Probably about once a quarter I find some website trying to organize a “group buy” of one of my high end products. There’s usually a thread in some forum where people are praising my work, and essentially making plans to buy the product, copy it 25 or 30 times, and distribute the copies…
In other words, a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.
Now, I know none of you loyal readers would EVER do that, but I thought I’d use the situation to point out something interesting…
It’s always curious to me that people who want to learn how to sell information over the internet (in order to be compensated for their knowledge and contributions), don’t think twice about cheating existing, proven, valuable contributors.
If they wanted to live in a world where people don’t respect intellectual property rights, then how could they ever hope to build an internet business?
Some people might say “Oh Glenn, c’mon, like you never copied a product before you got ‘big’?”
I won’t say I was never tempted, or that I’ve lived a 100% perfect life, but yes, I made a decision to NEVER copy products (or songs) which were obviously for sale many, many years before I “made it”, had money, or was well known in the slightest… in fact, while I was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Because I believe property rights are not only the foundation of internet business, they’re the foundation of civilization as a whole. And the degradation of conscience begins with little crimes, not big ones.
Moreover, my dream was to sell my knowledge. I wanted to believe my knowledge was valuable… how could I ever achieve that if I treated other’s valuable knowledge as nothing more than shoplifting fodder? (And actually, something which rises to the level of a felony when you’re talking about higher priced products)
In the past, I’ve let this type of theft go as it seemed to only drain a very small percentage of my profits, and such website owners usually take steps to protect themselves from prosecution (not steps which make the theft any less illegal, just steps which make it more difficult to prosecute).
I also reasoned to myself that the people who would resort to copying and stealing the products must not have very much in their lives, probably wouldn’t succeed given the above reasons, and were their own worst punishment. (Same for those who buy products at the outset with the intention of refunding by the way)
But more recently I’ve had several important changes of heart due to the following:
- First, my programs are always reasonably priced, with installments available, and always come with guarantees I honor.
- I provide at least as much valuable, free information as anyone else online (I’m told I might provide the most, but I know of no objective measure!)
- It’s occurred to me that the sites which support this kind of organized shoplifting are actually CULTIVATING criminal minds. Many of the people who participate in these forums might never have had the idea of stealing if it weren’t for the site’s organized “group buys”, and the attractive manner in which they present them.
Moreover, I think in part it’s just a matter of having the “shop owner’s pride” to stand up for myself and say “Listen, if you believe in me, do business with me ethically. If you don’t, then take your business elsewhere. And if you really can’t afford my higher end products, start with my free materials and work your way up.”
I’m really curious what you all think?
How do YOU deal with intellectual property theft in your own businesses?
Let me know OK?