How To Win The War Against Piracy – It’s Not SOPA

In the wake of the recent trashing of the SOPA bill and the collective uproar that surrounded it, I’d like to investigate a few things relevant to us as online entrepreneurs, creativity and ownership.

Just in case you have been living under a rock and don’t know what I’m talking about, the US government recently tried to pass a bill to stop online piracy. If it had been passed, it would have allowed the US government to blacklist sites that sold counterfeit/pirated products, from fashion items to digital products to prescription drugs etc.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to clamp down on people illegally profiting from goods and services for which they don’t actually own the IP, production or design rights to… but there are a few MASSIVE failings in even trying to police who owns what… not to mention giving government the power to decide who to blacklist and why. (I won’t go into that last comment in depth here, too much to cover in one article and I could begin a serious rant.)

Ideas And Creativity Thrive On Freedom

In this article, I’m going to discuss a few of the key reasons why as online or offline entrepreneurs, IP can easily be a hazy area, and how the very essence of the Internet and all of our success thrives on the fluid and transparent sharing of ideas.

Whilst the internet was a-buzz with everyone writing madly about the SOPA bill, I read a post by one of my all time favorite authors, Paolo Coelho, and his thoughts on the SOPA bill and piracy.

Paolo Coelho’s Thoughts On Piracy

And how do I feel about this? As an author, I should be defending ‘intellectual property’, but I’m not. Pirates of the world, unite and pirate everything I’ve ever written!

The good old days, when each idea had an owner, are gone forever. First, because all anyone ever does is recycle the same four themes: a love story between two people, a love triangle, the struggle for power, and the story of a journey. Second, because all writers want what they write to be read, whether in a newspaper, blog, pamphlet, or on a wall.

The more often we hear a song on the radio, the keener we are to buy the CD. It’s the same with literature.

Some people will say: You’re rich enough to allow your books to be distributed for free.

 That’s true. I am rich. But was it the desire to make money that drove me to write? No. My family and my teachers all said that there was no future in writing.

Paolo Coelho

Piracy Doesn’t Hinder Creativity Or Influence

Coelho writes about something we’ve all heard from various mentors and peers before…

I’ve heard Seth Godin say plenty of times not to get hung up on people getting your information for free – it increases your outreach and influence and if you really give value and people like your work, they’ll buy it.

A bunch of well-respected and influential online entrepreneurs, including Yaro and Gideon tell us to give our best stuff away for free. People will always buy from us if they love what we’re doing and they’ll want more of what we have anyway. We don’t need to lose sleep about pirating if we’re offering amazing, high value work.

When Piracy Is A Problem

I’ll tell you where pirating does become an issue… if we aren’t creative enough to come up with your own content in the first place. Then if someone “steals” our ideas, we have to find a way to get more of them – no wonder people get worried about pirating – if you lack access to your own creativity, then finding new ideas is hard.

Even though it can be annoying watching everyone copy you, it’s no big deal, because you know you have the creativity to constantly come up with more new stuff.

Ever since I was a kid, I would do something creative with art, then anyone who couldn’t access their own creativity would copy me. I used to get quite annoyed by this, until I realized it’s just the way of the world, and I’m not exempt from doing this either.

It’s Not What You Own, It’s How Well You “Own” It

In fact, in this day and age, trying to claim “sole ownership” of any idea is a bit ludicrous. We’re all learning from each other, we’re all drawing insights and creative inspiration from each other all the time. The beauty and the power of the Internet is that it allows this incredible free flow of ideas and inspiration between people from all walks of life, all around the world.

The Internet has unleashed a level of creativity the world has never seen before and it’s amazing! I say – revel in it, don’t panic about it.

Seriously, this is important… if you know what you’re doing, and you’re amazing at what you do, you have no need to fear other people copying or stealing your ideas or work… you will be successful regardless. How many people do you think copy Seth Godin? Does it look like it’s bothering him or affecting his bottom line? Paolo Coelho, bless his heart, runs HIS OWN PIRATING WEBSITE for his books! God I love that man! And he reports that his sales continue to grow, to nearly 140 million copies worldwide.

How To Beat Piracy

The thing to remember is, we all know who Seth is, we all know who Paolo is, we know they create amazing content and we want to buy it from them. We’re buying them as much as we’re buying their content. We want to get a bit closer to the source… their unique creative expression comes from their connection with their own source of creativity. We all like it; we all want it.

