A whole bunch of folks have sent in the "debate" that was held on the BBC website last week, starting with regular columnist Bill Thompson trashing Virgin Media
, a UK-based broadband provider, for agreeing to send out warning "notices" to folks that the entertainment industry claims are file sharing. Thompson explains that he's been known to use BitTorrent to get a copy of a TV show he missed on TV and forgot to record on his DVR, wondering why this should be a problem. He also mentions: "Evidence that heavy downloaders are also heavy music purchasers doesn't seem to have made any difference to the BPI's approach either, and instead of finding new business models they hold on to the old ways of working."
The response came from BPI's chief exec Geoff Taylor, who responds by suggesting that Thompson's column is ill-informed, and thus, supports this "education" effort by Virgin Media
. He also suggests that the entertainment industry is wholeheartedly embracing new business models and its folks like Thompson who are the dinosaurs. Finally, he completely contradicts Thompson when he claims: "Independent research has shown time after time that people who download illegally generally spend less on music than people that don't, which undermines investment in new music."
Well, as the joke goes, everyone's entitled to their own opinions -- but not their own facts. And, in this case, it would appear that it's BPI's Geoff Taylor who's got his facts screwed up. The "new" business models that he talks about were hardly the result of a forward-thinking entertainment industry, but one that was dragged kicking and screaming into a new era, and has resisted every innovation at every turn -- and is still doing so. The real kicker, though, is his claim that independent studies say that those who use file sharing spend less on music. That's simply untrue. Study
has shown the exact opposite -- noting that people who file share tend to be bigger music fans, and are more likely to spend on music.
Most of those studies were easily found doing a basic Google search. So how about a Google search in order to find all that research insisting that file sharing makes people spend less on music? The only
result I could find was to BPI's own page
where it claims "The overwhelming majority of reputable third party research shows that illegal file-sharing has been a key factor in the recording industry's 22% worldwide sales declines between 1999 and 2004" and then quotes the IFPI as its source (hardly an unbiased party). That page then does link to other research. Amusingly, though, it includes some of the same research mentioned above -- and either twists the results or claims that the research was "debunked," when in most cases it had not been.
In some cases, the results are positively hilarious. Take, for example, the way the BPI spins one study that says the exact opposite of what it claims: "EMR concluded that heavy music buyers are also heavy filesharers. In other words, filesharing threatens the music business' biggest customers." See how that works? When the study says that fileshares are the biggest music buyers, BPI uses it to note that file sharing "threatens the music business' biggest customers," rather than realizing that perhaps file sharers are also spending more money on music. Many of the other studies it quotes are the long-debunked stories that count every download as a "loss," which then are used to show huge "losses" in CD sales that never would have happened in the first place. The BPI is making up its own facts here. This round goes to Bill Thompson.