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Could legal downloads actually surpass piracy?

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 22 Jun 2005 23:07 User comments (30)

Could legal downloads actually surpass piracy? According to Entertainment Media Research, legal downloading has made a huge increase and soon will pass out the pirates. A survey concluded that 35% of music listeners now use the Internet to download music tracks legally from music download stores like iTunes and Napster. Piracy is just ahead with 40% of listeners admitting they use P2P services to download and share music with other users on the network/tracker. To get to this conclusion, 4000 consumers gave their answers for the 2006 Digital Music Survey in association with media law firm Olswang.
The survey has one very strange part to its conclusions. It cites Internet viruses and fear of prosecution as reasons why people decide to legally purchase music instead of downloading it from P2P networks. Firstly, it's easier to pick up a virus by email than it is to download a virus while downloading music. There have been security problems with MP3 files in the past with certain players but those holes are fixed by now. Simple use of common sense on P2P networks can help users avoid viruses.

Legal action taken on P2P networks seems to be a reason why people would prefer to purchase music according to the survey, but P2P lawsuits actually target the "biggest sharers of music". However, the misunderstanding among consumers is understandable, as newspapers and websites report the lawsuits as being targeted against people who simply download some music tracks. "Clear deterrents to illegal downloading are emerging, with fear of prosecution running high, and close behind is the sense that unauthorized downloading is 'not fair on the artists,' suggesting that the industry's messages, led by the British Phonographic Industry, are being communicated effectively." John Enser, senior partner at Olswang, said in a statement.

However, a lot of people who download music illegally actually do it simply because they don't support what they see as a "music industry monopoly" where artists don't get what they deserve for their work. Groups like Downhill Battle have been spreading the message of how little an artist gets paid when a consumer buys a CD and actually encouraging that people use P2P and other methods to download music for free to make way for a music industry where these major record labels don't exist.

What about Digital Rights Management?

Checking with news sources I canít find out whether any questions were asked about the Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection that is included with a legal download. Some consumers believe this is where the game gets unfair. If you buy a track from iTunes and want it on a portable music player, then you need to get an iPod. Although several workarounds are of course possible, most consumers wouldn't know how to do it. Another turn off for consumers is the price of a music download.

A download is typically sold for 99c (79p in UK) in the biggest stores. Some consumers believe this is unfair as you can buy a full album on CD for less than the price of downloading it in a lot of cases. The consumer argument basically is that since itís a download of data directly over the Internet, it should cost less than buying a CD which was probably shipped from another country/state to the store. Also lets not forget that most music CDs available have no copy protection (although Sony is trying its best to change that now).

So what do the major record labels think?

Digital Rights Management

There is not a major record label that would settle for anything less than DRM protected downloads. The last thing they would want to see is one person purchasing a track from a music download service and then immediately putting it into a shared folder and making it available for the possible millions of people on the P2P network. The belief is basically that with the DRM, more money will be made and piracy rates will be much less.


This is the one that will shock many RIAA/IFPI haters but also it will not surprise them. Many record company execs are actually unhappy with the cost of a music download from iTunes. These people in question believe that downloads should be more individually priced and they shoudl have a say on the price, whereas currently Apple has a 99c price policy. In this case, less popular and older music would actually be cheaper than the current 99c, which would probably solve the problem with CDs being less expensive than downloads in many cases. However, as I'm sure a lot of you have guessed, more popular and newer music would probably get a price hike, at least while the music is "hot".

Peer-2-Peer downloading

While there are a significant number of people sharing music online for free with each other the major record labels will not rest or back down. The belief among them is simply that their tactics are working and even the survey in question in this article would prove that there is some truth to that belief. However, overall P2P usage is still on the rise with the eDonkey2000 network now with a massive almost 5,000,000 users last time I checked. Soon the ed2k network will have twice as many users as FastTrack at any given time. So if P2P use is still on the rise, chances are that music sharing is on a rise too (judging by averages, which I know is flawed, but this survey judges simply by average too).

My Conclusions

Firstly, this survey is actually good news. It proves now to the music industry that yes, P2P users are actually willing to buy music and all that was holding so many back was the complications in buying downloads a couple of years ago; availability was terrible. However, with the numbers of P2P users increasing too, piracy is probably still rising on the Internet, but maybe in the form of movies, software and games piracy more than music. Most downloaders now are actually so used to music downloading that they probably just don't bother downloading enormous amounts of it anymore, especially since movies and software are more available now.

I think you canít judge which side (the stores or the p2p networks) is winning using these surveys. For example, honesty might not always be used while answering questions for a survey on the street. Was it not the claim of major record labels in the first place that music downloaders were thieves? If they are in fact right and anyone who downloads music for free is a thief, then how could they possibly expect all thieves to be completely honest about their actions? Let's not also forget, fear of prosecution was supposedly a major deterrent, so if you are in the UK on the street and are put on the spot and asked if you do something illegal like downloading music, you might not admit it, even when promised anonymity.

