[This is a post from the Cybernorms.net blog, which is the English equivalent to Cybernormer.se. You can follow this link to read this post at its original URL.]
During the summer I was contacted by the president of a US trade group representing music publishers, who had read in the media about one of our studies. He was about to moderate a panel discussion, on Copyright and Internet, in Los Angeles and wanted to know more about our research on copyright, file sharing and social norms. He asked a number of interesting questions that urged me to revisit empirical data that we collected during the last years. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
US Trade group president: I was impressed and interested in your study on many levels. I have not yet read your report in depth so forgive me if I miss points. But in essence I think your findings support the notion that Sweden’s IPRED does not change attitudes and thus enforcement will not change behavior unless it is robust and continued.
Me: Your conclusion that enforcement will not change behaviour unless it is robust and continued can indeed be drawn from our result. However, it is not guaranteed that stronger enforcement will lead to decreased levels of file sharing. The challenge is in our view to find solutions where the needs of the industry are met without violating fundamental principals of integrity, proportionality (sanction/violation) etc. If we move forward with enforcement to fast the interventions are met with countermeasures (both political and technical). This means that there is a breaking point when stronger enforcement creates countermeasures that overpower the effect of the enforcement. Our data show that in Europe the present enforcement levels are met by significantly successful countermeasures. What we have seen is also that legislators tend to abandon their alliance with copyright holders when the political price becomes to high. In our view enforcement is in many ways a risky path to rely on when protecting the interests of copyright holders. I would predict that the financially strong producers and distributers of tomorrow are the ones that ally with their consumers and look for innovative business models that are in line with the logic of the digital society.
US Trade group president: Another interesting take-away for me is the stated fact that in a country like Sweden where streaming is so prevalent – files-haring/Piracy still exists at levels it had reached before streaming became dominant. I have been of the opinion that once streaming is truly the dominant distribution method — file sharing will be become less of an issue. Why own something if you can have it anywhere any time? But this seems empirically not to be the case at least in Sweden.
Me: Actually our data support your idea that legal streaming has the potential to compete successfully with illegal file sharing. Also we show that there is a willingness to pay for media if it is supplied in a service minded way. The level of file sharing of music has decreased in Sweden (much due to innovative business models such as Spotify) while the level of file sharing of film and TV-shows has increased (where no good streaming solutions has emerged yet). Lack of availability and long release-times (in Europe) are probably the main challenges when creating good streaming solutions for film and TV. When people have gotten used to improved legal streaming solutions (and they have become the norm) it is logical to presume that it is possible to increase prices and the margin of profit. If the legal solutions become the norm (in a more clear way) again there will probably also be a greater public acceptance of regulations and enforcement.
US Trade group president: As you may know the US is about to embark on a similar enforcement protocol as France’s Hadopi. In the US the IP content owners have reached agreement with major ISPs to take graduated steps to curtail sharing with warnings, redirections to educational sites and and lower bandwidth. This plan comes after the disaster of SOPA and HIPAA. It is hoped these measures will have an effect — and I do wonder. We will see if the interests of the ISPs lie with subscriber numbers or with protecting IP. Another twist to this issue is the fact that Comcast, one of the largest ISPs now owns NBC, one of the largest content creators (though not in music). I have read literature that the efforts in France have been very effective, (decreased sharing and higher digital download sales) but I wonder if the data is correct.
Me: As you are probably aware the success story of Hadopi (painted for example by RIAA) is highly questioned by some scholars. I do not have data to prove either success or failure. However, due to our findings in Sweden I would be surprised if Hadopi has really succeeded. One thing that we see in Sweden is that when implementing stronger enforcement strategies the file sharing community tend to be more “professionalised”. This means that fewer people file share via torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay. However the remaining file sharers are more skilled when it comes to applying protective measures. Those file sharing ‘pros’ then release the downloaded content via sneaker-nets (usb-sticks etc.). For example our global survey on The Pirate Bay (90 000 respondents) show that girls do not use the site at all (5 percent). However, they do not buy music or film more then boys. They get it from people who download online for them or via “sneaker nets”. This is an example of problems when trying to say if Hadopi is a success or not from a copyright perspective.