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A recent study by Envisional, the developer of Internet monitoring and copyright infringement protection software, has found that illegal film piracy by broadband customers has grown by 30% over the past five years. It’s an interesting statistic that no doubt the entertainment industry and their relative bodies will jump on in their vocal campaign to clamp down on piracy and copyright infringement – but before we get carried away let’s consider this statistic more carefully.

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

So, between 2006 and 2011 film piracy over broadband has grown by 30%. Does this really reflect a higher incidence of broadband users acting illegally?

To answer this, we need to consider the rate of growth in broadband adoption over the last 5 years. Back in 2006 the latest broadband access technology available was the up to 8Mbps MAX product. According to Ofcom in March 2006, just 53% of UK households had a broadband connection (approx 13.3million homes) and average broadband speeds were just 3.6Mbps. Five years on and Ofcom’s latest reports show an average broadband speed of 6.2Mbps, with the latest access product being FTTC offering up to 40Mbps and overall broadband availability increased to 75% of UK adults. Arguably this actually suggests that the problem is no better or worse today than it was 5 years ago.

There’s also the change in Internet behaviour to consider. Over the past five years we have become more Internet savvy as our Internet access has become a more integral part of our lives. We don’t just shop online, surf and send emails anymore; we use VoIP, social networks, watch IPTV, game and much more, often not only from our fixed broadband connections but also via our phones. With these significant changes to our usage habits and the improvements in technology and take up, the number of channels to access film and music has mushroomed. It’s therefore surprising that the figure Envisional quotes is not much higher.

Meanwhile, the film industry claims it’s losing £170m every year because of piracy. These stats have been bandied around for quite some time now and are often met with scepticism by some in the Internet industry. This is mainly because they are calculated based on a theory of lost revenue per “illegally” downloaded item, which is flawed. Just because someone “illegally” downloads 10 items does not mean they would have purchased all 10 items legally, in fact that’s highly unlikely.

While we don’t condone copyright infringement and agree the problem needs to be tackled, we don’t agree with the entertainment industry’s view that clamping down via the DEA with three strikes policies and inaccurate IP based tracking will be effective.

So, how do we solve the problem?
As we’ve said many times before, in our view the key to solving this problem lies with the entertainment industries that need to adapt their antiquated business models for a new digital era. Gone are the days of controlling piracy through hard copies of CD’s and DVD’s and before that video and music tapes and vinyl. Even back then though piracy was still an issue, with copied discs and tapes and people downloading the top 40 chart from the radio. This is far from being a new problem.

Rather, we think entertainment industry players need to provide their markets with affordable and accessible legal alternatives. The music industry has started to adopt this approach, albeit slowly, with a handful of ‘brave’ artists embracing the new technologies that can help to distribute their music to a much wider audience. We’ve all heard of new artists uploading their demos to YouTube and being ‘discovered’, while others have provided free single downloads and podcasts to encourage interest in their new albums and tours before they release the full versions via iTunes etc. Consider the success that Radiohead had with its 3-month pay-what-you-like strategy for its ‘In Rainbows’ album – although it’s believed most fans paid nothing to download the album, more income was generated before it was released physically than the total sales of the band’s previous album.

A PRS (Performing Rights Society for Music) report last year suggested that, while the UK music industry’s retail recorded music sales remained flat at £1.36bn (itself a reversal of the previous 5 year decline), one of the contributing factors was the phenomenal increase in sales of legal licensed digital music services of 72.7% to £30.4m. These statistics surely support a change in business model that should be extended, one that embraces the new platforms and profits from them.

The other major factor in this ongoing fight is education. Many people’s attitudes towards file sharing and copyright infringement is that it isn’t really a problem or an ‘illegal’ activity. Technically, they are correct as copyright infringement is a civil offence not a criminal one. However that doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong. When presented with legal alternatives that aren’t outrageously priced, most people would move to legal downloading as suggested by a number of recent reports including the report from media law firm Wiggin which suggests that website blocking and threats would make little difference to most downloaders’ habits but over 25% would pay £14.50 per month for a legal file sharing service.

Yet more statistics then to support our theory that the film industry needs to evolve and embrace the new technologies. We agree that tackling copyright infringement is a complex and difficult task that needs cooperation from all parties involved. We strongly suggest though that the current proposals set out in the DEA will not work. Surely it’s time for the entertainment industry players to realise this and change their ways!

Have your say!

What do you think about these statistics? Were you surprised by the 30% increase in copyright infringement or do you think that this is inevitable with the emergence of new technologies? Do you think the DEA is the key to tackling this issue or do you think the entertainment industries need to evolve? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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