File-sharing, for years, has been one of the copyright industry’s favourite scape-goat. Lately, British news sources have received a fresh dose of “studies” where the copyright industry through government officials have been saying how file-sharing costs British artists billions thanks to the millions of file-sharers in the UK. While the numbers have since been cast into doubt, one journalist from the Guardian did some research of his own and discovered that while music sales have fallen over the years in Britain, they have likely fallen thanks to growing video game and DVD sales.
A few days ago, we reported on the “Copycats” report which suggests that immediate action needed to be taken to stop lost sales due to file-sharing. Of course, when the story hit the BBC, we noted that it’s very possible that the report could suffer similar problems to that of the infamous recalled IP reports from the Conference Board of Canada. Since then, others have confirmed similar policy laundering issues. While some have attempted to get confirmation on the statistics only to be told that the matter wasn’t up for public record, a Guardian journalist decided to look into the matter himself and discovered something else that could be blamed for lost music sales. The argument could be best described through this graph:
If a picture could say a thousand words. While spending on entertainment has gone up over the years, it plainly looks like music sales are actually being squeezed out by DVD sales and video games sales. In some aspects, this makes sense. You have two mediums that offer audio and visual entertainment whereas music is merely audio entertainment. Perhaps the industry can learn some strategies from this such as marketting strategies.
Charles Arthur, the author of the Guardian piece, commented that “People – even downloaders – only have a finite amount of money.” That’s pretty much basic knowledge of business and economics. There isn’t an infinite amount of money to go around. If money isn’t being spent on one thing, it’ll could spent on another. Arthur suggests that the real scenario is that consumers have a choice – spend £40 on a full blown video game or spend £10 on an album with maybe two good tracks on it with 8 duds. He concludes that consumers are probably downloading the two songs and buying the video game and that blame should be placed squarely on what deserves it – and it isn’t file-sharing.
Of course, when it comes to convincing people with numbers, the statistics don’t necessarily need to convince the average citizen – it’s suppose to convince the people that can change the rules – lawmakers. Already, the copyright industry is trying to pressure the British government to get ISPs to install a system that would deliver pop-ups to users who surf to an allegedly illegal website – perhaps because getting in a three strikes regime as seen in France is proving to be a bit of a challenge for the copyright industry so far. It remains to be seen what proposed technical measures ISPs will need to take to satisfy the copyright industry for a few months, but it seems evident that faking statistics can make political inroads in Britain at least.