Want honorable promotion through sharing? License your work to share!

TorrentFreak.com writes about Mark Diestler, a filmmaker who doesn’t mind illicit sharing of his latest movie, “The Inner Room”:

I would much rather have 500,000 downloads than 5,000, although our distributor may feel differently. The worst thing that can happen to a small film, any film for that matter, is to fall into obscurity. 500,000 people could download it and hate it, but in my mind that is better than then not seeing or hearing about it all.

Diestler is correct as far as this goes. Setting aside for the moment the poor choice in wording with “piracy“: Tim O’Reilly said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”. But Diestler doesn’t go far enough—”The Inner Room” is not licensed to share. Or, as TorrentFreak.com puts it, “When the “The Inner Room” was released the people behind the movie even toyed with the idea of pirating the film themselves to gain exposure. But eventually they decided to leave that up to the pros.”.

Without licensing the work to be shared, Diestler could drag any sharer into court on copyright infringement. The poor defendant would have to point to articles like TorrentFreak’s to convince a judge that Diestler doesn’t mind the sharing when it suits him.

A more honest approach is to license the work to be shared and benefit from the publicity that comes from working with your audience as partners rather than holding the legal sword of Damocles over your audience.

We’ve seen this kind of behavior before: the Winans and their movie “Ink” treated the public in the same way: the copyright holder wants the free promotion that comes with illicit sharing and the power to sue anyone who shares the movie illicitly.

If any work could be easily relicensed to allow sharing with no foreseeable reduction in income, it’s works like these. People who pay aren’t paying because they can’t get the work any other way. They’re paying because they were treated properly; part of treating your audience well means your audience does not have to fear losing a copyright infringement lawsuit.