25 November 2010

Why ACTA is Doomed (Part 2)

A couple of days ago I wrote that ACTA was doomed because its attempts to enforce copyright through even more punitive measures will simply alienate people, and cause more, not less, copyright infringement. Here's indirect support for that view from a rather surprising source: a paper [.pdf] published by WIPO (although it does emphasise "The views expressed in this document are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Secretariat or of the Member States of WIPO").

In the context of enforcement it has the following to say about the continued failure to "educate" (= indoctrinate) people about the sanctity of copyright, noting that it is a lost cause because piracy is so widely accepted today:

The most comprehensive comparative analysis of these issues to date is a 2009 Strategy One study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce. Strategy One examined some 176 consumer surveys and conducted new ones in Russia, India, Mexico, South Korea, and the UNITED KINGDOM. Like nearly all other surveys, Strategy One’s work showed high levels of acceptance of physical and digital piracy, with digital media practices among young adults always at the top of the distribution. The group concluded that “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ has become the norm” (ICC/BASCAP 2009). At this point, such findings should come as no surprise. In the contexts in which we worked, we can say with some confidence that efforts to stigmatize piracy have failed.

There is little room to maneuver here, we would argue, because consumer attitudes are, for the most part, not unformed — not awaiting definition by a clear antipiracy message. On the contrary, we consistently found strong views. The consumer surplus generated by piracy in middle-income countries is not just popular but also widely understood in economic justice terms, mapped to perceptions of greedy United States of America and multinational corporations and to the broader structural inequalities of globalization in which most developing-world consumers live. Enforcement efforts, in turn, are widely associated with the United States of America pressure on national governments, and are met with indifference or hostility by large majorities of respondents.

It also makes this rather interesting point about the changing nature of people's music collections:

The collector, our work suggests, is giving ground at both the high end and low end of the consumer income spectrum. Among privileged, technically-proficient consumers, the issue is one of manageable scale: the growing size of personal media libraries is disconnecting recorded media from traditional notions of the collection — and even from strong assumptions of intentionality in its acquisition. A 2009 survey of 1800 young people in the UNITED KINGDOM found that the average digital library contained 8000 songs, with 1800 on the average iPod (Bahanovich and Collopy 2009). Most of these songs — up to 2/3 in another recent study — have never been listened to (Lamer 2006). If IFPI’s figures are to be trusted, up to 95% are pirated (IFPI 2006).

Such numbers describe music and, increasingly, video communities that share content by the tens or hundreds of gigabytes — sizes that diminish consumers’ abilities to organize or even grasp the full extent of their collections. Community-based libraries, such as those constituted through invitation-only P2P sites, carry this reformulation of norms further, structured around still more diffuse principles of ownership and organization.

What's really fascinating for me here is that it clearly describes the trend towards owning *every* piece of music and *every* film ever recorded. The concept of owning a few songs or films will become meaningless as people have routine access to everything. Against that background, the idea of "stopping" filesharing just misses the point completely: few will be swapping files - they will be swapping an entire corpus.

The whole report is truly exciting, because it dares to say all those things that everyone knew but refused to admit. Here are few samples of its brutal honesty:

To be more explicit about these limitations, we have seen no evidence — and indeed no claims — that enforcement efforts to date have had any impact on the overall supply of pirated goods. Our work suggests, rather, that piracy has grown dramatically by most measures in the past decade, driven by the exogenous factors described above — high media prices, low local incomes, technological diffusion, and fast-changing consumer and cultural practices.


we see little connection between these efforts and the larger problem of how to foster rich, accessible, legal cultural markets in developing countries — the problem that motivates much of our work. The key question for media access and the legalization of media markets, in our view, has less to do with enforcement than with fostering competition at the low end of media markets — in the mass market that has been created through and largely left to piracy. We take it as self-evident, at this point, that US$15 DVDs, US$12 CDs, and US$150 copies of MS Office are not going to be part of broad-based legal solutions.

Fab stuff - even if it is not quite official WIPO policy (yet....) (Via P2Pnet.)

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

No comments: