Why Kicking Fans Off The Internet Won't Make Them Buy

from the we've-done-this-before dept

When Lord Mandelson officially announced his plan to kick file sharers off the internet based on accusations (not convictions) — the so-called “three strikes” plan — I asked a simple question: how will this get people to buy more. It was fun watching industry defenders paint themselves into corners trying to explain it, but they couldn’t. The best they could say is that the fear of losing an internet connection would get them to stop file sharing. But, of course, getting them to stop file sharing is a lot different than actually getting them to buy something.

And, on top of that, we already have empirical evidence that a fear-based campaign doesn’t make people buy any more. Over at The Telegraph in the UK (where I’ll now be writing a semi-regular column) I explore how the industry already tried a fear-based campaign when they threatened and/or sued tens of thousands of individuals for file sharing. Even the industry’s most strident defenders, who support taking away people’s internet access have admitted that such a punishment is less scary than being sued and potentially on the hook for millions of dollars.

So how did that work out? If the industry’s logic is correct, than the fear of being hit with a multi-million dollar fine should be a lot more persuasive in (a) getting people to give up file sharing and (b) buy more instead. And yet… the industry is still freaking out, complaining about phantom “losses” and demanding new laws to protect them. So, if kicking people off the internet is less fearful than being on the hook for millions of dollars, and the potential of being sued for so much did not slow the growth of file sharing or get people to buy any more, can someone explain (please) how it’s possible that anyone thinks kicking people off the internet will get them to buy?

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Comments on “Why Kicking Fans Off The Internet Won't Make Them Buy”

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aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile) says:

You have it all wrong. Once the file sharers are kicked off, the people who were downloading but not sharing would start buying again. Plus the people who are kicked off would have extra entertainment money from the money they aren’t paying for an internet connection. It will then become mandatory to purchase CDs from mainstream artists and blockbuster DVDs. It’s a very simple plan! If you’re not behind it you’re a raporist.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“lol nice one. you should have spelled it raperist though ;)”

Ahem, as the person who coined the phrase along with it’s terrifyingly disgusting and graphic definition, I can attest with certaintity that he indeed spelled raporist correctly, while your incorrect correction makes you a mispelurder…

Stop committing mispelocide!

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why not simply put file sharers to death? It would prevent them from file sharing again, so next time they’ll buy…

no, they’ll buy, you just have to set it up like this:

1) if you are accused of file sharing, you will be put to death.
2) anyone who does not buy $100 of digital media every month will be accused of file sharing
3) er go: pay the MAFIAA $100 a month or be killed.
4) hooray! music is saved.

Anonymous Coward says:

The headline is the standard TechDuh reach: No, kicking people off the internet won’t make THEM buy more music, but it might encourage some others to reconsider how they get their music.

Even been driving down a highway 20 over the limit, and you see a police car, flashing lights on the other side with someone pulled over? For most people, it’s enough to get them to slow down, at least for a while. While they didn’t get a ticket, the effect that another was getting a ticket is enough to remind them to stay a little closer to legal.

Ridiculing an idea because you aren’t able to understand cause and effect is just silly.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, kicking people off the internet won’t make THEM buy more music, but it might encourage some others to reconsider how they get their music.

That is really the most asinine statement I have ever read. Kicking your best fans (remember, the biggest pirates also tend to spend the most real money) off the internet will not get those other people to spend more. It will just piss of your biggest sources of revenue.

Plus the idea that you can punish someone by kicking them off the internet for nothing more than ACCUSATIONS goes against the normal way punishments are handed out.

Ridiculing an idea because you aren’t able to understand cause and effect is just silly.

That part was very well said. It’s too bad you are too oblivious to see how it applies to you.

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I find it terribly amusing that you are, in fact, the one who is missing the point.

The point IS NOT whether or not the punishments will discourage file sharing. Of course it will, if even only a little.

The point IS that these punishments will not encourage people to pay more money. In fact, if this happens, people like myself — who are NOT file sharers, anyway — will intentionally boycott products by the supposed “offended party”. Thereby DECREASING revenue, and they’ll fall victim to what’s known as “shooting yourself in the foot”.

John Doe says:

Re: Re:

What do the drivers do as soon as they are clear of the cop? They speed back up so the effect of the cop was to slow people down for a mile or so. Same with 3 strikes laws. People will still share because the odds of getting caught are slim. Besides, they will go underground where they can’t/won’t get caught or they will go back to the old fashioned sneaker net.

