Matt Mason

.net: Just what is the pirate’s dilemma?
Matt Mason: It’s a problem we have with all kinds of information. When we have a new idea, there are two opposing forces at work. At the same time as we are thinking “how can I get this out there?” we’re also asking ourselves “how can I benefit from and monetise this idea?” We want to spread ideas as information, but capitalise on them as intellectual property. But the dilemma also relates to how others use our information, not just how we use it. It’s a framework to think about what you should do when someone ‘pirates’ your intellectual property. When pirates start competing with us, do we throw lawsuits at them, or do we try to match them play for play? To compete or not to compete - that is the question. I make the case that - although fighting pirates can be valuable and advisable in many situations - in others it’s better to compete by legitimising what it is the pirates are doing.

.net: How can a company compete with pirates?
MM: Pirates are only worth competing with in the marketplace if they are adding value to society in some way. The way to compete with pirates is to legitimise what they are doing, and find a way to monetise that value. Steve Jobs did it with iTunes. Radiohead did it with In Rainbows. Nike also gets it – it allowed Japanese fashion brand A Bathing Ape to come out with a very similar looking sneaker to their Air Force One, because the company realised that particular shoe, which was more of a remix than a trademark infringement, was adding value to their original.

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