A common argument used by those opposed to maximalist copyright reform and excessive copyright enforcement is that the answer to the problem of illegal downloads is not to sue customers and enact more restrictive legislation, but to seek out new business models. While the industry has claimed that it has continued following both approaches, it has been clear that the emphasis has been placed on the enforcement front.

It seems like those advocating for new business models have had their arguments corroborated by a recent study by music industry analyst Music Ally. A survey of 1,000 UK teenagers found that for the first time more people download legal copies from iTunes and Amazon than download infringing copies (19% versus 17%). Similarly, the survey found that 31% of teenagers uses streaming services to listen to music, such as YouTube, Spotify or Last.fm. This is an astounding figure considering that overall music fans only stream 18% of the time.This is great news for the music industry for sure, but also it proves that what we have been saying all along is true: sort out the business model and the consumers will ditch P2P downloading.

Nonetheless, I am still rather sceptical about the reported demise of illegal downloading. Firstly, the fact that P2P traffic has been decreasing slightly had been noticed earlier this year when German firm Ipoque conducted a survey of 1.3 petabytes of Internet traffic, and they noted that streaming services were on the increase; although BitTorrent traffic was still increasing in detriment of other P2P protocols. Secondly, this survey only involves a limited market, that of UK teenagers, it would be interesting to see if the figures are replicated elsewhere. My guess is that it is not. New business models are highly geographical in nature, and while UK teenagers now have several legal distribution channels, the same cannot be said of many other countries around the world. I know for a fact that some legal services are blocked according to IP address.

While it is clear that streaming is part of the future, illegal downlading will survive as long as the services supplanting it are not universal in nature.

1 Comment


John H · July 13, 2009 at 11:00 am

…but perhaps, with good luck and a following wind, this will help the UK get within spitting distance of the 70% reduction* in P2P necessary to forestall "technical measures" under the Carter report…

(* a target which would better be pursued in some more useful area for humanity, such as carbon emissions)

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