We feel closer to it when we get it from people who have that connection to unique creativity within themselves. That’s why we buy the real thing from them even though we can get a pirated copy or a regurgitated copy of it that someone who lacks creativity has ripped off and tries to sell as their own. We can intuitively feel the difference between authentic creative expression and the power that has to influence and inspire us.

Passing laws to stop pirating is pointless and dangerous as it reeks of “big brother” type control of information and denying freedom of speech through the Internet.

If you really want to know how to handle the issue of pirating, take a leaf out of Seth or Paolo’s book. Become so gifted at what you do, find your own unique creative expression and share it with voracious passion and tenacious courage. Then piracy won’t bother you, you’ll be too busy being amazing and the world will love you for it.


About Neroli Makim

Neroli Makim is an intuitive artist and writer who loves exploring Creativity and its relationship to personal fulfillment and professional success. She educates people about Creativity, what it is, why it’s important and how to access it within themselves. For more information, visit

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  • Wow, brilliant. I like your perspective on the issue of pirating. I think if we see things from this form of light in a way it’s actually a blessing to have people steal our work. Thanks a ton for this article. Loved it.

    • Thanks Amtej, glad you liked it and found it good for a shif tin perspective, cheers, neroli 😉

  • Paul L.

    This is one of the dumbest things I’ve read in a long time.

    The argument made here is that piracy doesn’t matter because you can always come up with new ideas, and if you can’t come up with new ideas and someone steals from you it’s *your* fault for not being creative enough.

    The author writes, “…in this day and age, trying to claim ‘sole ownership’ of any idea is a bit ludicrous.” Piracy laws have nothing to do with copying of an “idea.” If someone spends a lot of time and money creating a zombie-themed romatic comedy movie and other people copy it by creating their own zombie-themed romatic comedy movie, that is not piracy and no one is trying to make it illegal.

    It is only when someone without permission makes a literal copy of the movie (or book or article) that the creator spent some much time and money making does it become a problem.

    • Wow Paul, “one of the dumbest things I’ve read in a long time”, that’s quite a comment. I guess i hit a raw nerve with you huh?

      So, you’re not keen on taking a leaf from Seth Godin or Paolo Coelho’s books and becoming so well respected and renowned in your work so piracy actually works for you instead of against you?

      That’s the essence of what this article is about, piracy can work for you instead of against you, but only if you put in the work and use your creativity to make it work for you. And these guys do have exact copies of their products copied and sold, it still works for them.

      It works on the same premise as fake Prada bags or other high end fashion items, even though fakes are available, it doesn’t make the real thing any less sought after or desirable. In fact, it just makes people want the real thing even more.

      It’s not you “fault” if someone steals your ideas. It is your “fault” if you whine about it and let the world slip through your fingers rather than spend the energy on continuing to captivate your audience with your innovation:)
      cheers, neroli

  • This is an interesting article, I agree that a true artist, more than anything else just wants their work to be seen. For the love of the art, not for the love of the profit.
    Obviously direct piracy is not OK, taking credit for others work. But free distribution is another story.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Kimmi. I think when someone puts in the work to create stuff that consistently wows their audience, eventually they reap the rewards…Paolo Coehlo is a good example of an artist who didn’t start doing what he was doing for the money, but it certainly came to him because he kept at it and poured his heart and soul into it.

      Cheers 🙂 neroli

  • Instead of SOPA, beat piracy with a better product. In general, you simply can’t kill piracy you can only hope to slow it.

    The best way to stop from piracy is to provide easy access to content so that piracy becomes a less tempting alternative.

    Nice post Neroli. I have learned something new. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

    • Thanks Rahul:) Glad you liked it, I think the way to beat piracy is by becoming so gifted at what you do, that your authentic work becomes so sought after that piracy isn’t an issue. Cheers, neroli

  • Hi Neroli…mindblowing and good one.

    As SOPA is nowadays hottest issues all over and everyone is worried if what happens if it passed.
    But I think cosidering public and also majority opinion nothing will going to happen what we are thinking as I am sure govt. will definitely come out with better alternative.

    Anyway thanks a lot for this but by this we get to learn lessons that it WE who are responsible behind this and its WE only who can and will STOP piracy. Now just need to act upon it seriously.

