P2P File Sharing Update: The Role of (good old) Off-line Networks

British survey findings on young people's music ownership show that teenagers and students have an average of more than 800 illegally copied songs each on their digital music players.

Here is an excerpt: The research also showed that half of 14 to 24-year-olds were happy to share all the music on their hard drive, enabling others to copy hundreds, or thousands, of songs at any one time. Although illegal copying has become widespread, the scale of the problem uncovered by the University of Hertfordshire left the music industry surprised. On average every iPod or digital music player contained 842 illegally copied songs. Fergal Sharkey, former lead singer of the Undertones and now chief executive of British Music Rights, said: “I was one of those people who went around the back of the bike shed with songs I had taped off the radio the night before. But this totally dwarfs that, and anything we expected.”

I don’t see what there is to be surprised about. Even if the entertainment industry’s scare tactics (lawsuits) have moved file-sharing traffic away from major P2P sites to smaller sites and various torrents, the overall volume of sharing might still be high. Besides, free copynorms among young people are not going away. My own study on the interaction between deterrence and copynorms shows that scare tactics may strengthen pro-copy norms among file-sharers. This new study shows just how much portable storage capacity boosted off line sharing.

Btw, I don’t see how the subscription business model, as suggested in the Times article, has any real promise for the sale of music. Sure, it is closer to the sharing/all you can eat buffet model of P2P, but for every one subscription many more individuals will get free access to the non-networked sharing that the survey evidences.

As it is developing now, the future of the music industry is more vertically integrated. A business model where the music companies make its profits by acting as talent agent of the artist as such, relying much more on profits from non-rival goods such as concerts, advertising, non-digital merchandise. Early reflections on this appeared in Raymond Ku’s excellent article on the creative destruction of copyright.

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3 Responses to P2P File Sharing Update: The Role of (good old) Off-line Networks

  1. LACJ says:

    …a model in which downloads are free, I presume, to push up the value of all these other things…

    Yes its seems so based on that abstract. No copyright protection means, well, as a practical manner means nothing. It would simply be an acknowledgment of the realities of digital portability.

  2. John Flood says:

    The music industry has lost this war. Unless there are draconian surveillance methods, copying and free downloading will continue. Interestingly some of the ISPs in the UK think they can monitor “unusual” traffic levels and then they will write to the malefactors threatening to close their accounts. I don’t see that working. It’s going to be up to the artists themselves to rethink how they perceive what they do. Do they sell songs? Or do they sell themselves via concerts? Which is more the way of things now.

  3. Kaleberg says:

    That’s right. The war is over. When Family Circle suggests teaching kids thrift and thoughtfulness by creating pirate CDs of especially chosen songs as Christmas presents, the RIAA has lost. Have you been to a kid’s birthday party in the last ten years? They usually hand out a CD of the party music with a Happy Birthday themed label to each guest as part of the goodies bag. Kids learn piracy with their ABCs.

    The weird thing is the RIAA’s fixation on internet file sharing. For some reason, they’ve given up on non-network piracy which sends the message that it’s not the piracy, it’s the internet. They’re doomed.

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