CULTURE

Fighting online piracy on the e-battleground

The problem with all the new technology around today is that when people download music or movies from the Internet, they don?t feel they?re doing anything wrong. Online piracy looks unbeatable.

That is unless, perhaps, companies manage to turn the enemy?s weapon to their own advantage. A first step has already been made. A few months ago, EMI Music Publishing allowed fans of local pop act Filippos Pliatsikas to download the artist?s latest album for free. Users were able to do so for one month, but the teaser prompted similar initiatives from other companies.

Shortly after the holiday season, another piece of news was making the cyber-rounds. Stathis Drogosis released his latest album as a digital download that customers could order for whatever price they saw fit — setting a maximum of 10 euros, which is the price at which the album, released by the singer?s own company Antelma Music, can be found at music stores.

?I left the big companies so I could choose a price myself,? Drogosis said. His plan met with a warm response as more than 1,500 users downloaded the album in the first two weeks. About 60 people chose to pay a symbolic price of 3 to 4 euros. Some have even ordered the album at the market price, Drogosis said, adding that this was the first initiative of its kind, without the backing of a major label. ?People find it hard to pay 20 euros for a single CD, which is the usual price found at music stores, and that is why they choose to download instead. By offering my own work as a digital download, I am trying to make a decisive move against piracy,? he said.

Kastaniotis, one of Greece?s leading publishers, recently made its own move. Mimis Androulakis?s new book ?The Seventh Sense — Fate Troika? was available online with a pick-your-own-price tag. The offer, a first in Greece, was a success. ?We are satisfied,? publisher Argyris Kastaniotis told Kathimerini. ?The readers? response was huge. More than 1,000 people downloaded the book while a considerable number paid an average of 6 euros,? he said. It?s worth noting that many people found it hard to believe that they could actually get the book it for free, so they charged their credit cards with 0.01 euros. ?The idea belongs to Mr Androulakis, who wanted to make his book available to everyone — and, today, technology gives people this opportunity,? Kastaniotis said.

But a recent parliamentary decision to impose a single price policy on digital books (discounts two years after first publication must be limited to 10 percent of the original price) is seen as tying the hands of publishers. ?The digital book market gives you enormous flexibility. You can make daily offers even on Twitter. The [recent parliamentary] decision annuls all that,? Kastaniotis added.

In any case, publishers have to adapt to the new environment. User pressure for lower book prices (Greece?s prices are above the European average) and the growth of digital publications have mobilized local publishers. The e-book market is under 1 percent today, but if foreign markets are any guide the share will soon soar. It?s no coincidence some people are already complaining about the prices of Greek digital books. According to bookpress.gr, prices of digital books currently start at 20 percent of print volumes and reach up to 40 percent. Most e-books cost between 6 and 15 euros.