Supplying The Missing Ingredient In Evidence-Based Policymaking: Evidence

from the just-the-facts,-ma'am dept

It seems extraordinary that in the area of copyright it is only recently that people have started to consider the evidence before formulating policy. Even now, there is still resistance to this idea in some quarters. Elsewhere, though, there is a growing recognition that policy-makers must have access to the data they need when considering how to achieve given goals.

That’s very much the impulse behind a new document entitled “Statistical, Ecosystems and Competitiveness Analysis of the Media and Content Industries“. It has been prepared on behalf of the European Commission by the Joint Research Centre, which describes its role as follows:

to provide EU policies with independent, evidence-based scientific and technical support throughout the whole policy cycle.

The bulk of the report is filled with detailed tables of figures and charts attempting to show what’s been happening over the last few years in the media industries. Here’s a summary of what the Joint Research Centre hopes producing these will achieve:

This study aims first of all to gain a better understanding of the dynamics in the Media and Content Industries (MCI) and to produce an assessment of the current and future competitiveness of the European MCI sector. The study maps the economic value and growth potential of this sector, driven by increasing awareness of the economic value of the sector. The sector itself has grown considerably over the past decades, but it also contributes to the growth of the Information Society. It provides the content which, in digital form, requires high speed broadband networks and thus stimulates the roll-out of broadband networks. The MCI is also an important part of the creative industries, which stimulate a flourishing creative climate thereby attracting other highly skilled economic activities, leading to vibrant urban economies (Florida, 2002; UNCTAD, 2008; European Commission, 2010a).

Secondly, this study aims to gain insights into the fundamental changes in this sector, which have taken place over the past two decades as a result of the introduction of ICT in different parts of the production and distribution process. Some of these technological innovations were so fundamental that they caused changes in the production chain, in the roles and positions in the value chain, in business models and in market structures. In other words, they have led to a transformation of the whole ecosystem.

Significantly, much of the first half of the report is given over to exploring why it is so hard to draw up detailed figures on the media and content industries. Part of the problem is that such official statistics as are available — and they are relatively limited — follow older industry categories that don’t really fit any more. Even relatively new ones are problematic:

The new OECD definition intends to give a better reflection of the current MCI sector structure. However, the underlying categorization of the Media and Content Industries can not account for one of the most apparent trends in the Media and Content Industries, i.e. its increasing interconnectedness and convergence with ICT (telecom, computer and software industries). Distribution is now separated from MCI and included in ICT category, but increasingly distribution companies are involved in acquisition of content and content rights, packaging and marketing of content, sometimes also adding added value by producing additional services (EPG, communication services etc.) The same is true for new entrants such as major ICT firms like Google, Apple, YouTube, which are also increasingly involved in not just dissemination of content but also in many content related activities.

It is this intermingling of media, content, computers and communications in the digital sphere that makes it so hard to establish what is really happening. For example, the decline bemoaned by many in the traditional copyright industries is in many ways simply a reflection of the fact that new forms of creation and distribution are starting to replace the established ones, but capturing that in official statistics is hard.

One way around that is to turn to other sources:

In order to complement the data from official statistics, the study includes ‘unofficial’ statistics on developments in MCI. With the help of this data, it provides insight into the transformations taking place in MCI that are not immediately apparent in the official statistics. The main topics for which statistical evidence has been collected are the transformations resulting from the impact of ICT, or more specifically the impact of the internet and digitalisation on the production and distribution of media and content. This concerns especially the shift from offline (physical) to online digital distribution of content, and the impact of piracy, P2P networks and user-generated content in particular sub-sectors.

However, in this context the report makes an important point:

From investigating data found by screening major sources from industry associations, consultancies and research institutes specialised in media and content industries, an important conclusion is that it is impossible to directly compare or complement official statistics with unofficial statistics

One source of unofficial statistics is, of course, industry bodies. The report quotes some of their figures in a discussion of piracy:

The industry regards piracy as a serious threat for their business. Table 22 shows estimates by the film industry in 2005 for the losses incurred due to piracy. For the music industry, IFPI (2010) states that the music industry experienced a decline in sales of 30% from 2004 to 2009, which it mainly attributes to file sharing.

It’s good to see that those figures aren’t accepted uncritically, simply reported. Even more importantly, rather than accept the naïve view that unauthorized file sharing is necessarily harmful to the copyright industries, the report quotes one of the few studies available that looks at what the evidence says:

Although it is difficult to understand the true impact of illegal file sharing on the industry, it is clear that every file downloaded does not result automatically in one less CD or DVD sold. TNO conducted a statistical analysis and calculated the effect of illegal file sharing on the music industry for the Dutch market through a welfare-theoretical approach. They calculated the substitution ratio for the Dutch music industry, and estimated a substitution ratio of at most 5-7%. In other words: for every 15-20 downloads one track less is sold. However, the economic implications of file sharing for the level of welfare in the Netherlands were found to be strongly positive in the short and long terms, because downloaders buy the same amount of music as non-downloaders, and more games and DVDs than non-downloaders. Moreover, downloaders go to more concerts and buy more merchandise (TNO, 2009). It should however be noted that because of the fact that this study is focused on a single country, its conclusions can not be generalized to the EU as a whole without further investigation.

