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Five Reasons Why I Don't Care if My Stuff is Pirated - A New Way of Thinking

An article just came out in Wired ( and it featured many of my quotes. I have approached copyright, products, and business models in a very non-traditional way. I'm sure that I'm doing it the right way -- most others disagree. The article is about how I have chosen to share my photography from with a Creative Commons Noncommercial license, but it falls into an overall digital online strategy.

I also just happend to watch the new TWIT about copyright with +Leo Laporte , +Nilay Patel , +Andy Ihnatko , and +Harry McCracken. I'm 100% in Leo's camp -- but with a slightly different flavor, one I am sure Leo would appreciate.

All of my stuff is pirated. Everything from my HDR Video Tutorial to eBooks to Apps. Fine. It's all there on PirateBay and MegaUpload and all that stuff. Here are the reasons why I don't mind:

1) Theft of bits are like the Tic Tacs that get stolen from the 7-11. It's the cost of doing business on the Internet.

2) It is a LONG life. Many people that pirate stuff now from me just don't have any money. But, they like me and want my stuff. Some day, when they have money and get their financial act under control - maybe even in five years - I'll still be around. And then, they'll think, "You know what? I like that Trey guy... he put out stuff in the past that I like, and now I will start buying his new stuff."

3) The "pirates" are part of my community. Not everyone in the community has equal means. Pirates are not cretins riddled with immoral behavior in every part of their life. These are all generally good people who would gladly support me, their friendly local neighborhood artist, if they could easily afford it. They can't now, but they will be able to some day... I give them something now, and they will give me something later. For example, 24 years ago in high school, I used to pirate Sid Meier games on my Amiga (including a game called Pirates). Now that I have money, I buy every single game that Sid Meier puts out.

4) Pirates have friends that have money. It's still word-of-mouth, the most effective friend-to-friend marketing in the world. If pirates like what you do, they'll tell their friends. Not everyone is so handy with bittorrent and this sort of thing. Since I make purchases simple on my website at , many will come make the purchase because it is easier than pirating.

5) Last, and most important, as soon as I opened everything up, our business has grown and grown. Our team now of about 10 people are happy and everything is profitable. It is strange to see a chart over time that shows an increase in revenues and an increase in piracy. Now, piracy is not the reason that revenues are increasing, but they are not hurting revenues.

I'm proud of my artistic work and the creations that I have put on the internet, and for every thousand pirated downloads, I plant a thousand seeds.
Tiago Becerra Paolini's profile photoThomas Spear (barcodethomas)'s profile photoYvan Dandeneault's profile photoDINESH KUMAR's profile photo
Good to see your position. Its annoying how many business complain. Evolve or die.
Really, really interesting points.
Trey - as a digital media scholar, issues of piracy and copyright are right in the middle of pretty much everything I do. Thanks for this post, for being willing to share, and for realizing that in our current digital environment, the best marketing is openness.
A Honore
+Trey Ratcliff I love everything you have said above. It expresses the things that I have been trying to say about why SOPA is so stupid. My phrasing was "Why would they want to stomp on free advertising and goodwill feelings experienced when we share these bits of intellectual property?"

I have worked for a studio, in the licensing department. The whole "oh, we're going broke, we need to be paid for every last drop of everything" is so counterintuitive to what they really want to engender: a demand for their products.
Also...beautiful photograph, as usual! I love the coloring.
Nicely said +Trey Ratcliff. And c'mon, even if they are just nasty and ripping you off, are they really making anything off of it? I don't think National Geographic, Time, or Sports Illustrated are going to try to pirate your stuff. And it's working. 'Nuff said!
Of course, what Trey's not telling you is he's never taken a photo worth stealing.

I haven't stolen any of your work yet ;), but I love your view in life and I will support your work anyway I can in the future.
Really cool new age attitude Trey. Appreciated reading your opinion.
Well said, +Trey Ratcliff. I'll add a little tidbit from my own life:

My first exposure to Metallica's music was a pirated copy of Enter Sandman. Today, I have purchased legal copies of that and several of their albums and even a couple of DVD videos.

And this was the band that was the most notorious for prosecuting pirates! I would probably have never bothered listening to their music and then buying it, had I not heard and then illegally copied that one pirated song so many years ago.
J Agnew
" I'm proud of my artistic work and the creations that I have put on the internet, and for every thousand pirated downloads, I plant a thousand seeds. "
I love that. I'm going to steal it.
Hey..... that's my picture..... :))

Nice shot, nice stance.
As one of the Pirates (i use the pictures for laptop and mobile wallpapers),i would like to give you a massive thanks your pictures are fantastic.
love your way of thinking and your work, really an inspiration for a lot of people including me
A reasoned argument and one that I agree with wholeheartedly. Besides the "pirates" Trey listed, there is the collector - the bit hoarder - who has terabyte upon terabyte of programs, movies, TV shows and still images. They will never use any of them, but they just have to possess them. I think the hoarder is one of the biggest users of torrents, and also cost the copyright owners the least, approaching nil.
This is probably the most intelligent piece I've read on the topic. Next time you're on TWiP I hope you'll spend some time talking about your thoughts on copyright (maybe you've done this already and I missed it). A couple of the folks that +Frederick Van Johnson has on there regularly are extremely vocal opponents of the viewpoint you've just presented, in many ways I think due to ignorance from having grown up in the business before we had the internet. Anyway, keep up the great work!
+Trey Ratcliff , define 'Pirated'... are they reusing your images or referring to them? If they're reusing them, without notice, credit or reference to you, they are stealing it then... what's in it for you? I can understand your items: 1, 2, 3... but there's one thing about trying to get money (or paid) once someone knows they can get it for free, or without any value attached.... they'll never pay in future.

As for music, it's a huge and different audience. If everyone stole the music that artist would/could not afford to continue their craft. Without having some sort of value or acknowledgement of the use then it should just be a hobby that you give out. But how does one pay the bills if they're giving their product away? Unless your business is not photography and it's something else, then the images don't have much value I guess.
Now, that's called + attitude ;-)
I do not disagree but I think that stealing in any form is wrong. That being my point, I have to say that it is nice to hear that taking the "High Road" can be beneficial.
+Trey Ratcliff you sir are a one of a kind entrepreneur. I remember when I was a teenager and Linkin Park was just beginning to hit radio waves. They spent months on music sharing sites giving their tunes away for free so people would just hear them. They, like you, also welcome sharing. They've become a well known band across the planet and I know when taking this kind of outlook you'll be known around the world if you haven't already.
Great Stuff! I just caught wind of your work and think its incredible. I am an aspiring photographer who is just starting to get my work out and social. Your whole business perspective is a true inspiration. thanks!
+Trey Ratcliff I truly appreciate your views on this and can absolutely relate. I'll give an example from my own life. I'll admit, once Napster hit the scene (and all the others that followed) I went a long time without purchasing music.

a) I really couldn't afford to buy it at the time
b) I was still developing my tastes and wasn't willing to spend money on a full album for something I wasn't sure I liked.
c) It was relatively easier to click my mouse a few times than to go buy a physical CD and then rip into MP3's