    • Hi there,
      I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of the government plans for internet control, and yes, hopefully, they come up with something better than the SOPA bill. I agree that it’s up to individuals to contribute to making the decision on how to deal with the issue and do what we can in our own ways to manage it as well, cheers 🙂 neroli

  • I get your argument Neroli and it does make a lot of sense. Seth Godin and Paulo Coelho are not the only two to practice that; Leo Babauta of is a prime example.

    However, I have to disagree with you slightly here. Piracy is not right and it can’t ever be. If I spend a lot of hard work working on my book and someone copies it and distributes for a fee, that is bad but I can overlook it. But when that happens and there is not trace of my name and the other author claims ownership of that product; that is the problem.

    If a situation like that exists (and it does all the time) it defeats the logic of your argument.

    No, SOPA is not the answer because that is like using a sub-machine gun to kill one mosquito, as we say here in Africa. But we need to tighten the laws a bit more than what exists right now.

    I am creative and I never lack ideas. I want my ideas to help people and to that end, I don’t care if they are pirated. But I also want my ideas to help me. And that is where piracy pinches.

    • Excellent Sharon. You really have a nice point of view. The way you presented your ideas will surely gonna help many people in the coming days. Good luck!!

    • Hi Sharon, that’s a funny phrase, “using a sub-machine gun to kill one mosquito” 🙂 You have a good point in regard to piracy, the truth is I don’t know how anyone can expect to police it though.

      The internet is massive, unless you can easily find someone then and create a case against them for pirating your work, it’s almost a waste of time. If you think about the time, money and energy spent trying to chase, catch and convict pirates, then imagine using those same resources for increasing your influence, then i think that increasing your influence is going to pay you better in the long run. One way you drain your resources, the other way you invest them in growing your profile and profits…

      I definitely don’t love the idea of my work being pirated, but if I can find a way to make it work for me rather than against me, then that would be the one I’d choose 🙂
      Thanks for your comment, it’s a well thought out and valid response, cheers, neroli

  • I like your thesis in this article Neroli, it’s something I have thought about a lot.

    It ties in with the idea that Gary Vaynerchuck likes to rave about – giving everything away – and he means everything. Of course having a business behind what you give away gives you a mechanism to profit from all the giving you do, which in Gary’s case has been his family wine business.

    I’ve pondered in the past what would it be like if instead of charging for the courses I created, I gave them away. I actually think that would have been potentially not as a good a result because by charging money people take action. When I give things away, because of the lack of pain, they generally don’t do as much.

    Of course that’s a slightly different topic, but related to what you write about here.

    I do wonder what the film and music industry would do if they gave away everything they created for free and allowed people to copy anything and everything. It costs a lot of money to produce a hollywood film, but if people can just download it for free from the Internet, which a lot of people do now, how do the artists get paid?

    There’s a transition happening now in these industries, thanks to the friction-free nature of the Internet, that is forcing the entertainment business models to change. I’m not sure what it will end up as, but right now I don’t think it’s sustainable long term. Unless people can get paid for creating their work somehow, they won’t be able to invest the time and resources into creating it.

    • I agree, artists need to get paid. After all, not everyone wants to be a “starving artist”… I know I sure don’t.

      But I think that the big industries that are so afraid of piracy need to take a different approach. I used to download music back in the day, but iTunes changed that. They made it easy for me to find music fairly cheaply and I soon purchased my entire music library. They added an additional revenue stream to the music industry and have practically made CDs obsolete. What has the movie industry done? Pretty much nothing aside from focusing on “ending” piracy.

      Why not make it easier for me to get a new release movie in my home? Services like netflix are moving in that direction, but I think a lot of piracy is just because people are lazy. It’s EASIER to download a movie as a torrent then to actually rent one! Once there’s an accepted way of getting the movies legitimately that takes just a few seconds (and doesn’t cost 8 bucks a pop) I think piracy will be lessened.

      But it will never go away. Just my too many cents.

    • Hey Yaro 🙂 Nice to see you! Hmmmm, i agree it’s a really tricky problem, artist’s do need to get paid, for sure. I’m certain there is a way around it, I don’t know what it is…I think different industries will need different ways of dealing with the issue.

