The reports of P2P’s death remain greatly exaggerated

It is not often that one gets to see justice, of a sort anyway, happen so quickly.  Just Thursday, The Economist magazine, one of the most influential and widely read business news publications in the world, published an article and corresponding editorial crowing about how the problem of piracy in the music industry was coming to an end.  In the view of the Economist, “the battle against online music piracy is turning,” and that the music industry had finally learned “how to sink the pirates.”  In their view, a two pronged approach of offering innovative new online services like iTunes and Spotify to win over former music down-loaders to legitimacy, combined with a new and more effective enforcement policy of “graduated response,” that includes an ISP enforced ban from the Internet, had scared file-sharers far more than individual lawsuits ever had.  Copyright lobbyists are trying to get such a punishment regime enacted around the world, particularly in Europe, and have had some success in Scandinavia and South Korea.  Yet, disturbingly, the evidence for the Economist’s claim derives almost entirely from a single study done in Sweden after a change in the laws on infringement there in June.  The GFK survey purported to show “that 60% of Swedish file-sharers had cut back or stopped altogether.”

Needless to say, for anybody reasonably knowledgeable about the downloading community, the notion that a sea change away from piracy had occurred earlier this year would seem highly implausible.  However, maybe Sweden was an isolated example, and the (likely) spread of such “graduated response” laws would ultimately lead to the first real downturn in file-trading since the heydays of Napster.  Sadly for the Economist and the entertainment industries, new evidence also came out on Friday that demonstrates just how misguided and premature any claims of victory over piracy really are. Enigmax at Torrentfreak cites a new report from Swedish Internet backbone Netnod, that shows there was indeed a very large dip in Internet usage overall in Sweden in April, as much as 30%.  Whether or not that decrease can be ascribed entirely to the change in law regarding downloading cannot be proven, but in any case, the latest figures show that the drop in Internet usage was wholly short-lived.  By the end of October, Swedish Internet traffic was completely back  to pre-April levels, and in fact, may well be even higher.  Has the initial scare over the harsher laws receded to the point that they are now being ignored?  On the other hand, seasonal effects have been noticed in file-sharing before, with decreases in summer months and increases in the fall corresponding with the return of young people to schools and universities, and that could be in play here as well.  In any case, if recording industry executives were about to start celebrating their long wished-for end to mass copyright infringement, they should put the champagne back on ice for the time being.