However since then sites like iTunes, Amazon, and now Google Music have all made it easier to discover, acquire and afford good music. Sure I could still use the torrents, but I'm in a better financial situation these days and I've now developed my tastes and have artists I want to support so that they can keep making the music I love.
I like your way of thinking +Trey Ratcliff , it's very down to earth. I've only been following you recently but your work is already inspiring me to try and experiment new stuff with what little equipment I have for my little photography hobby, hopefully for HDR soon too, so thanks :)
I would have never found your work if not for the fact that you have everything licensed as Creative Commons on flickr (All my searches are in Creative Commons material). I have never been so consistently impressed with art of any medium as I am with your work!
+Jeff Burkholder "If everyone stole the music that artist would/could not afford to continue their craft." Not true -- many musicians are making a good living in live performance, selling tickets and T-shirts, and could still do so even if (and when) the recordings are distributed free. "Once someone knows they can get it for free, or without any value attached.... they'll never pay in future." This is provably false, as Trey pointed out in his example about Sid Meier games.
Number 1 it's a fact and it's the result of your amazing work, it it weren't so good it would go unnoticed.
And I agree on 2,3 and 4.
The time you could use on fighting/prevent piracy would be better spent producing more content and that would yield more results
I think that this is how business should be on the internet. People don't seem to get that the internet is about Removing barriers and promoting openness and sharing, which can create profit, and foster businesses like yours. But it all comes down to information and if you stifle a source of information you are stifling your business.

Oh and I can totally empathize with your Sid Meier comment.
well linkin park is more music. i dont think you call them entrepreneurs is the music biz do you?
I can appreciate the business side of it, and can certainly agree with that position! But I'm curious +Trey Ratcliff - what about the moral side of it? You kind of hinted at recognizing it's bad to pirate ... so kind of curious if that bothers you in a personal way at all? I mean, I definitely think the idea of constantly fighting pirating (and probably failing) is not worth it from a practical perspective, but is the attitude of pirating ultimately going to do damage to arts in general?
+Trey Ratcliff I love your approach Trey. Maybe people like you, +Leo Laporte +Tom Merritt +Nilay Patel and others can do a sit down show/meeting and come up with a positive solution that can protect copyright owner's rights (and income) while protecting the freedoms we love in the internet.

Perhaps a change of paradigm when it comes to the business models. Perhaps, photographers and musicians now have to make their money through services and performances. The things Pirates can never steal from you are your talent, passion and skill in making a profit from your work.
+Arnold Valentino I think that what needs to happen is that online businesses need to behave more like +Trey Ratcliff. Speaking from personal experience pirating something from some big company that you know as a logo on TV ads is a lot different than pirating the work of a person or group who you may interact with and who obviously puts a lot of personal effort into their work. They need to have more personality and kindness, as opposed to being a giant data-bot.
Pirating is pirating, plain and simple. It's stealing. Doesn't matter if it's from a large corporation or a small individual. While most people are honest and moral, there are many, many out there who are not. If we send the message to the dishonest that it's ok to pirate sometimes, where do we draw the line?
I am not saying whether it is ok or not. But from the emotional standpoint of the pirate it is easier to steal from the giant faceless corporation than from the artist who takes the time to critique your photo and goes on livecast chats to talk tips and share their experience with others.
Very well spoken as usual, and your sentiments are one of the reasons I keep you on my heroes list. Thanks for keeping the Internet level headed. :-)
Indeed. Now if the MPAA/RIAA and pro-DRM could get this around their puny heads...
So, if one of your photos showed up on a full-page ad in Time magazine you would not mind?

What if it's used on the cover of a book, or magazine? What about a website ad? Slippery slope unless you don't care about your copyright.

Again, defined 'Pirated'...
This makes a lot of sense- and echos my own outlook on creative professions. Many artists, many I respect- have to feel like they've wrung every last cent they can out of an endeavor. Sure, they earned it. But that tight grip is a poor business choice and VERY short sighted.
+Jeff Burkholder That's why he is using Creative Commons Noncommercial. (In the Wired article, which is under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.)

There are many different types of licenses. (Common Open Source ones being: CC-ShareAlike, CC-Wiki, GPL, BSD, etc...)
I had a flashback, I also started out with an Amiga, very cool to see it mentioned here. Shocking how far we have come. Love your work, and I am in the process of implementing your copyright strategy. Thanks for sharing.
+Garry McCarthy I draw that line in this example: I download +Trey Ratcliff 's photos and videos, burn them in disc/Hard drive andgor to the flea market and sell it for a profit.

I don't consider it piracy if i download Trey's photos and videos, blow up the photo, frame and hang it in my house for my own personal enjoyment. The videos, i watch and learn Trey's techniques in photography where I could possibly use in my photos. Maybe in the future, if I become a paid photographer, I would go back to Trey's website and give a monetary donation or tip. Almost like +Leo Laporte 's Tip Leo link and leave a message thanking Trey for his generosity.

What bothers me is the extreme way people think about copyright. The RIAA and MPAA brands it's users/customers as a potential thief/criminal by simply owning a computer. They think if i buy a DVD of Finding Nemo, I would rip the disc, burn it on a disc and then sell it at a flea market. Although some criminals actually do this, I do not. I just want a digital back-up of the content I paid for. I just want to be able to watch finding Nemo on my iPad, TV and CPU. I am not a pirate. I just want to be able to use the DVD I bought the way I want to use it.
Spot on! I have wavered on this myself as I am just starting out. But I also have the benefit of being in a circumstance where I can choose to do it "my way". I have a good "day job". And I have been leaning more and more towards this free sharing way of thinking.

There is a philosophical part of me as well that just believes that art was meant to be shared.
Holy crap, I had no idea someone could have endured high school 24 years ago and still post such awesomeness.
+Trey Ratcliff This is why I admire you and you business model. It's simple, it works, and it accounts for the times we are in now. To the people who woud steal another artist's work and pawn it off as thier own-- eventually they will be called out and found out and then they will be ruined-- you only have one reputation. Thank you for the fresh view and I hope others learn from you.
As a soon-to-be software developer and a pirate I wholeheartedly agree with this. It's too bad others can't think the same way.
Several of us thought your site was broken because the header takes up all the room on a laptop screen. Shrink the header and I guarantee you will reduce your bounce rate - which has got to be super high.
Well, if I hadn't already thought you were just a really kewl guy....this post just made me a believer again!
Never paid in my life for any game or software.
+Trey Ratcliff, +Jeff Burkholder and many others --

This is a new phenomenon that economists are striving to understand.

A dozen years ago or so, the (very similar) question was about Open Source software -- how something that was being given away could possibly make anyone wealthy. And yet, IBM embraced it and has made billions. Microsoft fought it and has lost business.

I saw a similar debate erupt among stock photographers when I entered that market, which is also dying because of disruptive technology. I, who am selling under the traditional model, see a US$250 check once about every two years, while "sluts" such as Trey (i.e., giving it away for free on the street, so to speak) are keeping ten people employed!

