Rory Cellan-Jones

The culture of copying

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 29 May 09, 10:42 GMT

Oh no: another boring report about piracy by a strange body with an obscure title.

That was my first reaction on getting hold of Copycats? Digital Consumers in the Online Age [2.76Mb PDF] - a report for the Strategic Advisory Board on Intellectual Property.

But when I read on, the report was full of fascinating insights into the way that we've all begun to think about the rights and wrongs of online piracy - or rather, "unauthorised downloading", which is how this report for the government carefully describes it.

The authors, from University College London, point to evidence that what they amusingly call the "UK's unauthorised downloading community" now stands at nearly seven million people, and they question the assumption that these are just teenagers and students - it seems older people are downloading too.

Simon Callow as Charles DickensThey emphasise the sheer scale of it - 1.3 million people online sharing content at one peer-to-peer network at midday on a weekday - and the fact that fast networks are going to make it ever easier to download Star Wars in three minutes or the complete works of Dickens in the blink of an eye.

But what's really interesting are the authors' conclusions about the way people think about this activity. They argue that there are now two cultures - digital and the physical world - and you can't apply one set of rules to the other.

Illegal file-sharing is not only much easier than, say, lifting a CD out of a record store; it has become far more socially acceptable - "if everyone I know is doing it, how can it be wrong?"

They point to growing confusion amongst digital consumers as to what is or is not illegal in a world where there are now so many different ways of getting hold of content. So much on the internet is free - from VOIP calls, to services like Google Earth, to social networking services - that it's hard to remember that you are expected to pay for some things.

Copycats? Digital Consumers in the Online AgeIn the words of the report, "the vast availability of 'free content' changes existing perceptions of 'ownership' and utility." So, among 15-to-19-year-olds, 69% now do not feel they should have to pay for music.

For the digital consumer, many file-sharing services are now as big - and as trusted - brands as those of any large, legal corporation. So Limewire or Pirate Bay is seen as offering convenience and good service, just as older consumers might have liked to shop at the Co-Op or get their paper from WH Smith.

This report was meant for the culture minister David Lammy, and feeds into the government's thinking ahead of the Digital Britain report, but it may provide him with little comfort.

Criminalising seven million people, it concludes, will have huge costs and may not even work in a globalised economy where other countries my follow different policies. Then again, telling those seven million that it's fine to go on downloading for nothing will make it even harder for the creative industries to develop sustainable online businesses. So, no easy answers in this report.

Whenever I talk to people about this issue, I nearly always get the same response - if only the music and movie industries got their act together and provided cheaper and easier-to-use online services, the problem would go away. Is that really the case?

Yesterday, someone contacted me to point out that Stephen Fry's audiobook was top of the iTunes chart, saying that arguably he had got distribution, price and product all correct.

I replied, asking whether my correspondent would still not opt to download Mr Fry's book for nothing if he could - and whether the big record labels that occupied the number one spot on iTunes in previous weeks had also got everything right. He hasn't yet come back.

However lamentably the music industry approached the internet when the threat to its revenues first became apparent, there are now plenty of legal and reasonably cheap methods of getting hold of its products online. But in a world where it is socially acceptable to download for nothing, many people may continue to believe that it's just daft to pay.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think there are also a couple of other factors at work:

    - the widespread perception that the music and film industries are actually pretty well off, thankyou very much, and that maybe they make too much money anyway

    - whereas 20 years ago the money to be made was from the release of CDs/Videos, these days the money is to be made from live music performances and from films shown at cinemas; the fact that the music and film industries appear not to acknowledge this (and in some quarters maybe don't even understand it) is perhaps another symptom of their need to 'get real'

  • Comment number 2.

    I like the way that they state that the creative industries are losing billions a year because of this. The fact is that most of the people downloading the content wouldn't actively seek out most of what they are getting from the internet.
    Before Spotify allowed me to listen to albums before I bought them I would sometimes download them to see what they were like. If they were any good then I would fork out the £10 or so to buy them, if not then they would probably sit in my hard drive and occasionally come up when I hit shuffle on my MP3 player.
    As far as movies go I am firmly of the belief that more effort should be made to catch those who initially leak the films on to the internet as opposed to the people who download them.

  • Comment number 3.

    I find it annoying that they say that illegal file sharing is "killing" this or that industry and costing this or that amount of money. Many people download films that they've already paid to see at the cinema and have no intention of buying on DVD, so to what extent can it be said that the DVD sales have been impacted? Many people feel that it is a victimless crime - if you weren't intending to buy or rent a film then downloading it will give you something to do in the evening other than watching whatever film happens to be on TV that night. You gain extra entertainment and nobody loses out.

    If films were available to download legally for a modest price at high speed in a similar fashion to the iPlayer then I'm sure people would go for it. If you took away the cost of producing and selling a physical copy of a DVD (rent, labour, transport etc) then the cost of online distribution would be much lower allowing the retail price to fall more in line with what people feel is fair. Surely it's possible for an advertisement supported site to deliver film in the same way that Spotify delivers music? If TV channels can earn advertising revenue by showing films then surely the model can be transferred online.

