Thursday, 30 July 2015

Digital Piracy in Canada: Evidence from Real File-Sharing Data

Found this article recently, which is free to download.

Authored by Martin Tetu, it goes into some detail on the sorts of content exchanged on peer-to-peer services in Canada, and finds that much content is unavailable elsewhere.

Though other research suggests that the most pirated music is in fact widely available legally (i.e. what's popular is popular), this article exposes how different people look different places for different things.

Specifically looking at Quebec, Canada, the article argues that file-sharing can promote diversity, advancing culture.

Tweefingers @musicpiracy


Tetu, M. (2012). The Cultural 'Virtues' of Piracy in the Digital World: How Peer-to-Peer Can Contribute to the Propagation of Quebecious Heritage and Cultural Diversity. Ethique publique [Public Ethic], 14,(2), 1-15.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Whatever happened to the carrot instead of the stick?

For some time now, there has been a gradual shift away from aggressive anti-piracy measures to new, softer ones. Many scholars refer to this as the 'carrot' rather than 'stick' approach.

And there are good reasons for this.

Research suggests so-called music pirates spend more on music legally than individuals who do not purchase music at all (Karaganis and Renkema, 2013; Thun, 2009; Watson et al. 2014; and Zentner, 2006). 

And, negative deterrents such as website-blocking can serve to antagonise individuals and increase the propensity to engage in piracy (Sinha and  Mandel, 2008). Positive incentives, on the other hand, are more effective (Moon et al., 2015). 

But, in the space of a week, two news items suggest that this trend has taken a turn.

Firstly, it is now illegal in UK to make a copy of a CD you have purchased legally. This was the case for a long time, but it was overturned in October 2014 to make it legal to transfer music onto your mp3-player, etc. 

It has since been revoked.

It means that you purchase a new CD on Friday, you will shift immediately from a law-abiding music fan to a law-breaking music fan should you then burn a copy for the car, or add it to your i-Pod.

The usual logic that a pirated song represents a lost sale does not apply. It's a duplication of a song you already bought. 

How this will be governed, remains to be seen. What is clearer for now is that this is likely to be extremely widespread, thus shooting holes in any contemporary estimates of the scale of music piracy. It occurs offline too.

Furthermore, the Conservative government in UK now hope to imprison pirates for as much as 10 years.

This is a big leap from the current two years, but it should be mentioned that the emphasis here is on those individuals engaging in piracy on a commercial scale.

In any case, these two laws represent a fork in the road in this ongoing shift towards softer anti-piracy approaches, such as the non-judgemental letters sent out to pirates (from ISP's) to nudge them towards legal alternatives to illegal downloading.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Karaganis, J. and Renkema, L. (2013). Copy Culture in the US and Germany. USA: The   American Assembly.

Moon, S.-I., Kim, K., Feeley, T.H. and Shin, D.-H. (2015). A normative approach to reducing illegal music downloading: The persuasive effects of normative message framing. Telematics and Informatics, 32(1), 169–179.

Sinha, R.K. and Mandel, N. (2008). Preventing digital music piracy: The carrot or the stick? Journal of Marketing, 72(1), 1–15.

Thun, C. (2009). Introducing Hollywood’
s Best Customers Vuze User vs. General Internet: Comparative Data (Research Report). Retrieved from Frank N. Magid Associates website:

Watson, S.J., Zizzo, D.J. and Fleming, P. (2014). Determinants and Welfare Implications of Unlawful File Sharing: A Scoping Review (Working Paper No. 2014/5). Retrieved from Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy website:

Zentner, A. (2006). Measuring the effect of file sharing on music purchases. Journal of  Law and Economics, 49(1), 63–90. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

'Are you listening?': Why communicating research is a nightmare

I was testing the water on a great new writing platform (which might or might not rise to prominence in the long-term) and put together a case for why being an expert is at times a bit of a nightmare. You can find it here.

Specifically, I was considering the way in which people are perfectly capable of flat-out rejecting what you have to say, even though it is correct. It happens all of the time.

For me, what it does is slow things down. I try hard to communicate science, sometimes on this blog and more often than not in public speaking events which allow for genuine discourse. It's evident that some people have made their minds up and simply don't want to hear what I have to say. It's deflating to say the least.

Much of it all stems from the fact that people have particular beliefs about music piracy. It's not like I am talking about something new, it's something you already know about, and something you already have beliefs about.

Shermer (2011) puts it well, when he explains that:

"We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow" (p. 5)

In other words, it's hard to convince someone of something they don't want to hear.

Consider also how, as Levitin explains, the internet has led to a vast sea of opinions to be neatly hosted on the internet, and that none of the correct ones are more likely to be encountered than the incorrect ones.

