Doug Knopper, cofounder and co-CEO of video-advertising company FreeWheel, says he believes that the key to reducing piracy is increasing the legitimate ways that users can watch videos online. “In the ad-supported world, you actually do want a larger audience, and you want your video to be distributed widely and get the largest viewership,” he says. The trick is to set up wide distribution without losing out on money from advertising. FreeWheel’s technology is embedded in players on websites such as Joost, Veoh, or Blip.tv, and serves ads according to rules set by the owner of the video. Though file-sharing systems such as BitTorrent are often criticized for harboring piracy, Knopper says that such sites could potentially offer ad-supported legal downloads.
Mochi Media, an ad network for game developers, takes the concept a step further. The company’s software automatically serves ads no matter where the content appears, so there’s no need to negotiate a content-sharing deal and agree on terms. “Piracy used to be sad, but now it’s a bonus–it means more distribution,” says Eric Boyd, vice president of engineering. Mochi Media provides customers with code that tracks Flash games to learn what sites they’re on, what country they’re in, and other details. It then uses that data to figure out which ads to serve. Though Boyd says that it’s possible to strip the code out of a game and repackage it ad-free, that requires a fair bit of skill. “Generally, the people stealing content just want good stuff,” he says, and are happy to let the game be as is, as long as they get to use and share it.
Though these companies all acknowledge that it will take more experimentation to figure out how best to share content and still make money from it, they agree that previous attempts to stop the content from being shared, such as digital-rights management technology, haven’t worked. Mochi Media’s Boyd says that finding legitimate ways to share can give individual game developers better control over what they create. “This is a better long-term play,” he says.