  • Comment number 4.

    Maybe record labels should try being a little more imaginative, rather than just pumping out the same old manufactured pop in the same old plastic case at the same old price point.

    For an example, Alcopop records has just released a sampler album as a "Treasure Map in a Bottle".

  • Comment number 5.

    "Oh good, some unbiased, objective research for a change," I thought as I plunged into the Executive Summary. But almost at once I ran into the same old factoids. "Estimates as to the overall lost revenues reach £10 billion (IP Rights, 2004) and a loss of 4,000 jobs."

    No, no NO! If you stop people getting something for nothing they will NOT all pay to acquire it. Whenever you see a statement that somebody "lost $xx billion in 2007" as a result of piracy, it is completely meaningless. And those figures generally come from sources with a very definite axe to grind. Although the report notes that "The phrase 'lost revenues' is complex, and could be defined as the percentage of downloaded content that would have otherwise been paid for had it not been accessed for free," that really does not deal successfully with the issue: there is absolutely no way of estimating what content "would have otherwise been paid for".

    In addition, something else something important is going on. Increasingly, music sales do not involve major record companies, so the RIAA (for example) does not necessarily know about them. Musicians sell CDs at gigs - in a world where live performances are increasingly important. Significant labels like operate entirely on-line and their sales are not counted. Major DJ download sites like not counted. Popular individual musicians' sales from their web sites, such as not counted. These methods of buying music, entirely legitimately, have grown dramatically over recent years but they are not included or even considered in industry reports which seek to make the situation look as black as possible - and, for them at least, it is black indeed.

    There is a great deal of music out there changing hands for money but, increasingly, the major record companies don't track it, and, crucially, it doesn't involve them. They try to tell us that the fact that THEY are doing badly means that the music business as a whole is doing badly, which is not the same thing at all.

    We are seeing a million flowers bloom across the world as musicians speak - and sell - directly to their audiences and via smaller, musician-friendly online organisations, and live appearances become more important, while the giant monoliths of the past crumble.

    We need to be sure not to confuse the difficulties of the traditional major record companies with the health of the industry as a whole: they are by no means the same thing. The people who download are also the people who buy (as has always been the case: we saw analogous behaviour in the original Warner Home Taping survey decades ago), and the industry at large has to address the fact that making your customer the enemy is not an effective business model.

    In the old days, record companies opposed the idea of records being played on the radio and sought to limit it - remember "needletime"? They were worried that people would tape the show and not buy the record. The fact was, however, that airplay for a track increased sales even if the listener DID tape the track. The current situation is in some ways analogous. A solution is needed that accounts for the fact that the people who copy are also the people who buy and who encourage their friends to do likewise.

    One (though by no means the only) approach might be a blanket licence on top of the cost of internet access - something that was considered by some of the Digital Britain Unconference meetings and appears in the Digital Britain Unconferences Report ( The parameters are tricky and would need to be carefully worked out (for example, if you have essentially paid for the right to download something, what added value does a paid download site have to offer to make a sale), but the idea appears to have merit.

  • Comment number 6.

    Sorry Rory, but "the complete works of Dickens in the blink of an eye." is an odd statement to make in the context of digital piracy seeing as you can get the complete collection of his novels from Project Gutenberg for free anyway.

    although to be fair, that only applies in the US, there are different rules for the UK, but seeing as Dickens died in 1870 his right to the copyright of his work expired in 1950.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Perhaps the issue is deeper than that. The claim of copyright is often over the top.

    Does copyright confer payment rights to the inspired music teacher, arts teacher, committed parent or patient critic whose works helped the artist achieve the heights of expression such that he/she can now command a fee?

    Do such artists and their commercial partners re-pay this debt?

    To gain a big following the fan has contributed time, knowledge and interactivity in helping promote the artist. Do they too, share in the copyright rewards?

    The number and range of contributors to any work are excluded from the rewards that are claimed by the businesses that ask for payment in return for a limited licence to play and enjoy the work.

    Then there is the issue of walled gardens. The intellectual property locked away behind a legal device that prevents the commons from building on the original work and developing the new and novel despite that fact that all but the tiniest minority of artists build upon what went before.

    For some that may not seem fair and equitable.

    That is not to say that the artist (inventor, designer, writer etc.) should not get just reward. But perhaps the rewards are not equitable, or fairly distributed and many people thereby justify their actions against such arguments.

    Are these some of the additional reasons why so many people offend against copyright law?

    But there is another reason why this is not an easily resolved issue.

    In an economy that thrives on creativity and invention, locking away the great intellectual advances of our age behind the walled garden of copyright and patent, denies everyone the advantages that come from the development and evolution from what has gone before.

