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Perspective, pings and other things relevant to our world

Music Industry Shipments Data Revitalized

March 27, 2012

Almost three years ago, the RIAA launched a database of music shipments (see here and here) so that anyone interested can get a long term, dynamic view of the state of the U.S. recorded music industry dating back to 1973.  We are excited that users continue to subscribe and view, compare and export statistics, and that the database has become recognized as a definitive source for industry data.  We’re proud to announce some significant improvements as we update the database with 2011 data and new features.

As we described in our year end “News and Notes” (here), the RIAA shipment report is for the first time including royalties from synchronization of recorded music with other content (such as movies, TV, video games, or other media).  Data back to 2009 is included for comparison.  Note that synchronization royalties are effectively included at wholesale value since there is no retail value for comparison, and are not adjusted to represent non-major label distributed content.

At the request of many users, we’ve also added a feature to the database that allows adjustment of shipment data for inflation.  With the new button checked, the value data for all years is recalculated using the average annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (here) using 2011 dollars as the base year.

We believe that these new features offer real additional value to users.  Interested in learning more?  View the database’s step by step demo here or read RIAA’s FAQ here.

Joshua P. Friedlander
VP Strategic Data Analysis, RIAA

Google Your Favorite Artist + 'MP3' And What Do You Get?

March 20, 2012

IFPI’s Digital Music Report 2012 offers many insightful observations about today’s music world, most of which give us further reasons to be bullish about the industry’s future. But we were struck by one particularly sober observation. Page 24 of the report examines important role search engines such as Google play in connecting consumers with music. Unfortunately, all too often the top search results provided by Google and others link to sites offering unauthorized music. In fact, according to research done in England, 23% of consumers regularly download music illegally using Google as their means to find the content (Harris Interactive, September 2010).  Further research in New Zealand highlights that 54% of users who illegally downloaded music said they found the unauthorized music through a search engine (Ipsos MediaCT, October 2011).

Instead of leaving it at that, IFPI conducted research of their own and found that searches for the top five artists in November 2011’s Billboard Top 100 chart plus the term “mp3” (the dominant file format for digital music) found the vast majority of search results on the first page – on average over 70% – were illegal, with Google being the biggest culprit.

Artist infringing results from search for artist name and ‘MP3’

                                Google       Yahoo!       Bing
Adele                        77%           62%          70%
Rihanna                    86%           71%          65%
Maroon 5                  82%           67%          75%
LMFAO                       82%           81%         80%
Foster The People    55%           57%         60%

Source: IFPI

Contrast these with results from a different survey in the UK recently conducted by BPI and IPSOS that found that the vast majority (79%) of respondents stated that they rely on search engines to identify trusted websites at the top of search results, and 84% of respondents agreed that search engines should direct users to legal sites rather than illegal ones.

As we continue the discussion here on how best to address rogue sites, all this places a profound emphasis on the need for greater responsibility of search engines like Google in playing a more proactive role to address digital copyright theft by de-prioritizing illicit sites. After all, according to a joint survey by Jupiter Research and marketing firm iProspect, 62% of users never navigate away from the first page of search results, which puts “increased importance of being found in the first top results.”

Given its dominance in the search market, it should be unacceptable that Google’s search results prioritize illegal sites – those which we’ve flagged for Google via multiple notices covering hundreds of thousands of infringements – before legal ones, and for them to brazenly refuse to do anything about it. Search engines should come to the table and work with content owners to find meaningful ways to discourage this unlawful activity that costs the creative community thousands of jobs and exposes consumers to harmful viruses and spyware. 

Cara Duckworth Weiblinger
Vice President, Communications

Agreed: Addressing Restrictions on Trade Is a Must

March 09, 2012

In a recent Forbes piece entitled “SOPA, ACTA and the TPP: Lessons for a 21st Century Trade Agenda” (2/29), CCIA’s Ed Black put forward a number of suggestions about how the U.S. government might consider modifying certain aspects of its trade policy. Let me start off by noting that the views of CCIA and RIAA rarely converge, and that much of this piece contains emotive rhetoric that seeks to disguise CCIA’s commercial objectives as high-minded defense of American traditions of freedom of expression. But if CCIA is truly concerned about freedom of expression, then there is much more room for agreement than we might normally contemplate. RIAA has long been on the front lines in defense of the First Amendment, challenging government censorship and restrictions on the ability of artists to freely express themselves.
Black writes:

