Over the past few months, there's been a push among some to suggest that file sharing is really a marginalized behavior, only done by a small group of people -- and that with just a little education (and maybe a few big legal victories, such as the ones against Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum -- combined with new services like Spotify), perhaps it can be brought "under control." The "evidence" given for this has often been a case study in how to use statistics to delude yourself, often looking at the total percentage of people or internet users who engage in file sharing. But, the fact is that ignores the real issue: which is that kids today (tomorrow's consumers) are file sharing at a very high rate. A new study, sponsored by UK Music (the UK organization that's looking to get ISPs to put in place some sort of blanket licensing plan) has found that over 60% of kids in the UK admit to file sharing
, with 83% of those admitting to doing it regularly, and those surveyed claiming to have downloaded an average of 8,100 tracks
. Think about that for a second. 8,100
While the defenders of the old system want to liken file sharing to a problem like shoplifting, at some point you have to realize it's something entirely different. This isn't a marginal behavior done by "bad kids." This is about as common as can be. Oddly, the BBC tried to spin this report to say that file sharing has dropped
, but that "drop" was only 2% and it's within the margin of error of the survey -- meaning there's no actual evidence that it dropped. The study also contradicted that other study we wrote about recently (also in the UK) that claimed that kids were replacing downloading
with streaming services. In this survey, 78% said they had no interest in a streaming service, and 89% saying they'd never pay for such a service.
Given the two conflicting studies (both sponsored by biased parties), you have to question the results of both. But, given the fact that kids are more likely to deny file sharing activity these days, rather than admit to it (knowing they could get in trouble for it), you have to wonder if this study even undercounts the actual activity.
Now, once again, let's make a clear point: I'm not saying this is right or legal. I don't think anyone should download music from an artist who does not authorize it. But the fact is that file sharing is not a "small thing" among kids today, and to think that there's some sort of magical method of getting it to go away is wishful thinking. Given that we're seeing more and more artists learn how to embrace
file sharing to do better with their own business models, at some point it's time for those fighting against it to recognize -- from the copyright holders' perspective -- that it's better not to fight what consumers want, but to embrace it, combined with a smart business model, and stop worrying.