    Fair, equitable and contributory rewards for artist and commons is no longer perceived to be available within the current legal framework and less so when the added value elements tend to be so great (such as the concert ticket, tee shirt and bling) which is sold off the back of the initial works.

    The movie and record industries not to mention publishers of may other works have to begin to understand the nature of internet transparency and agency to remain living with the present model. They have to be able to engage and justify why they want and need to make expensive what is free and freely available and what has value and what is valuable.

    The free ride for the commercial interests is over.

  • Comment number 9.

    Rory, thanks for the mention of my view, and sorry I didn't come back to you - decided answer was too complex for 140 characters.

    I haven't downloaded the audiobook mentioned - it's not something I have an urge to listen to at present, but I do think that Fry has got his marketing, personal brand, distribution and price about right, compared to the inflated prices maintained by record companies for a similar length of entertainment medium. I believe that these distributors are increasingly irrelevant in a world where content creator can go through a much lower cost intermediary to get to the consumer. Fry is on record saying that he likes Twitter as a medium to present his own public face.

    If I did want to listen to Fry's book (let's say I heard a lot of rave reviews from friends), I think 2 quid would be worth it compared to my time finding an illegal download site. But that's a very personal thing. If I could have tried the first episode for free I might have been even more likely to pay for the next one. The model is a decision I believe Fry alluded to being nervous about.

    My personal morals also say that if I enjoy something I am willing to pay a reasonable price for it. I think the UK license fee is excellent value by the way, compared to subscription services like Sky or Napster. I do occasionally accept a copy of an album from a friend, but I am proud of the fact that if I like it, I (usually) support the artist by buying it retrospectively. Often on a discounted CD site - I like to have the physical album artwork and CD as insurance against digital corruption (though I do back up - many don't). I buy singles digitally where the price is under a quid and I wouldn't buy the album. Again very personal.

    I don't have any answers. I think content distributors have lost the opportunity to embrace a new medium, by trying to maintain high prices and futile efforts to create DRM. They are now fighting a desperate rearguard action against morals that are becoming more relaxed than mine. I don't think government should get involved as the laws are already clear, and most downloaders are merely taking advantage of industry confusion. Many wouldn't have bought the product if there was a price, so the estimates of "losses" to the econonmy are overstated, usually by the interest groups with something to gain. This will probably correct itself over time as prices are forced down by the new medium, or in the extreme case as content creators choose to do something else. The most likely is probably a mix of direct distribution (witness Radiohead) and the YouTube or Napster model - a license fee paid behind the scenes for content, not per album or track as historically.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking tweets and articles.

  • Comment number 10.

    I should note, in addition to my previous comments, that there is a lot of interesting material in the report and a great deal of work has evidently gone into it which will form an excellent basis for further study. I confined myself in my earlier comments solely to the fact that the report appeared to "take it as read" that industry reports of apparent losses were valid.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm an avid avid user of Virgin's On Demand service, and spend a lot of money each month on premium content. Yes Virgin have the infrastructure, but they are leading the way and it's about time others followed. Even with this though I still download due to the size of the library available.

    Even with such examples, the content industries still haven't figured out what to do:

    * Simple to use access to all content. This means without limited libraries, international boundries or DRM.
    * A reasonable price point where the (now-pointless) middleman and the artist get fair recompense, but without taking the consumer for a ride.
    * Ability to buy the content once and enjoy it however we like.

    If they provided this tomorrow, I would have no need to download anything at all, and therefore I wouldn't. That would partially solve their problem. International action would be needed to solve the problems in other countries, especially the developing world.

    Also at some point there has to be acceptance that there will always be a hard core who don't want to and won't pay for their content. At this point trying to stop these people will only hurt the consumer.

  • Comment number 12.

    Good blog.

    While Sony Music, for example, think that £9.14 (plus VAT) is a good dealer price for their new release CDs - the Manic Street Preachers for example- (that's the standard single disc one btw) you begin to wonder if the major record labels have a death wish.

    This must be an almost unique business model where everyone loses (artists, labels, distributors, retailers, consumers) simply due to overpricing.

  • Comment number 13.

    The trick to understanding this problem is to think of piracy as a business, competing with the music industry. The same rules of competition in normal business/business competition apply to the competition between legal and illegal downloads. (You'd expect big companies with vast marketing talent to realise this).

    You need to give a customer a reason to choose your product over your competitor's. That is, your product has to have a difference.

    Businesses have a number of ways of differentiating their products. Some are better value for money, or at a lower price point, or sold in volume. Others are premium quality, or last longer, or come with fancy extras and a stylish design.

    But with the music industry, you either buy the MP3 from them for £0.79, or you buy exactly the same MP3 product from Limewire for £0.00. Limewire will win every time. There's no reason to buy it legally, and the music industry will never be able to compete with P-2-P on price!

