There’s often a healthy debate about the merits of various anti-piracy initiatives, particularly about their direct impact upon the legitimate marketplace. Whether it’s the PROTECT IP legislation pending in Congress, legal action against an unauthorized site that doesn’t compensate creators, or industry enforcement efforts, a frequent strand of skepticism arises from the relationship between those initiatives and a concrete growth in sales. Protecting rights is important, but do these efforts have a real impact upon the marketplace?
Recently we’ve seen concrete evidence that suggests the answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes.’
But first, a look at the numbers. So far this year we’ve seen a modest but encouraging uptick in sales. According to Nielsen SoundScan data featured at a recent NARM-sponsored webinar titled “Delving Deeper Into This Upswing: A Sales Trend Update,” total music sales on a track-equivalent basis (TEA) increased by 4.8 percent so far in 2011, compared to this time last year when total sales on a TEA-basis were down 0.7 percent. Digital track sales are up 11 percent and digital albums are showing an increase of more than 19 percent in 2011.
So what gives? Nielsen pointed specifically to the shutdown of LimeWire in the fourth quarter of 2010 that corresponded with the beginning of the uptick in digital sales. As Billboard recently noted in its coverage of the Nielsen webinar:
One factor behind the increase in track sales could be the shutting down of the LimeWire P2P service in late October of last year. The spike in sales was immediate, noticeable and lasting. From January to October 2010, the year-over-year change in track sales varied between a high of 3.6% in May and a low of -3.7% in April (there were three increases and seven decreases, all of them slight).
Then came the jump in track sales. November was up 17.2%. The gains were lower in December and January - 6.4% and 4.2%, respectively - but seasonal sales gain in December and January were probably masking the greater trend. The year-over-year gain shot right back up to 12.7% in February and has ranged from 11.2% and 13.9% ever since.
The evidence is beginning to pile up -- evidence that there is a specific migration of users from an illegal service to legitimate ones, which translates into more revenues for licensed services and more royalties for musicians, songwriters, producers, publishers, music labels – everyone in the chain of music creation. And it’s even more reason why important initiatives that strengthen the protection of intellectual property are essential, and can truly make a difference in the everyday lives of people who make music.
By Cara Duckworth Weiblinger, Vice President, Communications, RIAA
Google recently posted a progress report about its copyright protection efforts. There is no doubt that Google has taken steps to combat content theft online and we are one of many that have commended these improvements. For example, we thank Google for developing tools to make it easier for us to submit takedown requests, and for significantly shortening the take down times for links in DMCA notices concerning Blogger or Web Search to less than 24 hours. In addition, we note that Google has cooperatively worked with us to develop processes to remove some of the worst content theft applications from the Android market place. In short, we have appreciated the dialogue we have had with Google, and the progress we have made to date.
But there is much more that needs to be done.
Just last spring in the House Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee, Google was a key witness at a hearing that focused on illegal foreign websites that traffic in counterfeit goods. That hearing demonstrated that there is much, much more that Google must do if it wants to play a responsible role in keeping the Internet secure from these illegal parasites.
For example, Google’s ad services, such as AdSense, AdMob, and DoubleClick, continue to service illegal sites that offer unauthorized music -- despite our flagging of these sites. We appreciate that Google is working with us to develop a system to send Google bulk notices about the use of AdSense on sites that facilitate online theft. However, given the significant benefits Google receives from these services and its commitments via the official guidelines that regulate advertisers, Google should do more to ensure that it does not place and profit from ads on sites that offer illegal content.
We also continue to run into problems with the efficacy of Google’s takedown procedures. Google’s Blogger tool continues to serve as a forum for the posting of links to unauthorized music. As noted above, Google has improved its take down speeds upon receiving notices, but it has not been effective in terminating repeat offenders who are aware of Google’s policies and know there are no consequences to reposting illegal content.
Google should also remove the barriers it has placed on its Web search tools which make it difficult for content owners to provide proper feedback on sites that pop up in Google’s search results. Further, we cannot see how Google’s posting elsewhere online the links to the unauthorized sites it has delisted is consistent with the intent of the DMCA. And while we appreciate Google’s efforts to date to prevent certain terms associated with illegal sites from appearing in its auto-complete function, the clear and frustrating issue remains that Google continues to list unlicensed sites before authorized ones in its search results.
Finally, as noted above, Google has taken down some mobile apps that facilitate infringement. But the takedown times are long, and too often we see the same or substantially similar apps from the same developers re-appear a few days later. Google could also take a more proactive role by screening and evaluating apps before they are made available. Most importantly, too many apps created to harvest links to unauthorized files remain available and popular on the Android marketplace, resulting in widespread infringement of copyrighted works.
We give credit where credit is due, and Google’s efforts to date give us hope that Google is truly committed to working with those of us that produce the content that Google users want to see and hear. As First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams testified at the House hearing last spring, “It is one thing to say that the Internet must be free; it is quite another to say that it must be lawless. Even the Wild West had sheriffs, and even those who use the Internet must obey the law.”
Steven Marks, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, RIAA
In case you missed it, read the RIAA’s recent blog post on music biz site The Comet about the successful marriage of music and TV shows from our own Mitch Glazier, Senior Executive Vice President, RIAA here: “Exclusive Blog: Trending – Tunes on the Tube, What Does It All Mean?”