Two New Reports Confirm: Best Way To Reduce Piracy Dramatically Is To Offer Good Legal Alternatives

from the pretty-obvious,-really dept

At the beginning of last year we reported on a Swedish study that showed that streaming services had halved the number of people who were downloading music illegally in Scandinavia. That’s a pretty stunning figure, but of course is only one data point, which means that people can always argue that it’s not possible to generalize. So it’s good that not just one but two new reports confirm and broaden that finding.

The first concerns unauthorized downloads of music, films and TV in Norway. As TorrentFreak explains:

The report shows that in 2008 almost 1.2 billion songs were copied without permission. However, by 2012 that figure had plummeted to 210 million, just 17.5% of its level four years earlier.

As expected, piracy of movies and TV shows in 2008 was at much lower levels than music, with 125 million movies and 135 million TV shows copied without permission. But by last year the figures for both had reduced by around half, to 65 million and 55 million respectively.

What’s interesting is that music has fallen far more than the others. One explanation for that could be the effect observed in the Swedish study referred to above, and the fact that there are far more legal offerings for music than for other media. That’s borne out by other figures from the Norwegian research:

Of those questioned for the survey, 47% (representing around 1.7 million people) said they use a streaming music service such as Spotify. Even more impressively, just over half (corresponding to 920,000 people and 25% of Norwegian Internet users) said that they pay for the premium option.

The other report concerns piracy in the Netherlands. It was commissioned by Spotify, which obviously has an interest in promoting streaming solutions as a way of reducing illegal activity. Nonetheless, its figures are interesting:

Not only has the number of people engaging in music piracy in the Netherlands fallen in recent times, it also appears to be an infrequent activity for most of those who remain.

There were 6.8m residential broadband connections in the Netherlands in 2012

BitTorrent music piracy occurred on 1.8m unique IPs in 2012, around a quarter of the total

Of that 1.8m, a large passive group of 532,000 (29%) downloaded just one music file

A minority of 188,000 (10%) “hardcore” pirates downloaded 16 files or more

This Long Tail distribution is an important insight, as it highlights that most people take very little. Meanwhile, the top 10% take over half of the content.

The Spotify study quotes some figures from earlier work in the Netherlands, which show that the number of active pirates declined from around 5 million in 2008 to 3 million in 2011 and 1.8 million in 2012. Because the methodologies of the studies were different, these may not be strictly comparable, but they do give an idea of the general direction. The research also provides the following information:

Last year also saw the publication of a study titled ‘File sharing 2©12: Downloading from illegal sources in the Netherlands’ by Joost Poort of IviR and the University of Amsterdam. The author claimed that illegal downloading of music has fallen between 2008 and 2012, whilst film and TV piracy is increasing (see table 2). The author cited the popularity of legal alternatives such as Spotify and YouTube as being the primary reason for explaining the fall in piracy over the four year period.

Again, copyright maximalists will doubtless say these are only a few studies, but such claims are looking weaker with every new result that confirms the general trend across multiple countries. They all underline what Techdirt has been saying for years: that the best way to reduce piracy is simply to increase the number of legal options offering what people want at a fair price.

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Companies: spotify

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Comments on “Two New Reports Confirm: Best Way To Reduce Piracy Dramatically Is To Offer Good Legal Alternatives”

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41 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

"1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

So that blows the Techdirt assertion that piracy is a small problem.

2nd, this is only music, and it’s likely that people have pirated more than they can listen to in a lifetime, or found the few they like to listen repeatedly.

3rd, accepting the low rates Spotify pays won’t actually help the artists.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/22/spotify_to_stayaways_youre_only_hurting_yourselves_my_dears/

S. T. Stone says:

Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

Let me ask you a question: do you dispute the idea that offering a quality legal alternative to piracy helps curb piracy?

When I say ?quality alternative?, I describe a service that offers a convenient way for consumers to consume the product in question (music, movies, books, etc.) at a price that sits in line with what the market (e.g. the average consumer) sees as a reasonable price for the product.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

its not spotify’s problem that the artist signed up with a leech of a label that takes half or more than half of the artists pie in some cases. Perhaps the artists should start ditching the labels are keeping their money instead of crying about Spotify.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

All I see here is “I was wrong and can’t accept it”. Face it shilly, as your masters have grudgingly sold their products at reasonable prices shock people have paid for them.

As for you hating on spotify, take a minute to think about the actual numbers and you’ll see it’s actually one of the best playing platforms and it actually rewards good music not just artists with rich backers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

Not really, it is in line with numbers for radio for example over a year, you get billions of single instances of listening from pirates that don’t pay anything is just that it is legal, remove that and you will see it happen elsewhere.

Second, Spotify pays something radio stations in the US pay nothing, what are you babbling about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

I don’t remember tech dirt ever saying it was a small problem. Just that there was a simple fix. Make your content available and it will reduce piracy. You will still have those that will take it because they can but that is a much smaller figure then what piracy used to be. Those studies prove that.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

I don’t remember tech dirt ever saying it was a small problem.

Either way a “Big Scary Number”(tm) like “1.2 billion songs downloaded” does in itself not make it a large problem… the number of items “pirated” should never be anywhere near the issue – the real issues are questions like “are the companies profitable?” or “How do people actually want to consume the content and how can we match our offerings to that?”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

I don’t remember tech dirt ever saying it was a small problem.

The closest thing I can think of is that a number of writers postulate (and I agree with them) that the problem isn’t anywhere near as large as the maximalists make it out to be. That’s not the same thing as saying it’s not a big problem, of course.

