Piracy in retrospect and prospect

The Economist (now behind a paywall) had a couple of features last week claiming that music piracy was “in decline”. The claim was based partly on a survey of British internet users in which the percentage reporting usage of file-sharing networks declined from 22% in December 2007 to 17% in July this year. What it didn’t mention is that you don’t need file-sharing software to pirate music anymore since it’s all over the web in plain Googlable sight.

It also cited a Swedish survey in which 60 per cent of former file-sharers claimed to have cut down or quit, with half of them moving to the legal ad-supported Spotify. If such a free (or near-free) service is available in a country, it’s not surprising a bunch of people would quit bothering with piracy. But it’s hardly the case that the pirates lost: rather they won, cutting a lot of the commercial value out of music recordings and massively increasing the quantity people get to listen to.

A couple of good essays on the social and musical impact of piracy over the decade: Eric Harvey’s at Pitchfork is more detailed. But Jace Clayton – who as DJ /rupture is without a doubt on my list of top ten musicians of the decade – is able to be unambiguously celebratory in a way an industry advertising funded site can’t really be, and without lip service to ‘alternative business models’ blah blah blah.

Published in: on 23 November, 2009 at 8:01 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Something’s happening alright. Last week, I found an album as a direct-download .rar, which I couldn’t find as a torrent. This is the first album I’ve illegally direct downloaded for free since 2000, before Napster really took off, when ‘mp3’ was the most common search term on Google. Albums and software are the only things I now use file-sharing to get anyway: video is now almost always available in a streaming format, discoverable via a Google video search, including Hollywood movies, TV shows, the lot; books are increasingly available as direct downloads from sites like Mediafire and Megaupload; single tracks of audio can also be found at media websites.

    My suspicion is that this move has been occasioned partly by the aggressiveness with which the authorities went after file sharers, scaring people off to other distribution methods.

  2. Yeah – also just before Napster there were internet BBS-type things that you used special sofware to access (Hotline?), and they were like clubs where you earned download credits by uploading stuff. I always thought that if the peer-to-peer stuff was shut down somehow (if that were possible) worst case scenario would be going back to that kind of arrangement. But in fact the Rapidshare/Mediafire/Megaupload axis is much easier. I’m surprised it has gone on so long, I would have thought they would be much easier to go after. Also, the Russian sites which seem to just be out of legal reach.

    Speaking of books – did you see http://a.aaaarg.org/ ?

  3. hohoho i like


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