However, in any case, itís nice to see that digital music is thriving so much still ;-) For a walk down memory lane, I recommend you take a quick look at the following AfterDawn news article from 1999, Digital Music Revolution Begins. I guess Ketola was right and now digital music downloads (legal or illegal) are really making their mark in the music industry's history.


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30 user comments

123.6.2005 3:52

No Wonder! We've been threatned time and time again by the RIAA with lawsuits for ages.. -Mike

223.6.2005 6:04

seem to be more popluar than ever in the UK at the min with it being included in the chart system prices and quality are the main factor

323.6.2005 6:08

Simple use of common sense on P2P networks can help users avoid viruses.
yeah that's exactly what people don't have....common sense

423.6.2005 6:32

^Exactly! Well said.

523.6.2005 7:51

I said it back in 1999 and I'll keep on saying it. If the record execs would have JOINED napster back in the day, they would have profited 10x as much then fighting it. People want music, and they don't mind paying for it as long as they get what they want.

623.6.2005 9:40

Its not a very good test anyway, ask 4000 people what they use to download, a lot of them would not have admitted to using p2p even if they did.

723.6.2005 9:58

yep as i stated in article, honesty probably would be rare lol

823.6.2005 11:06

Bullshit, Legal downloading will never surpass piracy. IRC, Newsgroups, P2P, E-Mail, and chat clients.

923.6.2005 13:39

Yeahh, if people know they can get it for free then.. -Mike - Guides written by me. - Join us Live on IRC!

(Kudos to Ripper For The Beautiful Sig!)

1023.6.2005 14:05

Music? Yes, people are EXTREMELY passionate about their music... who isn't? So more money for the artists. =D Which is all good. But movies or games? Personally I think they're going to be the ones losing out, but still gaining masses of profit. Of course, not enough for the $ shaped eyes of companies, so there will still be organizations slapping lawsuits onto poor folks in harmony. I don't think movie/game piracy will be surpassed, it will only increase. Music however... a good chance, it's been around forever. =)

1123.6.2005 16:31

Do you think the people fighting TV downloads, DVD backups and that Macrovision crap will read about this and learn from it. The sooner they do the more money they will save. I doubt it. They all have to learn the hard way. -Del

1224.6.2005 11:28

As others have pointed out, people are passionate about their music. I can EASILY see legal music downloads surpassing p2p. P2P was a big fad back in the day... now a lot of p2p is cluttered with spyware, low quality mp3s, and bogus stuff. Even news groups sometimes have lq and you can't tell till you download. When the average sheep (the masses) can hear what they want, preview it, and get it now and legally, hands down they'll go that route if its best for them. liberal, simply put, this thread isn't about software / movies... its about music. Move along to something that you might actually know about.

BS (no need to use that kind of language), Legal downloading will never surpass piracy. IRC, Newsgroups, P2P, E-Mail, and chat clients.

1324.6.2005 20:10

Djgizmo, Maybe you should move on to something you know about. Ya know you can get some good quality music when you're not using kazaa lite still buddy.

1426.6.2005 6:10

I recently bought a cd at circuit city (Dave Matthew's new one) and the damn thing is copyright protected. The problem is that at home I use a media player to play my music from my PC to home theatre system. I also have my entire music collection on CDRs in MP3 format. This CD can't be converted into MP3, only WMA. My media player and car can't read WMA. I find this to be total B.S. Here I paid full retail price for a CD and I can't add it to my compressed format collection.

1526.6.2005 7:48

The article is based on a survey of 4000 "consumers" -- but where are they from? Were they a random sample? Most law firms who sponsor science are not in it for pure curiosity, they need the data to use in their favor in a lawsuit. You can't possibly generalize the results without knowing anything about the survey. This article is yet another piece of garbage from Reuters!

1626.6.2005 13:18

The various recording companies, like tobacco companies for example, have very deep pockets to finance their causes, ie; adverts, newspaper and television media spots, etc. I don't believe or trust them any more than a politician on election year. The fact seems to prevail: "Don't try to confuse them with the facts..they're right"! This is simply a different flavour of the struggle for freedom of the press.

1726.6.2005 13:19


This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 10 Oct 2005 @ 2:11

1827.6.2005 0:34

I don't think movie/game piracy will be surpassed, it will only increase.
I couldn't agree more Toiletman, there is no big company (RIAA, MPAA etc.) defending the game industry especially. But the MPAA are sincerely scary. Does anyone know how much MPAA sue for uploading one of the latest movies? -Mike
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 27 Jun 2005 @ 0:35 - Guides written by me. - Join us Live on IRC!

(Kudos to Ripper For The Beautiful Sig!)

1929.6.2005 0:30

I think most people miss the real reason why the recording industry is so anti Internet. It has little to do with royalties or even sales. It has to do with control over distribution. The record companies have had a firm grasp on distribution and with that hold can dictate as to what is recorded, what is released and what the stores will stock. This is backed up by legislation and a whacko licensing system that prevent stores buying from alternative sources. P2P and download providers like iTunes threatens to change the status quo. Add that to the fact that teens spend their money on games and designer labelled clothing and the age group that do buy music (35+) are not catered for, the end of the recording regime is all but over. Instead of taking stock and realizing that the public's buying habits have changed since the "Golden Years" and adjust to it they will do the only thing they know how, intimidate. This time they will do it to their inevitable death.