The end effect will be to put a huge burden on ISPs thus increasing the costs for all of us non-file sharers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Your analogy fails. Completely. It reinforces Mike’s stance entirely, as a matter of fact.

Punishments discourage the act that you are punishing. Cause and effect. Ticketing speeders discourages speeding, just like punishing file sharers discourages file sharing.

But where does buying more music come in to the picture? It’s like claiming speeding tickets encourages higher tollbooth usage.

tack says:

Re: Re: Re:

Dont they realize this will just increase the customer base of actually pirated media? I’m sure the guy with the 27 DVD burners is salivating at being able to charge more to even more customers. There will always be copied content. Even before the internet dubing a tape for someone was commonplace. Personally I hope the music and movie industry goes bankrupt. There is a demand for music and movies and the business model that takes its place will be much more receptive to meeting that demand.

harknell (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But that metaphor still doesn’t address what Mike is saying. Yes, you might slow down (i.e. not download songs, movies, games etc.) but that does not mean you will then go out and buy those things. In many ways being off the internet will impede your ability to discover new music and movies and would eventually lower the number of people buying. So yes, less file sharing, but no, not necessarily more money–so it doesn’t really help the companies who are screaming for this legislation.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: It's the Media Gnomes

The “Underpants Gnomes” have announced their intention to file copyright infringement and trademark violation lawsuits against the “Gnomes” for use of their patented, federally protected business model. The “Gnomes” have been unable to reply to this intention to file as their Internet connection was disabled pursuant to accusations levied by the Keebler Elves.

Headbhang (profile) says:


because now people getting warnings and being kicked off will be more likely than getting sued (or at least that’s what they want to make you believe).

You see, the Deterrence Factor is defined as:

DF = Scariness of Punishment x Likelihood of Punishment

(yeah, I pulled that out of my ass, but it’s true). Most people didn’t give a shit about getting sued because they know how unlikely it is.

However, you’re of course right that stopping file-sharing does not equal more buying. At least in my case, it would actually mean the opposite: I have sworn I will actively boycott any company responsible for any warning I might get (not that I consider that very likely).

Additionally, I predict that any people getting warned will likely rather be more careful in the future than stop file-sharing.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Presumably...

Warning ….

Warning #1 – Call to service provider – I got this letter in the mail … What do you mean I am being accused of file sharing and there is nothing I can do to protest this?

Warning #1 result –

Mom – son read this! I dont want to stop downloading my Julie child videos and internet porn what can I do?

Son – Well lets set you up with an encrypted VPN connection and uTorrent instead of bit-torrent. Did you just say internet porn?

Mom – No you must be hearing things and Thank you!!! I do love Julie

Brooks (profile) says:

Oh, come on

Look, I think kicking people off the internet is the stupidest idea since, well, maybe forever. It’s not technically feasible, it’s bad business, it’s counterproductive, and it’s an ugly blurring of commerce and government.

That said, it’s a total misrepresentation and straw man to frame the issue as if it were the people who are kicked off the internet are the same “them” who are (supposedly) going to buy more.

The actual argument is that the deterrent effect will, on the whole, steer more people to buying than “stealing” content. It’s the same argument used to justify arresting people who frequent prostitutes: the punishment is about changing social behaviors, not necessarily about impacting future behavior of the few people actually arrested. It’s still a ridiculous argument even when framed accurately.

Let’s at least practice a tiny bit of intellectual honesty over here on our side. Economics, human nature, and technology are all with us; there’s no reason to use cheap misrepresentations too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Oh, come on

No, we all understand what you’re saying completely.

But the problem is there is no connection between discouraging file sharing and people buying more stuff.

You say that it will cause “changing social behaviours” that will lead to increased purchasing. But you don’t explain how. That’s the issue at hand: no one has explained how, they just say it will happen.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re: Oh, come on

That’s the issue at hand: no one has explained how, they just say it will happen.

That seems to be their typical method of operation. They throw out these statements like “if file sharing continues people will cease making creative content”, “file sharing is causing us to lose 500 bazillion dollars a day”, and of course “punishing accused file sharers will fix our busniess model problems”. They never bother explaining how or why, they just make statements without any actual logic behind them, or with logic that skips steps and makes inaccurate assumptions.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Oh, come on

It is somewhat understandable to think that punishing one person for doing something you do not like is going to stop another person from that same behavior. In practice, it does not appear to really be the case, but it is still understandable to think that.

