale anytime soon; but as cloud computing grows more ubiquitous, Google steadily iterates feature after feature, and people grow accustomed to working in the browser, then one day, maybe only a couple of years from now, a whole lot of people – and businesses – will begin to think to themselves “Hey, we haven’t actually needed Windows or Office in months. Why do we even have them at all?”
The “network computer” dumb-terminal approach has failed many times before … but so did Six Degrees, Tribe.net, Friendster, and (eventually) MySpace, before Facebook came along. The original iMac was roundly criticized because it didn’t have a floppy drive, criticism that now sounds hilariously stupid. We might look back at the first Chrome OS notebook in much the same way. Of course, Chrome can’t actually compete with Windows until always-on broadband Internet access reaches the same level of reliability and ubiquity as electricity itself; but that’s only a matter of time. In the early days of electricity, every factory had its own power plant, and its managers would have been appalled by the notion of outsourcing that vital engine – but soon enough those inefficient installations were replaced by today’s electrical grid. Computing power is the new electricity, and cloud computing is the new grid.
Unlike most companies, when Google says “cloud”, they mean it. Compare Amazon’s cloud-computing service to Google’s. With the former, you essentially call up and configure one or more servers with the OS and specifications of your choice; but with Google’s App Engine, you don’t know anything about its hardware or operating system, because that no longer matters. It just runs the code you give it, and you don’t much care how. Similarly, Chrome is being built for a future where the ambient, omnipresent wireless Internet connects everything from clothes to computers to cars (which explains how their self-driving cars fits into their strategy) and it doesn’t much matter what OS any given device is running.
I’ve criticized Google pretty harshly of late, but credit where it’s due: they still think bigger and further than anyone else. The problem is that all these brilliant strategies are predicated on their continued dominance of the search space, whose users are forever just a whim away from jumping ship to an alternative, and they’ve taken their eye off that ball of late. But at least they’ve finally started cracking down on search spam. It’s a start. Maybe they haven’t grown too bureaucratic and sclerotic to make the Chrome future happen after all.
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