However, Blue wouldn’t know this. Blue reads some weird version of Techdirt that exists only in his mind, not the one that actually appears on this site. It’s the only way to explain how it is that he manages to misrepresent Techdirt’s positions in almost every comment.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

“I don’t remember tech dirt ever saying it was a small problem.”

They haven’t. They’ve said that it’s not anywhere near the problem the industry makes it out to be, that there are ways to tackle it that ensure that losses due to piracy are minimal and that the problem remaining after that will be minimal since those pirates probably wouldn’t buy anyway. They’ve said that the industry repeatedly lies about how big the problem is, not that there isn’t a problem.

ootb is one of those pathetic trolls that deliberately misrepresents everything here to make a point. Thus it’s a “pirate site” because it dares to suggest that piracy isn’t the main problem. That Mike wants to “give everything away” because he’s highlighted how free can be used as part of a business model, etc. I think he’s one of those people who attack me for being a pirate whenever I tell an anecdote about how I legally buy content. They’re in their own little world that bears little relationship to reality.

What’s hilarious is that his own quotes and links actually damage whatever point he thinks he’s making. He attacks the 1.2 billion figure, deliberately ignoring the part where piracy has dropped 80% in 4 years (but which everyone else can see). He links to The Register to try and prove how bad Spotify are, without realising that the very headline is stating how not being on Spotify actually increases piracy.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

So that blows the Techdirt assertion that piracy is a small problem.

I’ve never seen Techdirt claim it’s a small problem. Unless you have a link to such a statement, I’ll consider your remark as more bullshit you’ve pulled from your ass.

I have stated multiple times that if you have large swaths of the population ignoring a law, perhaps the law is the problem, not the actions of the people.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

So, that money is better lost to torrenting? I’m not following.

Because he lives in a parallel universe where the seller gets to demand whatever they like for their product no matter how unreasonable rather than the price being established by market forces like in the universe everyone else lives in…

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

I love how people go on about Spotify’s low rates but ignore 2 crucial points.

1. They don’t pay artists directly. They pay rights holders who then distribute that to artists.

2. Spotify is not the only revenue stream for an artist, it is not even the only streaming service from which they earn money.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "1.2 billion songs were copied without permission" just in Norway!

…and the big ones:

3. The amounts are actually equivalent to per listener radio airplay (IIRC it’s been claimed to be more for an equivalent number of listeners). It just looks tiny because people compare the revenue for one listen for one user compared to a single radio play that might have thousands or hundreds of thousands of listeners.

4. Most complaints make the stupid mistake of comparing sales to rental/individual listens. Of course the latter is going to be smaller, because they’re completely different things.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the legal way is cheap and easy people flock to it. You’ll never stop the hard core pirates or people who just don’t have a single penny to spare but yet still have a fancy computer and are savy enough (Read: typical starving college student)… even the slightest inconvenience (Finding the right site, finding the right torrent, finding the right program to download said torrent from, make sure you don’t get viruses or other programs you weren’t counting on!!) is too much of a hassle… and will never be less of a hassle than it is right now… unless the industry attacks the pirates again and the pirates evolve once more. If they had just left the IRC channels alone…

Lord Binky says:

Companies can’t lower the price, because they DESERVE big profits. Without those big profits they can’t give their investors good returns or give top management the massive salaries and bonuses that they all DESERVE. So obviously the problem is with consumers who don’t deserve to not buy products at the prices the companies want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Easy choices...

I COULD buy a digital copy for $25 that works just on a single type of device/OS. Or the the kids 22 minute show for $20+.

I Could buy the same movie from a Physical store (IE: Walmart) for $20 that works on the player and is protected so I can not watch it on any other device. Or the the kids 22 minute show in the discount bin for $1-5 on DVD.

Or… I could download the movie for free and watch it on any device I want.

If digital movies where just $4.99 (MAX) and DRM free so I could play them on any platform I would be buy them up like crazy – easily buying the top 3-5 weekly new releases.

With choices like that it is no wonder what the choice would be for a resonable person.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Easy choices...

EZTV is being blocked in the UK now. I was talking to someone who claimed “well aren’t streaming services enough for you?” and my response was as follows.

EZTV provides a service that gives me quick, high quality, DRM free downloads of TV shows that I can play on any my devices. They are available soon after they have aired, in a easy to understand format and there is no region locked windowing.

That is a better service than anyone else offers simply for being able to sidestep the ridiculous policies of the big content producers that have nothing to do with the actual economic realities. This results in me, who wants to makes sure the people who produce content are paid for me, having to use platforms that are simply worse for the consumer.

Which are all things that have nothing to do with one platform giving me content for free and the other being paid for. I would happily pay far more for a service like EZTV than I do for netflix because it’s such a vastly better service.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Big surprise. Not.

Because of the stupid prices of ebooks and the DRM on them, I started downloading them from Project Gutenberg and similar sites instead. Of course, there’s no such alternative for the music you hear in shops and pubs, so I had to download a few tracks until the launch of services like Spotify. Doesn’t exactly take a genius to know the outcome of that, but those who work in ‘the industry’ do tend to be rather stupid.

PaulT (profile) says:

“What’s interesting is that music has fallen far more than the others. One explanation for that could be the effect observed in the Swedish study referred to above, and the fact that there are far more legal offerings for music than for other media”

My explanation is simply this: Spotify et al are EASIER than piracy. If a song is on Spotify, I can be anywhere at any time and as long as I have an internet connection I can be listening to it in seconds. Piracy usually requires me to wait for the download, on many mobile devices I’m restricted to what I’ve already synced and have to wait till I get home to sync again before I can listen, etc.

The number of competing services is great, but as long as the content’s on the platform I think you’d have to be foolish *not* to use Spotify or a competitor over and above piracy.

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