Music Piracy Continues To Drop Dramatically, But The Industry Hates To Admit That Because It Ruins The Narrative

from the let's-try-this-again dept

This was wholly predictable, of course. Back in 2015, we released a detailed analytical report showing that the absolute easiest and most effective way to reduce piracy was to to enable more and better licensed services that actually gave users what they were seeking for reasonable prices and fewer restrictions. The data in that report showed that focusing on greater legal enforcement had no long term effects on piracy, but more and better authorized services did the trick every time. Then, earlier this year, we released another report showing that the music industry is in the midst of a massive upswing thanks almost entirely to the rapidly increasing success of licensed music streaming platforms. It was incredibly dramatic to look at the numbers.

Put two and two together, and you’d full expect to see a corresponding dramatic drop in piracy. And, indeed, it appears that’s exactly what happened, but the recording industry doesn’t want you to realize that. In IFPI’s latest release, they play up the idea that piracy is still this huge existential problem.

Sounds bad, right? Later in the report it insists that:

Using unlicensed sources to listen to or download music, otherwise known as copyright infringement, remains a threat to the music ecosystem.

A “threat to the music ecosystem”? It also attacks stream ripping: “Stream ripping is the illegal practice of creating a downloadable file from content that is available to stream online. It is now the most prevalent form of online music copyright infringement.” Of course, place shifting/time shifting copyright content has been found to be fair use in the past, so it’s pretty rich for the industry to act like it’s all bad. My own love of music was fueled from back in the day when I was a kid carefully setting up a tape player to tape my favorite songs off the radio. But, hey, to IFPI it’s all evil.

Of course, what IFPI conveniently left out of its report is that these piracy numbers are dropping dramatically. Indeed, IFPI doesn’t bother to mention the historical numbers here, because, boy would that really upset the narrative they’re pushing.

This year 27% of Internet users classify themselves as music pirates, compared to 38% last year. Similarly, the percentage of stream-rippers dropped from 32% to 23% between 2018 and 2019, which is a rather dramatic decrease.

To put this into perspective, out of every 100 persons who were classified as music pirates last year, 29 kicked the habit. And for every 100 stream-rippers, 28 stopped. These groups obviously overlap, but it?s certainly a major shift.

It is, indeed, a major shift. And certainly correlates quite closely with the similarly dramatic rise in the use of licensed services. And this is during a period of time prior to draconian new copyright enforcement laws were put in place, so it’s not like the IFPI has a story to tell about how its new legal regimes helped out here. It seems that the most likely story is exactly what we’ve said for years. Invest in giving the public what they want, in a reasonable manner at a reasonable price, and piracy kinda goes mostly away as a problem.

What an idea.

If only the IFPI would actually recognize that.

Instead, as Torrentfreak notes, IFPI seems to conveniently ignore its historical narratives when the data proves their fear-mongering was exaggerated or wrong:

Another thing we observed is that the role of search engines is no longer highlighted. This used to be a top priority. In 2016 IFPI reported that 66% of all music pirates used general search engines (e.g. Google) to find pirated music. A year later this went down to 54%, last year it dipped under 50%, and in 2019 it?s not mentioned at all.

For some reason, we think this may have been different if these trends had gone in the other direction. For example, in 2016, IFPI sounded the alarm bell when stream-ripping grew 10% while the 28% drop this year isn?t mentioned.

One wonders why a 10% increase was worth setting off the alarm bells, but a much more massive decrease is wholly ignored or, worse, still presented as evidence of a problem. Actually, no, no one wonders why. We know. It would just be nice if politicians finally recognized that IFPI isn’t particularly honest in its framing of all of this. Might have saved us quite a bit of trouble.

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Comments on “Music Piracy Continues To Drop Dramatically, But The Industry Hates To Admit That Because It Ruins The Narrative”

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39 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The day the music died.

The worst case scenario for the IFPI is that those who no longer infringe already have as complete a collection of music as they wish, and therefore no longer have a reason to either ‘rip streams’ or even use streaming services. Oh, the horror.

Of course that would also mean that there is a shrinking interest in new music, or the only new music that has interest is from independents who give their music away and get their ‘rewards’ (financial or otherwise) in other ways.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Even that isn’t necessary.

