Monday, June 01, 2009


Apparently, a couple of years ago a record company boss finally got the message about the prevalence of illegal downloads when, after an informal market research session with a group of teenagers, he offered them the pick of soon-to-be-released CDs. The kids weren't interested. They'd downloaded them all for free already.

Of course, since then, the record industry has developed various ways to monetise downloads but, as a new research report Copycats? Digital Consumers in the Online Age points out, the culture of copying persists - and not just for music.
The UK film industry told us in interview that there were just under 100 million illegal downloads of DVDs in 2007, and globally the film industry is said to lose around $6 billion (or just over £4 billion) per year, and some research (Henning-Thurau et al., 2007) appears to demonstrate evidence that consumers’ intention to pirate movies “cause them to forego theatre visits and legal DVD rentals and/or purchases.”
The report identifies several key difficulties in addressing this, including that consumers find it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal services and that there is a culture of getting things for free online.

The report suggests that legal redress seems impossible - but questions whether sufficient income can be generated from legitimate free downloads.
If all who undertake unauthorised downloading, uploading and sharing were prosecuted, up to seven million Britons would have a criminal record. If all content online was instead “free” and downloading was de-criminalized could new business models such as sponsorship, advertising and the bundling of access with content pay for the variety, depth and quality of the content we current enjoy?
Little in the report is really new, but it does provide a useful overview of the challenges facing those who create content professionally or attempt, like the Guild, to protect the rights of those who do so.

There's more debate on the report on the BBC blog.


  1. Yes, and though we didn't write it in the report, publishing may well soon be in the firing line directly. Already we found that many audio books and e-books are freely available on the file sharing networks; there is always the Google book issue & sites such as SCRIBD; and newspapers have long been getting used to digital consumers in the age of "free things". These are challenging times for writers too.

    I've just been asked to write a book (in all its formats!) titled What's Next for the Book? Any thoughts, Tom. In this context?

    Robin Hunt
    Main author of Copycats?

  2. Hi Robin

    No one really knows what will happen to printed books, do they. It's all guessing. Electronic books will clearly have some impact though - and that will mean at least some piracy.

    One of the interesting things for writers is self-publishing and print-on-demand. Take a look at the post I put up today about John August.

    If you ever wanted to work with the Guild directly in your research, I'm sure they'd be receptive. Just contact the office via the website -


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.