Inconvenient EU piracy study kept hidden for years
A piracy study that the EU commissioned in 2013 has been kept hidden for years, likely because it did not find statistical proven evidence that piracy impacts legitimate purchases.
Estimating displacement rates of copyrighted content in the EU resurfaced only recently, and has been published online so that it is accessible by anyone. You can read the study online on GitHub for instance by following this link.
The study was designed to answer the following two questions:
- How do online copyright infringements affect sales of copyrighted content?
- How much are online copyright infringers willing to pay for copyrighted
It covered the four creative content types music, audio-visual material, books and games, and interviewed EU citizens from Germany, the UK, Spain, France, Poland and Sweden for that based on social-cultural characteristics as they are as a group representative of the "EU as a whole". About 5000 people were interviewed in each of the selected countries.
The researchers found that more than half of EU adults (51%) and almost three fourths of minors (72%) have either "illegally downloaded or streamed any form of creative content". Piracy rates are higher in Poland and Spain.
The result do not show "robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements" however. The only exception is the displacement of recent top films according to the researchers. They estimate that the estimated loss for recent top films is 5% of the current sales volume. For games, the researches found that piracy had a positive effect on game sales.
For games, the estimated effect of illegal online transactions on sales is positive â€“ implying that illegal consumption leads to increased legal consumption. This positive effect of illegal downloads and streams on the sales of games may be explained by the industry being successful in converting illegal users to paying users. Tactics used by the industry include, for example, offering gameplay with extra bonuses or extra levels if consumers pay.
Price is a core reason for this. Participants were asked about their "willingness to pay" for creative content that they accessed illegally. For movies and TV shows, 80% found the current price levels too high whereas the level corresponded to "the willingness to pay" for books, music and games.
The researchers suggest that changes in price levels for films and TV shows could impact the displacement rates.
The EU commission did not publish the study, and referenced it only once in "Movie Piracy and Displaced Sales in Europe: Evidence from Six Countries" published in September 2016. The paper concentrates on the 5% drop in sales for top films only however, and makes no mention of the positive effect on games and that the researchers of the study concluded that there is no robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements.
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