Yet Another Report Says More Innovation, Rather Than More Enforcement, Reduces Piracy

from the the-data-keeps-flowing dept

It’s not like many of us haven’t been saying this for years: but fighting piracy through greater copyright enforcement doesn’t work. It’s never worked and it’s unlikely to ever work. A year ago, we released our big report, The Carrot or the Stick? that explored at a macro level what appeared to lead to reduced levels of piracy — enforcement or legal alternatives — and found overwhelming evidence that enforcement had little long-term impact (and a small short-term impact), but that enabling legal alternatives had a massive impact in reducing piracy. This should sound obvious, but it was important to look at the actual data, which backed it up.

Now, there’s a new and different study that further supports this idea. Researchers at the University of East Anglia, Lancaster University and Newcastle University have a new report saying that promoting legal alternatives is much more effective in stopping piracy than the threat of legal consequences.

The researchers say that in order to compete with unlawful file sharing (UFS), easy access to information about the benefits of legal purchases or services should be given in a way that meets the specific benefits UFS offers in terms of quality, flexibility of use and cost.

The team looked at the extent to which the unlawful sharing of music and eBooks is motivated by the perceived benefits as opposed to the legal risks. Involving almost 1400 consumers, the research explored people’s ability to remain anonymous online, their trust in the industries and UK legal regulators such as Ofcom, and their downloading behaviour.

It’s a very different approach to our own research, but the conclusions remain almost identical. In short, the researchers found that for people who really “trust” regulators, then the threat of punishment was effective. The problem, however, is that not that many people actually trust regulators. That leaves officials with two choices: increase trust in regulators, or… figure out ways to incentivize more legal, innovative alternatives. And, of course, one way to destroy trust in regulators is to support policies like expanding copyright enforcement.

Co-author Dr Piers Fleming, from UEA’s School of Psychology, said: “It is perhaps no surprise that legal interventions regarding UFS have a limited and possibly short-term effect, while legal services that compete with UFS have attracted significant numbers of consumers.

“Our findings suggest that it may be possible to diminish the perceived benefit of UFS by increasing risk perception, but only to the extent that UFS is considered emotionally, and users trust industry and regulators. Increasing trust in industry and regulators may be one route toward encouraging UFS to be considered in emotional rather than rational terms. However, given the limited impact of risk perception upon behaviour, a better strategy would be to provide a desirable legal alternative.”

So, that’s common sense and two very different studies with very different approaches — all suggesting the same thing. And yet, politicians, regulators and legacy industry folks still insist that ratcheting up enforcement is the way to go. What will it take for them to actually follow what the evidence says, rather than continuing with faith-based copyright policies?

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Comments on “Yet Another Report Says More Innovation, Rather Than More Enforcement, Reduces Piracy”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I think it is that the legacy industry people feel like they don’t have an incentive to change. They just want people to hand them money like back in the day and they got too comfortable with that. Otherwise, they wouldn’t spend so much trying to control the entire internet to suit their needs instead of adapting.

Ninja (profile) says:

I recently got into a deal with my mobile carrier that gives me unlimited access to a music streaming service (yeah, net neutrality violations and stuff but among the offenders it ranks at the bottom so I went for it).

The only music I have downloaded since then are the stuff that I could not find in that service. Which means that if it had full availability I’d probably cease downloading music from file sharing (ie infringing stuff). I’m sure I’m not alone. And I’m those file sharers that actively hates the MAFIAA to the point I will avoid even downloading their content let alone buy stuff from them.

Availability, ease of use and fair pricing. That’s just what they need to greatly reduce piracy. It’s obvious, everybody knows and it won’t happen unless external players force them, much like when vhs came out and they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new age that soon became their main revenue source.

Whatever says:


I figured this is the angle you would go for, because it legitimizes lawbreaking. The only way forward is to shut down every URL that looks remotely like it’s infringing, bumping up the numbers if necessary. It doesn’t matter that the links are invalid, what’s important is that once it’s flagged, it will no longer allow access to illegitimate files. After all, there are too many links for content creators to check. It shouldn’t matter if anti-piracy enforcers create some fake ones of their own.

And I bet you’re going to censor this comment too, and stop the world from learning from my insight. Because you’re a disgusting den of thieves, and can’t stand alternative points of view.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: wow

Guys, I think that’s a parody attempt. The real Whatever will try to state such drooling idiocy, but he’ll usually word it a bit differently.

