Friday, August 01, 2008

A snapshot of that new world

Big Champagne - who have been counting torrent downloaders since the days when people still used to ring up their mate who was good with computers to do it for them - have issued some interesting stats about Radiohead's In Rainbows, which PaidContent see as some sort of sign that we're all doomed:

Some 2.3 million people skanked Radiohead's latest album from BitTorrent sources during the two months it was legally available for free. A research paper from P2P monitor Big Champagne and the UK's MCPS-PRS royalty collection society said the "staggering" number "far exceeds what outsiders have reported as the estimated download total from the bands official website, regardless of whether those downloaders paid or not".

See? Even if you try to give people something nice, they'll still rob it! Doom! Darkness!
Maybe so many people are already downloading the rest of their albums from torrents, they simply couldn't be arsed to type inrainbows.com in their browser. The bottom line is that legal free was trumped by illegal free.

But is this really doom? Isn't this news quite cheery for the music industry? Scroll down the report a little:
In Rainbows torrent downloads peaked on the first day data was collected, October 27, at 400,000 - what Page and Garland call "a bloody big number". How big? More than double the top torrent through March and May (Panic At The Disco's Pretty Odd) got in a whole week (ie. 10 times Panic's daily average).

So, what we're talking about here is not large numbers of people habitually pinching albums. What we're talking about is a spike in free downloading of an album that was available for nothing.

So, while the MCPS scare about for sky-falling reasons...:
The report's "venue hypothesis" posits net users have simply become accutomed to using technologies like Gnutella, BitTorrent and trackers like Mininova. What's more, "an off-limits venue may be even more appealing" to the core youth market. So illegal is now entrenched, it's habitual and the business faces an uphill struggle to change that.

... isn't the evidence telling us that people do have the ability to download stuff from the torrents, but mostly aren't using that ability; and that they only did when they had reason to believe it was okay to do so. Because can anyone explain to me the actual, real "illegality" of downloading for free something from one place that one can legally download for free from another? I don't mean the letter-of-the-law difference, but the moral difference? And, even if you can, isn't it just possible that the nicety was lost on the great masses who heard Radiohead were making an album available for free (as was repeatedly, erroneously, reported at the time) and didn't see there was a problem in where they didn't pay for it?


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