    The answer: offer more value. When you purchase an MP3 legally, you should get more than what you get from downloading it illegally. This premium will give customers a reason to spend the money. The "extra" element could be access to services, websites, more music; it could be the beautiful simplicity, speed and efficiency of the user interface by which you find and download; it could be music management software or a cloud service.

    And at bare minimum, the MP3 file itself should be absolutely top quality - an excellent bitrate, with detailed, pre-filled ID3 tags, including title, artist, album, album art, embedded synchronised lyrics, the whole package. Now that's starting to sound more worth £0.79.

  • Comment number 14.

    The creative industries are being very uncreative in their attempts to fight piracy. They should compete by improving their service/s, not by acting like an unpopular Spanish Inquisition.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thorny topic indeed - on the one hand, you have the claims of the downloaders that 'the big labels are overcharging for their stuff, and most of the money never gets down to the artists anyway', but that never really washes with me.

    Sure - the labels aren't badly off - but how can no money to artists be better than a little? And there is a wider picture at large - if it is okay to rip off some music or a movie, then what about a software developer's work? Or that of a news reporter? If I took this post, and completely copied it on my blog (with attribution), I think the BBC would have something to say since they paid you, Rory, to write this content. You, the producer, might be happy with the extra exposure and, to be honest, I wouldn't even dent the traffic to the BBC website - but it is pretty much the same thing as what downloaders are doing to music.

    I am a software developer, working under a small corporation, and in much the same situation as many of those musicians out there. But I think there is actually a decent mechanism in software development for sharing freely as well as making sure that I can put bread on my table without having to change careers too.

    Many developers choose to work on free software, under special licencing (GNU's General Purpose Licence) which does not limit the ability to use that free software for commercial gain as part of a larger solution. But ultimately, the power to give away free software and free solutions is with the producer - not the consumer. It's also easier for the producer to provide directly to the consumer, and has been for years, and so less money is shaved off by middle men.

    The current music and movie download ethic is backwards - consumers decided they don't want to pay, so they take protected content. But it isn't hard to find the free music out there, freely given by artists. Plus, if you look a little harder, you can pay direct to the producers and not the distributors - and then almost all of the (much less) money you spend on an album will go to the people who matter and the one's in the middle. Even when that is not possible, I make a point to retailers about their album pricing by only purchasing discounted items.

    Downloaders need to realise that free music is all well and good - but if the artists are not getting any money at all, then they will just give up and go into something else... like software or news.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm amused by "the piracy debate". It's basically the capitalism vs communism debate. We know communism can't work in practice (why would you clean drains or work in a mine for the same pay as a pencil pusher?) so long term, piracy can't work.

    Piracy relies on other peoples work (both in the artistic sense of the word and the 9 to 5 sense). If you take peoples work and don't pay them for it they get unhappy and don't work anymore (would you keep turning up to work if your employer told you they weren't going to pay you any more?)

    If we enjoy films and music, we therefore need to pay the people that create it, otherwise they won't bother - they need to pay the bills and eat just like you and I. How much and how we pay is certainly up for debate, but that we must pay is not.

    The answer to the whole sitation is over 20 years old and has been touched upon above already - copyright tariffs. A DVD player costs a tenner, a VHS recorder costs GBP60+. Why? There's a tariff on the VHS as it can record copyrighted material. Just stick a tariff on either PCs or internet connections. Job done. There's a similar system in effect in most shops - they increase the cost of the things they sell to offset their losses through shoplifting.

    You can't stop piracy any more than you can magically stop shoplifting - all other things being equal most people will choose to get something cheaper (and what's cheaper than free?) rather than paying more. Charge everyone and if they complain just point out that it's those pesky "unauthorised downloaders" making us all pay extra just like it's the shoplifters making us all pay extra for our Coco Pops. Suddenly piracy ain't so victimless...

  • Comment number 17.


    There is an premium on every blank CD / DVD you buy and the money goes into a big pot to be divided between the big copyright owners. So you're already paying for them assuming that you will use the CD's to pirate stuff with.

    The same happens to MP3/4 players bought in mainland Europe.

    IMHO is there any relation to the number of pirate downloads increasing and the quality of music?
    I stopped buying CD's around 2000 because I got fed up with the prices, the amount of fillers on the albums and that most acts were just carbon copies of other acts. I just never got into the habit of buying CD's again after feeling i'd been ripped of to many times.

    Same happened with movies, I bought the LOTR film, then a month later they brought out the extended edition, then the complete box set, then the box set of the extended edition, then the box set of the directors extended addition. Did they expect me to keep buying newer versions of the same film? or just get annoyed with their proffitiering and download the other 2 in the trilogy?

  • Comment number 18.

    I work for the BPI, the music industry body. Music companies welcome the recognition in SABIPs independent research that unlawful file-sharing is a serious, and growing, threat to the success of the UKs important creative sector.

    As rights holder, we do NOT want to sue millions of people and its good to see that SABIP paper agrees this is unfeasible and not the right response. A graduated response, with ISPs and rights-holders working together, is the right way forward.

