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Sarkozy hails 'success' of Hadopi's pirate cops

Soft stick approach to copyright infringement working?

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has hailed the success of the Hadopi copyright police. In a new report, Hadopi says its "soft stick" of a graduated response regime is working, and has released some statistics to support its claim.

In an official statement, Sarkozy said the report "consolidates the undisputed pioneering role of France in the cultural industries' adaptation to the digital age."

Do the figures add up?

Hadopi's stats say that 6 per cent of internet subscribers have received a warning – and 95 per cent of those who received only one warning stopped infringing, and received no second warning. Of those receiving a second warning, 92 per cent stopped infringing. Ninety-eight per cent of those who received a third also stopped.

Research also suggests that P2P usage has fallen - but research companies offer a wide range of estimates. Nielsen reports 17 per cent fewer users; Médiamétrie-Net Ratings estimates 29 per cent fewer; Peer Media puts traffic's plunge at 43 per cent; and ALPA says the drop amounts to 66 per cent.

The problem is, P2P audiences were already falling as the Hadopi bill came into law, and they continued to decline until September 2011. ALPA/TMG, which used network-centric tool of monitoring completed downloads of public torrents, has the most bullish estimate: it calculated that the fall was from 5.5 million to 2 million. Following the closure of Megaupload, Catch-Up TV and video-on-demand traffic rose 25.7 per cent.

The question is: does this reflect a shift in access methods, or a more fundamental shift in behaviour? Hadopi says it's the latter, but without further information, the interpretations remain ambiguous. Bittorrent was designed for rapid file distribution not for copyright infringement – IP addresses of sharers are public and easy pickings for copyright enforcement monitors.

The move in unlicensed media consumption from Bittorrent to cyberlockers was well underway three years ago – prompting the calls for site-blocking legislation.

These are the only figures that ultimately matter, and here it's too early to say how much enforcement is helping artists and investors in creativity.

Licensed services Spotify and Beezik saw the largest proportional gains in traffic. For some, such as For Deezer, the big beneficiary in 2010, there was a slight decline, possibly because of Spotify.

The report doesn't attempt – mercifully – to pretend that today's licensed services are as good as it's ever going to get. Hadopi is also conducting research into future services. "The most innovative forms of supply are also those that post the highest internet user satisfaction scores," it notes.

(Pas de merde, Sherlock!)

Lots of innovations ranging from financial (credit points) to commercial (bundling and aggregation) have yet to be tried. But the music industry has traditionally been a wholesale B2B business, it hasn't never before needed to do much to keep punters happy – which means they walk out of a shop happy.

As far as President Sarkozy is concerned, Hadopi already earns the nation some international bragging rights.

"Thanks to the success of the 'graduated response', which was widely copied abroad, France has very strong credibility with its European partners in meeting the challenges facing the cultural industries," said Sarky. ®

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