Clearly, there is an economic phenomenon at work here that is not well-understood at present. But then, vast areas of the study of economics is explaining the counter intuitive.

So skeptics, hold your fire. True believers, hold your enthusiasm. Economists don't yet understand why this works or how it works. It will take them some time. We don't yet know where the edge cases (or corner cases, if you will) lie -- so we can't yet predict in which cases Trey's business model will work and in which ones it won't.

What we can predict with a fair amount of reliability is that we'll find out as some try this model and fail, while others try it and succeed beyond their dreams.
I love your logic man. It's like no other. When I was younger I used to pirate everything. Now that I have money I buy and support these great products that I love.
Thanks for sharing the story. I've long been a proponent of sharing through CC. But it's been hard to tell that story to convince others. This does a great job in explaining the benefits.
I am very frustrated being refused not to get the laptoo I want with no os. I had to pay for some vista Licenced or go to cinema pay the ticket and see 30 minutes of comwrcial bullshit. It s not fair i have money but i will try not to use them to pay for copiyright
+Ken Barber , You are entirely correct. We don't know how it works or why, but we do know it works. One thing that I have always thought of doing was to offer more features for those that buy, while aknowledging that pirates are still customers.
Agree on every point. This is what I believe in too. It's like having a tech friend who would lend you the tech toys/tools/books/knowledge, and it's a pay-me-back-when-you-can attitude. Trey, you're the kid who likes to share. :)
Interesting take and I like it!
+Trey Ratcliff when reading this, it says "as soon as I opened everything up, our business has grown and grown" does this means that there was a time that you help a different type of copyright? If so does this mean that you were not profitable when using typical type of copyrights?
Respect for you +Trey Ratcliff That was an amazing post. that was a whole different take on piracy.
If the RIAA et al would wake up and see reality this way, life would be so much simpler. Of course, that type of thinking would put a LOT of lawyers out of business...
bu thx to that your work is very known
This is good and all but needs to be kept in the context of the media type that it is meant for. For example. Software that is meant for the commercial market.. should that be given away free for others to profit from? Books that people have put their life into writing... should they all be available free? Come on guys there is a place for this mentality and can work in some markets but not all markets. Trey im pleased its working for you but its not a good theory for all!
so spledid,and are you in beijing?
It's pretty easy to take this stance with a purely digital product. It doesn't directly hurt you. And that's the exact logic many pirates take, as well. It doesn't hurt anyone. If I steal Tic Tacs... well, that's one less box of Tic Tacs they have to sell. I can't steal your "inventory".

I think that's what bothers me the most about digital piracy. The very "blase" attitude. It's entering the same realm as speeding, I'd imagine. I bet more people feel guilty speeding then they do stealing an MP3 or digital photo.

I don't know what the answer is, but I sure hope it isn't "deal with it".
step to green......
I haven't been pirated yet, but if I am...I'll take it as a compliment and hope that in future, they'll buy my stuff rather than steal it. And maybe they'll talk about how good it is to their friends and they will buy it. Everything happens as it should.
Would you feel the same if a major corporation took your material and used it to make money? And would you feef that it happened as it should? Just putting it out there.
+Rye Achrage -- yes, it works. Part of the time.

I licensed some of my earlier works under Creative Commons years ago. I never made a dime. So there's a lot we still don't know.
I agree with you Trey, 100%. Everything I have written is freely available. Every photo I have posted is CC licensed. Give stuff away and stuff comes back to you...
+Trey Ratcliff it's nice to see a good balance between CC and commercial licensing. Learning a lot and re-thinking things based on your perspective. Tks!
Some excellent thoughts and I'm glad it has worked for you; however, what appears to be getting missed by you and those that share this viewpoint is others who create content and don't feel this way have rights as well. I don't disagree the internet and digital age have fundamentally shifted the discussion regarding the distribution of IP. Having said that we need to come to an approach that meets the needs of both the consumers and the creators. It seems we have hit an impasse where one side wants to enforce draconian tactics to lock down IP while the other side wants to ignore the real problem of piracy and push their view of open access on everyone. There has to be a better solution and I think if we'd all look for a compromise we can find a better place in this discussion.
Too bad our legal system is built where a corporation can't operate under such ideal beliefs (which I wholeheartedly agree with). If they do, they lose rights to their IP for not protecting it.
+Blake Decker -- your argument is called a False Dichotomy. You are correct that other content creators who don't agree with +Trey Ratcliff do have rights, but none of them are harmed by Trey's business model.

Trey has found a way to make money. Others will try it and fail. Those who don't agree with Trey will also find ways to make money -- or not.

There is no need for a compromise between anyone. The "better solution" that you seek will emerge as people try things and discover what works -- and what doesn't. And more importantly, why this works, and that doesn't.
The pirates are the people who claim ideas are their property. There is no justice in granting the creator a monopoly. Artists, scientists, writers, performers and corporations should be paid for the performance, and once done, it's not property.
You totally get it Trey--thanks for such a clear and eloquent post.
Makes perfect sense. Also allot of people don't have tons of money and want to make sure the stuff is something they can benefit from before dropping their hard earned cash on it.
+Trey Ratcliff - If you don't mind someone else taking a stab at "artifying" your photos, send me a couple of non-HDR photos. I'm not going to attempt HDR, but I will transform them.
I'm with you on the Amiga piracy thing :-)

I had so many 'backups' of Amiga games back in the day, but I pay to download classic games like Worms on the PlayStation Network.

I hope the developers don't mind that my payment is coming two decades late
I can't prove it but, I've heard that Microsoft ignored piracy until they had a firm near monopoly. For all the reasons stated above.
I loved the episode of TWiT and even though I don't totally agree with +Nilay Patel, I respect his position and his ideas, as it is based on reality. I agree with +Leo Laporte but I find this post by +Trey Ratcliff best identified my position on the issue. I am not in the USA but in tiny NZ. At some stages of my life I haven't had much money and pirating has been the easiest way to get the software and other things that I love and enjoy. As soon as I was able to afford it, I brought it and also donated to all the FOSS I was using. I still can't get somethings here in NZ, in the easiest manner. No Netflix or Spotify so pirating is still the simplest option. If we had these services, I would see no reason to pirate but if I had no money, pirateing may be the only option to get the content, so I would never have brought it in the first place.
kyle lu
All Chinese make money, people in Beijing just share, shame!
Thats pretty awesome, thanks for sharing. I agree with your thinking.
I agree with you. I consider it a complement. Also, it helps for link building and self-promotion. Now, if someone were to take credit for themselves, that would be considered a copyright infringement.
+Trey Ratcliff Great post! As someone who has pirated things (and probably will again) and a musician myself, I couldn't agree more.
I salute you sir. For both being open-minded and highly creative all at once.

I have once read a study on piracy which claimed that while most of the "pirates" (groups/persons who pirate contents and distribute them) originate from developed countries, most of the users are actually from developing countries to third-world countries. In developed countries, people who use pirated contents usually end up buying the things they like and delete/uninstall the things they don't like. In my country, things produced in these developed countries (e.g. USA) are priced from 150% to 300% the original price. Hence piracy is a huge thing here.

