Thursday, May 14, 2009

PRS says that there's some file sharing going on

The PRS has spent a little more of songwriter's money on a big report that announces that there's a whole lot of unlicensed music transfers going on:

The songs of popular musicians like Lady Gaga have been passed on 14 million times each in one year alone with no payment to the artist, according to a report by PRS for Music, the organisation that collects royalties for songwriters and composers.

That clunkily-written standfirst suggests that this is basically a report which attempts to stick a made-up number on downloading. And it is. Oddly, the actual report doesn't appear to be on the PRS website at the moment, which means we are stuck seeing it through the Telegraph's eyes:
The research involved analysing billions of swaps on global music sites like Pirate Bay and its findings illustrate just how rampant illegal filesharing has become.

On average the most popular files were swapped over 14 million times for the twelve-month period.

What does that actually mean, though - "on average"? And how were these "billions" of swaps get "analysed"? And how, exactly, were any of these swaps "on" Pirate Bay?

The Telegraph piece is written by Urmee Khan, who has the title Digital and Media Correspondent, and yet they seem to fundamentally misunderstand how the Pirate Bay works. It's a bit like having an agricultural correspondent who says that potatoes grow on bushes - it's near enough, but suspiciously wrong.
According to the authors, the Pirate Bay trial - where its founders were jailed - did little to dampen illegal activity from the popular site which advises people on the best ways to download the latest films, music and video games.

It's a search engine, Urmee. Yes, there is a 'how do I download' page, but it's very basic.

And the founders have been given a prison sentence, but haven't yet, actually, been jailed.

Still, it's nice to see the PRS has spent songwriter money on an expensive survey which just confirms that the Pirate Bay trial did not a piece of good for anyone's bottom line. Indeed, it's hard to see what the point of this work is at all. Lots of people share files, and many of those files result in no payment going to the artist. Do they think that there is anyone on the planet who would care about this, and yet doesn't know?

I get that the PRS thinks that, by saying "ooh, there's millions of swaps every second", they'll spark some of sort of crackdown, but really they're doing the opposite. Sticking out a press release which shows that billions of files are being swapped all the time, and that even a high-profile prison sentence can't dent the levels of activity, really just underlines how the PRS and the RIAA have totally lost. This should spark a big shake-up - but the shake-up is needed for the copyright capitalists to admit their business has changed forever.