Recording Industry Can't Wait To Start Kicking People Offline In France For Listening To Their Favorite Songs

from the yeah-that'll-work dept

As we reported last week, the French agency in charge of scaring internet users with the threat of potentially losing their internet connections based on accusations (not convictions) of copyright infringement has finally started passing on “third strike” notices to prosecutors, to see if they choose to start kicking people offline. The NY Times has an article discussing this latest step in a manner that repeats a bunch of the record labels’ favorite talking points, and seems to accept a number of the industry’s claims without question (a practice that is becoming way too common in the pages of the NY Times lately).

Studies show that the appeal of piracy has waned in France since the so-called three-strikes law, hailed by the music and movie industries and hated by advocates of an open Internet, went into effect. Digital sales, which were slow to get started in France, are growing. Music industry revenues are starting to stabilize.

These are all stated as if it’s clear that the three things are connected, even though the evidence there is lacking.

“I think more and more French people understand that artists should get paid for their work,” said Pascal Negre, president of Universal Music France. “I think everybody has a friend who has received an e-mail. This creates a buzz. There is an educational effect.”

This is wishful thinking on the part of Negre. Multiple studies have shown that piracy is almost never an educational issue. It’s not about people needing to “understand that artists should get paid for their work.” As we’ve seen time and time again, if you give fans a good reason to buy, fans have no problem spending (and spending big) on artists. As for “the buzz” created by Hadopi emails, from what the various reports we’ve heard out of France are saying, much of that “buzz” is around how to make use of VPNs and other tools… as well as how to use cyberlockers and such tools that are not (yet) covered by Hadopi.

Eric Walter, the secretary general of Hadopi, said that the relatively low number of third-stage offenders showed that the system had succeeded.

“Our work is to explain to people why piracy is a bad thing and why they should stop,” he said during an interview in the agency’s nondescript headquarters behind the Montparnasse train station in Paris. “When the people understand that, they stop. Of course, some people don’t want to understand. Then we have to transfer their dossiers to the justice system.”

Again, this assumes that piracy is merely an educational issue, and people would just stop infringing if they only knew that it was illegal. Yet there’s little evidence to support that claim. Most kids understand that it’s illegal, but it doesn’t make a difference to them.

A report commissioned by Hadopi, which has a budget of €11 million and employs 70 people, showed a sharp decline in file-sharing since the system was put in place.

A separate study by researchers at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh suggests that Hadopi has given a lift to legal downloads via the Apple iTunes music store. Since the spring of 2009, when the debate over the measure was raging, through mid-2011, iTunes sales rose much more strongly in France than in other European countries.

Oddly, the NY Times fails to name the study or its authors, or link to the actual study. But we will. It’s The Effect of Graduated Response Anti-Piracy Laws on Music Sales: Evidence from an Event Study in France, by Brett Danaher, Michael D. Smith, Rahul Telang and Siwen Chen. If this study sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the one the IFPI has been hyping in support of similar laws. It’s also the report that isn’t nearly as strong as the IFPI (or the NY Times) insists and has been pretty thoroughly debunked for anyone who uses it to claim that Hadopi’s notice system educated people into buying from iTunes. As some have pointed out, the actual data shows the “change” in sales behavior (relative to other countries) happened way before Hadopi came into effect. And… when Hadopi actually started sending out its notices? No noticeable impact.

That kind of takes the wind out of the sales of the two folks quoted above who insist that it’s the educational nature of the notices that leads to the increase in sales. And, as we reported last month, when Le Monde took the same data and plotted it against announcements about new iPhones or Christmas, it found a much stronger connection, suggesting the increase in sales had little to do with Hadopi and much more to do with more people having iPhones.

These are the kinds of things that you would think the NY Times might note. But it does not.

There is other evidence in Europe that tougher online copyright enforcement can lift media industry revenues, at least briefly. Music sales rose 10 percent in Sweden in 2009, for example, after the country tightened up its copyright laws, bringing previously lax standards into line with E.U. norms.

Mr. Negre, at Universal Music, said it was probably no coincidence that Sweden and France had produced the two big European success stories in the legitimate digital music market: the streaming services Spotify and Deezer. These companies — the former was founded in Sweden, the latter in France — resemble pirate sites in that they give users access to millions of songs free, at least for their basic services.

This may be the most ridiculous claim of all. First off, Deezer, in France, launched back in 2007, or about four years before Hadopi went into effect. Similarly, Spotify launched in Sweden in 2008. The IPRED law in Sweden? Went into effect in 2009. In other words, both of these services pre-dated the laws, rather than post-dated them as Negre from Universal Music implies. And, perhaps that also has a lot more to do with the rebound of some parts of the recording business in both of those countries. After finally allowing services to offer fans what they wanted, should it be any surprise that they actually are happy with that? Oh, as for the claim that IPRED reduced file sharing in Sweden? Reports had the amount of sharing traffic surprassing pre-IPRED numbers within months. It may have suppressed infringement briefly, but not for long. Of course, it’s worth noting that much of the effort has been focused on movies. With music, thanks to Spotify, the reasons to infringe are almost gone.

And, really, that should be the key lesson we’re talking about here. If the industry stops meddling and starts letting companies treat their customers right and provide them with more and better ways to consume, they will do so. Playing wac-a-mole, kicking people offline and scaring them is no way to build a long term business.

