Myself and many other people on the internet, including the ones in the various industries affected by piracy, have said for a long time now that piracy is a service problem. People don’t buy physical media as much as they used to because downloading it digitally, through a legal service or via torrents, is much easier and more convenient. Now two high-profile European Commission researchers have announced the results  of their study and they claim that “online consumption channels”, like music streaming or torrent trackers, positively affect copyrights owners.


“Game of Thrones? I have it here on me persons. Take the flash drive in my pocket!”

The two authors of the study, Luis Aguiar and Bertin Martens, work for the EU Information Society unit and published their findings in a 40-page-long paper which you can download and read in at your leisure. One of the most-quoted parts of the paper that pops online is a single line that Aguiar and Martens write, saying “Although there is trespassing of private property rights (copyrights), there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues.”

Although that’s the polar opposite of many studies conducted that say otherwise, those have all been given things like sales numbers from media studios who block those details and/or their names in their entirety, leaving the report with missing information, like a publicly available, but redacted, mission report from the United States Government or Jacob Zuma’s spy tapes. Drawing the conclusion that DRM measures are effective against pirates while ignoring the fact that legitimate users are frustrated doesn’t mean that the problem is solved, it’s just called a success while other valid issues are swept underneath the carpet.

Aguiar and Marten’s report used Nielsen Netview, an audience measurement service, to examine the behaviour of 5000 users online in various countries in the EU, comprising of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, even though the latter’s not even under the EU and doesn’t use the Euro. “Given the fragmented nature of the European Union content market,” the pair writes, “it’s still true that content availability varies significantly across the soon-to-be 28-member bloc. For example, the iTunes Stores in Austria, Spain, and Denmark may not have a specific TV show availability, while Latvia, Belgium, and Germany do.”

Having legal services available, but with zero attractive content, just makes this whole thing a lot worse.

Having legal services available, but with zero attractive content, just makes this whole thing a lot worse.

Their research shows that the countries which don’t receive the content that people would purchase legally click more (sometimes 200% more) on illegal download sites than something they could possibly use legally. Their data doesn’t account for how many users use tunneling protocols to access region-specific services like Hulu and Netflix but its safe to say that if they were available in the countries where piracy was most observed, (Spain was one of them) that piracy would have decreased drastically.

Piracy is a service problem and I firmly stand by that statement. Wherever media is available online that’s easy to download, reasonably priced and protects consumer interests with regards to rights usage, it succeeds and the market continues to reap profits. The music industry’s bread and butter has been in physical sales but let’s face it – we’re still in a global recession and this has been going on since people figured out they could send porn over the internet. Its not a new thing. DRM is a software solution and akin to fixing a gaping wound with a single plaster

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has come out with its own response to the study, calling it “flawed, misleading and disconnected from commercial reality.”

Source: Fudzilla, The Joint Research Centre in the EU

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