How much should copyright holders worry about piracy? Two recent research reports provide some contradictory conclusions on the impact of digital piracy.
According to Danaher and Smith (Wellesley College and Carnegie Mellon University) the closure of online platform MegaUpload almost certainly led to a decrease in online film piracy and an increase in legal digital sales of movies.
However, according to a new research report from the EU’s Information Society Unit “…digital music piracy should not be viewed as a growing concern for copyright holders in the digital era” and does not hurt digital music revenues.
The research looked at online music consumption of over 16,000 people in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The researchers conclude that the majority of illegally downloaded music would never have been legitimately purchased if illegal sites had not made the music available.
A reformed pirate
Writing on Lifehacker this week, Thorin Klosowski described his own personal transformation. Once a consumer of pirated content, he now only uses legal sources. Rather than a conscious decision, this transformation happened slowly. He explains that in the early days of digital content, it was simply often easier to pirate something than to download it legitimately. The development of easy to use legal sources, alongside the emergence of music streaming services like Spotify, mean that purchasing legal content now simply provides a better user experience than sourcing pirated content. He does however note that gaming and movie companies have yet to catch up with digital music when it comes to offering legal streaming services.
Klowoski agrees with the findings of the EU’s report. Fighting piracy is more effective when users are offered better legal alternatives.
The librarian’s dilemma
Agnostic, Maybe also explores this issue. In a fascinating blog post, he writes about his own history of using non-legitimate sources but that now, as a librarian, he tries to ensure that people access legitimate content. He believes that this is important for librarians if they are to have any say in the future development of copyright legislation. The challenge comes when there IS no legitimate way to purchase the content.
Enforcement is one way to tackle ‘piracy’ but the best way it seems is to provide great – legitimate – products and services for which people will be prepared to pay.