This is just one study, albeit a suggestive one, of what is happening in one country. Clearly many more are needing in order to establish the real impact of unauthorized sharing on the traditional copyright industries. Let’s hope the Joint Research Centre can build on its current report and contribute to the gathering of more complete evidence on this crucial topic.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and on Google+

Filed Under: , , , , ,

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 “Supplying The Missing Ingredient In Evidence-Based Policymaking: Evidence”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with the politicians and policy makers is that they like other people to provide them with them with the evidence. As a result they tend to go with the ‘evidence’ that best fits their political views.
A risk with any policy orientated research group or organization is that they will become controlled by special interest groups funding their work, amd/or providing data or access to ‘experts’

out_of_the_blue says:

Using "statistics" as propaganda.

Though I should let this piece wallow in its author’s ignorance while it’s being ignored by all but 3 fanboys, because this is a constant theme at Techdirt, I’ll risk giving them opportunity for more mindless ad hom. So here goes:

The basis for copyright has nothing to do with how well the industry is doing. Copyright is moral recognition of who owns a created work, who should profit from it, and who should NOT profit from it. That means those consuming any content should pay for all they take.

Doesn’t matter how well the overall industry is doing, copyright is to prevent individual thefts! Your argument here is basically same as saying don’t prosecute any muggings, overall the country is doing great. You’re attempting to remove the moral sanction against any particular act by claiming statistical evidence for general well-being. Statistics are most often used to support wrongs (lies, damn lies, and statistics), and that’s what you’re doing.

Heck, even you can’t make a firm case, hedge in summary: “This is just one study, albeit a suggestive one, of what is happening in one country.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Using "statistics" as propaganda.

If what you’re saying is true, out_of_the_ass, there would be no need for constant propaganda stating that artists need stronger copyright. If how well artists are doing is irrelevant to policymaking, then why do you trolls feel the need to plug sob stories every time suggestions contrary to maximism are made, eh?

And please continue mixing copyright issues with theft issues. Until copyright infringement is punished on the same level-headedness that theft is, your point is bollocks. Never mind how laws, the very cornerstone of your “but but but it’s the law!” arguments in favour of copyright enforcement, already consider the former less severe than the latter.

without_a_clue says:

Re: Using "statistics" as propaganda.

Point 1) No proof given, just ad homs.

Point 2) Copyright has nothing to do with morality. Given that ootb has no sense of morals in the first place, we can safely ignore anything he/she/it has to say on that point.

Point 3) Copyright was made to protect companies from companies, not individuals from individuals, or companies from individuals.


Anonymous Coward says:

‘ Let’s hope the Joint Research Centre can build on its current report and contribute to the gathering of more complete evidence on this crucial topic.’

let’s hope that the information can be collected honestly, without the usual threatening influence from the industries and give a true result, rather than one that reflects nothing other than the industry supplied bullshit figures and the measures they want to implement to maintain their stranglehold over the distribution, pricing and availability to the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

And so we’ve come down to the results of lay-offs indirectly. All this data gathering is done by people doing their jobs mostly; with the exception university and college studies and research.

Lamescream media mostly no longer does reporting, they want someone else to do it because they don’t have the people to pound the streets because of consolidation and layoffs. They get their feeds from syndication and the internet and rewrite it.

The copywrong industry is paying for the results they want. If a company tries to do it right with an unbiased study, the copywrong industry shelves it and doesn’t use the study nor the outfit that made the report again. Sooner or later these think tanks get the idea if they want repeat business, then they have to give the payer of the research what is demanded.

As usual, OOTB wants to try and make a moral argument out of what comes out to be strictly about the money, business, and control. Notice he never makes mention of the accusation about being paid to be here. It’s funny that the morality issues come from the most moral bankrupt sources you could imagine. It never, ever ceases to sound like a particularly bad joke that doesn’t fit.

Those studies that get shelved because they don’t parrot the line from the copywrong industries? Read what some of them say:

Those are the sources that really should be used instead of those strictly pro stricter copywrong enforcement.

Marc Bogdanowicz says:

Copyright issues

Thank you for your review of the MCI statistical report, produced by our TNO colleagues on our behalf. I invite those interested to look at the full series at:, where you will also find a specific dedicated report introducing to Copyright issues.
The “good news” is that the JRC-IPTS does currently dig this copyright aspects further, developping – as you nicely encourage – evidence to nurture a debate that is too heavily influenced by ideological positions and conflicts of interest.
So, follow us, as more will be published on our sites in 2013…(look up:

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...