Piracy is not, to me at least, a very appealing subject. It is, however, by a long way, the most important copyright issue of our time.
Two recent reports remind us of the scale of the problem. ‘An Estimate of Infringing Use of the Internet’ (previously noted on this blog) estimates that 23.76% of internet traffic is copyright-infringing material. Since the report lumps porn in with non-infringing material, it is not unlikely that 1/3 of the internet is dedicated to copyright infringement.
Meanwhile the IFPI’s Digital Music Report 2011 notes such statistics as
— 76% of music obtained online in the UK in 2010 was unlicensed
— Nearly one in four active internet users in Europe visit unlicensed sites monthly
— This is in spite of wide availability of legal music sites (400+ services licensing more than 13 million tracks)
— 2004–2010: recorded music revenues declined by 31%
— New artists and smaller businesses have been hardest hit, e.g. 2003–2010: debut album sales in the global top 50 fell 77%
We have yet to see whether the Digital Economy Act will make a dent in these figures. But what if the current trend continues? An alternative is the ‘Culture Flat Rate’: non-commercial copying on the internet is legalized, paid for by a levy on internet access.
Of course, this solution presents some problems, but are any of them as big as the statistics above? In Germany, the Culture Flat Rate is advocated by the Green Party and last month the Association of the German Music Industry lined up ten arguments against it. However, Leonhard Dobusch has taken the trouble to rebut each one.
Given that this solution would require major changes to EU and perhaps international law and, governments being governments, this would take a long time to implement (in contrast to the speed at which the internet moves) perhaps it is worth giving this option serious consideration sooner rather than later, just in case…
Further reading: ‘The World is Going Flat(-Rate)’ and ‘New Momentum for Culture Flat-Rate in NL and DE’ by Volker Grassmuck