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January 4, 2012

How Louis C.K. Discouraged Online Piracy – Without Help From the State

Can creative performance artists thrive in the Internet age?

Media companies say no. Their business is to distribute artists’ content and then lobby the Federal State to pass bills such as the Stop Online Piracy Act.

But what happens when the artist goes around them?

The comedian, Louis C.K., decided to find out.

He has done HBO specials before. But instead of doing a stand-up special for HBO or another channel, he has eliminated the media company “middleman.”

  • He rented a theater himself
  • He paid for the video production of his stand-up concert from ticket sales

And now he’s taken his performance,“Louis CK: Live at the Beacon Theater,” directly to the net.

For $5, you can download the special. As he explained to Bill Simmons, you can watch it as many times as you want. You can burn it to a DVD. The money isn’t going to some big faceless corporation. It is going to the comedian himself, the one who created the work.

But how does he stop people from pirating the video on torrent sites?

He can’t. Louis C.K. explains…

…I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

What has been the result?

Few people have pirated the material.He grossed over $1 million in ten days.

What does this suggest?

  • People ARE willing to pay some money to support artists they like
  • Most people are NOT thieves
  • Those that may be inclined to download pirated material are more likely to have the conscience touched by individual pleas rather than threats of legal action

Louis C.K.’s business model could inspire other artists to…

  • Promote themselves on the internet (such as on Youtube)…
  • Market their content through the Internet…
  • And bypass media corporations altogether.

It is exciting to see what lessons will be learned from Louis C.K.’s success.

(Disclaimer: I have NOT seen or purchased this special, and this post should not be considered a recommendation.)

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