A glimpse at piracy in the UK and beyond

Ed Sheeran performing at V Festival Ed Sheeran topped the list of most pirated UK artist for the first half of 2012

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Manchester has been named the piracy capital of the UK, according to a new study seen exclusively by the BBC.

The research said there were more illegal downloads per person in the city than any other in the country, followed by Nottingham and Southampton.

The statistics, from monitoring service Musicmetric, conclude that in the first half of 2012, UK users illegally shared over 40 million albums and singles.

Industry group, the BPI said it showed piracy "remains a significant problem".

The data, collected independently by Musicmetric and seen exclusively by the BBC, is believed to be the biggest analysis of its kind to be conducted.

It monitored the global activity of BitTorrent files - a method of obtaining files by downloading from many users at the same time.

The data's release came as measures to attempt to curb illegal downloading began to take hold, such as the blocking of popular piracy websites and the relegation and removal of search results from Google.

Musicmetric's findings said that singer Ed Sheeran was the most pirated act in the UK for the first half of 2012, followed by hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks and Barbadian megastar Rihanna.

The data suggested that Ed Sheeran's 2011 album + (Plus) was illegally downloaded an average of 55,512 times every month, and was the most popular download in over 460 towns and cities in the UK.

Legal UK sales of his album in the first half of 2012 hit the 448,000 mark - making it the fourth most popular album behind releases from Adele, Emeli Sande and Lana Del Rey.

Download nation

Globally, the research suggested that the UK is a significant player on the world stage as a country of illegal music downloaders.

The country was placed second in the world in terms of pure volume of illegal activity, with Musicmetric logging 43,263,582 downloads in the first six months of this year.

The US topped the list, with 96,681,133 downloads tracked in the same period.

Italy (33,158,943), Canada (23,959,924) and Brazil (19,724,522) made up the remainder of the top five.

Rihanna's latest album - Talk That Talk - was found to be the world's most pirated release - Musicmetric tracked 1,228,313 downloads for the title in the first half of 2012.

In its analysis of the UK's data, Musicmetric has estimated that 345 million individual tracks made up the torrent files downloaded by British music fans.

According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the UK's music industry body, the figures were having a "significant effect on investment in new music".

Start Quote

It's adapt or die in the music industry”

End Quote Rizzle Kicks

"According to their data, there are more illegal downloads in the UK still than there are legal purchases," the BPI's chief executive Geoff Taylor told the BBC.

"[It] compares to about 240 million tracks that were sold legally. A lot of people are getting very rich from stealing other people's things.

"That's wrong, and we think that musicians deserve to be paid for what they do, just like everyone else."

However, Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK - who will be attempting to become Manchester's next MP in the next election - said the complaints of record labels is "protectionism".

"We need to remove the barriers for actual artists to connect with their business and their fans," he told the BBC.

"The truth is, why [music industry figures] are complaining so much is that with a properly functioning internet, and a properly functioning economy, the big players are no longer necessary."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    So ... greedy pop stars, who have been over-piad for decades, are miffed because greedy *pirates* are shaving a few pounnds off their obscene incomes. My heart bleeds

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.


    BBC got nothing better to discuss on HYS there are far more topical concerns at the moment than the wealthy musicians bemoaning the fact that they are being ripped off as if they weren't making enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The film & music industry has had nearly a hundred years of getting used to this business model. The wages of singers and actors is artificial and you can't blame society when it finally rumbles it. Footballers wages are the same. Your are paying for the club owners greed as well as the footballers. It's all an artificial pay level. All of them know people will pay it and they now expect it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    The "artists" who get downloaded most are those that have already made £millions from gullible buyers.
    And then expect people to buy the same songs "repackaged" yet again and again decades later. The artists are often long since dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    The record industry would be better off if its executive officers weren't paid such obscene amounts of money for doing such a mediocre job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The problem is that targeting the torrent indexing sites (or Google) is doomed to failure.

    PirateBay (for example) has been blocked by the major UK ISPs - but a Google search shows up a slew of proxies. You also can't just block torrents - the bittorrent protocol is used for a great many perfectly legal operations.

    I think services such as Spotify are the way forward, if they lower their prices

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    No sympathy for the industry, some for the artists. If we hadn't been grievously ripped off in the CD age, then piracy wouldn't have happened on the scale it has. There will always be pirates, there will always be ways around attempts to stop it. However, people are less inclined to try if they are happy with the pricing of music. They aren't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    This is not a true reflection of UK file sharing. Most veteran filesharers that I know avoid torrent sites and mainly use newsgroups, IRC servers, Usenet and other smaller member only sites. The people who use torrent sites nowadays are amateurs who only grab a few files. You needs to looks elsewhere to find those people who downloaded 100 + GB per day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I wish they would stop calling it "piracy". That is something that is defined as
    Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore.
    What is actually occurring here is "bootlegging". So please, less emotive terms

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Of course musicians should be paid but only in this fanciful unreal world created by the media giants do people get paid over and over and over and over for doing one piece of work.
    And lets be honest, when pirated copies of work are superior to the 'bought' copy in nearly every way, you can see where a huge part of the problem is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    "However, Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK - who will be attempting to become Manchester's next MP in the next election."

    I didn't realise there was an 'MP for Manchester'…

    The music industry needs to realise that artists make their money in concert, and if they can't do that, then they're music is probably not worth listening to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    What I find disgusting, is that these label reps will try to sell it as "The artists deserve to be paid for their work" etc, but in actuality, labels tend to take around 90% of record sales, and artists mainly earn their money from merchandise and touring now. It's repulsive that record labels say its the artists who suffer, when in fact, only labels do. They could at least be honest about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @26.pete clack
    "I oppose free downloads, why because theres the time,cost and talent put into producing a recording, so why should it be literally stolen for nothing."

    They're not stolen. They're no more stolen than they were when people were taping the top 40 on audio cassette.

    You can't steal something that's broadcast to millions of people for free. That's like saying I'm stealing air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    "I only put on my ipod music on CD I have honestly purshased, and unless we do that the music CD industry will soon not be there."

    I've got news for you, bub. The 'music CD industry' will soon not be there either way. One day all of this 'piracy' lawsuit nonsense will look as silly as sending ordinary people to prison to keep the VHS industry alive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    If they can prove they know about criminal acts on this scale, they must report this information to the police, otherwise they are an accessory to the crime.

    If they haven't reported these findings to the police, like they would legally be obligated to, they are just made up numbers that anyone could have come up with.

    I know which outcome I'm betting on...

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Got to agree with "Hyperion77" comment on whether people who download this stuff would have actually bought it, I suspect that I've downloaded circa 6000-8000 songs in total over the past 10 years, how many would I have actually bought? probably about 200 of them of which circa 190 of those I'd have had every right to download as I have bought the albums in the 80's / 90's originally...

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Peasant steals a song, they are a thief. Banker steal billions, they get a knighthood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Not exactly headline news is it?

    So we can comment about internet piracy but not about the proposed reforms to exams?

    Nanny police alert...

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    "A lot of people are getting very rich from stealing other people's things."

    How do you "get rich" by downloading a music track?
    I think what he means is a lot of fat old blokes in suits are not getting as rich as they think they should be on the backs of their artists.
    Home copying has been "killing the music industry" since the days of the cassette recorder - and yet still it lives!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    What is the point of the part of this study pointing out illegal downloads by city?

    Does however an awful lot of people in the world and the UK steal what they could easily afford to be and that a lot of people steal things that are not necessary. One thing to steal food to live if you are starving but to nick music and no sanctimonious BS can justify it.


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