Study: Hadopi Has Been Great For Big Artists And Labels, Bad For The Spread Of Culture And Smaller Or New Artists

from the promoting-the-progress dept

Hadopi, the French law built to punish copyright infringers in graduated steps, was always controversial. In addition to many in the public scoffing at the punishment ramp the law put on the public, the actual effects of the law have been murky at best. While Hadopi basically ceased to be in 2016, it is true that the French public has been trending towards less piracy and more legal practices in its wake. Always at question is exactly how direct a relationship that kind of trend has with laws like Hadopi. Studies have straddled both answers to that question, even as we all realize the truth, which is that the impact of laws like Hadopi is nuanced.

Fortunately, the latest study looking back at when Hadopi was first introduced has a nicely nuanced output. The academic study by Ruben Savelkoul compared digital music sales across several European countries looking to answer two questions. First, did Hadopi actually correlate to increased digital music sales through its threat of enforcement? Second, how were those effects spread across the music industry landscape and how long-lasting were they?

The answers are quite fascinating. As to the first question:

One of the main findings is that Hadopi had a positive effect on the sales of digital music tracks in France compared to the two control countries. This effect was the strongest for popular artists. In addition, the findings suggest that the effect of Hadopi on sales decreased over time, except for bigger artists.

“The introduction of the Hadopi anti-piracy law in France had a positive effect on sales for all artists, superstars as well as artists lower in the sales distribution,” Savelkoul writes. “The effect is stronger for superstars, suggesting that smaller or niche artists gain exposure from illegal downloading, partly offsetting the negative substitution effect on sales,” he adds.

So, did Hadopi result in increased digital music sales? This study says “yes.” However, the bulk beneficiaries of those increased sales were already massively popular artists. For the lesser known, or as of yet mostly undiscovered artists, the effect was low enough to have us question whether allowing for more piracy and discovery would have been even better. This gets to the heart of the modern copyright era. The entire point of copyright writ large is to promote more artistic creation and culture through limited monopolies on creations. The point of copyright is absolutely not to create a music industry monoculture where only a few artists get noticed and survive. Yet this study seems to show that’s what Hadopi did.

And how the culture creation cross-genre shook out after Hadopi tells an even worse story.

This leads to the second hypothesis tested by Savelkoul. Did the anti-piracy measures lead to a reduction in variation when it comes to music consumption? This indeed turned out to be the case.

“We found that in the absence of piracy, consumers tend to concentrate more on genre and style,” Savelkoul writes.

The researcher suggests that piracy makes it easier to discover newer music. As a result, people consume more different types of music. Stricter anti-piracy measures limit this effect and as a result music fans buy more ‘popular’ music.

“In absence of the possibility to sample ‘adventurous’ music, consumers might not be willing to pay and purchase these music items to discover its quality and instead opt for ‘safer’ purchases, thus consuming less variety,” Savelkoul notes.

So, again, we find that the anti-piracy measures story is far more nuanced than some would like you to believe. The question is not: do you want artists to make money from their creations or not? Instead, the question appears to be: which do you care about more, famous artists being able to strictly control access to their content, or the larger spread of culture? Because if you answer the latter, it seems clear that anti-piracy measures like Hadopi work counter to that goal.

Anyone that cares about art should understand that new, inventive, and foreign art adoption by consumers is absolutely preferred, full stop. The spread of art and culture is, in many respects, art’s entire point. None of this is to say that we cannot have some form of copyright protection and enforcement that doesn’t limit cultural spread, of course, but it is certainly to say that any anti-piracy measure that has the sort of effects that Hadopi had should be a complete nonstarter in the future.

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Comments on “Study: Hadopi Has Been Great For Big Artists And Labels, Bad For The Spread Of Culture And Smaller Or New Artists”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

The spread of art and culture is, in many respects, art’s entire point.

“Th’fuck is this nonsense? The point of art is to make money — specifically, to make me money.” — some asshole record label executive, probably

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"I’m afraid I don’t see the connection here."

The connection is simple. Baghdad Bob feels he must prove the sanctity of copyright and so decides to link it to rape, believing not only that there is a correlation but that in the end it’s generally beneficial.

I wish I could say that’s the worst implication I’ve ever seen him make.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Truthful articles about how the recording industry uses fear of piracy to enrich itself at the expense of independent artists? Well, yeah, if they keep doing that then those stories will keep appearing.

The recording industry powerhouses get talent through their DISTRIBUTION network. A signed artist immediately has an audience of millions. Taylor Swift’s home just sold for $28 million. A few patreon supporters won’t match that, nor will they advance the costs of producing an album. None of the above justifies theft anyway.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Holding up one of the musicians who have made it big via the labels, is holding up a lottery winner. Their financial achievement have no relevance to how the vast majority of musicians support their music. Relying on the labels as a musician is more likely to lead to the poor house or no career, while building up a fan base and support via patronage can more easily result in a living income.

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Max (profile) says:

No.

I reject the apparently default assumption that Hadopi led to decreased piracy in the absence of meaningful comparison with a few other places that had absolutely nothing like Hadopi going on (and may or may not have also seen decreased piracy in a comparable timeframe due to… who knows… zeitgeist? Emergence of viable alternatives? Folks getting older?)

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What did you think modern copyright is for??? Modern copyright, much like most other heavily lobbied forms of legislation, is all about ensuring those at the top keep making money hand over fist while keeping and gaining as much power as possible. Thinking anything else is a logical failure from the get-go because it ignores every piece of evidence we’ve been given over the last few decades.

How many times have we heard of pharma companies pushing out "new" drugs for nothing more than the patent on the old one is expiring? Or that prices are being raised because the customer’s alternative is litteral death? How many times has a company like John Deere or Apple decided that your ability to maintain your equipment is irrelevant if they can squeeze more money out of you by banning said ability? How many times a day do you think you’re forced to give up your privacy just to use essential services so companies can make money whoring you out to their co-conspirtors? How many times have we the public lost services because they got the government’s assistance to kill the alternatives? How many times has a company blamed it’s lack of profits on consumer choice, review, and information sharing instead of their own poor product design? How many times has a company abused the law to silence their critics or opinions they didn’t "authorize"? The list goes on….

The public really needs to get over this assumption of corporate goodwill or well meaning by default. They have proven time and time again that as long as it makes or saves them money they will do it regardless of any other additional outcome even if it means cannibalizing portions of themselves or their industry as a whole. They do not deserve the presumion of good nature that they are being given.

Anonymous Coward says:

Most of the money in the music industry is made by the top 1 per cent and the record company,s
taylor swift,adele,beyonce, etc
young people with limited income can watch youtube, or use a free streaming service .
A large part of music revenue comes from streaming service,s ,
record companys get paid by spotify, apple music for streaming the same
music.

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