Since the launch of Napster in the late nineties, the music industry has been suffering from theft on a global scale, the growth of the internet has enabled people to share high quality audio files with millions of people, right from the comfort of their own home.
Law enforcement and music rights organisations have been working hard for over two decades, with automated systems now in place that are designed to catch infringing URLs, though it’s still an uphill battle. The subject of piracy, whether related to music, film, or any other creative medium, can be a disheartening one. People are losing money and losing their jobs as a result of pirates distributing material for free.
BPI came to this years Brighton Music Conference to host a discussion on the success, failure and struggle of tackling online piracy. Moderated by BPI’s own Clare Miller, the panel also hosted guest speakers Keir Tyrer from Shogun Audio Group, singer and song writer Charlie Hole, BPI’s Christian Ivanoski-Nichol and Steve Salway from City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit.
BPI’s Clare Miller began by mentioning a successful effort between BPI, IFPI and RIAA that brought down MP3 ripping site youtube-mp3.org, one of the most popular ripping sites on the internet a few years ago. Christian Ivanoski-Nichol discussed how advertisements from major global brands increase legitimacy of such sites in the eyes of the public, that if a website is displaying an ad from a brand you are familiar with, you automatically convince yourself the website must be legal and safe. He said one method of limiting this problem is to reduce the content and traffic to the site so such ad placements are not possible, limiting the site to only display ads that don’t offer any kind of confidence can increase the chances of closing it completely.
Songwriter Charlie Hole, who seemed to be the youngest guest on the panel, spoke about how piracy can offer some artists exposure they would not otherwise get, mentioning Ed Sheeran, who said in a 2017 interview with digital music news ‘illegal file sharing is what made me’. The idea being that piracy spreads an artists music through friends and peers, which then results in increased revenues from merch, sync and touring.
City of London Police’s Steve Salway was the most knowledgable when it comes to fighting piracy on the front line, highlighting the fact that there’s “no appetite to go after members of the public, the problem is too vast”, that the only effective way to tackle the issue is finding the people and websites actually distributing the content and trying to cripple their revenue streams. But if they do find the people responsible they can run into problems such as jurisdiction issues, he said it’s “almost the perfect crime model.”
Director of Shogun Audio Group Keir Tyrer brought a label perspective to the panel, one of the main points he made was that “music becomes the promotional tool for the other things you do”, echoing the idea Charlie made that the music gets people to buy your merch and come to your shows. He also spoke about the young nature of dance music as a whole has given it a “modern approach” to marketing and monetising content, that the majority of labels can now use Spotify or similar services to replace revenue from physical sales.
The discussion closed with Clare Miller asking the panel to give one method of change to combat piracy. Charlie Hole said that “I have friends who use Spotify, Netflix, and will happily pay” he said the only stuff they still pirate is content released outside these mediums, and that content within a monthly subscription is much less likely to be hosted on pirate sites.
Keir highlighted the problem with copyright law, with countries such as Russia having almost no laws for copyright infringment. Steve Salway gave education as a positive method and that making the content accessible and affordable can reduce the need for people to visit infringing sites. He also mentioned that the government already spend millions of pounds on advertising to educate the general public on the problem, with the most known being ‘Piracy, it’s a crime’ which is famous for the term ‘you wouldn’t download a car’.
Finally Clare Miller said that if you are aware of any copyright infringing sites, you can report them to organisations such as BPI, their contact page is here.
Stream one of Shogun Audio’s most recent releases ‘GLXY & DRS – These Lights’ below.