04 August 2011

Hey, BPI, Meet the New Rule: Show Evidence

After the UK Government unveiled its pretty reasonable response to the Hargreaves Report (analysed by me yesterday), the lobbying begins:

Leading trade bodies for the film and music industries have warned the government that it must move quickly to implement an effective system to crack down on pirate websites, after Vince Cable announced that plans to block illegal file-sharing websites have been scrapped.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music industry body the BPI, said the government must urgently broker a deal between internet companies and rights holders to implement a fast-track procedure to crackdown on piracy or "a failure to do so will see some of this country's world-leading industries irreparably damaged on this government's watch".

"Every day blatantly illegal foreign sites flout our laws, rip off consumers and musicians and wreak huge damage on our creative sector," he said. "Government must now act urgently to put in place effective means to protect consumers, creators and UK jobs from the impact of illegal foreign sites".

Geoff, I think you missed this bit in the Government's response:

the Government will in future give limited weight in IP policy-making to evidence that is not sufficiently open and transparent in its approach and methodology, and we will make it clear where we are taking this view. IPO will set out guidance in Autumn 2011 on what constitutes open and transparent evidence, in line with professional practice.

So, you say "illegal foreign sites...damage our creative sector": let's see your evidence, including full data and details of its methodology. So far, I've not found a single, independent report that shows this - indeed, the Hargreaves team specifically lamented the lack of this kind of objective research into the effects of file sharing in their report.

You see, the interesting thing is that there is an increasing number of studies - some anecdotal, some more rigorous - that show exactly the opposite: that piracy actually drives more sales (I include links to a few of them in my submission to the Hargreaves enquiry.)

So before you start calling for piracy to be curbed, it might be a good idea to sort out the evidence you will be submitting in support of that: rhetoric on its own is no longer enough. After all, if you find the studies I cite are confirmed by others conducted elsewhere, perhaps on a larger scale, you should actually be calling for *more* piracy, not less....

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Roger Lancefield said...

Irresponsible blog posts like this may well contribute to another 17,000 entertainment industry job losses in Orpington alone!

Glyn Moody said...

@roger: gosh, you're right - I am a Very Bad Person...

Sam said...

He has a point. Whilst there may well be evidence that SOME of those who pirate material are more engaged with the industry as a whole, and therefore likely to buy, it's completely irresponsible to claim that this entails piracy on the whole drives growth.

Despite falling prices since 2001, the BPI and BVA report huge year on year losses for nearly every aspect of their industry. Piracy is undoubtedly to blame.

The real focus should be on why piracy occurs in the first place - overly restrictive corporate approaches to data ownership, and consumer-unfriendly usage restriction policies are to blame here.

We are certainly being misled, but the lie isn't that piracy is bad, it's that consumers will naturally pirate and need to be forced not to. The reality is that the industry has reacted badly and painfully to the new paradigm, and piracy is the result.

Glyn Moody said...

@Sam: well, I'm not so sure.

He's repeating the industry dogma: piracy is bad. But there is no independent research backing that up - as the Hargreaves Report specifically notes.

I offer a few pieces of evidence, suggestive if not conclusive, that piracy can increase sales.

So what we need to know is what the overall picture is by doing some independent research on a large scale. I don't claim to know what that will show, but I do have at least some evidence on my side; he has none.

And arguments about the damage of piracy to the economy as a whole are often equally spurious. Here's one that I explored in depth a few months ago:


As this shows, for many countries, piracy is *positive* for local economies:

"Reducing software piracy will not magically conjure up those hundreds of billions of dollars of economic growth that the BSA invokes, or create huge numbers of new jobs: it will simply move the money around - in fact, it will send more of it outside local economies to the US, and reduce the local employment."