Feeds

For every DRM download, 16 P2P swaps

An underestimate, we reckon

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Cheering news for the pigopolists this week, from The Guardian newspaper.

"Music industry cheered by sinking of pirates" runs the headline. And someone called Cosima Marriner, who sounds like a song from Marc Bolan's great warbling elvish period, informs us that the great internet music battle of recent years is as good as over.

"The record industry's hardline stance on illegal downloads appears to be paying off, with the number of people paying for them expected to overtake the pirates within a year."

Really?

"The results are evidence that the British Phonographic Industry's high-profile, litigious strategy to crack down on music pirates is having an effect," she claims.

The source for this Onion-like reportage is a music industry survey which claims that 35 per cent of "music consumers" had either downloaded a legal MP3 they were entitled to hear - and these aren't hard to find, as almost every artist in the world makes one available - or used one of the locked-music services such as Apple's iTunes or Napster. 40 per cent of internet users, the survey found, download

"I think there is a good chance that we will see legal downloaders outnumber pirates in the next six to 12 months," says Russell Hart, who conducted the survey on behalf of the record industry.

Or not. Note that the survey is comparing two different samples: "music consumers" on the one hand, and "internet users" on the other.

And the numbers bear little semblance to reality.

More credible analysts peg the number of illegal P2P downloads as rather higher. The Yankee Group's Michael Goodman puts the number of 'legal' DRM-encumbered downloads at 330 million last year - compared to 5 billion downloads from the P2P networks. So for every 'legal' purchase, there are 16 illegal downloads.

Other estimates put the number far higher than Yankee. Four billion per month is a figure we hear from ISPs and their upstream providers. Which means for every legal purchase, there are actually over 150 illegal downloads.

The legal offensives against P2P users have grabbed plenty of publicity, but the impact on real file sharing has been temporary, and file sharing surges after each publicity blip, as Professor Terry Fisher at Harvard University observed here.

So there's no evidence that uncompensated file exchanges are dying out. And with a new generation of portable 'social hardware' that makes ad hoc file exchanges trivially easy, the file-swapping craze has barely begun.

The issue has never been about how computer users should download music, but how best to compensate the original creators of these works when they do. If the traditional models we've used for radio, or public broadcasting were extended to digital devices, we could solve "piracy" for as little as $5 per user per month, safe in the knowledge that rights holders were being paid, and we could swap digital files all we liked.

This week the US copyright registrar reminded us that the rights holders and publishing agencies are already talking about such a flat fee arrangement, so much of the public discourse on P2P and music is simply a sham.

So why is the iPod-crazy Guardian so determined to avoid reporting what's really going on in digital media? A clue comes from our story last year entitled UK newspapers hop on music download bandwagon. It's simply a case of very cynical short-term thinking. Marketing whizzes at the large media groups already know they can flog books through their review sections, so why not music? Right now The Guardian newspaper is simply a marketing division of The Guardian, the online locked-music store: coming to a portal near you. ®

Related stories

Free legal downloads for $6 a month. DRM free. The artists get paid. We explain how
How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved
Dirty rotten inducers - the law the IT world deserves?
Labels seek end to 99c music per song download
Why wireless will end piracy and doom DRM and TCPA : Jim Griffin

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
XBOX One will learn to play media from USB and DLNA sources
Hang on? Aren't those file formats you hardly ever see outside torrents?
Class war! Wikipedia's workers revolt again
Bourgeois paper-shufflers have 'suspended democracy', sniff unpaid proles
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.