Piracy shouldn't be stopped, not ever. Piracy is the "edge beyond the bleed", and much like the more legit porn business, innovates and adapts new technologies much faster than the rest of the entertainment industry otherwise would.
For 8 years, I worked at the largest publisher of Japanese Manga in the US, VIZ Media. Given the enormous costs of licensing, translating, editing, laying out, and selling/distributing a title, illegal "fan scanslations" of original Japanese works were often the most accurate indicator of commercial success in the retail market. Even today, VIZ and their competitors have a two-headed approach: pursuing the shutdown of pirate sites, while also comprehensively studying the most popular titles on such sites to gauge consumer interest… Of course, they'll never admit that, but let's just say they could be pursuing the pirates a lot harder than they have been to date, and leave it at that.
Far from taking sales away, these pirate-fans basically did test marketing for free, in ways that would never have been approved by VIZ's parent companies and licensors in Japan. Not only did they indicate what titles they wanted to see in translation, but they also made it painfully clear that waiting 3-4 years between a title's Japanese and US debuts was intolerable… And even that waiting 6-12 months between volume releases was just leaving money on the table.
Recently, I read[*] that DC comics will be doing day and date releases of digital comics alongside printed monthlies for many titles. In the future, it's even likely that we'll see titles being released "digital first", or perhaps using a Kickstarter-like pre-pay model, with print runs being a follow-on only for proven titles – sort of like the comic book version of the "Daily Syndication Hurdle" for TV shows[“]. If such a day comes, it wouldn't really be a manga/comic book industry innovation, but merely a complete modeling of the successful pirate scanslation model into the legit marketplace.
Now, are the fans who read the comics online, and never buy the books (or T-shirts, or movie tickets, or DVDs) doing something wrong? Absolutely! But those folks make up a tiny minority, and even if they're just spreading interest among their friends, that can have a huge beneficial effect, especially since not all of a pirate's friends are going to be pirates. Not convinced? Read this spot-on analysis of the launch of both the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who TV series: http://www.mindjack.com/feature/….
To a far lesser extent (unfortunately), Internet piracy has helped to surface some amazing foreign films, like the epic Bollywood SciFi movie Enthiran, which is the single most mind-blowing film I have watched in the last 10 years[†]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q…
Anyway, long story short, I think your basic premise is correct: the best way to "fight piracy" is to co-opt and incorporate the advantages and benefits piracy gives to the end-user within the legitimate distribution channel. Then, the pirates will move on to the "next thing", and help drag us forward to whatever that is. 🙂
[* Credit tofor his post: ]
[“ 88-100 shows in the can, according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bro… ]
[† Update, 7/17/2011: I recently saw "The Cannonball Run I + II" for the first time in my adult life, and I have to say the sheer volume of drunk and coked-out stars on screen was epic at a level that no amount of spirited CGI effects work could possibly compete against. ]