2029.6.2005 14:25

On what Dj Gizmo Posted Before About P2P services ("I can EASILY see legal music downloads surpassing p2p. P2P was a big fad back in the day... now a lot of p2p is cluttered with spyware, low quality mp3s, and bogus stuff." sorry i dont know how to 'quote') - this couldn't be further from the truth... This Poll Of 4000 people doesnt tell us anything. we don't know who they are. they have obviously been ''carefully selected'' though to cover up the fact that nothing's changed. i will admit p2p services do have faults but i can tell you if you were to make 15 downloads on a site like limewire you could bet that at lesat that at LEAST 12 would be crystal clear quality and excellent sound, this is why illegal p2p usage is so rife? people can get it for free or they can buy a whole album for the 2 or 3 good songs. i-tunes may be growing. but i believe p2p wil never go away. well this is just my opinion what do you think guys?

2129.6.2005 14:29

sorry about the mistakes =)

221.7.2005 9:05

The rich get richer

231.7.2005 11:40


This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 10 Oct 2005 @ 2:12

242.7.2005 13:44

MALhodges Questions. Are downloaded files shared with others? Usually Not Why is the authorities so obsessed with the internet? They have nothing else to blam poor performance on. How many buy CDís and then swap them to copy each otherís (If copy protected, record onto cassette). How many records transmitted music? (Radio for example). Most of the world How many do not like todayís music? Most of the world How many listen to the loads of stations and donít see the need to buy or keep recordings of music? Most of the world Now that the Chancellor is going to close the loophole for cheaper CDís from the Channel Islands, will this increase Piracy in retaliation? No. It will increase no matter what. Who in their right mind would pay for what is 90% junk

252.7.2005 23:51

Uh, what's legal or illegal? I thought laws passed which is for the people should be more people friendly, for the good of the majority, now before passing a law why not put it to a vote among the million citizens and see if P2P is legal or illegal. Jeez I'm going to be arrested for some law I was not even consulted with?

263.7.2005 0:44

Jeez I'm going to be arrested for some law I was not even consulted with? is technically stealing, your stealing copyrighted files that you otherwise have to pay for so you don't really need to be consulted of the P2P laws. It's funny though.. most people who download don't even know their breaking the law.. it's common sense. Your stealing things that you have to otherwise pay for.. -Mike

2713.7.2005 18:32

It's funny though.. most people who download don't even know their breaking the law.. it's common sense. Your stealing things that you have to otherwise pay for.. RE:I know musicians has to eat, but c'mon if eating is the only issue, where did they get those flashy cars with flashy girls in the backseat? Overcharging? music is a combination of nice sounds produced by air vibrations, once it leaves a singer's mouth, a speaker, or a trumpet's bell to me it becomes public domain for really who owns the air? and talent is freely given by GOD. you can create talent but if it's not inborn, it'll just sound mechanical. My point is the law created by Man seems too harsh for a thing that was free in the first place, birds can sing, who sues John Doe if he records and sells it to collectors of birdsongs? Birds has to eat too you know. Another thing, the fact that no copy protection will ever work proves that it is not natural, hypothetically speaking put in all the copy protection you can digitally cram into a CD, all a person has to do is play it on a good speaker, facing a couple of good microphones with a good cassette recorder and you have captured a good copy, why? because you have set music free when it exited the speaker into the free air.

2815.7.2005 9:48

I love this observation recently brought to my attention. If one downloads a song from any source is that person breaking the law if they did not actually make the original copy. On an Australian CD the copywtie terma forbid copying, reting, lending, diffusion, pulic performance or broadcasting. Downloading an MP3 doesn't break any of those rules unless the downloader is quite sure that the mp3 is indeed an illegal copy. I mean some nice kind record company may have put the song up for the enjoyment of the multitudes. I now insist that the full text of the copywrite laws be printed on every CD label and the part about illegal downloads shown in bold type. Psst there isn't one.

2915.7.2005 10:01

@whoozhe- This Is All True And People Do Know It , Thats Why 70% of p2p users are just leechers. basically, they u-load but dont d-load. these leachers prob aint gonna get caught but i fink its f*ckin selfish to take but not to give. what do others think??

3016.7.2005 17:03

-selfish to take but not to give- What I personally think is You Scratch My Back, I Scratch Your Back. I'm also thinking that it's true musicians has to eat, now since Frank Sinatra is dead (We all miss real talents) does that mean his recordings are free now? I'm not sure he still eats. And another thought, If copying is costing the industry millions, why not show their accounting to the public to prove that, instead of just saying they could have earned that much if it wasn't for P2P, how can they really be sure it would have been a hitmaker? Talented musicians are not complaining much since most of their income are from live shows and concerts, and you can't beat a real live show!

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