    The SABIP paper also shows that there is a clear and false perception amongst consumers that illegal downloading is a victimless crime - in fact thousands of jobs are being lost in the creative industries because of the huge loss of revenue it causes.

    The research suggests that consumers need better signposts to legal services. The music sector is further ahead than any other in developing innovative ways of offering its content online. Spotify and Comes with Music are just two examples. But government action is also needed to send clear signals about acceptable behaviour. The Digital Britain report must establish a clear regime that entails proportionate but escalating consequences for persistent illegal filesharing.

  • Comment number 19.

    #18 - GeoffTaylorBPI

    The role of an ISP is, and should only ever be, to connect people to the internet. Under no circumstances should an ISP ever be allowed to monitor data, and as such, there should be no relationship between an ISP and a rights-holder.

    Unfortunately, the creative industry - including BPI - has yet to recognise that illegal downloading does not equate to a lost sale. Your industry would be wise if it listened to the voices of those that have turned to piracy.

  • Comment number 20.


    "in fact thousands of jobs are being lost in the creative industries because of the huge loss of revenue it causes."

    Are you stupid or do you not listen? The vast Majority of people who illegally download music films etc would not view or listen to the product if they had to pay for it. You may have lost revenue but it is to
    competitors who offer more reasonably price entertainment. Just accept you are now an unnrssacary middle man and get on with it.

    "The research suggests that consumers need better signposts to legal services."

    No they don't they just don't care about your profit margins. If only 30million of the 60million that live in this country are online and a minimum of 7 million are illegally downloading thats 24% of the Online population. They know what there doing they just don't consider it illegal and if the public don't want it to be a crime then the government should change the law.

    "But government action is also needed to send clear signals about acceptable behaviour"

    The Government should reflect the views of the people not big buisness. It is the people who should decide what is acceptable and what is not and government policy should reflect their wishes. The time of Government being in your pocket is ending. The time of the Government obeying the wishes of their people is beginning and long may it last.

  • Comment number 21.

    "Oh no: another boring report about piracy by a strange body with an obscure title."

    Exactly my thoughts regarding this, the THIRD OR FOURTH "debate" on piracy seen on the BBC News Website (now including HYS!) that I have seen in a week.

    Nothing else to report on? Is this the only IT related subject worth banging on and on and on about?

    Oh and to keep it on-topic, 7m downloaders in the UK? STAB IN THE DARK and guesstimates. How does the University College London know that each one of these 7m people downloads ILLEGAL content from P2p networks which also hold BILLIONS of non-copyright items.

    Scaremongering by the UK music "industry" to make the government allow ISPs to micro-manage even more aspects of our lives.

    To the music industry: Stop pumping out rubbish after rubbish after rubbish and then expecting upwards of £15 for it. Stop making nobodys into "superstars" and hyping their latest nonsensical darn awful NOISE as "the next best thing". If you ask me, this is another reason people download - QUANTITY over QUALITY instead of the other way around.

    To the artists: Cut out the middleman, give your music away free (youtube) and go on tour - charge a reasonable amount to come see you and not only will you make a lot of money if your music is good but there are 7m people apparently who would download and share your work - that's a heck of a lot of ticket sales to artists who actually have talent.

    Sorry for the rant but I am sick of reading about how pirates are the bad guys, sorry, they're not to me - they're like the modern day Robin Hoods.

  • Comment number 22.

    I recently downloaded a computer game that I'd meant to buy some years ago, but had completely forgotten about. I saw an old review of it online and realised that, as it was now unlikely to be available in any high-street stores, if I wanted this game I was going to have to get it online.

    I was pleased to find several sites that would, for a small fee (typically £5) sell me a fully-licensed copy of the game that I could download within around an hour. Well, I waited my hour, and eagerly attempted to unpack and install my game. I soon found that the license key I'd been given was faulty. I emailed the site I'd paid for the download from, and still had no reply the next day. By this time, I had done some research (thinking I'd been scammed) but found that the site I'd used actually had a very good reputation, and I couldn't find anyone else claiming to have been ripped off deliberately. Eventually I recieved an automated email response that did nothing to help.

    I then, extremely foolishly, paid £5 again, this time to another site with an excellent reputation. This time, the download failed part of the way through, and after 3 aborted attempts I was no longer entitled to access the file. I have tried, and failed, to obtain a refund from either of these companies. Apparently screenshots of the "license key failed" or "you have downloaded this file too many times" screens aren't proof enough that I do not have a working copy of the game.

    The fact is, following about 4 days of frustration I thought "to hell with this, I've paid more than enough" and downloaded the game "illegally". This was quick, convenient and hassle-free.

