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Angry Birds boss: Piracy helps us 'get more business'

Slams music biz's 'terrible' attempts to crush pirates

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Music industry chiefs must have been pleased to hear that the maker of pig-squishing iPhone game Angry Birds has learned from its mistakes in combating piracy.

Contrasting the music industry's ignore-then-crush approach to piracy to his own softly-softly approach with Angry Birds, Rovio chief Mikael Hed told assembled music insiders at the Midem Music Conference in Cannes that things could have worked out better if they had only chilled out.

"We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy," Hed said in a speech reported by the Guardian.

He said:

Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day...

... We took something from the music industry, which was to stop treating the customers as users, and start treating them as fans. We do that today: we talk about how many fans we have.

If we lose that fanbase, our business is done, but if we can grow that fanbase, our business will grow.

Though the speech has been reported as a "hey piracy's okay" statement, it's worth noting that the piracy that the Rovio bosses tolerated was around merchandise in Asia – small-scale stuff that Hed said it would be "futile" for the company to pursue through the courts.

"We have some issues with piracy, not only in apps, but also especially in the consumer products. There is tons and tons of merchandise out there, especially in Asia, which is not officially licensed product," he explained.

Though a few thousand fake plush toys could help win new fans to the franchise, in cases where Rovio felt like the pirates were harming the Angry Birds brand, or were ripping off its fans, he said it would be prepared to act. In other words: where the piracy actually affects Rovio's core business model.

Hed's comments on piracy were an aside at his Midem speech, which was primarily to announce his interest in doing content deals with music labels and getting music tracks into Angry Bird games:

Already our apps are becoming channels, and we can use that channel to cross-promote – to sell further content. The content itself has transformed into the channel, and the traditional distribution channels are no longer the kingmakers.

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