A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON PIRACY

20. March 2011, 01:33 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

Over the years many piracy studies have been released by industry stakeholders. Almost without exception, these have been done by entertainment and software companies, or their umbrella organizations based of course on their own figures (mostly estimates) of alleged losses. However, recently a group made up of dozens of academics have collaborated to produce the most objective and elaborate piracy study done to date. Not surprisingly, their results differ significantly from that of the copyright lobby groups that have been promulgated out over the years.

The new study by researchers at the Social Science Research Counsel, instead of focusing solely on the alleged consequences, took a more constructive approach and provide a more neutral and comprehensive overview of the root causes what drive piracy. The study, which was conducted over several years, looked at the current state of piracy and the efforts of industry stakeholders to restrain it.

Some of the key findings in the final study report follow.

  • What is known about media piracy usually begins, and often ends, with industry-sponsored research. Piracy research has long been little more than a political tool to influence legislators to implement harsh anti-piracy measures, despite the poor quality of the research itself.
  • There is a serious and increasingly sophisticated industry research enterprise embedded in a lobbying effort with a historically very loose relationship to evidence. The report hints that it is not always as bad as the messenger suggests. The movie industry for example has seen its revenues rise drastically in recent years - $19.3 billion in revenues in 2009.
  • Entertainment software sales have surpassed that of movie ticket sales and CD sales, the report explains. Researchers further note that games such as World of Warcraft are immune to piracy because of their business model, and that game consumers are often very loyal to game developers, and on average more hesitant to pirate.
  • The report suggest that pricing is an important issue, especially in emerging economies. “High prices for media goods, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies are the main ingredients of global media piracy. Relative to local incomes in Brazil, Russia, or South Africa, the retail price of a CD, DVD, or copy of Microsoft Office is five to ten times higher than in the US or Europe. Legal media markets are correspondingly tiny and underdeveloped.” Prices are so high because there is a lack of competition, the report suggests. While certainly true for emerging economies, this can be paralleled in North America, where licensing deals and copyright restrictions often hold back competition.
  • The efforts of anti-piracy groups to slow down on-line piracy have largely failed. On-line piracy is hard to stop through enforcement, and lawsuits against individual users have not had the deterrent effect hoped for by the industry. “Despite the stream of lawsuits and site closures, we see no evidence — and indeed very few claims — that these efforts have had any measurable impact on on-line piracy. The costs and technical requirements of running a torrent tracker or indexing site are modest, and new sites have quickly emerged to replace old ones.”
  • As the amount of Internet traffic associated with on-line piracy grows year after year the copyright lobby has focused more extensively on tracking down users alongside threats to disconnect them from the Internet through so called “three-strikes” deals with MPAA and RIAA comments on enforcement submitted to the US government make clear, however, three-strikes is not the end of the digital enforcement fight but the beginning. The next steps down the path include preemptive content-filtering by ISP contracts,” it reads.
  • The report suggests anti-piracy education has not resulted in much change in public opinion. “The authors find no significant stigma attached to piracy in any of the countries examined. Rather, piracy is part of the daily media practices of large and growing portions of the population. What do these efforts to shape public discourse achieve? If dissuading consumers is the primary goal, the answer appears to be: very little.” Among other things, the report states “that pragmatic issues of price and availability nearly always win out over moral considerations.”
  • “The study finds no systematic links between media piracy and organized crime or terrorism in any of the countries examined. Today, commercial pirates and transnational smugglers face the same dilemma as the legal industry: how to compete with free.”
  • One of the main conclusions of the report is that competition rather than enforcement is the key to dealing with piracy. That implementing harsh and restrictive anti-piracy measures is useless if the causes are ignored.

The opening of the report perhaps sums it all up quite nicely:

  • “Media piracy has been called ‘a global scourge’, ‘an international plague’, and ‘nirvana for criminals’, but it is probably better described as a global pricing problem. High prices for media goods, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies are the main ingredients of global media piracy.”

Hopefully, the right people are listening.

- 30 -

Categories: ,
Keywords: piracy,drm,cd,dvd,mpaa,riaa

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