The International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the global umbrella of national music trade associations like the RIAA in the United States, published its annual Digital Music Report last week. Among the most interesting findings is results of studies of the effects of the progressive response law enacted in France in 2009.
The French Creation and Internet Law, which is referred to as “Hadopi” after the agency it created (Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Oeuvres et la Protection des droits sur l’Internet), is one of a handful of so-called progressive response regimes, in which ISPs in a given country are obliged to respond to complaints about file-sharing by issuing a series of increasingly stern warnings and then potentially suspending their Internet accounts or fining them.
IFPI worked with Nielsen to measure Hadopi’s effects on file-sharing in France, and found that the effect was to decrease file-sharing by 26% over the year after Hadopi’s October 2010 implementation, although the numbers have been creeping back up a bit since October 2011. IFPI’s report also published the results of a separate academic study by economists at Carnegie-Mellon University and Wellesley College that claims a net increase of 22.5-25% in paid iTunes music downloads from before to after Hadopi was implemented.
The IFPI report also cites studies that show that warning messages have an effect: a May 2011 study found that 50% of people who either received a Hadopi notice or knew someone who got one stopped their illegal file-sharing. The same measurement for South Korea, another country with progressive response in place, was 70%.
Critics of progressive response reply that P2P file-sharing has been decreasing anyway, that file-sharing is “yesterday’s problem” as copyright infringement moves from file-sharing networks to torrent sites, cyberlockers, and other places. It’s hard to argue that the reduction of 26% in French file-sharing means “piracy has decreased by 26%” (and in fact IFPI isn’t arguing that at all). Yet the graph in the IFPI report clearly indicates a drop in file-sharing activity that coincides with the deployment of Hadopi.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the vast majority of Hadopi activity is warnings, which fall under the heading of “education” instead of “technical protection measures,” because the warnings don’t actually prevent users from doing anything that they could do before.
At the same time, there is one sour note in the IFPI report: in a discussion of the graduated response system in New Zealand (which accompanied a decrease in P2P usage of 16%), rights holders complain that “the high cost of notifications to ISPs … could prevent the graduated response system being used over the long term to optimum effect.” In other words, it’s not enough to have a government-mandated requirement for ISPs to act on complaints of file-sharing; copyright owners also don’t want to have to pay to generate the complaints. I don’t know what they call this in New Zealand, but in France, Marie Antoinette might have called it “Qu’ils ont de la brioche et la manger aussi.”*
P.S. The IFPI Digital Music Report also contains the very exciting statistic that the total of paying users of music subscription services has shot up 65% over the past year to an estimated 13 million plus. That number blows by the 10 million that I thought would be reached by next September.
*”Let them have their cake and eat it too.”