Does Piracy Increase Sales?

Do people who illicitly download songs via peer-to-peer file sharing networks buy more music than those who have never grabbed a torrent or searched for tunes through LimeWire?

That’s what a study by the BI Norwegian School of Management is hinting at, saying people who download infringing music also buy about 10 times more music than their law-abiding counterparts, according to Oslo newspaper Aftenposten.

But does that mean music pirates are also the recording industry’s best customers? Maybe. Maybe not.

On the “maybe” side you have P2P proponents citing the school’s study as another example proving copyright-infringing song-sharing promotes sales. Ever since Shawn Fanning came up with Napster, those promoting song-sharing at the expense of the record labels, publishers and artists have claimed all those downloads will pay off in the end because the downloaders only “sample” the music, and will ultimately buy what they enjoy listening to.

However, those on the “maybe” not side of the argument contend the survey only establishes folks who pirate a lot of music also buy a lot of music. As an EMI representative pointed out, that doesn’t mean one thing necessarily leads to another.

It might be safer to assume that those who pirate a lot of songs as well as regularly purchase a hefty number of tunes are people who really love music. Even before P2P piracy became a problem for the music industry, major music fans were often the same ones who scanned classified ads in music magazines for unauthorized bootlegs. They were also the ones who spent a good amount of time taping albums purchased by their friends, concerts off the radio and even those albums-in-entirety radio programs that used to be so popular in the ’70s and ’80s.

In fact, one of the reasons the original Napster was seen by the labels as threatening the entire recording industry is because it introduced casual music consumers – those who rarely go looking for new music, and often buy only “the hits” heard on radio – to music piracy.

If anything, the BI Norwegian School of Management Study reminds us how much the music business has changed during the last 15 years. The old dynamic was centered around labels relying on radio to introduce new music. Today people discover new music through online streamers like Rhapsody, inexpensive downloads from Amazon MP3 and iTunes, social networking sites, and yes, P2P song-sharing, both legal and not.

While the BI Norwegian School of Management says its study indicates folks who pirate a lot of music also buy a lot of music, it also suggests the reverse – those who buy a lot of music also pirate a lot of music.

Which means, after years of the recording industry pushing the “piracy is stealing” meme to the public, that concept still hasn’t sunk in among those who really love to listen to music. That’s hardly good news for the labels. Or, for that matter, anyone who depends on music to pay the bills.

Congress Examines P2P’s Private Parts

A House committee is taking a second look at peer-to-peer networks, those Internet channels giving users the capability to “share” files with all other computers that are jacked into the same P2P network.

However, it’s not only the trading of copyrighted works, such as songs, TV shows and movies that’s attracted the committee’s attention. It seems P2Ps have also been conduits of private data, both personal and corporate.

On April 20 the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent letters signed by chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., and ranking Republican Darrell E. Issa of California, to the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and The Lime Group, which develops the LimeWire P2P software, seeking information regarding private data that might have been transmitted over file sharing networks.

The committee is also asking what the Obama administration is doing to protect people from those who would take advantage of P2P users accidentally allowing their private data to be downloaded and shared.

When it comes to tax returns, loan applications and credit reports showing up on file sharing networks, the problems are often caused by users not understanding how their P2P software clients are configured. Most P2P software packages create a “shared” directory upon installation. Unless the user specifies otherwise, the “shared” directory functions as the name implies by sharing the contents of the directory with other P2P users.

Simply put, whatever goes in your shared directory will end up being shared. The most obvious way to prevent this is not to put any confidential information in your shared directory.

Evidently too many people aren’t quite clear on this P2P concept. The committee, citing press reports going back to last year, claims everything from more than 150,000 tax returns to the blueprints and avionics for presidential helicopter Marine One ended up on P2P networks.

Other private content that circulated on file-sharing networks include 25,800 student loan applications, 626,000 credit reports and tens of thousands of medical files that also included patients’ names social security numbers and their afflictions, such as cancer and AIDS.

This isn’t the first time the House committee has looked into P2P. In a letter sent to LimeWire chairman Mark Gorton, Towns and Issa say witnesses at a 2007 hearing told the committee they had “easily obtained bank records, health records, military files, tax returns, corporate documents, and other highly sensitive private files via the LimeWire network.”

Furthermore, in their letter to Gorton, Towns and Issa remind the LimeWire chairman that two years ago he had promised significant changes to prevent inadvertent disclosures of personal or confidential info.

“However, it appears that nearly two years after your commitment to make significant changes in the software, LimeWire and other P2P providers have not taken adequate steps to address this critical problem,” Towns and Issa wrote.

Unfortunately, the dispersal of private content through P2P networks is more of a user problem than something that can be “fixed” by Congress. While software makers might add a few a few traps to their wares to prevent people from unknowingly sharing private data on the P2P networks, the fact is you just can’t outlaw ignorance.

A Twist In Music Editing

A German design firm has come up with a music editor with a twist – a cell phone that’s also a music editor controlled by twisting and bending the handset.

The company is Pilotfish, which unveiled the phone, called Ondo, on April 20, saying it would tap the “untested demand” for mobile music editing, reports Reuters.

Come on. Admit it. You didn’t even know there was a demand, tested or untested, for music editing on a cell phone.

Pilotfish claims the device will provide good-quality recording of three separate sound tracks, and says it will initially target amateur musicians and music fans when the phone becomes a reality a few years down the road.

The phone comes with three “recording” sticks attached to the unit. Users will detach the sticks and then clip them to whatever or whomever they wish to record, such as drums, guitars and vocalists. A graphic equalizer is displayed on each stick’s OLED panel, according to tech Web site Register Hardware.

Is the world ready for twisted sound editing? Reuters says analysts were skeptical about a new device competing in a market dominated by international brands such as Apple and Nokia.

On the other hand, there was a time not too long ago when no one expected Apple to come up with a best-selling cell phone. Or, for that matter, any kind of cell phone.
Pilotfish says the new phone will be available in 2-3 years. In the meantime you’ll just have to edit your music the old-fashioned way with slider controls and meters.