The problem is that it still does not give the second person any incentive to purchase anything else. The argument being made is that if the person who was not accused of doing anything illegal in the first place sees another person kicked off the internet for file sharing, they will somehow feel the need to purchase music or movies. That’s a pretty big leap without a lot of evidence. Oddly, the evidence currently shows that as the internet (and file sharing) has grown, the number of movies, amount of music, and overall revenue for the entertainment industry has grown.

In addition, as Mike pointed out, there is no evidence that the threat of being sued for millions of dollars gets people to stop sharing files or to purchase anything more than they would have. Although they are attempting to make it really easy to punish someone for being accused of file sharing (making it easier to punish people), the end result of the proposal seems like a lesser threat than their previous course of action and thus less likely to work as a scare tactic.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Oh, come on

The actual argument is that the deterrent effect will, on the whole, steer more people to buying than “stealing” content. It’s the same argument used to justify arresting people who frequent prostitutes: the punishment is about changing social behaviors, not necessarily about impacting future behavior of the few people actually arrested.

a deterrent, by definition, stops something. an incentive, by definition, encourages something. even if it were possible to stop file sharing (it’s not), this legislation, i.e. the deterrent, can only stop file sharing. it does nothing to *encourage* anything. that’s the point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Oh, come on

No, I don’t think we missed anything here. It’s not a matter of “us vs them”, it’s about clearing up some invalid misconceptions.

Brooks said, plain as day, that the “deterrent effect” will drive people to buy more, as if it were matter-of-fact. We’re asking how. If it were so obvious, then at least one person would be actually able to explain it.

Miles Maker says:

Just how exactly do you ‘KICK’ someone off the Internet? How does this keep them from using other usernames, accounts, 3rd party services, etc.? And why hasn’t the fear of prison eliminated felonious crime? Hm.

What’s the cost to implement and police such a program?

Sharing is a culture–NOT a crime.

This is stupid. real stupid.

Miles Maker
Writer/Director of ‘Brown Baby’
The totally FREE movie you can share, remix, re-use and rediscover!
DONATE on IndieGoGo: http;//www.indiegogo.com/brown-baby
‘Brown Baby’ Website http://www.brownbabymovie.com
‘Brown Baby’ on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/brownbabymovie

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You neighbors would get pissed off if their bandwidth bill went through the roof. Your boss would get pissed if you wasted the company’s connections on downloading illegal material. The time it takes to download stuff at McDonalds, you might as well type out the binary digits yourself, it would be quicker.

Without your own internet connection, let’s just say it would be very inconvenient for you to download.

astontechno (profile) says:

"been there...done that..."

no matter how tries to stop who

anyone can get any media by so many means these days

that it is totally impractical to think that any one

means will deter anyone from pursuing their media

pleasure. in most cases people will simply move on

having captured all their music and movies anyway.

and since when have we had any compassion for the

artist or the label? if it’s out there it’s fair game…

those are today’s rules. you don’t want to play in a

hacker’s backyard? take your media ball and go home..

otherwise….eat it man…..

Overcast (profile) says:

Back in the olden’ days – before the intarwebz – people used to use these things called “tapes”.

Tapes could copy music and video.

People did that – without the internet.

If I didn’t have internet today – I would be watching TV maybe.

I might go to the library and rent some movies. Or just do the same thing I do now – buy movies I like; because I seen them somewhere else already – or part of it, for free.

Or perhaps I might buy some music – music I had already heard on the radio – for free.

Out of ALL the music I currently own, maybe 2-3 CD’s at MOST I did not hear prior to purchasing them. ALL others I had heard – for free on the radio.

Now, I hear stuff on the web and if I like the CD, I buy it. I do the same with movies. I don’t buy a movie to ‘check it out’ – I buy a movie because it’s good enough to prompt me to own a copy – same with music.

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Wait Wait Wait Wait Wait Wait WAIT!!

You’re telling me that allowing you to know what you’re buying BEFORE you buy will actually entice you to buy it?!?!?!?!

That’s complete rubbish and I’ll prove it with examples from other industries:
1)Automobile industry doesn’t let you test…wait, damn yeah they do
2)Home Electronics stores don’t let you rubberneck…wait, damn yeah they do
3)Restaurants don’t tell you what’s in their…wait, damn yeah they do
4)Clothing stores don’t let you try on…wait, damn yeah they do

Well, it MUST be rubbish, because the entertainment industry says so!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

haha. They have this thing called radio, perhaps you have heard of it? maybe MTV2? Maybe sat radio?