Here's another case. Asian movies (namely Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese) are highly popular here, but it's so hard to find legal copies in stores, even if there are any, usually at a ridiculously high price. Some people then form groups which collect money to buy a legal copy directly from the original country, then they assign people to translate parts of the movie, and then some other people to distribute the fully translated movies via either physical disc (with reproduction cost) or free digital download to members nationwide. These people work voluntarily and they strictly forbidden selling the movies for profit.

I used to collect a lot of pirated PC games in high school and college. But mostly just to test-play it for a while to see what's good about it, then I remove it to conserve space (usually after exchanging games with friends). There were only a handful of games that I actually completed, one of them was Portal, because it's simply impossible to stop playing it. Now that I have a job and I can support myself, I've been buying original PS3 games and I love it! Haven't played on my computer for quite a long while.
Far out Trey. I am totally with you sir. Remind's me off hour's of penny, to $30.00 private music instruction/lessons. The penny one's were on credit usually.
Ken/Grant it's not a false dichotomy as you are misreading my point. I applaud Trey for his decision and his cogent explanation as to why he has made this decision. My response to Trey was not in the sense his viewpoint impacted others or that he is wrong (frankly I like his approach and think it both savvy and noble).

However, I have heard his reasoning used before by others who DO wish to push their view of how IP should be shared on others. They don't respect the rights of creators to protect or profit from their IP. Obviously Trey is not stating this; and as such, I'm not trying to set up a straw man. I simply felt this a good forum to bring this up as there are those, who either for utopian reasons or simply to justify their desire to steal from others, like to treat IP different than TP simply because they can.

There's a great discussion on this topic at the link below. If you listen to it, I tend to agree with Nilay Patel's view.

Nice to meet you both, good discussion.
Points 2 & 3 are so true. Been there, done that (allegedly). Thank you Trey.
+Trey Ratcliff, I really enjoy your work and your overall philosophy on life. It's nice to see one of the good guys succeed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and talents with the rest of us.
You know, what bothers me is that digital pirates will see this as an extra reason justifying what they do. Trey basically hinted that he agrees this practice is not a good thing to do, though he didn't say so directly so maybe I'm misinterpreting. Regardless, pirating is immoral. If you wouldn't go and take a person's or company's material possessions w/o paying, why would you go and take a person's or company's digital possessions w/o paying? Like it or not, it's just as wrong.

That said, the business world may have to change their view on it in order to succeed. But the fact that someone can succeed in spite of (or even because of) piracy doesn't therefore validate piracy. I hope people will get that, but I somehow doubt it. 
It seems all the people who are all for their art and work being spread around are already established. How well does giving your stuff away for free do for the beginning artist or programmer who needs to put food on the table? Should I have to sit back and agree to loving it when people take my stuff because people like Trey Ratcliff, Neil Gaiman and others who have established businesses and fanbases do? How can I possibly grow my business when I'm first starting out, if everyone is taking my stuff and expecting to pay for it some day in the future? I have bills to pay now. Maybe if I had a patron or was still living with my parents or sponging off my spouse...

I'm not saying that Trey's (among others who do it) ideas here aren't sound and work for him. But piraters don't take into account the nuances. Taking from Trey isn't the same as taking from someone who can't afford to live. And those people are likely to quit trying and go get a day job, and we'll never hear from them again as they get lost in cubicle land.

Be a little discerning with your piracy, folks. Realize that if you were trying to make a living and your boss said, "Hey, we're not paying you this week" that you'd have a hissy fit, especially if you couldn't make the bills.
I am part of the Fashion Industry where copyright protection is almost non-existent. There is a good TED talk on this point and the benefits it brings.
Well spoken, sir, well spoken indeed. I guess the pirating pill is harder to swallow when one is a bigshot that grew up in an age of prosperity with big companies backing them, but this is just it. I for one fit your bill perfectly - now that I'm older, wiser, and more financially stable, I am more than willing to financially support things I enjoy. The few I don't I probably never would have payed for anyways.
I am a believer that the more you "give" away the more you make in the long run. I like your use of creative commons. More should follow your lead.
There is a problem with this approach. Perhaps it's just the terminology. To me a "pirate" is someone who steals something for personal gain: they resell it to make a profit, without passing anything on to the actual owner/creator. These people are in no way a positive influence on your success, and are quite the opposite because their version of your work may be inferior but still have your name on it.

The people you are talking about are more like "unauthorized users": they are using your work without paying, but they aren't making a profit on it. Did you resell those old Sid Meir games? Or did you just (like myself) play them for your own amusement? If the second alternative is true, you didn't really cost Sid and his company much, even if you made a few free copies for your friends. Like you they are probably paying customers now, or at least have been or still give Sid good word of mouth advertising.

"Pirates" should be mercilessly sought and stopped - I'm talking about illegal replicators of software, manufacturers of clothing and electronic gear, etc. These are generally set-up in semi-legal factories somewhere where anti-pirating laws are either ignored or nonexistent. They have workers and a payroll and even pay taxes - they just don't actually originate their products, and probably put someone else's logo on them.

"Unauthorized Users" are wholly different - but at least in the U.S. and in particular online in the U.S. they aren't differentiated from the pirates. They should be. It should be a licensing issue: if you are caught using or freely distributing something with an EULA that forbids "free" use you should be forced to pay for the number of units involved - nothing more. And of course there should be the option of using license agreements that allow free use if the owner/creator wishes.
Some pirates literally believe in competition rather than businesses running defunct business models, and expecting us to pay whatever they charge. It isn't that most have no money, it is that the charges are too high for our money.
How many years ago could you go see a movie for 5 bucks or less? Remember a $1 theater? Now movies are typically 10-15 bucks, and I haven't seen a 3d movie that they charge less than 15. I was going to go see one the other day and it was $20 per person.
There is a surplus of content out there right now-- too many books, too many movies, bands, art.. too much to choose from for any except the obviously successful to be able to charge premium prices.
Yes, if you create ANYTHING that isn't a premium product but you charge premium prices, it is desirable, but not for what you charge-- yes, people are going to pirate your work.
I find it refreshing to see more and more artists, in many different forms (music included) coming to this realization and embracing the new ways of doing business, rather than desperately holding on to the old ways. In the end, the folks who have the most to lose here are not the artists, they're the labels and old-school, old media distribution vehicles which are no longer necessary and simply hold closed the doors that technology has opened. Well said. And nice photo. And, I did pay for the HDR Tutorial :)
Exactly +Trey Ratcliff! When I was a student, I used to buy bootlegged versions of video games. But now that I have the means, I always buy the original. More people should think like you! \(^0^)/

