Monday, January 23, 2012

Piracy actually not that bad, but let's say it is

There's some interesting figures in the IFPI report into digital music, reported by Music Week. You remember piracy, don't you?

According to Nielsen/IFPI figures from November 2011, the percentage of internet users accessing at least one unlicensed site monthly stood at 27% in Europe and 28% worldwide – with around half using peer-to-peer networks.
That doesn't really sound very much, does it? Over 70% of internet users not even visiting an "unlicensed site" (whatever that is) at all.

But that's averages. What's happening in piracy hotspots?
In some countries, the rate of usage of illegal sites is far higher than the global average - for example 42 per cent and 44 per cent respectively in the major markets of Spain and Brazil (Nielsen/IFPI).
So, even where it's bad, fewer than half the people online visit a site which holds unlicensed music.

And America? How are things in America - a country where piracy is apparently so rife, we came within an ace of having SOPA destroy the free internet?
NPD data included in the IFPI report shows that 16% of the US internet population were using infringing P2P sites in Q4 2007, down to just 9% in Q4 2010.

Meanwhile, the average number of tracks downloaded from P2P services dropped from 35 to 18 in the same period.
All this, surely, is brilliant news for the entertainment industry, right?

Music Week isn't so sure:
However, levels of global music piracy won’t bring comfort to labels.
Really? They're relatively small, and appear to be declining. Why would they not take comfort from that?

Let's nip over to the IFPI site, where Frances Moore, CEO, is looking at the figures. Is he happy?
As we enter 2012, there are good reasons for optimism in the world of digital music. Legal services with expanding audiences have reached across the globe and consumer choice has been revolutionised.
Well, that's great news. Treble clefs all ro... oh, hang on. He's looking cross. Why is he looking cross?
"Any complacency now, however, would be a great mistake. Our digital business is progressing in spite of the environment in which it operates, not because of it. In 2012 the momentum needs to build further. We need legislation from governments with coordinated measures that deal with piracy effectively and in all its forms. We also need more cooperation from online intermediaries such as search engines and advertisers to support the legal digital music business."
Moore is, you'll spot, telling a whopper here. His organisation's own figures show that even with their gross over-estimation of piracy, it's in decline - mainly despite, not because of, the work of the labels and their chums in the movie industry.

(Actually, should the labels be worried? Even without any comeback, even when it's available for free, people are scooping up less music.)

To the untrained eye, it might look like the RIAA and their client organisations have bought themselves a fire engine; now there's no fire, rather than getting rid of the uniforms and hoses, they're running round going 'I think I still smell burning'.

They passed from being entertainment companies into copyright farmers long ago; now, it looks like they're going to be permanent copyright lobbyists, too.