      I totally agree that when you pay for something, like an educational course, it makes you use it or apply it more than if you got it for free. As much as we don’t like to shine a light in pain, it is by far the greatest motivator I’ve observed. Including myself, I’ve observed nothing drives people to take action quite like pain.

      It will be an interesting couple of years ahead to see how all these industries affected by piracy evolve, cheers, neroli

  • Piracy is wrong but so is blocking technology so that technology doesn’t carry forward to protect you business that isn’t advancing. Blocking technology from going forward is just as nefarious. Example: The patent problems involved in mobile phones. Competition between mobile phone producers is being reduced due to patents on things that in the past were not usually patented or patent-able. It is slowing the advance of technology because the cost associated with using patents, protecting patents or even determining the owner of alleged patents is so high. SEE Patent Trolls

    And for the record Napster made me buy more music than any other thing in the last 40 years of my life.

    • Hey Eran 🙂 Great example re Napster & buying more music, it’s the same with me and books, I totally want to buy the real book even if it’s free online somewhere if i love the author and their content, cheers, neroli

  • Wow…if this is the stupidest thing that somebody has read in a while, I guess that somebody is just too smart for this world.

    • Hey Daly 🙂 Yeah, it seemed a little over the top didn’t it? 🙂 cheers, neroli

  • No kidding. It’s impossible to keep anything private if you choose to put yourself out there. SOPA will not step piracy completely – people will always find some way to do it, because they are lazy – but it does raise awareness though.

    • Hi GB 🙂 I think raising awareness & getting people talking about a problem like piracy is a good step in the right direction…great comment, cheers, neroli

  • Max

    I always thought that making things cheap would prevent piracy much better then making fake statement about protecting people’s creativity and saving jobs.

    • It’s a tricky one hey Max? So long as piracy exists, we’re going to have to find creative ways to beat it…as far as I can tell, people have been trying to rip other people off for as long as we’ve been around…we just get smarter and better at finding ways to overcome it…I don’t think any government has ever been successful in completely wiping it out, cheers, neroli

  • Great article…OMG NEROLI…I did not read the comments before I wrote the below…WELL DONE got it one of your comments..:)

    But did you not all not know why the likes of Paul Coehlo , Gucci ,other famous brands and names make more money by being pirated..????? It is a trick to become more famous and make more money and they allow it and want it as it drives their brand…..I will give you an example..If I call a chocolate filling Irish cream , is it not as WOW calling it Baileys…Why has Bailey’s “the drink” never stopped us from using thier name??? and is so famous..? Although we do not use the real baileys drink , it is copied flavour. It drives overall sales and branding…Look what Champagne did ??? now that was dumb…it is now called sparkling wine here…the rich companies and people that allow pirating of thier ideas and creativity are smart , they know it makes them more famous and more some facts on this…Now take Grand Marnier , another company that will not allow pirating of ther name…So who sells more Baileys? Grand Marnier? and Moet is a thing of the past…

    Toblerone Icecream, Cherry ripe gelato…

    A fine balance is needed and being copied as our company has at times , we take as a compliment. In regards to technology it is just another medium and SOPA will not stop pirating….

    If any, it will create more black market…and more unethical people making money…like you say..If I read or hear something on the internet I will more than likely buy the product or being inspired to be creative in my own way. If I read a book it is the same…If I touch , feel or hear , or smell it will be the same…IT WILL INSPIRE my own..

    As for average famous writers they change the name and scene, but the theme is much the same…they could be considered pirates as well. here to stay…technology or not…I WILL GO my last history and wake up..

    Creativity and gifted…Any one ever been to Paris ? and seen the street artists ??? Then go visit a famous art musuem..such as the one in Zurich with all the Masters…who inspired them..are they pirates?

    Take a famous poet, he becomes more famous after his death, like Fernando Pessoa…he chose not to become famous..

    As for Lady GAGA…who is she copying or being inspired by??? Madonna of course..

    I really do not let anyone or anything bother me in relation to the above…
    In fact it is other creaters, that inspire my own because we admire these people and that is what they want if they are true in sharing their gift.

    @Yaro…I don’t see how piracy will ever stop…How many people I know that go to Bali and the USA and bring back copies of movies bought for $5…..and the USA want to pass this bill…
    It is ridiculous…people choose either way..

