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By: MarkJ - 16 December, 2010 (10:37 AM)
copyright pirateThe British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has claimed that 7.7 Million broadband ISP and Mobile Broadband consumers in the UK "illegally download music on a regular basis" (it's actually a civil/unlawful offence). The results come from a September 2010 study of 5,393 people aged between 16 and 54 years old, which was conducted by Harris Interactive.

Harris also estimates that 1.2 Billion tracks will be unlawfully downloaded in 2010, which represents approximately three quarters of all music obtained digitally. A separate study by Jupiter Research indicated that the recording industry’s resulting losses from foregone spend would be £219m in 2010.

The study claims that P2P (File Sharing, BitTorrent etc.) abuse accounts for 23% of all "illegal" music downloads, which has apparently grown by +7% over the past 6 months. The use of non-P2P channels is also rising. Some 13% of internet users were using direct website links to access music unlawfully from "cyberlockers", while 12% use MP3 search engines.

However legal sales of Digital Singles could well top 160m in 2010, beating 2009's record of 149.7m by over 10m. The BPI also expects digital albums to sell around 21m copies this year, easily beating the 16.1m sales total in 2009. The BPI believes that the market would grow even faster if not for such unlawful activity.

Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, said:

"Digital music is now mainstream in the UK, with much to be proud of – nearly 70 legal services and a further increase in the numbers of digital singles and albums set to be sold online in 2010.

Yet this growth is a fraction of what it ought to be. Illegal downloading continues to rise in the UK. It is a parasite that threatens to deprive a generation of talented young people of their chance to make a career in music, and is holding back investment in the fledgling digital entertainment sector.

As the internet becomes central to many aspects of our lives, including how we access our entertainment, we must decide whether we can afford as a society to abandon ethical values we stand by elsewhere - that stealing is wrong; that creativity should be rewarded; that our culture defines who we are, and must be protected.

The creative industries employ two million people in the UK and are the fastest growing sector of the economy. Urgent action is needed to protect those jobs and allow Britain to achieve its potential in the global digital market. 2011 must be the year that the Government acts decisively to ensure the internet supports creativity and respects the basic rules of fair play we embrace as a nation."

The comments effectively amount to a pre-emptive strike against next year's Judicial Review of the controversial Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA), which was recently won by the combined effort of BT and TalkTalk UK (here). Suffice to say that the BPI isn't happy with the slow pace of progress, which it believes is hindering the markets expansion.

The act itself threatens to use notoriously unreliable IP address based evidence to identify broadband users "suspected" of unlawful copyright P2P File Sharing activity (at best this only identifies the connection owner, which could be a hotel or shared business network etc.). It could also lead to the blocking of legitimate websites, service speed restrictions, limits on open Wi-Fi usage, account disconnection ("suspension") from your ISP or disclosure of private personal details to Rights Holders for legal action.

As usual the BPI only represents one side of the argument, which often makes the mistake of assuming that everything downloaded unlawfully is equal to a similar level of lost sales. However a teenager who downloads 500 music tracks is highly unlikely to ever have brought that many in the first place (no money).

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group UK, said:

"The BPI are whinging that massive growth in their profits in the middle of a recession isn't good enough. But they claim that this isn't good enough, and argue for measures that would curtail innocent people's human rights in order to increase their profits. That is immorral."

The survey also casts doubt on the effectiveness of unlawful file sharing deterrents. Just 12% of people who had stopped filesharing cited worries over being "caught". A substantial proportion of unlawful P2P downloader's also claim not to realise that their actions are wrong (44%). This rises to 56% for people downloading via direct website links and cyberlockers.

UPDATE 12:40pm

Added a comment from the Open Rights Group.
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