    I'm not saying everyone who file-shares has had the problems I've had, or has in fact paid twice-over for the files they're downloading. But it did open my eyes. Up until this point, I'd been quite supportive of the warning letters being sent to file-sharers, however if I had recieved one after paying twice for this game I would have been furious. It does make you wonder how many of those 1.3m people were downloading an album they perhaps own on vinyl, or on a now-scratched CD.

    The points I really wanted to make are that sometimes, you can use file-sharing networks to download things you HAVE actually bought and paid for, so these statistics are somewhat meaningless. Secondly, the idea that online distribution (in the legal sense) is now working perfectly, thus blowing file-sharers excuses out of the water is totally, utterly false. A lot of work needs to go into a lot of websites before paying for everything you want online will be worth doing.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ GeoffTalyorBPI: It would probably have been better if you'd not stated who you worked for! As it is you seem like a greengrocer telling us all we ought to eat our greens - there's nothing like a strong dose of healthy self-interest though, is there?

  • Comment number 24.

    I think it's too late. The record industry had a chance to act back when they cut off Napster in 2001. Back then it was only the nerds using it, now everyone is using Napster's grandchildren.

    Maybe the music industry will have to crash and burn and then come back and reinvent its self, in order to survive? Maybe people are fed up of manufactured, meaningless drivel they don't feel it's worth paying for?

  • Comment number 25.

    @ GeoffTaylorBPI

    Just out of interest did you read even one of the responses to this post?

    You demonstrate the typical ignorance that we always get from the creative industry.

    I would not download illegally if two conditions where fulfilled:

    1. Reasonable pricing, and less 80 million pound robbie williams deals
    2. All of the content when ever I want it however I want it, so I never have to pay for the same thing again.

    Of course the creative industries are not going to do this as they continue to wage war on the people they feel should be paying for their fast cars and expensive lunches.

  • Comment number 26.

    Is it not about time ministers, reporters (and BBC bloggers) took a step back and instead of listening to "the industries" on how file-sharing is destroying "their" industry actually spoke to the artists and creators. The ones that actually create the material we are talking about, remember them?

    The Featured Artists Coalition, and I quote "campaigns for the protection of performers' and musicians' rights. We want all artists to have more control of their music and a much fairer share of the profits it generates in the digital age. We speak with one voice to help artists strike a new bargain with record companies, digital distributors and others, and are campaigning for specific changes."

    I am disappointed at what now seems to become usual at the BBC is a one sided view on the industry. Times are changing, the industry is changing and the old ways of distribution and middleman business models is dead. I don't think anyone would disagree the artists should be paid for their work. You should be asking why the industries see fit to fight for their survival and not the interest of the artists they vehemently say they support.

  • Comment number 27.

    "Oh no: another boring report about piracy by a strange body with an obscure title."

    Actually Rory you're initial reaction was correct.

    I think most people have pretty much said this, here and in other blogs, but I'll put this into my own words.

    The entertainment industry as a whole does not lose money via illegal downloads, they simply aren't making as much money as they think they could be.

    Is it the case that only small minority of people actually buy the CDs/DVDs/games and then uploading them for the rest of us to "borrow", no it is not.

    The file sharing that takes place is no worse than walking down the road to borrow a mates CD collection, and the entertainment industry has never batted an eyelid where that kind of "borrowing" is concerned.

    The "suits" in the industry need to take a step back and allow the artists to have their say, and allow the consumer to dictate the market value.

    Oh and need I say it but once upon a time entertainment was for entertainment, not for making a gross profit.

  • Comment number 28.

    #18 GeoffTaylorBPI

    Oddly enough, I can remember a big, long-running, expensive campaign a few years ago, where we were told 'Home taping is killing music". As far as I can tell, music didn't die - based on the profits made by the industry, it seems to have survived considerably more healthily than many other industries. However, sales were falling before the Internet came along, weren't they? Now, who do you think were 'at fault' for that happening? In the mad world of the industry, presumably it's that damned 'public' again?

    Rather than spend time, effort and money complaining about theoretical profits you might have made if only people were sheep instead of humans, and paid ever increasing proces regardless of quality of product, the 'answer' to the frankly imaginary problem is to make things people consider worth buying. But fantasyland complaining about imagined profits and losses is so much easier than actually raising the industry's game, I suppose....

  • Comment number 29.

    I know lots of people who download content from free sources clased as unauthorised downlaods. BUT I also know that those same people - download something to see if they like it. If they do, then they buy a copy. If they dont, then they delete it.

    I dont see whats wrong with doing this really - as long as people do the same

  • Comment number 30.

    if a plumber fixes your toilet, does he give you a bill for the job or does he expect to be paid every time you flush it for the next 50 years?

    maybe it's time the entertainment industry started looking at how every one else runs a business?

  • Comment number 31.

    My son, aged 15, spends far more money on music than I did when I was a kid. It's just that he spends it mainly on going to see bands and buying merchandise, whereas I spent it on records. He downloads music all the time, but that doesn't mean the artists lose out.

  • Comment number 32.