Also, I'm not a photographer. I follow you because you don't have to be a photographer to admire amazing photos. =)
Trey, that's a great post! I am not a creative, so I might miss something, but fact is digital products can be copied 100% (that was not true in the age of analog) and will, regardless of what you may try to prevent that. Fighting this fact is something akin to the sheet music publishers fighting recordings in the very early 20th Century. Obviously, creative people have to pay the rent, so, somehow, they need to make money to keep creating, but your strategy is admirable, and it seems to work! Of course, if you are a gazillion dollar business which grew on stuff like physical, analog products that were essentially unique, this new twist won't work. But should we really worry about the gazillion dollar guys, instead of accepting that we are now living in different technological age and have to come to terms with "pirating" -- i.e., doing what is technically possible (and practically unpreventable), but creating a new business model that is adapted to reality? It looks somewhat similar to the great fight over software copy protection in the late 80s and early 90s. The copy protectors lost, but nobody went starving as a consequence...
I haven't seen anyone who takes piracy so positively .. this is amazing Trey. I haven't pirated any of your works though, but yes the free information and inspiration what you are providing on your website is priceless too, you are my HDR guru forever :) :) :)
I didn't know your work until this post. Your comments inspired me to check out your art and I am blown away by the beauty you have captured. I can't buy something today but your art has been added to the short list of artwork I wish to purchase.
+Trey Ratcliff Remember Wayne´s World? I am feeling inclined to drop to my knees and do the head-in-the-ground and the arms-coming-up-and-down thing! What a beautiful way to say it. It really is a very buddhist wheel-of-life thing. What goes out comes back in, right? I wish you a million Rickshaws come to your door and present you an offering each. Peace.
I agree fully with you Trey - somehow in many instances, life defies 'theoretical' logic...
I had all kinds of words to put here, but I'm opting for this cheesy shape instead to convey my feelings: ❤
+Trey Ratcliff, I love the fact that you share not just your body of work, but your mind as well. It is an excellent perspective and one that I've seen you write about in the past. This time, there is more meat to your ideas. Thank you, and thanks for this gorgeous view of an every changing place.
Well put +Trey Ratcliff ! When are you planning on launchng your crusade to get Sid Meier started with Alpha Centauri 2 & Gettysburg 2? ;)
To me point 4 is very important. Buying is easier than pirating. And everyday time becomes more important than money. I used to pirate every thing (like music, or videos) but now than I can buy it on-line with a click, I don't spend my time searching on bit-torrent or emule or megaupload. I pay 10 euros and save a 1 hour searching on internet. If your spare hour doesn't worth 10 euros, you must be really poor, so, don't worry, you can pirate.
Well it's not that "separate" point of view +Trey Ratcliff :-) Just few weeks back I've read article about "power of Photoshop". Along all different thesis, there was one that point out (trough research) that popularity of Photoshop is such high also because of piracy. Plenty young folks with empty pockets is getting illegal copies of that software and after few years they are just "all in" for Photoshop. When time comes for buying software for their company they just go straight for Photoshop that they know very well from pirated source.
To be completely fair - I don't believe that this is a main factor of PS popularity (it's just great soft) but i'm sure that serious chunk of PS users pirated it before they bought it.
I belive it was Bill Gates that said: "I don't care if they using pirated version of Widows as long they're using Windows"
I've read previous posts where you say that piracy is the cost of doing business, but I feel that the rest of these points bring home the idea that people who are pirating your work are your fans, not your enemy.
Extremely refreshing take on this issue +Trey Ratcliff! I agree to 100%! I also think that many of the big software companies might share your views and strategic thinking (although not officially of course).
The problem with "pirates" where created because none of the big companies are taking the distribution part seriously. You have to make it easier to download and buy legally AND on TIME!

No one buys an old newspaper!
That's pretty much the same logic +Dave Beckerman told me about why he doesn't worry about people "stealing" his photographs.
plant a seed... just like inception. hopefully not too many levels though, that movie was confusing!
About this piracy matter I'm totally agree with you Trey, however I'm a little bit surprised hearing this from you.
I live in Sweden, where also the founders of thepiratebay comes from, and this has become a very loaded political debate here.
I'm not happy with the anti-piracy organizations that thinks they have the right to hunt and sue common people like they was big criminals just for downloading stuff.
However I'm very happy to support your work by buying some e-Books at +FlatBooks I can afford paying that price, and I really like that it's just plain PDF's files without any DRM damage, so I have the freedom to read it on any of my computers and devices without any technical trouble.

As usual, that's another awesome photo!
We need more people like you around.
What an incredibly depressing comments feed to read.
You are absolutely correct +Trey Ratcliff - the only surefire way to avoid piracy is never to post anything on the web ever! We just have to live with it.
Well said! That's progressive thinking. And another case in point for creative commons, check out the pretty successful feature length animated film "Sita Sings The Blues" (available on youtube) and its creator's story.
The thing is that you make very populist mass market appeal images, so that kind of strategy works because there is a big enough market to financially cream off a sizeable chunk to earn a good living. All I would add is that no-one should take for granted their popularity. Yes life is long..but fashions come and go. Too much of something is never good. Everything has a shelf life.
Great attitude, I admire both your work and your thoughts on copyright. It's a shame the music labels and film studios don't understand this dynamic.
Good post.
Hits the nail on the head for me: "If I downloaded you illegally when I was 21 and broke, then I'll make a point of buying you when I'm 31 and comfortable". Of course, there are many who will not follow this philosophy, and will instead just go on downloading illegally.
Yeah, I'm not so sure.

I think you're totally off. Like another said in a response above, people won't buy after they know they can get it for free. Planting seeds? I don't think the soil you're using is as fertile as you believe it to be.

Please don't think I'm being rude, I don't intend to offend by this comment but I think your stance should be reconsidered. All in all, nice photograph. I love the monotone approach and the significance of red in the image.
That is definitely not true. I have purchased products that I have pirated before. Sometimes, you just want to try it out to see if it is worth $60, $100, $1000! Software is a big investment, and being asked to pull the trigger without use or only via "demo" software that does not really do anything is insane.

Also, its 2011. Offer alternative intensives to fund the software (aka games with custom skins, etc). People need to be original instead of complaining that the half century old method of software marking doesn't work any more.
I think its free publicity in some way. People See your work, like it and more people see it from them. Sometimes the cost of making a name is worth more than the $$$ you could make in the moment. Besides, how many clients out there are happy with a watermarked image off your web site? as long as they can put it up on facebook or some other social media site they are happy. The watermark only advertises you and could bring in more work by those who saw the copied image on that site. It's definitely a double edge sword, cut with one edge and you make money.. cut with the other and you make a name for yourself. The key is knowing which edge to cut with in the moment.
+Graham Tucker Oddly enough the open source market does make money off voluntary contributions (maybe not as much, but I have seen their projects expanding off donations eg. Linux Mint). Many people, given the choice, will voluntarily pay for software they use (I do, for Android apps I find really useful, I make the donation). A survey done in the last year of software offered for free asking for any donation for what people thought it was worth showed an interesting stat that the Linux users on average donated more money than their Windows counterparts (see Point is though, there is a market of people willing to pay, and many people feel a moral obligation to pay for something they find useful. Yes there are those that will abuse it, but they would most likely abuse it and steal it anyway (until they saw the light later that is).....
Jenny A
Back when I had a Commodore 64 and 128, I would "borrow" copies of disks to try out the software. It saved a lot of money when I could see first hand how some software was truly crap, while others were well worth the money. With music, there are a lot of bands that are from other countries and I have no way to legally buy them. Of course I'm going to pirate their songs until such time I can buy them and support their music.
+Trey Ratcliff

I think you hit the nail on the head there.