If piracy rates fall or normalize, all the IFPI really needs to do is say, "Well, looks like giving us money to ‘deal’ with the problem is working, I see no reason why this arrangement should stop!"

It’s not as though governments are in the habit of standing up to these tax collectors. And even if the money coming in started to drop, the RIAA’s sacked people before. Because giving Mitch Bainwol even more money is their top priority…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Can we stop using the term "piracy"?

Should we really be using the term "pirates" for people who download things? If anyone deserves it, it’s the labels for the way they treat the musicians when it comes to payments. "Hollywood" accounting happens here too.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Gary (profile) says:

Re: Can we stop using the term "piracy"?

Well music execs hate it when you say "Sharing" instead. Because copying and sharing are good things that people are encouraged to do in a righteous society.

Hoarding and censoring are things that are discouraged. Unless you are an overpaid exec spouting the company line.

Because sharing is something People do. Censoring is what Corporations do…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Can we stop using the term "piracy"?

Well music execs hate it when you say "Sharing" instead.

Exactly, and any experienced debater can tell you that it’s a strategical error to let an opponent frame the narrative. "Copying" is a relatively neutral term; "pirating" and "sharing" are not, and one takes a side by using those terms. The Techdirt authors send mixed messages by using the former.

A Guy says:

Re: Re: Re: Can we stop using the term "piracy&quot

I actually do not like the term pirating for copyright infringement. Technically, in the US, piracy is still a mandatory life sentence (I think) and the last case where it came up in a US court room was a Somali taking a cargo vessel off the horn of Africa. Because they didn’t kill the crew they let him off with something severe but that didn’t require a mandatory life sentence.

More egregious cases of copyright infringement where someone is selling self made copies to consumers for a profit is something I wouldn’t even want to try to argue about. They knew what they were doing.

This however seems like something that has been decided for decades and is generally accepted as fair use.

A Guy says:

The Piracy Lie

The IFPI has not proven stream ripping is actually illegal in the United States.

We’re SUPER close to the BetaMax decision here. Obviously they want to get FOSS programs like ShareX next after they get the websites that do ShareX like services (screen and audio recorder for your computer).

It appears to be exactly a VCR like device for your computer. Is there any reason to believe that betamax case law wouldn’t control here?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Piracy Lie

Time-shifting programming to watch later has been found to be fair use.

Yes, but I think the cause and effect was mixed up. The BetaMax was ruled legal to make and own because it had non-infringing uses. That decision was not what made time shifting legal, it was the other way around. However I agree with the basic premise that time shifting a music stream should be legal in the exact same way. One problem might be if they’re encrypted then it would run afoul of the DMCA, regardless of fair use. For example, it’s illegal to decrypt and copy a DVD, even if that action would be fair use absent the decryption step.

bob says:

Yeah 28% sounds good, but how big of a sample size did those statistics come from? Percentages mean nothing without the context of where they come from.

From the report:
In total, 34,000 internet users were surveyed with higher numbers of respondents in larger markets. Nationally representative quota samples of between 1,000-3,000 respondents… This ensured that a standard error of +/- 3% was achieved throughout the data, at a 95% confidence level.

But also they state this:
The study was also conducted in China and India but results from these two countries are not included in “global” figures. These twenty-one territories accounted for 92.6% of global recorded music market revenues in 2018, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report 2019.

I assume the report explains why but I don’t have time right now to read it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m surprised 23% of Internet users know what a Steam-ripper is, let alone use one.

And no the report doesn’t really explain any of the numbers or why China and India were left out, they may have left them out if they didn’t collect data from those countries last year to make it easier to compare the numbers.

Whilst all the numbers are only presented as percentages and some of the stats are fairly vague whilst they don’t give any details on the kind of questions they asked or what answers were possible, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they gave people who ripped a stream once the same weighting as people who daily rip streams or only asked if you’d ever ripped a stream instead of how often you do it. (I’ve also been part of similar surveys in the past where they don’t ask legal/illegal but instead paid/free and don’t differente between legal free and illegal free).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

"I’m surprised 23% of Internet users know what a Steam-ripper is, let alone use one."

I agree, and I’m curious how this question is asked in the survey. Perfectly legal offline playback features offered by most streaming services are indistinguishable from stream-ripping to the average user. Especially so if the survey question is something vague like, "Do you ever use software to download a copy of a stream to play when you are not connected to the streaming service?"

