“It has never, ever been easier to break the law”

As I continue my perusal of the SABIP report on Digital Consumers in the Online AgeI’m finding yet more things that get my goat. The target of this particular moment’s focus is one of their ‘Key Findings’ titled “It has never, ever been easier to break the law” on page 12.

When I saw this I thought ‘Yes! Something in this report that I agree with’, however this joy was short lived. The report’s take on this statement is that it is relatively easy to get into file-sharing, with the media constantly telling us how to find the sites, Google providing easy information when searching for ‘free music’ (that evil Google) and peer-pressure in social networks… apparently Pirate Bay is the new crafty cigarette.

Yet when I saw this initial statement my mind turned to ‘Infringement Nation by John Tehranian. This wonderful article from The University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law documents a day in the life of the average Law Professor and how his daily practice infringes copyright left right and centre.

By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, barring last minute salvation from the notoriously ambiguous fair use defense, he would be liable for a mind-boggling$4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file-sharing.

(Tehranian, 2007:547)

If we tallied up the acts of copyright infringement that occurred outside of P2P systems I’m sure they would be much more substantial. I agree that it has never been easier to break the law, but perhaps that is because of the law, not because of the individual.

“These Figures are Staggering”

I‘ve just had a quick look through the SABIP report on Digital Consumers in the Online Age’ which has been featured over on the BBC.

Here’s an extract I’d like you to read…

On one peer-to-peer network we found that at midday on a weekday there were 1.3 million users, sharing content. If each “peer” from this network (not the largest) downloaded one file per day the resulting number of downloads (music, film, television, e-books, software and games were all available) would be 473 million items per year. If the figure for each individual is closer to five or more items per day, the lowest estimate of downloaded material (remembering that the entire season of the Fox television series “24”, or the “complete” works of the rock group Led Zeppelin can be one file) is just under 2.4 billion files. And if the average value of each file is £5 – that is a rough low average of the price of a DVD or CD, rather than the higher prices of software or E-books – we have the online members of one file sharing network consuming approximately £12 billion in content annually – for free. These figures are staggering. (SABIP, 2009:6)

Dear me, don’t strain yourself SABIP! The accuracy of those figures are indeed astounding, truly the quantitative method for discerning the empirical data knocks me to the floor.

The brilliance of this work has also been taken up by Zeropaid who also feel the passage is worthy of such joyous quoting. These are the figures quoted by the BBC and I imagine the ones that will stick in the minds of our beloved ordained policy makers. This of course is not a problem at all as the report clearly demonstrates the ability to discern absolute truth with their statistical prowess.

I bow down to your greatness SABIP, these figures are staggering.



The report also cites Zentner’s 2006 research stating that those who file-share are 30% less likely to purchase music. You may find that report difficult to locate as SABIP failed to include a reference in their bibliography (truly staggering).

[The article is called ‘Measuring the Effect of File Sharing on Music Purchases’, by Zentner, A. (2006) Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 49, No. 1, University of Chicago. If you have access to such things it can be picked up here.]

Moving on: Indeed Zentner did say that file-sharing reduces the likelihood of purchasing music by 30% (see page 87). However he also said…

The database does not contain information on quantities of music purchased or on intensities of music downloads to calculate what music sales would have been in the absence of music downloading. (Zentner, 2006: 85)

Zentner’s analysis is based on the assumption that if file-sharing did not exist, people would buy all the music that they downloaded.

The percentage of people who bought music is much larger among the group who regularly download MP3 files (55.8 percent) than among those who do not (37.7 percent), which suggests that MP3 downloaders have a strong taste for music.(Zentner, 2006: 73)

…and are essentially the music industry’s customer base.

But hey, even if Zentner’s work is a statistical piece that shows the music industry is being murdered by file-sharers, there are still those pesky other pieces of research that aren’t three years old saying quite the opposite.

Consumer Culture in Times of Crisis,” conducted by the BI Norwegian School of Management, the largest business school in Norway, and the second largest in all of Europe, concluded that file-sharers actually buy 10 times as much music as they download for free.The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study For Industry Canada,” a study commissioned by Industry Canada, a ministry of the Canadian federal government, found that for every album downloaded illegally legal CD purchases increased by 0.44, or by about half an album.

Props to
Zeropaid again.