Technology website Ars Technica recently headlined UK ‘teens going the legal route for music’ after the publication of an annual report from media and technology research firm The Leading Question.
According to the report, filesharing among UK teens had dropped by as much as one third.
The survey, held among 1000 music fans, showed that what the authors of the report referred to as the "digital piracy threat" or the "file-sharing threat" was changing.
According to the authors of the report, teens were "turning their backs on regular file-sharing in favour of streaming and other ways of sharing music," specifically Facebook, YouTube and Spotify.
There is very little reason to think that UK teens would be any different in this behaviour from their peers elsewhere. Indeed, in an interview with The Sofia Echo elsewhere in this issue, Dimitar Ganchev, currently product manager Bulgarian and international internet at Bulgarian ISP Neterra, described the same trend. "Gradually [users] moved away from pirate sites where content was downloaded to be watched later, to sites like YouTube and Facebook, where content is shared and consumed in real time," Ganchev said.
Apart from the social side of sharing, steering it to real-time sharing platforms, The Leading Question also found that "more fans are regularly sharing burned CDs and bluetoothing tracks to each other than file-sharing tracks."
If these changing trends continue, expect record companies to claim victory over piracy. The RIAA will probably use it as yet another argument to push through its set of draconian measures into the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that is currently being secretly negotiated by developed nations.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, was hailed for calling Napster "the Rosetta Stone of digital music" in a recent BBC op-ed. A decade on, Taylor admitted the industry had made mistakes in its handling of the Napster case, but was quick to condemn peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing of the same evils that the industry had accused Napster of.
Unless the industry is able to develop a business model that celebrates the humanly social aspect of sharing music, unhampered by crippling control mechanisms, it is bound to continue to repeat the Napster mistake.
In the end, it is not artists or the production of music as such that is under threat, only a very specific business model that feeds off the production of artists, and subsequently companies that live by this model and are unwilling or unable to change with the changing times.