Those are all legitimate and legal ways to try before you buy.

1) try taking the car home for a few months to test it out. See how that goes over.

2) try taking that big screen home to watch it for a while to see how you feel about it

3) try eating dinner before deciding if you really intend to pay

4) try taking the clothes home and wearing them a few times before you decide if you want them or not.

None of those would work. Why should you be allowed to take the entire music product (at your choice, not the artists or right holders choice) and enjoy it fully for as long as you want, only to pay for it if you really feel like it?

Most important, why should you be allowed to make the choice for the rights holders?

batch (profile) says:

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

I’m waiting for when these guttersnipes decide that sales are still not good enough, so they just start accusing innocent people on purpose in droves because its such an obviously good plan they have:

1) Accuse people
2) Accused kicked offline
3) Accused buys more product!!!!

Its a straight shot to profit, people! Lets get moving!

Also, they’ll find out the IP addresses of their critics and take them down too. Not kidding. It will happen if they’re allowed to become sheriffs of the internet. Remember, they don’t need proof.

mike allen (profile) says:

actually all miss out

at the moment this happens.
1 fan buys music
2 fan fileshares
3 non fan downloads becomes fan buys music goes to gigs
1 unknown band filesharers track
2 people download send unknown money
3 unknown band happy new fans happy.
now record company gets filesharers cut off web
no one file shares no new fans no new bands record industry collapse everyone returns to file sharing hey great plan.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: actually all miss out

Not really. Here’s what actually happens:

1 fan downloads music
2 fan fileshares
3 non fan downloads becomes fan and enjoys the music.
4 non fan (now fan) fileshares
5 wash, rinse, repeat.

He can’t go to a gig because the band isn’t ever going to play within 500 miles of him, and honestly, why buy the music when you already have it?

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re: actually all miss out

Not really. Here’s what actually happens:

1 fan downloads music
2 fan fileshares
3 non fan downloads becomes fan and enjoys the music.
4 non fan (now fan) fileshares
5 wash, rinse, repeat.

If that’s the case then why does study after study show that people who download lots of movies and music also spend lots of money on movies and music? You have completely fabricated an argument that filesharing prevents purchasing, but reality continues to prove you wrong over and over again. Yet you continue to repeat that same disproven statement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: actually all miss out

Actually, there are no studies that show this in any conclusive manner. heck the most recent “study” that Mike referred to was a telephone poll of people who lied through their teeth (only 10% were filesharers!).

The reality is that there are no clear studies that show that average downloaders buy more or less music than average music buyers as a whole. However, it is pretty clear that they have a significantly large music collection for the same price.

Anonymous Coward says:

To number 5 up there

Hell, I see a cop on the side of the road with someone else pulled over.. I floor it.. Knowing the only dude that will do anything about it is busy with some other sucker at that moment.. I love it, going from 85 to 130 in a few seconds.. (I’m on a motorcycle) and knowing that I should (keyword) be OK to speed on even more should I choose..

You are all lap traffic is how I like to look at.. 😉

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Operant conditioning would be good to know

This really isn’t tough to figure out for students of Operant Conditioning. It has long been known that when dealing with subjects that have a fair degree of sophistication along with Free Will, negative punishment is the least effective method of altering behavior where as positive reinforcement is the most effective. I’d be happy to draw up a short essay on the matter at Mike’s request, but the short version of operant conditioning is thus:

-Positive Reinforcement: Rewarding behavior with something desirable — Buying music should offer the purchaser something that other behavior does not.

-Negative Reinforcement: Rewarding behavior by taking away something undesirable — Buying music should remove an annoyance (i.e. having to wait in line at a local concert).

-Positive Punishment: Punishing behavior by introducing something undesirable — This is the definition of RIAA et al’s lawsuits.

-Negative Punishment: Punishing behavior by removing something desirable — This is the definition of the 3 strikes plan, in removing internet access as punishment.

The following table from the APA gives a good visual indication as to why ultimately punishments are the poorer choice for changing or encouraging behavior:


Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Operant conditioning would be good to know

“The following table from the APA gives a good visual indication as to why ultimately punishments are the poorer choice for changing or encouraging behavior:”

I should clarify what I mean: The key words in that model are “Engagement” and “Disengagement”. One who is positively reinforced ins’t only more likely to repeat that behavior, but is also actively engaged in everything to do with the behavior (the other parts of purchasing when it comes to artists/music/movies/etc.).