    Personally I prefer the real deal…

    Take music today…R & is all being reinvented from the 80’s and 90’s and we call it CHILLOUT music TODAY….

    the article is not DUMB…Americans are dumb..!!!! Pass a bill on what has been around for centuries…

    before cds there was LP.s…and now we have itunes…

    To end our comment..Willy Wonka ..says

    If every word, every adjective, every noun has beeen used in a sentence for lyrics , poems, movies and fiction, ….what happens then??? DO we now remain silent..???? Answer that one..

    SOPA…actually means SHUTUP in greek…TRUE.! :)))
    and yes I write my own poetry..I am inspired by my senses..
    maybe i will be famous when I am dead 🙂

    We do not own anything, except our integrity…!!!

    The war against piracy…the internet has some amazing postives, for some true artists that don’t have the money to become super wealthy or understand how to market themselves.. ..

    .Like hello, the movies that you are paying $15 to see today are all remakes, most of them…Is that piracy? they paid for all the royalties and rights…some don’t..!

    America just want to protect the fact that they are not the big stars anymore…Anyone can be a star and share..

    Cheers Neroli 🙂


    • Katherine H.

      Re: ideas. I think of what it was like here back in pioneer days, when the U.S. was younger. When you live in a place where nobody knows what anyone else is doing, whether anybody else steals your creative works only really matters to the people in your own sphere of influence–the distance you can deliver your book, perhaps, by Pony Express.

      Now that our sphere of influence is actually the whole wide world, I expect we might find that a LOT of people have ideas like ours, even if they’re not precisely the same. And because of that, it’s impossible to trace who actually had any idea first? (You’re right.) We all might have been first, even if we say or do things a slightly different way.

      I don’t know about you, but while I am in the process of learning things, I find I almost automatically look to people I admire in that sphere of influence and copy what they do. (It’s called having a hero–or maybe a mentor, if it’s planned.) And I may do that several times before I find myself starting to branch off on my own…

      (And no, it’s not about trying to pirate anything. The thing I copy can be something as simple as the way someone does their hair or the way they walk…)

      That’s part of life. As I approach older age, I’m starting to see my role in life as different than before, creatively speaking: I want to be a role model more than I want to be one who has to keep everything I do to myself.

      As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s a sign to me that what I do matters to others.

  • Stern

    “Even though it can be annoying watching everyone copy you, it’s no big deal, because you know you have the creativity to constantly come up with more new stuff.”

    ….which will also be pirated and stolen. Your argument makes no sense. Why should I continue creating more if it will immediately be stolen and I cannot make a livelihood from it?

    Furthermore, obviously I did create something if that something was pirated in the first place. So my creativity is not the question; if no one value my output, no one would pirate it. But they do. Repeatedly. Which is morally reprehensible.


  • Stern

    “Passing laws to stop pirating is pointless and dangerous as it reeks of “big brother” type control of information and denying freedom of speech through the Internet.”

    Expecting remuneration for the fruits of one’s labor is not censorship or denying freedom of speech. You have your freedom of speech; that has nothing to do with pirating intellectual property.

  • ThePhasePhantom

    I’ve never thought of piracy like this, I’ve always thought of it being a problem when people copy things and branch them off for free. (Music, Video Games, Movies, etc) on pirating havens. Even if you don’t distribute it, companies generally don’t like it when you “take” their stuff for free. That’s when companies get greedy and try to stop piracy. People sometimes pirate to kind of demo things, and buy the real thing later on. If you want to stop piracy you have to look at the other sides motivations. Pirates generally kind of go by the logic “Why pay when I can get it for free?” but remember, all pirates don’t go by malicious motives, some just want to try things out to see if it’s good, or to get a taste of things, sometimes it’s just collectors habit. Corporate Industries go by a kind of logic like “Pirating is stealing.” or something similar, so they want to stop people buying other stuff and just buy straight from the source. and the smart companies endorse it so that it raises awareness about it and gives the demand for the real thing. Without the copies though some people will never even know about that product. some people say that “Wannabe Ripoffs suck/have bad quality” which kind of drives things to the real thing. Some people just like to have the real thing. It’s really a confusing topic, but I like how in the game Arma 2, the FADE technology was introduced which allows illegal copies to be downloaded and played, but then slowly “degrades” to make certain aspects of the game break and eventually make it unplayable. Some companies like to be jerks about it and expose the pirates. You can react however you want to it but it will never stop and will always be a thing.

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