    Yawn, same arguments as we had on your post a few weeks so I'm not going to repeat myself.

    The reports observations about our perception on pricing in the online world is interesting. I think the essential problem here is that people still have a hard time attaching value to something virtual. It seems that the new value is 'no value' with is interesting because in everything other than the internet our tendency is to attach a higher value (marketing services from a creative agency or consultancy services are good examples).

    Three things:

    1. Anyone who thinks the music industry are making pots of money clearly hasn't seen the big companies financial statements. Look them up, no one is making anything close to exorbitant profits.
    2. Whatever your opinion about it, at this point in time the file shareing mentioned above is illegal in the UK.
    3. There are now many, many services that offer music legally 'for free' or at a very reasonable price, from Last FM and Spotify to Nokia Comes with Music. I don't think the industry is quite there yet but the perception that the music industry is stuck in 'offline' mode is no longer true.

  • Comment number 33.

    The problems are many and the reasons people download 'illegally' are vast.

    But what is clear is that the people are not happy with the current copyright legislation. People clearly feel that sharing content that they have is not illegal and in a democracy [i believe] it is the will of the people that rules.

    There needs to be a simple and cost effective distribution network so that people can see an alternative to illegal file-sharing.

    The great thing about current illegal file-sharing sites is that users can get the content they want as they want it, most importantly they can pick the quality of the download; whether it be 1080p high def films or 96kbps mp3s, people have unprecidented choice, it is unmatched anywhere else on the web.

    Whether the music and film companies are making money (which they are) is irelevant because the current copyright legislation is so ridiculously outdated once someone pays for the license to whatch or listen to something, they should be able to then get that in any digital form they want without prosecution, the fact that i have had to buy films on VHS, DVD and now Blu-Ray is ridiculous. There is NO cost to the industry if I buy a DVD and then download a 1080p version of a film, they invest NOTHING in the illegal sites.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'l stop downloading the day muscians start wokring like real people and earning the same kind of rewards the rest of us do. One album every few years and earning many 100's of 1000's, get a grip those days are numbered and frankly they should be.
    Musicains should start working hard creating more songs more albums touring more. It should be a 9-5 330 day a year job like everyone elses.
    Songs are what 3 minutes long, wow, thanks 3 minutes of life being entertained (sometimes. Give me a break songs are worth pence.

  • Comment number 35.

    Downloading music etc is inevitable if only as a way to get a "sample" of something before you're willing to part with hard-earned cash for it, given that music & films are "experience goods".
    These aspects were very well written up by economists in the context of why DRM in its current form doesn't work and indeed promotes piracy (I summarised their papers in a blog post on what they call "diginomics") - but I fear it's probably too late for the music industry to adopt a fairer kind of DRM that does work and will be accepted. Ad-supported free music may be the best hope.

  • Comment number 36.

    Seven Million People. Let's put this number into context. The current UK population according to the CIA is 61 million. This means that 11% of the UK population is breaking the law. The penalty can be up to 6 months in jail - or 10 years for some cases.

    Are we prepared to prosecute 1/10th the population because some industry body might be losing money? No. Is the problem going to get worse? Yes. Pirate Bay may be dead - but so was Napster.

    Let's now look at those people who break the Copyright Designs and Patents Act in a different way. Ripping music from CD to hard drive. In the UK this is currently illegal.

    What is the solution? The BPI currently believes that it should prosecute the most hardened offenders. This is unfair. Why does copying 1000 songs make it illegal, why 10 songs is acceptable? The limits are defined by the prosecutors.

    It is impossible to make songs which can not be copied when they are in digital form. IMPOSSIBLE. DRM is doomed to failure and this is why it has been given up upon by the music industry.

    OK. So lots of people do it, it is impossible to prevent the copying of music. What is the solution?

    Scrap the Copyright Designs and Patents Act. Decriminalise the actions that a tenth of the population are doing - in practice this won't change anything, very few pirates are brought to court.

    Music industry (and film). Move on. Find something new. Technology gave you to the ability to record songs and distribute them. It has now taken it away. Use CDs as demos - Sell tickets to concerts. Have artists PERFORM live. Have donation's to artists - just don't rely on copyright - it won't work.

    And for those who say we can't afford to try such measures - if your in the music industry, you're apparently losing hundreds of millions each year. Either you don't believe this (I don't), in which case stop whinnning about piracy, or you can't afford not to take this action which we will reconnect you with consumers.

  • Comment number 37.


    "1. Anyone who thinks the music industry are making pots of money clearly hasn't seen the big companies financial statements. Look them up, no one is making anything close to exorbitant profits. "

    Whats the salaries and bonuses of the execs?

    How much was the Robbie Williams deal?

    Thinking first often helps...

  • Comment number 38.

