Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Finnish Pirate Party Study

The Finnish Pirate Party has done a small study into the sale of recorded music using the IFPI's figures. Thanks to Kaj Sotala of the Piraattipuolue, I present the English Language version.

As the source, IFPI Finland's official estimates of the overall Finnish music sales (source) have been used directly for the years 1980-2006. Those statistics do not list digital sales, so the figure including digital sales has been obtained from IFPI's separate report, listing 2006 digital sales for IFPI member companies ( ). "Digital sales" includes downloads and streaming, but not mobile sales.

IFPI Finland does not provide statistics for overall Finnish sales in 2007 and 2008, and as of 2007, their statistics for member company sales are given in terms of boxes sold, not units sold. As a result, the unit sales for 2007 and 2008 have been estimated by taking the 2006 box sales for member companies and calculating the percentage change in sales for 2007 and 2008. The 2006 unit sales have then been multiplied with this percentage to obtain a unit sales estimate. Digital sales have been added after that, as those are reported separately and apparently still given in units sold. (The origin of these figures is the Finnish IFPI)

File-sharing, which for music began in earnest with Napster in 1999, doesn't seem to have caused any noticable decline in sales. It is, however, true that the total reported profit from the sales has gone down.

-- Kaj Sotala, Piraattipuolue (Pirate Party of Finland)

Here are the graphs:

Monday, May 18, 2009

How P2P Reporting Exposes Media's Ignorance

With news stories about copyright becoming increasingly common on the major media services of the world, it’s clear that a lot of mainstream media doesn’t understand the laws, or facts regarding copyright. If the media can’t report it accurately, are people, and more importantly politicians, getting the wrong idea about things?

The ‘digital revolution’ has re-jigged a lot of the media hierarchy in recent years. A lot of specialist news media outlets have popped up (we’re one of them!) and they’ve taken a lot of the tech reader-base from mainstream media. They’ve also put things back though, as there is more research done into fringe topics, which can develop into big stories (like Comcast’s sandvining) or people get involved with news in ways they haven’t before (as has just happened at the Consumerist, with a pair of Domino’s delinquents).

However, in a rush to cover these increasingly technical or specialist stories, that turn out to have a major impact, many media outlets are left in a quandry. Do you license and reprint an article, do you write a short piece leading to a specialist site, or do you attempt to write your own story? For most outlets, licensing is impractical, or too expensive. A leader piece covering the main elements and linking to a more detailed article is only really an option for online news sites, so the majority of media is left to try and rewrite. Trying to write an article, though, on a subject you don’t know can lead to problematic and inaccurate reporting though (or to being taken in by blatantly false figures/claims in press releases)

Sometimes errors can be elementary, and come from rushing to research and write. A classic example is in this article from Claremont College’s magazine, where the writer mixes tracker, and torrent; overall though the article reads like a summery of our past spectrial pieces. Perhaps a better example of how things can go wrong is when people with little knowledge on a subject attempt to guide people. Take this Sync piece from last month – it is riddled with inaccuracies and shows little understanding of the subject, right now to the authors assumption that when you’re downloading, you’re not uploading, and that you have to leave a file in a folder to share. Which these things are true of classic P2P protocols, they’re not true for bittorrent (and we won’t even go to the recommendation of BitComet, or the claims of popularity (our research has shown less than 5% of clients in use are bitcomet, and the number is dropping).

Of course, sometimes the tech sites get it wrong too. A few weeks ago, Gizmodo published a piece called “How to use Bittorrent like a Pro”. Amongst things the article advised were the basics like port forwarding, but they also advised not seeding, using bluetack’s lists, and private trackers where possible. We won’t go into the conflict of ‘don’t seed’ and ‘use private trackers’ and certainly not the (useless) bluetack lists, but the writer is at least man enough to admit when he’s wrong, and edited the story after someone clued him in on some of the biggest errors.

Of course, there’s some that just can’t be helped. Worse, as well as often being the most clueless of people, they’re usually the final authority on the news publication. Case in point is Phil Bronstein, until recently editor of the San Fransisco Chronicle, now editor at large of Hearst Newspapers. Last week, he appeared on The Colbert Report, to bemoan newspapers and their declining circulation, often for the reasons given above. However, despite having worked in newspapers for over two decades, he has a poor understanding of copyright, as evidenced in this clip.

If that’s an example of how well his newspapers research their articles, perhaps that’s why people are moving away from them. Worst of all though? His Chronicle office was all of 3 blocks from the offices of Bittorrent inc. – I’m sure they’d have updated him on copyright law if he’d bothered to ask, or it’s a short hop to Stanford, where someone could have filled him in. Of course, there are also those that just want to distort a story, to make ‘good copy’ – nothing’s going to help them.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

BERR consultation responses - “04”

In reference to BERR response “p2p – 04 – FOI.PDF”

The respondent is again clear and concise. This is a fact that appears to be common amongst the private respondents. The level of in-depth technical knowledge shown is not great, but at least a personal experience with the technologies is evident.

Concerns raised are over the legality of such proposals, with reference to data protection laws. This is an important issue to remember – the groups such as the MPAA, IFPI, BVA et al. are private companies, not any form of government/local authority employees. They are private companies that exist only to further the interests of their members. They don't exist to deal with consumers justly, or any other philanthropic aim, their only aim is to enable their member companies to have the greatest income possible. As such, the prospect of such a company gaining access to the personal individuals of ordinary citizens without a court order or any sort of balanced judicial process is worrying in the extreme, as has been widely observed with Davenport Lyons and their obtaining of Norwich Pharmacal orders (which will be discussed further with Davenport Lyons' response)

This issue of encryption being used for heavy users is a valid point. As this is mostly a civil issue, it is usually down to companies, rather than law enforcement agencies to track down alleged infringements. AS such they have no power to interfere, or intercept private encrypted communications, so for plans such as those proposed to be effective, it would require either the criminalisation of a civil issue, or for private companies to be given laxer standards for obtaining data than even police forces currently have. Such an example recently came into force in Sweden, with their implementation of the IPRED directive.

The final points made were that any such proposals will adversely affect ISPs, but at greatest disadvantage will be the small ones. Without the large economies of scale, they rely on delivering a good product, with good service. When the profitable users start being put off, for whatever reason, It will be the large ISPs that have massively oversold their capacities (see this report for the disparity between advertised speed and actual speed received by customers as a result of overselling) and can afford to lose customers, leaving behind the light users.

Consultation analysis overview