The single most effective anti-piracy strategy is to help build a thriving legal marketplace. That’s always been the industry’s number one priority. Our goal with every anti-piracy effort is to protect the ability of the music business to invest in new bands and new music and, in the digital arena, to give legal online services space to continue to prosper. But we also believe compelling legal ways to enjoy music often need to be complimented by educational programs and selective legal efforts when rogue businesses ignore the law and attempt to profit on the backs of music creators.
Has it made a difference? Think about this way: had the music industry sat idly by and refused to enforce its rights against the sites that profited from facilitating theft, would there even BE a legal music marketplace today? Would the interests of artists, songwriters, labels and others be better served if illegal sites like Audiogalaxy, Aimster, Kazaa, Grokster, Morpheus, and countless others were still thriving? Or if a fog of misunderstanding about the relevant copyright laws persisted among fans who were unaware that they were breaking the law by illegally downloading music or that there were great legal alternatives available?
Some background: prior to the lawsuits, only 35 percent of people knew file-sharing was illegal, but after the initiation of the end-user legal campaign, that number quickly rocketed to more than 70 percent. In 2003 and 2004, we saw double digit growth in the numbers of people using peer-to-peer to download music illegally. If awareness of the copyright laws and an appreciation of the consequences of getting caught for breaking the law had not had an effect, p2p growth rates would likely have continued unabated, and would have seriously undermined the potential for a legal digital marketplace. Instead, according to NPD, between 2006 and 2009, the percent of Internet users downloading music illegally declined from 19 to 14 percent, while the percentage engaging in legal music downloading grew from 16 to 20 percent. Where there was virtually no legal digital market in 2003, today the legal digital market exceeds $3 billion annually and boasts more than 400 licensed music services worldwide.
The music business’ efforts to innovate and license new models, educate fans about the law and enforce rights where necessary have made a profound difference in shaping today’s music landscape. Illegal file-sharing rates have now stabilized: the share of users who download legally has surpassed the share of users who download illegally. The “lines” have crossed and that’s an important marker in the development of a legal marketplace. Because that’s what this is ultimately all about – helping provide the framework for a dynamic, exciting, content-rich marketplace that is rewarding for both fans as well as the music community. The good news? That marketplace is here.
We’re realistic and by no means declaring victory. There continues to be paralyzing levels of illegal downloading that require a variety of approaches and the help of partners like Internet service providers (ISPs). That’s why we send copyright notices to educate and notify downloaders in advance that they are breaking the law and could face more serious consequences. And we continue to bring legal action against individuals behind illegal music sites that operate with downright disregard for the value of music and artists’ rights in order to line their own pockets, with the shuttering of p2p site LimeWire as the most recent example. Each part of the process matters and we are committed to making sure fans have the best music experience possible.