Although if it is the genuine article, I’d like to know how essentially saying “stop faking your supposed proof of piracy and offer a decent service to paying customers” legitimises lawbreaking. I love alternative points of view, just not bare-faced fictions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: wow

It doesn’t matter that the links are invalid, what’s important is that once it’s flagged, it will no longer allow access to illegitimate files.”

so how does that work? if the url linking to a copyrighted work is:
and the request is to block
then when the block is put in place the original file is still accessible, so the fake address does nothing.

So again I ask how is this helping?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: wow

Although I again assume this is a parody moron rather than our usual resident:

I think that it’s saying that it’s irrelevant that fake URLs are generated because those won’t affect anyone but the ones that happen to match up to real URLs will be blocked and thus stop people accessing them.

Which, if you ignore such concerns as intellectual honesty, protecting innocent bystanders and due process is all well and good. For some people, anything is OK as long as it benefits them, even if that benefit is not visibly apparent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: wow

“stop the world from learning from my insight”

Popular reader opinion seems to be that your comments frequently qualify as “abusive/trolling/spam” enough so to warrant being flagged as such and reach default hidden status. Something to think about is why a large number of people have that particular impression.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, steam and GoG has made my game piracy become basically zero (apart from DRM broken games i f-ing bought but can’t use) and spotify/Bandcamp nullified my music piracy. I am waiting for you hollywood, make easy, affordable access to your stuff and that piracy will diminish as well. I would happily pay between 5-15 bucks for files I could download to my NAS. I want a library I OWN in the format I choose. One can dream, one can dream

DannyB (profile) says:

The problem with Innovation

Innovation tends to create the other two evils of ‘competition’ and ‘disruption’ which are even worse than ‘piracy’. Gatekeepers can live with piracy. As long as competition and disruption are prevented.

Piracy makes for a wonderful secondary revenue stream by suing and getting settlements from people who may be completely innocent. Such as taking kids entire college education money away for downloading a few songs. Collection societies can spring up like weeds to collect licenses for things they don’t even represent, and for playing the radio or humming a tune in a public place.

But once Innovation is allowed, that opens the door to competition and disruption which can undermine the nice stable order of things where endless revenues comes in for doing nothing.

Also, that “legal alternative” to not having access, except when we want, where we want, and for how much much much we want, it would would prevent us from ‘creating demand’ and charging outrageous prices to enjoy the work for a limited window of time before we turn off the supply to create more demand.


That One Guy (profile) says:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something..."

And yet, politicians, regulators and legacy industry folks still insist that ratcheting up enforcement is the way to go. What will it take for them to actually follow what the evidence says, rather than continuing with faith-based copyright policies?

It becomes a lot less confusing once you stop buying into their ‘this is to stop piracy’ lie and understand the actual goals of their efforts.

Killing off competition and maintaining the control they want.

All the ‘anti-piracy’ laws have demonstrated themselves to be completely ineffective at so much as presenting a speed-bump to copyright infringement, but they are awesome at hindering competition.

Demands that any link must be paid for, that everything must be scanned for ‘copyright infringement’, that accusation is as good as proof, all of these things present significant problems to smaller companies and individuals that might otherwise be able to compete with the larger, entrenched companies. If other sites and services can’t exist, or are deliberately hobbled then (ideally, to them) it makes it so that people must go through them, whether to make something public or to read/watch/listen to it. They get to dictate terms because they are the only avenue to the content.

All the evidence in the world that the best way to combat copyright infringement involves competition rather than yet more laws won’t do squat to change their minds because the target isn’t copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is the excuse, the boogieman they use to get the laws they want passed unopposed(you know, like ‘terrorism’ is for governments), the last thing they want is to get rid of it.

LAB (profile) says:

Studies aren’t really needed, access is key. However, the argument that it’s all about stifling competition rings hollow. The infringement statutory penalties are commercial in nature. To stop businesses from using another business’s product to profit. They have been misapplied to individuals for years. It is hard to compete with a business that takes your product and profits from it or undercuts your ability to sell your product by offering it at a discounted rate before you have a chance to bring it to market by breaking the law. That is the purpose of statutory damages for infringement. Not to punish the teenager or college ripping games or music in his room.

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