I read last week in the Telegraph online (here) that PayPal has agreed to act against Russian and Ukrainian websites offering unlicensed downloads, by cutting off their flow of payments from visitors. This got me thinking about the methods which the IFPI and the record labels have so far used to clampdown on piracy within the music industry.

There are two ways of motivating people to do what you want. One is to move them away from actions or beliefs and the other is to move them towards what you want.

When you try to move people away from a certain course of action then inevitably you find yourself focusing on more negative approaches – using pressures, or threats, or denying them access to something. This is the approach which IFPI and the record labels have used in their anti-piracy campaigns against illegal downloaders. Litigation against peer to peer services, litigation against consumers, campaigns to get ISP’s to shut down access to illegal sites, and now getting payment providers to withdraw their services to illegal sites.

This is I suppose understandable in the face of the wholesale piracy the Industry has had to face, but only if it is also part of a larger and greater campaign to incentivise consumers towards the kind of legal behaviour which IFPI and record companies want to bring about. There are still less than 500 legitimate licensed services worldwide, which is not enough to tip the balance of consumers’ behaviour in their favour. Seemingly, record companies do not spend enough time strategising on how to deliver to consumers what they really want and talking directly with them about what would incentivise them to behave differently.

The result of focusing on tactics calculated to move consumers “away” from illegal behaviour is that any compliance is grudging and likely to be short term in its behaviour. Using more positive tactics calculated to move consumers “towards” legitimate behaviour would be more likely to build volition and a longer term commitment to doing the right thing.

So, getting Paypal to shut down access to illegal Russian sites is fine, but if the Industry wants to “negotiate” successfully with consumers then initiatives like this need to be balanced by more positive attempts to incentivise consumers to do the right thing. This would include opening up as many services as possible and encouraging consumers to do the right thing by engaging in dialogue and initiatives which have users’ interests at heart.