At the beginning of last year we reported on a Swedish study that showed that streaming services had halved the number of people who were downloading music illegally in Scandinavia. That's a pretty stunning figure, but of course is only one data point, which means that people can always argue that it's not possible to generalize. So it's good that not just one but two new reports confirm and broaden that finding.
The first concerns unauthorized downloads of music, films and TV in Norway. As TorrentFreak explains:
The report shows that in 2008 almost 1.2 billion songs were copied without permission. However, by 2012 that figure had plummeted to 210 million, just 17.5% of its level four years earlier.
What's interesting is that music has fallen far more than the others. One explanation for that could be the effect observed in the Swedish study referred to above, and the fact that there are far more legal offerings for music than for other media. That's borne out by other figures from the Norwegian research:
As expected, piracy of movies and TV shows in 2008 was at much lower levels than music, with 125 million movies and 135 million TV shows copied without permission. But by last year the figures for both had reduced by around half, to 65 million and 55 million respectively.
Of those questioned for the survey, 47% (representing around 1.7 million people) said they use a streaming music service such as Spotify. Even more impressively, just over half (corresponding to 920,000 people and 25% of Norwegian Internet users) said that they pay for the premium option.
The other report concerns piracy in the Netherlands. It was commissioned by Spotify, which obviously has an interest in promoting streaming solutions as a way of reducing illegal activity. Nonetheless, its figures are interesting:
Not only has the number of people engaging in music piracy in the Netherlands fallen in recent times, it also appears to be an infrequent activity for most of those who remain.
The Spotify study quotes some figures from earlier work in the Netherlands, which show that the number of active pirates declined from around 5 million in 2008 to 3 million in 2011 and 1.8 million in 2012. Because the methodologies of the studies were different, these may not be strictly comparable, but they do give an idea of the general direction. The research also provides the following information:
There were 6.8m residential broadband connections in the Netherlands in 2012
BitTorrent music piracy occurred on 1.8m unique IPs in 2012, around a quarter of the total
Of that 1.8m, a large passive group of 532,000 (29%) downloaded just one music file
A minority of 188,000 (10%) "hardcore" pirates downloaded 16 files or more
This Long Tail distribution is an important insight, as it highlights that most people take very little. Meanwhile, the top 10% take over half of the content.
Last year also saw the publication of a study titled 'File sharing 2©12: Downloading from illegal sources in the Netherlands' by Joost Poort of IviR and the University of Amsterdam. The author claimed that illegal downloading of music has fallen between 2008 and 2012, whilst film and TV piracy is
increasing (see table 2). The author cited the popularity of legal alternatives such as Spotify and YouTube as being the primary reason for explaining the fall in piracy over the four year period.
Again, copyright maximalists will doubtless say these are only a few studies, but such claims are looking weaker with every new result that confirms the general trend across multiple countries. They all underline what Techdirt has been saying for years: that the best way to reduce piracy is simply to increase the number of legal options offering what people want at a fair price.
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