    I say down with the record labels and the major entertainment companies. In the past I would be ranting an essay out now but I can't be bothered. Keep downloading until they give us and the artists a fairer deal. At present the industry milks both the consumer and the creator to give themselves the "best" deal.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    I don't think its right for people to mention the blandness of certain releases while discussing unfair practices. There is so much more variety of music out there than ever, that anyone who feels besieged by tweeny bopper nu hip hop acts should really make more effort to find what they like. Google can be your friend.

    OK , back on topic.
    Years ago, 1990 to be exact, I was indignant at the cost of music. My attitude has not changed, but I confess to being liberated by the level playing field that p2p has provided, and will probably never pay for music again, at least not until a fairer system is available.
    Since those earlier years I've kept a close track of prices for music, and UK retailers have always exceeded prices found in the USA.
    Even the price of music compared to other formats doesn't make sense.
    How is it that a movie DVD of 4 GB or more of visual and audio content, is about the same price as a music CD?

    It seems that the music middlemen have been playing the arbitrary price game for a long time, so long in fact, that it has become an accepted norm for them, entrenched and a basic right even.
    The industry has long been setting prices at levels people seemed willing to pay, or have become accustomed to pay.

    And now people find they can pay nothing. And the industry cries foul.

    The music industry were the first to fly the pirate flag, but their ships cannot change tack quick enough.

    Now is the time for musicians to liberate their craft away from the middlemen, and take charge of their own creations, sell their music direct to the public, with full copying liberties for the buyer.

    And the side benefit of this is the public decides what is hot, and what is snot.


  • Comment number 41.

    As a 20 something guy who has grown up on computers, I am one of these "downloaders".

    As someone above said, and in particular with computer games, it's often harder to get things legitimately than to donwload a cracked copy.

    I'm in the habit of downloading anything that perks my interest, if it's a film that I particularly enjoyed and considered worth seeing, I organise a trip to the cinema, where the sound and large screen are worth the cost. If it is a game, and can hold my interest for more than 10 hours, I will buy it off amazon and keep playing the copy I have.

    I'm so lazy that when I can't find that Starcraft Brood Wars CD from 10 years ago, I just download it in 15 minutes while I make a cup of tea. I have already paid for it, the internet is just my storage space.

  • Comment number 42.

    More figures on piracy.
    I believe that the music industry alienated itself back in the 1990s.
    Did they think that we all have such short memories that we have forgotten £16 for a CD.
    The figures of 7million illegal downloads is rubbish. Research paid for by, let me guess, the industry in question. I cant take any of these projected loss figures seriously until they come from independent researchers.
    Asking service providers to police the net is wrong. Do you want your service provider to examine all the packets to your home? your emails, your photos?
    The old business model is gone for the record industry. Prosecuting file sharing sites is a waste of money. There will always be a way to connect and download.
    If people are to use the music companys to download, then why don't they offer top quality downloads? in FLAC or WAV format. If there is going to be competition to CDs for download, then it needs to be in the same quality as CDs. 80pence a track for some poor sounding MP3, no wonder legal sites aren't catching on. .
    Some of the P2P sites will soon be offering VPN connections. Then not even the service providers will know what (or who) you are connected to. Chasing people through the courts using ip addresses for proof is flawed, and again will only alienate people against the industry.
    Im happy to pay the artist for music, and technology allows me to do that now. Direct paypal donations to a bands website, rather than pay the fat music execs, who have been filling the charts with rubbish and dictating the radio playlists for years and years.
    Long live independent music. I dont want pre made boy-band, girl-bands, or tv spinoffs filling the airwaves. I want real music from real musicians.
    But once again, the big companies will put pressure on the government, and yet more of your civil liberties will be lost as the internet police come a knockin
    Watch this space.

  • Comment number 43.

    It's been said here before but it's worth it to say it again: just like there are people now reading Dickens just because they can for free (but they wouldn't otherwise if they had to pay for the book or go to a library to read it), there are people who download stuff they would NOT buy. This is not money that the labels or film companies are losing. On the contrary, as it's been my case and it may be that of others', you can decide to buy stuff because you downloaded it first and liked it enough as to spend your hard-earned cash on it.

    Collectors -those who care about content but above all who value physical containers as content- download stuff but ALSO buy it.

    Another aspect that has to be considered is that independent musicians, those who care about music and its listeners (and not the Britneys and Robbie Williams of the major labels), actually DO GIVE THEIR MUSIC AWAY FOR FREE. They know that their fans will buy the music at their shows, will pay expensive festival and gig tickets, will take their friends, will write about them on their blogs, will help the fan base (consumer base) grow...

    For a brilliant example, see

  • Comment number 44.

    The main problem with the music/film industry in my opinion are the prices. Being able do download movies on my xbox360 is simply amazing, however I'm yet to download anything yet due to refusing to pay £4.00 for a digital rental.

    The downloads should be priced at £1, and no more...this would attract far more people. The downloads don't cost anything so why the hefty price? The same should be said for games, with piracy increasing every year surly this would be the best thing to do.


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