But you don't seem to have mentioned anything about people passing off your work as their own?

Its one thing sharing your work, I try and do that when ever I can, but its another when your work is passed off as somebody else's.
Very good post, very unusual position :) Your position on sharing your work is very ... innovative I think. Very in line with the "new media era"
Whatever happened to the concept that stealing is wrong?
You got me running to your website to buy something to support your model and because your a very talented ;-)
I never stole tic tacs or anything from a store, but thanks for the tip. If I pirate the books, I will have extra money to spend on someone else's book!
I think Cory Doctorow put it best when he said that, for just about any producer of content and especially if they are not established, the problem is not piracy, it's obscurity. With the incredible amount of content being published today, thanks to the Internet, it's getting harder and harder for anyone to get noticed. So allowing (or tolerating) the free movement of your works is a great way to become known.

Just to contradict +Dean Watts, there are authors of books who make a very good living from giving their books away. Case in point being Cory Doctorow himself, who gives away all his books in electronic format, yet sells the hard copies. Ever since he started doing this, he's seen his sales go up, rather than down — something that seems to contradict "classical" business models that insist on locking down IP and making sure you pay copyright for humming a song in your bath if the neighbour can hear it through the wall.

As another poster commented, this also works very well for bands, especially the smaller ones that need to attract an audience because they don't have Big Media behind them to do their marketing for them: they music is freely available, but people pay to go to the gigs, but merchandise, and so on.

I'll just conclude this by saying that I disagree with the redefinition of the word "theft" foisted upon everyone by the MAFIAA. In order for theft to have occurred, there has to be both an act of taking that deprives the rightful owner of the use of the stolen thing, as well as the knowing intention of doing so. Merely copying someone's digital work, be it a book, a photo, a game or a song, does not deprive the owner of the work from using it, selling it, or doing anything else with it. The assertion that the existence of another copy prevents the sale of said copy is fallacious at best, intentionally misleading at worst, and is not borne out by any serious scientific study to date.

Oh and — copying bits around the place is what computers and the Internet do. It's not going away, SOPA notwithstanding, and it's time to think of models that work, rather than lament the passing of the ones that don't.
Certainly a thought provoking post. Though the subject is too large to be fully covered in 5 bullet points, there are some important truths and realities expressed here that deserve thoughtful consideration.
Paulo Coelho feels the same way. He has gotten in trouble with his publisher for seeding torrents of his books. He claims he has sold more books thanks to piracy...
No matter what you do people will find a way to pirate if the like it and can't afford it. The worst thing corporations are doing is this DRM setup. In the end they usual cripple the folks who buy it legally and the pirates still get their hands on it eventually.

I couldn't afford +Trey Ratcliff's DVD tutorial and I mentioned that I thought it was over priced. Of course people bought it so it was clearly over what I could afford. So when the downloadable version came out, rather than look for torrents I got three other photographers to put together and buy it. It's still illegal as we didn't buy multiple copies for each person, but I wanted to support Trey's effort as well as learn, so we put what we could.

If I had an iPad I would have his Stuck on Earth App as well even if I had to pay for it, and not just so I could hear +Karen Hutton's lovely voice but also to support his work.

Everyone won't think like I do, but all you need is a small percentage of the world to support you, and so long as you are giving back to them they will continue to stand behind you over the years.
You have obviously hit a chord that resonates!!
I was reading this just before running my Civ III disc. Good ol' Sid has never left me down.
m(_ _)m
I bow before you. Great article.
Good points..... affordability is the huge issue why people opt for pirated stuff. Fans will definitely buy originals if they can afford it... especially hardcore ones!!.....
I have one thing the pirates don't, unlimited imagination (You are free to copy this and call it your own.)
Well it's no fun if you approve. : ) But I think this is really smart.
+Trey Ratcliff i am going to disagree with you on the third point. It's hard to buy stuff when you are so used to pirating it. Nobody likes spending money that could have avoided spending no matter how rich you are. You are an exception. Take a poll of people who started pirating few years back, and ask them if they have started paying for stuff.
I used to pirate music and now I pay for it. I'm sure I'm in the minority, but there it is.
+Trey Ratcliff I love your positive view towards humanity. It's exactly what the world needs. Letting the pirates not hurt you by stepping aside or even invite them; in Aikido I learned this is the most efficient way to drain energy from an 'attack'. Trey, let me guess: if you are 'religious' you must be an open-minded Buddhistic Taoist, right? :)
I love your approach, and you never know what good could potentially come for someone as a result of your work. Thanks for sharing your work! I enjoy your pics very much :)
+Trey Ratcliff Would you also say you are saving money not putting anti-pirate techniques into place? It is probably peace of mind not worrying about it and going with the flow! Thank you for all you do!
+Travis Cobb You are not the minority! I did the same and most of my friends did the same. Now we pay for it.
Creative Commons is a lot better than copyright because it gives you a lot more flexibility in a changing world. Copyright is a financial gravy train for publishers and the like and very little is for the benefit of the artist.
Your picture intrigues me. The rickshaw proprietors are like taxi cab drivers in my country - they sit around and interact whilst waiting for customers. The building itself is brilliant and I can't stop looking at it. Thank you.
This post went a little more crazy than I expected with the response. I wrote it on the plane in about 20 minutes... just an idea I had. It's of course the way I feel; I just never shared it publicly.

+Jos Cocquyt Interesting that +Paulo Coelho feels the same way... I love The Alchemist. I try to get all my friends to read it....

+Simon Matthews Yes I heard Louis CK talking about that on NPR - He's my kinda guy!

+Joe Mezzanini I don't even know if "stealing" is the right word. That word was created around something of a finite supply. With bits, they can be copied forever. It's kind of like "stealing water from an ocean."

+Daniel Sjostrom Yes - let's use this as a closet-marketing campaign to get +Sid Meier to make Alpha Centauri 2!

And there were a few commenters above that were confused about images being "pirated" by big corporations. That's not really piracy... piracy is more an individual thing. When corporations take my image and use it commercially, then we go down a different, more formalized path of using the law to force corporations to do the right thing. Note, however, that 99% of corporations do the right thing when it comes to licensing images.
Dear +Trey Ratcliff I guess you know what Paulo Coelho has to say about piracy. He also saw an increasing of selling books in certain countries after being pirated in this language. Your business model is interesting. What would you think about being pirated by a magazine or a big company? I think there is a difference in the intention of piracy or let us call it thievery. In Germany there is an intense discussion about copyright laws at the moment. Lots of my photojournalistic friends should sign total buy contracts with magazines and earn less and less money for very hard work while the magazines earn more and more money online. I am not working for magazines anymore because they treat me with disrespect. But I can effort it. In the end it is all a question about the business model.
Well said, +Trey Ratcliff! I'm a hobbyist software developer hoping to make it on my own one day, and I couldn't have put my thoughts on the matter better. Great read!
I used to download everything I could when I was young and poor. Now that I am older and have income, I purchase 100% of everything I want. So I must agree with Trey's post. From a consumer's perspective. I do think there are some pirates that are not merely poor consumers but rather unscrupulous business people that steal in order to make a larger profit. I disagree with that level of piracy.
ZOMG! This kind of thinking is ruining the business! We must take action now to punish pirates and protect our pricing structure that has not adjusted itself to include the drop in costs of production due to technology thereby allowing us to pocket the difference as pure profit! This will destroy art and western civilization as we know it! It's the END OF THE WORLD!

