Author John Birmingham and Cartoonist Sean Leahy spoke about the challenges faced by creators in today’s digital environment to around 100 members at our 4th Campaign for Copyright held in Brisbane last month.

Facing arguments that creators need to find new business models to sustain revenues, author and columnist John Birmingham and cartoonist Sean Leahy talked about the complexities and challenges brought about by online piracy.

After the event, John and Sean were interviewed by ABC Radio 612 Brisbane, and John was also interviewed on ABC Radio 702 Sydney – here is an edited extract of their comments.

John Birmingham

“In the end, nothing survives in a market economy if people aren’t willing to pay for it.”

“Every book of mine that has been released digitally [has been pirated].

“I don’t pirate. I pay for all of my media and it’s getting easier and easier. The answer to piracy… is making the stuff that people want to get easy and cheap to get. People want their media, they want their stuff, and they’d like to get it for free but they’re happy to pay for it as long as you’re not raking them over the coals and gouging them an unfair price.

“There are always going to be some people who just take it because they can…but most people, they just want to give you the money and enjoy your stuff.

“Services like Stan and Netflix… are part of the answer. Because they are very easy to use and they’re very cheap.

“As an experiment, once I went to pirate one of my own books and it is kind of difficult to pull this stuff down. So services where you buy an app and you pay, say $10 a month, and then you have a smorgasbord of stuff you can choose from, are actually a huge part of the answer to piracy.

“There is a huge income drop when this sort of thing [piracy] comes in. There is an argument that the freeloaders use that it gives you [the author] more exposure, but try paying your rent or your mortgage with your ‘exposure’.

“I’m doing OK because I spend a lot of energy on maintaining relationships with my readers…a lot of time on twitter and social media and blogging – and when people feel that they know you, or actually do know you, they are less likely to reach into your back pocket and take your wallet.”

Sean Lahey

“It affects every artist, every cartoonist, t-shirt designer – you name it. They talk about just DVD piracy – it’s across all genres and whole nations.”

“Fortunately I get paid for the original artwork and I get some copyright fee for reproductions around the place but it might only be around 30 per cent that is caught in the net.”

“People are used to getting stuff for free more and more, so unless you have a really high-value product behind a pay-wall or on subscription base, it is very hard to protect it.”