There are two other really interesting bits later down in the article. The first is that Sarkozy’s opponents in the upcoming election all seem to want to dump Hadopi, demonstrating just how unpopular the law really is in France. Then there’s the fact that Hadopi appears to have been caught sending notices to the wrong people:

Mr. Thollot argued that someone had pirated his log-on to a nationwide Wi-Fi network and downloaded the material while he was in class. After interviewing him, Hadopi dropped his case.

“It’s like when someone steals your bank card number,” said Renaud Veeckman, co-founder of SOS Hadopi, an organization that offers legal help to people who have received warnings from the anti-piracy agency. “Are you responsible, or are you the victim?”

SOS Hadopi has worked with five people whose dossiers have reached the third stage, including Mr. Thollot; all five have been cleared before going to court. This suggests that the actual number of cases that have been forwarded to the justice system may be considerably lower than the 165 third-strike offenders cited by Hadopi. Mr. Walter at Hadopi declined to provide a specific figure.

This part especially should raise significant questions about the quality of the information being used. Because, so far, it sounds like a big joke… other than the fact that some people might lose their internet connections over it.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: universal music

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Recording Industry Can't Wait To Start Kicking People Offline In France For Listening To Their Favorite Songs”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Every month the government gets a list with tens of thousands of first infringers, it has reached the millions by now, but somehow they only manage to get 5 in the final stage?

Something is not right there, you don’t get thousands of letters out the first and the second time and they just drop, you should see a decline in all 3 the first the second and the third not a massive drop from second to third.

More likely the government is scared and it will never ever disconnect that many people because they have a riot on their hands and decades from now people will find out that the government lied again to make it happen.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

I for one

Personally since I listen to 99% of my music through my laptop, I moved from Limewire to Frostwire to Poison to Grooveshark to a subscription on Spotify.

I don’t live in France so HADOPI had nothing to do with my decline in music piracy.

I can’t speak for the kids, but once you’ve paid for THE SAME MUSIC on vinyl then 8track (ugh) then cassette, then CD, it becomes incredibly difficult to justify paying for it again on mp3. I know the recording industry just expected an endless cycle of format changes and that we consumers would pay for the same shit about 10 times til we die. SURPRISE.

Anonymous Coward says:


As far as I understand, it’s all basically personal opinions. These reports are (often) just that, working papers that are posted to some website. If I’m wrong please correct me, but the report in question has not been peer-reviewed and, thus, has not been published as an academic study in the classic sense. I’d even go so far as to say that without peer review it’s not academic.

I’m an academic myself, and it hurts to see that people can just write a paper and put it online without following any kind of reviewing process, and its subsequently being accepted as academic/scientific truth. That’s just not how it works.

Then again, if the study was sent in to a respected journal, reviewed and accepted, please accept my apologies.

Kassandra (profile) says:


Eric Walter, the secretary general of Hadopi, said that the relatively low number of third-stage offenders showed that the system had succeeded.

Or it shows that those that download have either realised that the systems that were using were not as anonymous as they thought so they went to cyber lockers or signed up for a VPN and SFTP the stuff down.

Watchit (profile) says:


Just because a report hasn’t been through a “respected” journal, doesn’t mean it is impossible for it to be true. And while putting something through a “respected” journal does give it more credibility, it doesn’t preclude it from errors of some sort or another either. Why do we need something to be “academic” in order to believe it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Sarkosy seems to be behaving in the same way that a lot of French people died to trying to suppress, ie, Facist. if he is voted in again, how can anyone have any sympathy for the French people? mind you, there will still be the problems of whether the new President will keep his word and ditch Hadopi, how long he will take to do it and will something else be brought in instead?

JMT says:


Just an observation. You don’t seem to understand how blogs work.

Techdirt articles always contain links to source information, and often also contain links to previous posts where a point being made in the post was discussed in greater detail. Those previous posts will also have contain links to source information, and often also contain links to previous posts where a point being made in the post was discussed in greater detail. Do you see the pattern forming here?

If you can’t decide whether or not you believe something written, follow the info as far back as need to make up your mind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Still trying to push the old Utunes theory? I have to laugh.

Mike, without some sort of impetus on the other site, the itunes theory just doesn’t work out. People are going to pirate if they can, why pay all that money for an infinite good, right? Well, they will pay when the risks of pirating are much higher than the cost of buying.

Let’s go further – smart phones have something that home PCs don’t have, which is a fairly unique ID system, and much better tracking of use. I suspect that people have moved to smart phone devices, realizes that they cannot as easily use the SODDI defense, and just stopped. Why take the risk.

HADOPI isn’t entirely responsible for the changes, but you have to be truly arrogant to think it has not had some effect on the less than dedicated pirates out there.

john smith says:

I would definitely agree that the word “debunk” is used frequently around here. Often in contexts where said “debunking” is no stronger an argument (and often a weaker argument) than whatever is being “debunked”.

In this case, the authors of the study use cautious language and seem to be open about the potential challenges to their study. The authors of the techdirt pieces write as if their arguments are incontrovertible. It’s a shame the conversation can’t be more about looking for the truth and less about who can use the most powerful language regardless of the basis of their arguments.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...