NZ Copyright Industry Claims New 'Three Strikes' Law Halved Movie Infringements After One Month: So What?
from the show-us-the-numbers dept
The implicit justification for various new copyright enforcement laws, such as the "three strikes" approach, is that they will encourage people to buy more authorized digital goods and thus support artists and their works. Naturally, those in favor of this logic like to produce figures that purport to show that it is working.
Here's another example, based on the claimed results from just one month's operation of a new three strikes law in New Zealand:
In a submission to a government review of the legislation's efficiency, NZ FACT [New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft] claimed New Zealanders illegally viewed movies in the top 200 online 110,000 times in August last year -- the month before the new law took effect -- but only 50,000 times in September.
Of course, those figures are unverified, and might well be wide of the mark – note that they were in a submission to a review by the New Zealand government, and not something released publicly. But even accepting them for the moment, it's significant that the same report on the Australian IT News site wrote:
Despite the drop in the first month, NZ FACT noted there had been no "discernible progress" since then.
So we have a drop followed by a plateau. The question is: what happens in the longer term? In Sweden, when the IPRED legislation against unauthorized file sharing was brought in, the Internet traffic for the country dropped by 30%, suggesting that the law had modified users' behaviors considerably. But eight months after that, traffic was back up to the original level, indicating that whatever users had stopped doing in the wake of the new law, they were doing it again -- something confirmed by more recent research. Similarly, an early report claimed that the French three strikes program had already resulted in increased digital sales -- except that was not the only possible explanation, as a previous Techdirt post explored.
This pervasive uncertainty means that one month's figures about supposed drops in unauthorized file sharing are really pretty meaningless. What we need to see is the long-term pattern. And more importantly, if there is indeed a significant, sustained fall in such sharing, we need to see an equally significant, sustained uplift in sales that correlates with that fall. Without that kind of positive effect, demonstrated with rigorous data, three strikes programs are little more than an exercise in vindictiveness.