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ninja (profile) says:

It was obvious. You can get all the music you could ever listen to for a small, reasonable fee nowadays. I still download stuff because 1- the service I pay for doesn’t have and 2- when I want to listen to them offline I still can’t (not properly).

It’s a perfect case study of success. Now I’m eagerly waiting to see the numbers in the video streaming area and its piracy alternative for the next decade when compared to the last one. They’ve seen a great decline in piracy for a few years now but the trend started to halt and reverse when they fragmented the market. The result is obvious to anyone of use that has a few functioning neurons. Amusingly, people are cutting the cord and many simply won’t go back so it’ll be a ton of money left on the table.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You can get all the music you could ever listen to for a small, reasonable fee nowadays.

For some definition of "get" that, as you say, doesn’t involve you actually getting a copy. Like with video streaming, you should expect that "small, reasonable" and "all" will eventually change as the market fragments. You only "get" anything as long as you keep paying, even if the terms are no longer reasonable or the music you want has disappeared to become some other platform’s "exclusive".

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If I bought every single track I’ve ever saved on my play lists in my preferred streaming service I’d spend enough money to pay for said service at least for 20 years. So yeah.

As for the fragmentation, I believe it’s harder to do it in the music front for several reasons. And piracy is much, much, much easier and available for music (ie: smaller sizes, more availability, no need for dubs or subtitles etc).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You can in fact for most services download to music to play offline. Of course when you cancel service that music will stop working as you would expect. But you can download it to play later. This even goes for Video streaming services. Netflix and others allow you to download the content, at least their own, some stuff you can’t as they don’t have a license, but you can download and watch offline. Good if you’re flying someplace. Download before, once up in the air, you can watch what you want without an internet connection. The same goes for music.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: I also prefer downloads to streaming AFA music is concerned

I agree! I prefer downloads over streaming as far as music is concerned. Why? It’s the paradigm of ownership vs. tenancy. I’d rather own something than rent it. Not to mention that there are PC games out there that require or allow MP3s (e.g. Beat Blaster, Crypt of the Necrodancer, etc.) which you just cannot do with streaming. Also, I make music, and sometimes you need the original to sample (consistent with copyright and contract law; I make sure to ask permission and/or read the fine print. That being said, some of the samples come from people whom I know personally). Another reason is that I can edit the ID3 tags to what I please on files that I own. Not so much on tracks from a streaming service. That way, I can change tags such as the genre and artist name (within reason, of course).

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d guess most of these people are ripping from YouTube…that’s certainly the only kind of "stream ripping" that I’ve seen in the past decade. You go to a website, you paste in the YouTube URL, and it gives you back an MP3. Even if you have a paid streaming service, it’s probably far easier to download the track from YouTube rather than trying to rip from the paid service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Or maybe piracy dropped because everyone is trying work their ass off in an attempt to stave off an overdue recession, never mind that most middle class and below haven’t really recovered from the 2008 one where the bankers got a free pass to anally rape the planet with a spiked dildo, and can’t put up the time or resources to consume music and entertainment, never mind pirate it.

The IFPI has always thought of other people as walking wallets waiting to be plundered.

Anonymous Coward says:

options are the best option

currently I can buy music:
vinyl
CD’s
(digital) mp3, AAC, etc.
stream (music by $ubscription sucks, but some like it)
I like having these OPTIONS. Hopefully the game industry is taking notes. As long as consumers have multiple options in how we purchase/store our entertainment, it’s all good.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The Grateful Dead taught the labels it was possible for musicians to make money without the services of the labels. The labels want to control the Internet, because it will enable them to decide which musicians have a career, and how much tribute they pay the labels.

M. Bizeau Damien says:

Piracy is still a big problem WORLDWIDE!

I think piracy is definitely still a huge insult towards digital content creators. And these professionals mainly don’t get paid enough for their works online distributed legally now; you "forgot" to mention that here! IFPI’s efforts are not really making a big difference: it’s true because it’s very difficult to drastically change the mentality of piracy perpetuators. Personally I prefer to keep my own music works out of this bad online market. I started learning the piano 44 years ago and got badly exposed to a pirate from NASA in Maryland 16 years ago: it ruined my life. M. Bizeau Damien (musician in France).

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