...Nah, just kidding. I'm all over this, think the same way....
Well said +Trey Ratcliff and great to see a follow up to the thoughts from +Leo Laporte on the latest TWIT episode. I think it is a simple case of people will pirate when it suits them but will kick up a big fuss if there own stuff is pirated. Will be interesting to see how many creatives/creators pirate the software they use and then moan about people stealing their work
You're just a great guy Trey. Can I get a 30% coupon code and I'll buy your videos. :)
Agree as well with what +Trey Ratcliff said. But what if your photos are stolen and sold ?
In one of the comments someone asked if it was ok to be you, ie stealing your work and pretending it is his work and not yours.

I just found out one of my photos on a Russian website being sold as a wallpaper. I don't have time (I'd rather read your stream ^^) or don't want the hassle to contact this Russian website. I don't even know if they actually manage to sell their stuffs (which are not theirs anyway). At least they could give away for free what they steal from others.

Somehow, fortunately, not all can be stolen. The relationship you have with the photograph, the memories, the feelings, etc, remain.
Great article. Think about how much money you save, not trying to force litigation to solve pirating of your product or taking special measures to make pirating more difficult.

Digital theft is near impossible to actually fight. I'm pretty sure big name companies spend millions of dollars trying to stop piracy, but the reality is that all you need is one smart person to break that protection and it gets leaked online anyway.

Plus with globalization and the sheer size of the market, you often don't need to have every patron to be a paying customer in order to have a steady revenue stream.
I think people confuse intellectual property with real property. Just because, as Trey puts it "bits, they can be copied forever" doesn't mean it's not stealing. It's not the bits being stolen, it's the skills and talent that created them that is being stolen.

Why not get a song and duplicate it and give it away - what about movies?

The fact that someone is not being paid for work they did is the issue. Sure, 1's and 0's can be copied and taken, but that does not justify copyright violations. Why not take a patent ? After all, the patent document is still there if you used it instead of the patent holder?

I see tons of piracy at the college I work at, and these kids see nothing wrong with it - because they are just "duplicating it and not stealing." They agree that it's ok to pirate Photoshop because they are just making a copy of it and Adobe makes enough money anyway. Since they do not actual steal the DVD and only download the file - then they say it's okay.

Some software developers create freeware with hope that users will buy from the rest of their product line. That's a different story and I think has worked for many.

In my opinion, people that are okay with piracy are either content creators who realize that they cannot stop piracy and they are looking at the good side of it, or they are pirates themselves, who want to justify their actions.

I think this is a great topic because we often discuss piracy in class and it's amazing the ethics most of our students lack when it comes to this.

Even though our college will pay for a license for any Microsoft product, they choose to pirate their MS software claiming it is way easier to do than getting a legit copy.
Very, very cool. I really respect you, Trey.
It is difficult to agree with. Thank you for good food for thoughts.
Well said....I always hope my images move someone else and not just me.
Hey, I'm a supreme optimist myself, but with all due respect, I think one of your primary arguments is flawed. "Pirates are not cretins riddled with immoral behavior in every part of their life. These are all generally good people who would gladly support me, their friendly local neighborhood artist, if they could easily afford it. They can't now, but they will be able to some day... I give them something now, and they will give me something later." This may be true for some pirates, but it is certainly not true for all. I have several acquaintances who are professionals making 6 figures a year who still pirate virtually all of their music and movies -- because they can, and because there is no downside to it. They are generally good, law-abiding family people, but they somehow seem to thing that it's perfectly OK to pirate artists' work.
That may be true +Garry McCarthy, but the point still remains that that percentage of people is still small and doesn't impact his income enough to worry about it.
I do love your attitude and I do believe if most folks had enough money, they would not steal things, however, I do not like that people take those things for granted and just help themselves without asking.
Trey Ratcliff's model suits him and his market but is dangerous in the heads and hands of money rich businesses who get rich by exploiting other people's intellectual property cheap or for free. Those money rich businesses (take News International or Google as an example) and 1% individuals who run them do not want Trey's mass appeal images, they want photos which most people find extemely boring but make their companies rich and that type of image is not wanted by anyone for free except those who make money out of using them. Such images are often produced by photographers who are on the breadline and copyright is the only thing there is to protect these creators.
Well said +Trey Ratcliff , our art/literature site has been pirated many times and copied daily. This actually improves our traffic more than hurt. As much as we can be uncomfortable with pirating, in a way, it is a compliment from people doing the copying. As you said, hopefully someday they will come back to do some honest business we can appreciate. Cheers! :)
I completely agree with what you're saying except for one thing - your arguments can also be used to support using a Creative Commons Commercial license (as I do). That way you reduce the friction by one step (the step of wondering if you're commercial or not), and help budding startups maybe.
Trey, Interesting take on piracy, especially viewing them as a channel of promotion, and not some low-life cretins.Love your posts and pictures.
you are truly amazing! love the way you see things in your photographs and life!
Great post, and a great way of thinking.
Trey, your intelligence and outlook inspire as much as your images. Keep it up!
I look up to you +Trey Ratcliff! im a 3rd generation photographer that still struggles with HDR, getting the right shot to HDR, affording the sessions software and tutorials you offer, and could easily pirate your software but try to find ways to get the job done without doing so. i greatly appreciate this article & am always looking forward to your next work. Like i posted on facebook your a god among men (of photography) and for what it counts i think your awesome! lol. Good day and see you @ the top soon!
You are absolutely right. I had several versions of pirated photoshop. I am finally at a point in my life where I could afford it, so I bought it. Before I paid for it, I only messed around a bit with it. Now that I have a legit copy, I am buying books and all kinds of media to learn more and I can't seem to learn enough so I will be looking for more ways to get better at using it.
+Trey Ratcliff this is a very well written piece. Many of the reasons you mention are in relation to individuals. How do you feel when your work is pirated by not for profit orgs? How about for profit orgs?
piracy will never be stopped. it will always be out there. almost everyone either at one point has done it or knows someone who has. i like treys views on the subject and how he approaches it. it makes sense, i want to say its unfortunate ppl pirate but we are only human.
Hey Trey, sorry to comment twice. I started reading your blog after seeing this post, and you really have some amazing art. But when I came across this entry ( ) it really sort of brings home my earlier point. That big bronze statue you mentioned... well, that's physical product. They can't just take it, they have to pay for it. Digital art is "up for grabs"... and considering the Airport isn't selling the art, I think they're correct that it's non-commercial (even if it's on display at an airport). That's the big issue and the slippery slope when it comes to piracy and fair use.

