PROMOTE CREATIVITY

Let customers decide how to use and discuss your product.

Even if your business model involves selling or otherwise monetizing content, consider the costs and consequences of aggressively asserting your rights to control the use or distribution of that content, whether through legal or technological means. The law gives you tools to enforce rights to your content, but with this power comes the responsibility to use it wisely. Encouraging your customers to use your content or service in new and innovative ways may attract more paying users, while limiting their ability to enjoy your service could drive them to less restrictive competitors.

ENCOURAGE USERS TO CREATIVELY USE YOUR PRODUCTS AND CONTENT.
Encouraging your users to express their own creativity may draw more attention to your product and even lead to new strategies for generating revenue. Allowing and encouraging hacks, fan fiction, and other derivative works can support your user community—or even recruit a brand new user base around an adaption of your content or service.
Case Study

Twitter started out as a service that would only produce plain text. When Twitter users began using hashtags on the service, Twitter initially resisted calls from users to officially support them.

Twitter started out as a service that would only produce plain text. When Twitter users began using hashtags on the service, Twitter initially resisted calls from users to officially support them. As hashtags continued to become popular, Twitter reversed course and embraced them, leading to an explosion of their use on the service. Today, hashtags—and thus Twitter—are “everywhere” and “impossible to ignore in our society.”

EVALUATE THE IMPACT OF TECHNICAL LIMITS ON YOUR USERS.
Users may be dissuaded from using your product or service if their freedom is constrained by digital rights management (DRM) or other technical limits, especially if there is not enough “breathing space” to allow your customers to customize their own experience. In addition, user trust in your product may erode as customers realize that DRM is interfering with their expectations.
Case Study

Amid a “negative public relations tsunami,” Keurig was forced to roll back a redesign of its coffee-maker that prevented competitors’ coffee pods from being used with the product.

Amid a “negative public relations tsunami,” Keurig was forced to roll back a redesign of its coffee-maker that prevented competitors’ coffee pods from being used with the product. Online reviewers “rebell[ed]” against the change, and customers “voted with their dollars” against it. Keurig sales fell dramatically, leading the company to acknowledge its mistake and reverse its design decision.

Case Study

Apple was showered with praise from users and the press after it announced in 2009 that it would

Apple was showered with praise from users and the press after it announced in 2009 that it would no longer impose digital rights management (DRM) on new music bought through its iTunes store. CEO Steve Jobs called the decision to allow for the unrestricted copying of music files the “best alternative for consumers.” Apple was applauded for its efforts to “help shape the online future of the music business” by ditching a standard that had “never been popular with the public.”

CONSIDER THE FULL COSTS OF TECHNICAL LIMITS.
While the upfront costs of imposing technical limits on your products are fairly obvious and include both financial outlay and development time, the long-term costs can be more difficult to measure. In some situations, you may be forced to choose between maintaining or replacing an outdated system or facing outrage and even lawsuits from users who purchased devices or content that is suddenly unusable.
Case Study

In 2007 Google became the target of public outcry when it tried to close down its video service that incorporated DRM technology.

Because users would have been unable to continue to use their previously purchased content once Google terminated the service, Google was forced to fully refund all payments for the service as well as keep the service active for an additional six months.

ENSURE THAT ANY CONTROLS YOU USE CONFORM TO USER EXPECTATIONS.
Controls that directly interfere with your users’ expectations can drive those users away. If you do decide to impose technological limits, make sure you recognize how those limits will affect your users and avoid options that directly interfere with user experience.
Case Study

Microsoft was blasted as “gross, despicable, greedy, pathetic, cowardly and out of touch” after it announced a controversial policy that restricted sharing of games and required the console to connect to the Internet every 24 hours for games to

Microsoft was blasted as “gross, despicable, greedy, pathetic, cowardly and out of touch” after it announced a controversial policy that restricted sharing of games and required the console to connect to the Internet every 24 hours for games to work. “Things were looking bad” for Microsoft until the company fully reversed its DRM policies in response to “global outcry” and sluggish sales.

Case Study

In 2009, Kindle users were furious when they discovered e-Books including George Orwell’s 1984 were removed from their Kindles without notice.

In 2009, Kindle users were furious when they discovered e-Books including George Orwell’s 1984 were removed from their Kindles without notice. Amazon eventually explained that the deleted copies were improperly published in violation of copyright law and Amazon’s own licensing agreements, but users were still outraged that Amazon “corrected” the issue in a way that “felt a bit like theft.” The massive outcry over the “Orwellian” approach to addressing the problem forced Amazon to change its policy and promise that it would not recall even unauthorized copies in the future.

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