Intellectual piracy is bad for business, yes, but also inevitable—and companies fare better when turning it to their advantage, the Economist reports. The large (and illegal) volume of music and video exchanged online, for example, can reveal who’s popular in which countries. And Microsoft, which officially battles piracy, also derives massive benefits from bootlegging of Windows.
Coming down hard on OS copycats could turn customers toward open-source software, Bill Gates admitted last year. "It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not,” he said. Piracy can also spark innovation, in everything from music remixes to shoe marketing, says the author of a new book on piracy: “The best way to profit from pirates is to copy them."