Working in the software field, it's an issue near and dear to me, so I might be overly sensitive. But I still think ignoring it isn't the answer.
We were there at the last photo! When we went to adopt our daughter, we stopped and did some sight seeing a few days before we met her. Since we were in a hurry, many of my photos did not benefit from a lot of planning since I was unaware of exactly where we'd be at any particular time. Thanks for sharing your shots! You're right about pirating, in the long term it works out. I look forward to seeing more of your work!

Trailblazer +Trey Ratcliff. You can't fight technology, so he made it his friend. Smart move. All digital content is headed the same way. (I should know. I'm a writer.) Trey's approach is not the problem. The problem is schools graduating students to crushing debt instead of the lucrative jobs they were promised.
+Trey Ratcliff That's a generous and smart "pay will come" attitude. When I first came to China over six years ago, I was extremely uncomfortable using torrents to download TV shows and movies. The TV shows maybe less so because they're "free" anyway, right? But I was a huge moviegoer back in the states, so downloading movies still makes me feel queasy even today. But I do it simply because I truly have no other way to keep up with my native culture. Thanks for making me feel a little less guilty!
Very interesting reading all these comments... Thank you.

I'm interesting in +Nilay Patel 's side as well... he seems to think there is another solution out there, but no one has come up with it yet. That may very well be the case... I'm open to hearing a clever idea that emerges from the ether.
Just within the past couple weeks I had some ideas about income based pricing for digital media. In today's economy it can be impossible for people to buy a full price Photoshop or similar program, then on the other hand the really successful people probably don't think twice about the full price.

The hard part of an income based system is verification of income. I really don't think it would be hard to convince the companies offering software etc that this would be a great benefit to them, especially the early adopters.. The consumer would see them as the robin hoods of software and flock to them.
Trey, what you are talking about in your article with regards to your work is not piracy if you have licensed your work CCNonCom. People who copy such work for their own use are not pirates, they are simply accepting your invitation to copy for non-commercial use. Pirates are those who copy it and then make money of it without permission or retribution.
Also your point about people paying when they can, it's possible that some do but I've yet to see any figures that shows this to be the norm. Once people get something for nothing they need to have a huge jump in income before they'll pay and then they will generally do so only if it's easier. I've seen studies that show that and it's more in line with human nature. I would think that people who can afford Internet access have the means to pay but many don't.
What I do agree with is that piracy does not necessarily impact sales for the artist. There's plenty of evidence of that too if you look at the fashion and food industries neither of which are protected by any kind of licencing laws but rake in more money for the people working in that industry than all the other industries combined (music, books, photography).
Makes total sense. Especially points 2 and 3... I always used open software which lives from donations and for a long time, I really didn't have money to send them somewhere when it wasn't really necessary.
Then, when I got money, I made a list of those softwares and I send money to creators of each software I use, including online services (like Wikipedia) - not because I had to, but simply because I like that softwares, they proved to be really helpful for me and I wanted to pay for them, so when I could, I did. And, of course, I was telling my friends all the time, that those softwares are really good and some of my friends had money and they love freeware, so they donate everything they use simply from principle, so I believe that I made some good free advertisements also.

On the other hand, I admit that I didn't payed for some softwares I had to crack to use them, because they were treated like we-are-huge-corporation-screw-customer product and this corporation wanted me to pay for it before I could even try if that software is what I need (no "shareware" or "demo" anything like that) - they simply pissed me off, why should I support them. Especially those, who sell their product just for one machine and not to user, that is really fuck-off from them (thanks Google for Android Market - everything I buy is on my account and when I switch my phone to new one, it simply copy itself automatically to this new device, no charge... that is correct way how to sell software)
+Trey Ratcliff I really love your paradigm.It is refreshing...and just right. I feel it in my bones how right it is. It is the spirit of generosity.

When I first started putting some pictures online I got caught up in the copyright infringement mania that was going on here on G+ at the time. I was paranoid that people were going to steal my images and take credit for them, and that somehow, if they did that, I would lose out. And I'm just an uber noob - who'd even want my pictures?? I even got upset when I heard about people "stealing" your and other artists images. I had to step back and take a look at that and ask myself why I was getting bent out of shape for others, but that's another story.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, I read or heard your philosophy and it all clicked into place. I felt a sense of peace about it all and I stopped being afraid of it. And now when I see people posting about that fear, I just move on. I don't read about it, I don't give it any attention. I just go on with my day. And I have a much more enjoyable experience as a result. So thank you for being so open and generous about this issue.

And honestly, who hasn't stolen some_thing_ at one point or another in their life? It's just not that big of a deal. Life is too short to stress over this. Sure, someone may make a buck or two selling pirated work, but they're not likely to get rich off of it.
How many of the Pakistani guys who have circled +Programming Android bought the book? Maybe none. But someday, some of them will work for a company big enough to buy a Safari Books subscription, and I'll get some revenue from that. I have to trust my publisher has built multiple channels that fit different customers and regions best.

When we were first writing +Programming Android, we used the Open Feedback Publishing System and essentially wrote the book "in public." That appears to have contributed a lot to the strong launch of the book, the large number of positive reviews, and continuing strong sales.

So I can attest that doing things, like putting your manuscript on the Internet while writing a book, that have significant risk of contributing to piracy can pay off far more than the piracy has cost.
Totally agree! I'm with you and Leo!
Wise choices, Trey. The same can be said for the broken music industry model. Artists who embrace the opportunity to expose consumers to their music for free reap the benefits by attracting more and more fans via word of mouth, merchandise and concert attendance. Why shouldn't photography reap those benefits in the same way? It's the direction technology is taking us and we can either innovate along with it, or be left behind. Cheers! - r
That is why you are the real deal Trey Ratcliff! Great article, nteresting prospective and plenty of meat to chew on. Thanks for all that you do & share with the world. Your art is gorgeous and I am sure your personality brightens up a small part of it. Would love to meet you one day...just because.
I just +1 this article and it took it into the New Year 2012! hahah Happy Freakin New year!
Awesome point of view. And I'm sure that you'll get even more support because of it.
Damn, where's the "Like" button...
+Trey Ratcliff Have you ever been to the 鼓楼(gǔ lóu) Street and the 古文化(gǔ wén huà) Street in Tiānjīn?
+Trey Ratcliff, why you don't just give your training videos and ebooks for free and ask donations for them? If you don't mind people pirating your work, you should give it for free, and when pirates will have more money will donate something.

By the way I'm thinking of switching to a Creative Commons license too.
I really appreciate all of the work you have put out, all that you have taught me, and the thoughts you provide. I will most definitely be buying and supporting your work.
I was running a search on seeds when this post popped up. I'm already a big fan, so I read it. Thank you for sharing your work, and for being the type of forward thinking pioneer that creates new ways for the world to love art. Imagine, being almost grateful to your fans that love your work enough to steal it. So glad to have found you on G+. 
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