“When U.S. companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are banned overseas in favor of foreign competitors (and often near exact clones), then our companies lose massive amounts of revenue and America loses jobs and exports.  Even worse, these clones often use America’s capital markets to fund their future growth in markets that our own companies are locked out of.
And it is hard to argue that “censorship” motivations are not a form of digital protectionism.  For example, the Chinese government blocks U.S. companies under the pretext of censorship, while their own domestic clones still operate, even if the same banned or objectionable material is available on their sites.  And this is big business.  Both Facebook and Google have market valuations in excess of Goldman Sachs and more than half of their revenue comes from overseas...
As a witness at Senate hearings on this issue, I requested a process in which trade officials monitor and report annually on countries’ Internet censorship policies much like we do on their intellectual property enforcement policies (known in trade circles as the Special 301 process).”

We agree. It is of vital importance that U.S. trading partners provide non-discriminatory treatment to U.S. companies (and content), and that we in the U.S. do everything in our power to challenge onerous and discriminatory censorship processes that are little more than disguised restrictions on trade.  This has been a feature of RIAA advocacy for some time. When Canada decided to replace CMT with a Canadian partner, and defended its actions under the so-called “cultural exception” of NAFTA, RIAA immediately joined the fray to protest this discriminatory Canadian action, and we helped to effect a negotiated resolution to this matter. We highlight that strictly speaking, this was not our fight, and RIAA members were not directly affected by who operated the service—CMT or a Canadian competitor. But we did, and do, believe as a matter of fundamental fairness that international trade must operate under the most open standards, and that the mere assertion of cultural imperatives must not be permitted to override trade discipline. There must be enough space in trade rules for countries to adopt reasonable measures to promote cultural diversity, for example through public subsidies for cultural production, but we must be vigilant to ensure that cultural measures are not just excuses to keep US companies out of the marketplace.

The same is true with respect to censorship. While we fully understand that some countries have chosen an approach that diverges from that in the Unites States in which we allow all speech except in the narrowest of circumstances, that does not mean that the mere invocation of “censorship” should be permitted to trump market access and trade discipline. We therefore fully endorse the views put forward by CCIA that USTR closely examine measures put forward by U.S. trading partners, and that we challenge those measures that are merely disguised restrictions on trade. Distinguishing fair content-based measures from those that primarily operate to prevent U.S. or other foreign market entry will not be an easy task, but it is a critical one. And again, we echo CCIA’s observation that under no circumstances should we permit companies that are protected by their host governments to use American capital markets to profit from protectionism and discrimination against U.S. interests. Companies like China’s Xunlei and Russia’s vKontakte are effectively protected by the state, if by no means other than lax enforcement. To allow them to raise money in U.S. capital markets should not be an option.

Hopefully this broad convergence of views between constituencies that don’t frequently agree will help to set the stage for a less-partisan and more rational discourse of broader U.S. policy. In this light, I highlight Ed Black’s closing comments in his article: “You don’t have to understand the intricacies of the Internet to realize it is sounder economic policy to make sure Internet freedom is not jeopardized by some quixotic crusade to eliminate all copyright infringement from the web.” How about this—instead of a “quixotic crusade to eliminate all copyright infringement from the web,” we agree to a rational, balanced and fair approach to reducing infringement on the web so as to allow US companies and workers involved in content creation and distribution to enjoy the fruits of their labors in the absence of unfair competition? One that encourages all actors in the chain of distribution to take reasonable actions to curtail infringement, and that safeguards the interests of those who act responsibly. One that creates incentives for the establishment of a robust and legitimate online marketplace, and that enhances the ability of service providers to fairly compete in the delivery of legitimate content. One that doesn’t confuse new ways of providing access to infringing content with “innovation,” and that drives real innovation and diversity in the online market. That’s a proposition that we can work with. And rest assured, we have as much at stake as others do, if not more —emotionally, socially and commercially – in ensuring that internet freedom is not jeopardized. Our business is expression, and an antipathy to restrictions on freedom of expression is central to our worldview.

Neil Turkewitz
EVP, International, RIAA