Conversely, punishments result in depression, pain, and (the worst for artists) DISENGAGEMENT. What could be worse to an artist who is trying to be HEARD, whether for art’s sake OR for profit, than disengagement? If your audience is disengaged, then as an artist it’s over.

Fushta says:

Re: Operant conditioning would be good to know

Negative reinforcement works on children and dogs. Little else. I guess that’s why the entertainment propagandists are going after children in their schools (outside of the parents’ reach). Get em while their young, I guess. Still not going to work. As soon as that kids grows up and gets a taste of rebellion, they will do exactly the opposite of what is, then, socially acceptible behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not about stopping piracy. It’s not even about getting people to buy more.

It’s about control, and shutting down all non **AA-controlled distribution channel.

The internet, file sharing, YouTube and all these things have made it incredible easy to disseminate your work directly to the public, without the need of the traditional entertainment companies. They are obsolete, and they know it.

The **AA will settle for nothing less than the complete destruction of any avenue of distribution that gives consumers a choice and control over their content. Any form of distribution that doesn’t involve THEM, in other words.

Knut says:

Why not everything can be shared freely

If all “bits and bytes” can be shared freely that is going to have a profound effect on:

– software
– music
– movies
– tv
– books
– trademarks
– patents

Currently there is no international “internet law” or “internet police”, and the net is full of viruses, scams, spam and illegal businesses. A part of the problem stems from the anonymity. There is a lot of research showing that people behave worse when they a guaranteed anonymity.

Is this really what we want?

Call me Al says:

Re: Why not everything can be shared freely

“Currently there is no international “internet law” or “internet police”, and the net is full of viruses, scams, spam and illegal businesses. A part of the problem stems from the anonymity. There is a lot of research showing that people behave worse when they a guaranteed anonymity.

Is this really what we want?”

Yeah this is pretty much what I want. So far I’ve not been a particularly bad victim of viruses, scams or illegal businesses. I get a lot of spam but I have a filter for that. I take responsibility for my own web surfing and try to ensure that I don’t do anything dumb which will cause damage for my system.

The idea of internet law and order is abhorrent to me. The world is a wide and varied place and the net reflects that. Such law would only serve to lock it down and turn it into a broadcast vehicle for corporations and governments. Oh joy.

If you aren’t an idiot then there will be few or no problems. They should not seek to limit the enjoyment of others just so they can protect fools from their own mistakes.

Oh and your comment that it will have a “profound effect” on a variety of things, you know “profound” isn’t necessarily a bad thing… right?

Oh and if I was to get cut off from my net connection then the music industry would make no money from me at all. Not because of an active boycott but because I mostly buy single tracks off I-Tunes and that facility does not exist on the high street. I will not buy albums because I object to paying for filler. I will not buy the latest singles because by and large I don’t like them and prefer the slightly esoteric music I stumble across online.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why not everything can be shared freely

.. you’re an idiot… now, I’ll do something smart and prove it to you.. may be you will learn something…

how does anything you say compare to me sharing the mp3 I got over to a few friends?
then they share it over to their other friends, then to other friends….

Now that might just be a better definition of file SHARING… of course, sharing is illegal nowadays.. If you try out your friend’s car with his permission, there will be a three strikes law that will catch you, and the third time will forbid you from driving completely right?
Oh wait, not it doesn’t!!!

Have you been into a market before? you know, the places they sell tons of goods, where they even sell CDs… you’ll find that now, there are some where there are some headphones in the shop, so potential buyers can choose to try those songs before buying…

Also, you seem to compare a tangible good to culture. (yes, music and movies are part of what we call culture…)

And “culture” should only be for those who can afford it… Right?

Why let people have cheap access to culture? why let them go on the internet and find music they like themselves? They should just watch our radio and TV ad buy only the ones advertised right?

Soon you’ll start to tell me education too right? why let people have free access to knowledge? The Government should choose for us what we can know and what we cannot, right?

Last, you compare MTV or the radio to the internet?
so tell me, can you custom what the radio will play depending on your own tastes (thus increased chance of you finding a song you like, and increasing the chances you might buy it)? does it have a large list of songs properly ordered so you can easily choose a song to listen to? can you skip the song if you don’t like it and go to the next one?
No? then I’m sorry, I am completely bored out of Radio, and the only things I watch on TVs are series and movies (which I can record directly on tape should I find it worth it… ohh, I’m an evil pirate….)

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