Monday, 2 October 2017

EU Piracy Study Finds No Connection between Piracy and Sales

Most of us have participated in a form of digital piracy in one form or another. Maybe you’ve downloaded a song off the internet, or even found a copy of your legal textbook online and paid less than what the published intended? Once you turned off your computer and found your reflection in the darkness of the screen, did it betray your abject feelings of guilt? Perhaps not. After all, a study in 2012 found that 57% of the world’s computer users confess to pirating software, and in April of 2017, a study found that 93% of millennials who pirate video content experience no guilt.

Piracy has become normalized in the modern world, despite efforts from publishers and online retailers to criminalize, at least morally, the act of digital theft. The premise of many such corporations, especially those involved in video games and audio-visual content, is that the use of piracy is directly proportionate to the amount of sales lost. In an attempt to clarify this connection, the European Commission paid over € 300,000 to initiate a study which examined the sales of copyrighted music, books, videogames and movies, and how piracy impacts them. The study itself was completed in 2015, but was intentionally prevented from going public, claims EU Law blogged Maren Schmid, because it did not suit the Commission's agenda. It has recently come to light thanks to Julia Reda, a European Parliament Member, representing the ‘German Pirate Party,’ who posted the study in her personal blog after gaining access using an EU Freedom of Information Request.

The study itself is remarkably clear in its findings, examining data from EU countries and concluding that the correlation between piracy and profit is nonexistent except when considering major blockbuster films. Interestingly, the study also confirms what prolific pirates have been claiming for decades, that access to a product at a reasonable rate using a reasonable platform encourages widespread legal consumption.

A study in March 2017 found that the eBook pirates are predominately old, educated and wealthy, making between 60,000 to 100,000 a year . Why would these wealthy individuals seek out illegal platforms when they can easily afford to purchase? Upon surveying contemporary eBook marketplaces, the general consensus is that eBooks cost more than their printed counterparts, even though they lack a physical condition. Even a wealthy individual may feel cheated or taken advantage of when considering purchases. This is highly discouraging to any prospective buyer, and pressures them into piracy. Changes to this confounded system would be mutually beneficial for all parties involved, giving reasonable prices to consumers at the same time as raising the profits of the publishers. For an example of when this works, examine platforms like Netflix for video consumption and Steam for videogames, which have streamlined access to content and have enjoyed massive consumer participation and profit margins.


If the publisher perspective was to be maintained, that piracy was a dominant force in limiting profits, why would Netflix and Steam have a combined userbase of over 200 million when all the content on their respective platforms can be pirated? This study confirms what has been recognized by the pirating communities for decades, that if the platform is accessible, and the price is reasonable, piracy becomes a non-issue.

Post written by Dalton Tucker
LLB University of Buckingham

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