Two recent events caused me to stop and consider whether piracy could be considered good for business.

The first example involves a children’s book.  You may have heard of this particular book as it’s causing something of a stir. “Go the XXXX to Sleep” is written as a humorous book (a “Children’s book for Adults” per the author) that focuses on the difficulties some parents face when it comes to getting their children to sleep.

What’s remarkable is that it managed to grab the number 1 slot on Amazon’s bestseller list – a month before release.  However, what makes it even more remarkable isthat a pirated copy in PDF went viral well before release date. It appears that instead of cannibalizing sales, it drove “buzz” around the book and elevated sales.

The second example comes from a prospect that has a desktop application that they know to be highly pirated based on a license key registration scheme.  This software is so highly pirated that they see roughly nine illegal activations for every single paid activation. That’s some significant piracy to figure out how to overome!

You might think the solution to this software piracy problem is obvious.  Move to a more robust third party application such as Sentinel and tackle your piracy as soon as possible.  This prospect is marching down a different path. They’re going to reduce the price and features in their desktop product and start selling add-on services to their desktop products via a SaaS model. It strikes them as a better investment opportunity.   While the jury is out on whether this will be successful, it’s certainly an interesting experiment.

So is all piracy bad? Or, if the manufacturer of the content tacitly or directly acknowledges it, is it not really piracy but rather part of a “freeware” program?  Can piracy be good for business?