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 512.

    You can't lose profits you haven't already made. People who pirate aren't usually in a position to buy the music anyway, so the artist has not lost a sale. An mp3 can be infinitely replicated without any cost to the artist, therefore no physical material has been stolen. The real criminals are iTunes, who take an unfair percentage of an artist's actual profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    I got utterly bored paying for albums that had maybe only a few tracks worth listening to and now I just listen to what I want on Youtube.

    Its funny, Google will now downrank sites with a lot of takedown notices, but in their list Youtube is missing.


  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    You're looking at the death or mutilation of the music industry. The agreement should be that you earn your wages or pocket money then go out & buy what you're into. The internet broke all agreements. I don't listen to music & no, I wouldn't download it illegally either. Give these musicians the break they're trying to earn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    with so much trash coming out of the studios these days, people need assurances that what they are spending their money on is going to be enjoyable for them. Everyone I know to have pirated anything, went on to buy authentic copies when they enjoyed it..

    it is more like "on demand" radio, something that should be exploited for it's advertising potential, rather than seen as a problem to tackle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    Should we also arrest & prosecute everyone who lives a newspaper on a train and anyone who subsequently picks up that discarded newspaper and reads any of it.....

    ....the fallacy of the "it's theft" arguement is incredible, unless those advocating it also believe my example above should be taken up by the Police.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    With less money to launder - how will those poor 'Rock Stars' sleep at night?

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    8 Minutes ago
    "By downloading the content, you are an accessory to that breach of contract."

    Erm, no you're not.Contracts bind the parties involved in the agreement. I don't beleive that any person downloading music ever entered into any contract with anyone regarding the content that they are obtaining. You can only breach a license agreement if you entered into it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Piracy is only really theft if it would have otherwise been a sale. There is far from a 1:1 correlation between d/ls and lost sales however much publishers promote the lazy assumption. A Manchester student can d/l 2000 tracks, but with no 'net might only afford 50. Also, consider advocacy, an illegal d/ler finds and promotes a new song online and to friends who may buy it as a result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    I wonder when they will target the Newsgroup users.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    In short. Torrent search sites have ads, many P2P utility software also show ads. Many P2P networks have been hi-jacked by illegal content but the hosts/owners merely see this being the responsibility of the users, not them. However, it boosts use hence profits. I feel that the music industry should identify the opportunities rather than live in the past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Hypothetically I would love to see the largest record labels go out of business, so then the Simon Cowells cannot dictate what mainstream music is anymore. I would love to see some new real music rather than this computer generated stuff thrown at us containing all these awful auto-tuned strippers and whiney heart string pulling musicians. Hypothetically of course considering the ramifications.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    The point about the house painting analogy is that people should get paid for the work they do. A house painter directly by the person who's house he paints, the musician by people who then buy the recorded material. Yes, the contractual arrangements are different, but the pricinple is the same. I have friends who are pro musicians. They aren't, by any means, rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    As usual there are lots of people who have no understanding of what copyright means and that duplication of a product digitally is copying. The problem is people see no value in digital media and therefore the penny does not drop that they are taking away revenue from people who work hard to make it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    470. Jay619
    You could not reference the post where I said that as I did NOT say that- here are my last post numbers, so people can check them out and find I am truthful:349,371,418,437,464.

    And why not break into the concerts for free, so you can test the music? Then you might buy a tshirt. Isn’t that the logical extension of your argument? Or is the risk of getting caught too high for you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    what ever you do, don't mention soul**** on the BBC cos you hang that carrot out there and what are these kids supposed to do, add to the digital-economy? they would download the earth if you gave them a hard-drive big enough... then sell it on, the mind-set is as it's always been and you won't change that, now they have the internet etc you need a bigger carrot that soul****, what beats FREE?

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    99% of music is rubbish anyway so

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    Manchester. What a bunch of cheapskates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    @455. Dominic
    So, I'll get someone to paint my house, and then not pay him.
    "Once again irrelevant. You entered into a contract, you broke it. A pirate does not enter into any contract whatsoever."

    By buying a CD you enter into a contract. By distributing the content, you are in breach of that contract. By downloading the content, you are an accessory to that breach of contract.

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    476. Mark_from_Manchester

    Music is a rip-off and should be free!

    As should fashion, make-up, cars, petrol, alcohol, cigarettes, student fees, restaurants, coffee shops, supermarkets, holidays, housing and taxation.
    So you are saying people can easily make copies of these items while leaving the original intact? I don't think you have thought it through properly

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    "[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."

    people r not getting rich. 99% of people downloading, do NOT sell them, they use them for personal use.

    Piracy is not theft. Downloading is NOT copyright infringement! the people who copy & upload are the infringers, not those that listen to them.


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