Once Again, If Copyright Enforcement Doesn't Improve The Bottom Line, What's The Point?
from the serious-question dept
We’ve been asking for years which is more important for content creators: stopping piracy or increasing revenue? It’s a question they hate to respond to, because every time I ask it, the responses often involve ad hominem attacks and anger. I’ve even seen a very small number of content creators claim that stopping piracy is more important, though I can’t understand how that makes any sense at all. Think of it this way: if you could know, with certainty, that you as an artist could make more money and have a bigger fan base, but the “trade off” is also knowing that a larger group of people would effectively “free ride” and not pay for your content, why is that a problem? After all, in that scenario, everyone is better off. The artist is better off because they’re making more money and have a larger fanbase. The fans are better off because more of them get to know of an artist they like. So where is the problem?
Yet, nearly all copyright policy seems to be focused on increasing enforcement to try to stop piracy, with almost no concern as to whether or not it actually helps the bottom line. Time and time again we see draconian enforcement rules put in place with no evidence that it actually helps sales. At all. The latest example comes from Japan. As you may recall, last year, Japan passed some insanely draconian anti-piracy laws that made unauthorized downloading a criminal offense. The law has been in effect for almost a year and the results are staggering.
While the observed reporting of file sharing has certainly dropped, so have sales — and by a very, very wide margin. And this even includes digital sales, which are growing rapidly almost everywhere else.
From October 1 2012, those downloading copyrighted material without permission faced a potential two year jail sentence. But while users of Japan’s favorite P2P networks plummeted, sales have not been positively affected. Total music sales this year so far are down 7% on the same period last year, but digital sales are even worse – down 24% since the law was introduced.
From the numbers, it looks like there was a brief boost in sales right after the law went into place, and then they pretty much dropped off a cliff. This is similar to the effect we’ve seen elsewhere as well. There’s a brief adjustment period where people may buy a little more briefly, but it fades very, very quickly.
Once again, this shows how ratcheting up enforcement (even to insane levels like criminalizing file sharing) doesn’t actually help. Instead, listening to what consumers want, providing better, more open, more consumer friendly solutions does actually get consumers to spend more.