When I’m asked what I suggest copyright holders do to reduce piracy, my first answer is almost always the same: Make sure that potential customers have legitimate access to the work in question.
The reason is breathtakingly simple: If you don’t make a work available, it will be pirated, quite literally, 100% of the time. Though I believe this is the creator’s/rightsholder’s choice to make, if we start the conversation with the idea that reducing piracy is the primary goal, the easiest and most effective single step one can take is increasing legitimate access to their work.
This closely mirrors a common point made by individuals who oppose attempts to strengthen copyright law, namely that increased enforcement and increased legislation are not nearly as effective as increased legitimate access. We see this in other reports as well including reports about how Spotify is helping reduce music piracy in the countries it is active.
But while I agree with all of that, increasing access to copyrighted works is not a silver bullet to stopping piracy. As the Spotify report referenced above shows, even with Spotify and it’s access to free, legal music, some 22% of individuals in the Netherlands aged 15 and up downloaded illegal music. Much of that content, inevitably, was almost certainly available on Spotify to begin with or on other legitimate channels such as YouTube.
To be clear, between 2008 and 2012, there was a significant drop in music piracy, namely a drop from 32% to 22% of people. That’s nearly a one-third reduction in the number of people who pirated music. Still, it’s by no means an elimination of piracy.
To make matters worse, despite widespread growth, Spotify is still losing money and is still paying artists very little. In short, if Spotify can’t improve its financials, any reduction it caused may short lived and, if it can’t help support artists, it may not do much good.
While I’m the first to agree that availability is important, it is only part of the solution and any lasting answer is going to be more than just making copyrighted works available, it’s going to be a combination of multiple variables working together.Continue Reading