Music piracy is causing the loss of millions of pounds in sales every year if the Phonographic Industry is to be believed. Their mantra that is often bandied about whenever piracy is being discussed has led to laws being passed, websites being shutdown and greater restrictions on internet freedom being enacted. However, a new report, published by the European Commission Joint Research Centre claims that music web piracy does not harm legitimate sales.
Proponents of a free internet have often claimed that piracy is actually beneficial to legitimate sales, and that a pirated download does not equal a lost sale. This report seems to reinforce their assertions. The report has been dismissed however, by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) as “flawed and misleading”.
Despite the opposition of the IFPI, the report continues that “our results suggest that Internet users do not view illegal downloading as a substitute to legal digital music… it seems that the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them.” The sample analysed the habits of more than 16,000 European consumers over the course of one year and concluded that there is unlikely to be significant harm on digital music revenues as a result of copyright infringement.
The IFPI have been highly critical of the report, releasing a statement claiming that “the findings seem disconnected from commercial reality, if a large proportion of illegal downloaders do not buy any music (and yet consume, in some cases, large amounts of it), it cannot be logical that illegal behaviour stimulates legal download sales and inflicts no harm.” This statement ignores one of the key statements of the JRC report in that users do not view an illegal download as a substitute to legal digital music.
They also wildly claim that; “it is in fact clear that piracy is as great a threat to the growing subscription and free-to-user streaming sector as it is to download services” when in fact this is far from clear and they have no supporting evidence for this assertion. In fact the growth of such services, would seem to suggest that the opposite is true.
The battle over whether internet piracy harms the music and film industries is sure to continue on, however, the research from the JRC suggests that it does not have quite the impact the IFPI would like to have people believe. Maybe consumers should go back to recording music off the radio, oh wait… they weren’t happy about that either!
Thanks for reading,