Could illegal downloaders become positive customers?

Piracy is an act committed online that rarely receives much positive attention, and has been attributed to many issues - reduced revenue for musicians, games developers and movie producers, etc. According to Douglas C. Merrill, speaking at keynote speech in Sydney, Australia, pirates might not be as major a problem as many ISPs portray them. As TechSpot reports, Merrill's views were recorded during the speech. As a former employee with EMI Music (at present, one of the largest music companies globally as well as a member of the RIAA), as well as an ex-Google CIO, Merrill claims to have profiled LimeWire users.

His findings were surprising: these LimeWire users were among the largest spenders on the iTunes Store. He also said he did not believe that the pirates should be punished for their downloading due to this discovery he made. This is not the first time that Merrill has made pro-piracy statements. During a 2008 CNET interview on the subject, he had the following to say:

"Obviously, there is piracy that is quite destructive but again I think the data shows that in some cases, filesharing might be okay. What we need to do is understand when it is good…suing fans doesn't feel like a winning strategy."

At the keynote speech in Sydney, Merrill continued to share these views that the pirates may not be as much of a blight on the market as would be expected. He compared the process of suing fans that have downloaded music illegally as being akin to "selling soap by throwing dirt at your customers". Merrill's sarcastic sense of humor was displayed when he made the following remark at the keynote speech:

"That's not theft, that's try-before-you-buy marketing and we weren't even paying for it… so it makes sense to sue them,."

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