In fact, it is routinely said that with the best will, the efforts of well-wishing public intellectuals, there are so many people out there who are perfectly capable of wiping the slate clean on the likes of Wikipedia that communicating science on the leading mediums of the day is virtually impossible. 

Most of these apparent villains I do not believe are acting out of malice of any sort, but rather just plain old misunderstood.

Pinker (who features prominently in the article this blog entry refers to), explains:

"Just because something happened to you, or you read about it in the paper or on the Internet this morning, it doesn't mean it is a trend. In a world of seven billion people, just about anything will happen to someone somewhere, and it's the highly unusual events that will be selected for the news or passed along to friends. An event is a significant phenomenon only if it happens some appreciable number of times relative to the opportunities for it to occur" (2014, p. 303)

No-one ever makes the concession that I have never been paid a penny to put a single word on paper in any format whatsoever; I do it because I feel like it's an obligation to communicate the research that I have conducted. Often, when people rudely dismiss what I have to say (and by that I mean facts), I question whether or not is worth the hassle.

All of this is made all the more surprising given I am absolutely committed to being impartial in my research and critiques of others' work, dedicating an entire article on the fact that we don't really know all that much. I rarely have anything controversial to say at all. I routinely cover all aspects. If you are shortsighted enough to think digital piracy can be neatly described as 'good' or 'bad', you will remember all the entries which oppose your point of view, forgetting the ones which support it.

And here is a funny one: people often think I don't know what I am talking about because I do not engage in music piracy myself. Now this doesn't make sense, not least of all as being an outsider is of course advantageous for a whole host of reasons. But my suspicion is that it's a bit like eating a McDonalds in a hospital: I draw attention to 'bad behaviours'.

What it all adds up to, for me, is I am finding myself having to play a game with unclear rules. I am now longer merely communicating science, but actively having to work on my techniques of persuasion. This something I am slowly adjusting to, with varying levels of success. It's an exciting challenge, and one I am more enthusiastic about when I take the time to reflect on the stimulating, long-term elements, not the annoying short-term ones.

For the time being, I find myself having to challenge the words of the late (and great) Terry Pratchett to stay enthused. He writes:

"Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things... In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds... Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true" (2000).

Twats @musicpiracyblog


Levitin, D.J. (2014). The Organized Mind. New York City, NY: Dutton.

Pinker, S. (2014). The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. London, England: Allen Lane.

Pratchett, T. (2000). The Truth. New York City, NY: Doubleday.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Why Global Release Day is a good thing

Sure, there are pros and cons (what if I released a concept album, 'Monday'?), but I think this is genuinely a good move.

Coming into effect today, music will now be released on the same day - Friday.

Championed by IFPI, the move helps promote music and, perhaps most importantly, minimise music piracy by ensuring there are no international lags.

Though there has been little research on this that I know of, movie piracy has certainly been considered in academic literature.

Research into movie piracy (Danaher and Waldfogel, 2012) shows that longer release windows or lags between countries results in decreased box office returns.

Australia is often a focal point in this discussion, with Svensson et al. (2014) finding that Australians download more film and TV illegally than the rest of the world, with a delay in the release of film and TV titles (think: Game of Thrones).

Additionally, and more recently, Beirne (2015), in her thoughtful discussion on access in Australia, finds that media downloaded or streamed is more costly than in other countries; physical goods are also considerably more expensive, with shipping being a key issue here.

But what about music?

Well, we shall see.

The logic follows from the above that the same lag effect applies to music, but the evidence is not there; the economic impact of digital piracy overall, as discussed routinely on this blog, are difficult to measure.

However, I don't see how this affects anyone negatively. And that is a good thing. 

Tweets @ musicpiracyblog


Beirne, R. (2015). Piracy, Geoblocking, and Australian Access to Niche Independent Cinema. Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture, 13(1), 18-31. 

Danaher, B. and Waldfogel, J. (2012). Reel Piracy: The Effect of Online Film Piracy on International Box Office Sales (Working Paper No. 1986299). Retrieved from Social Science Research Network:

Svensson, M., Larsson, S. and de Kaminski, M. (2013). Professionalization, Gender and Anonymity in the Global File Sharing Community. Piracy Effect, 1-8.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Music Streaming: A Global Perspective

In his lengthy blog post unpacking the global streaming market in 2014, Peter Tschmuck analyses music streaming trends across different nations.

He argues that 'Scandinavia is the music streaming mecca of the world'.

Though this might not come as a surprise, the article highlights how there are multiple ways to look at the same data, with different countries coming out 'on top' in different scenarios.

This notion of perspective underscores much of the discussion on this blog.

Tweats @musicpiracyblog