How do you get new customers? How about filing lawsuits and taking a break-your-legs-style approach to busting recording studios via covert operatives? Yes, it’s Banpiracy.com, a new private business dedicated to threatening studios unless they “go legit.” Their efforts got started as part of Waves controversial sting operations in European studios. Now they’re coming for you Stateside, as an independent copyright police. First, they claim 50% (in the US) to 80% (in Europe) of studios pirate software, with no evidence to support that claim. Then, they plainly state their mission is to be a group of legal vigilantes, filing hundreds of legal actions around the country and taking on dozens of studios here in the US. (Great AES announcement; thanks.)
Let’s be clear: I’m absolutely opposed to piracy. It really has damaged the industry, and it really is often perpetrated by people can afford to pay. For people who can’t afford the software, we’ve been big advocates of cheap, freeware, and free/open source software that can be used legally. But making anti-piracy efforts look like brute thuggery is horribly damaging for an industry that’s been working for years to try to encourage positive relations with its customer base in order to compel them to buy software as choice, not out of fear. I’ve talked to many developers who, despite their concerns about piracy, have worked really hard to build that paying base of users, through mutual trust. And I can only see this nonsense having one effect: hurting the efforts of developers who have fought piracy by using sensible product authorization, providing great support, and taking an active role in the music community.
SonicState.com got a great interview, which is nice, as it means I didn’t have to talk to them:
And developers, please, we’re happy to help you sell more legit software; let’s stay away from these guys. They’re creepy. This isn’t really an anti-piracy effort; they plainly state they’re out to make more money for their clients. And that’s called extortion.
Updated: Amidst the roiling debate going on in our comments now, here’s an excellent and quite balanced article from Pro Sound News Europe. They detail the tactics used. In fact, what Waves/BanPiracy is doing is legal. Whether it’s good PR for existing, legitimate customers is another matter.
Waves tackles the cracks [Pro Sound News Europe]
Another observation, if I’ve got this right. Some readers do feel combating piracy may take this kind of strong-armed approach. But, so far, the only confirmed client of BanPiracy is still Waves. That means, whatever claims BanPiracy makes about the industry as a whole, it’s possible no one else is willing to take these kinds of measures. If you hear otherwise, let us know. But sticking to dongles, serials, authorization, and old-fashioned customer outreach may remain the solution for most developers.