Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, March 27, 2021

When the Recording Industry Association of America started in earnest to take legal action against fileswapping networks and those networks’ users, Internet cognoscenti criticized the move as the futile flailings of an outdated dinosaur.

Two years hence, the dinosaur is winning, at least in the big-picture sense. Pew Internet and American Life reports that, while a significant percentage (27 percent) still illicitly download audio and video files, they do it via means that don’t involve the P2P networks that popularized the practice.

The Project’s national survey of 1,421 adult Internet users conducted between January 13 and February 9, 2021 shows that 19% of current music and video downloaders, or about 7 million adults, say they have downloaded files from someone else’s iPod or MP3 player. About 28%, or 10 million people, say they get music and video files via email and instant messages…

In all, 48% of current downloaders have used sources other than peer-to-peer networks or paid music and movie services to get music or video files. Beyond MP3 players, email and instant messaging, these alternative sources include music and movie websites, blogs and online review sites.

It may seem that the RIAA’s fight is merely shifting to other channels, and that they’ll have to start targeting email services and website/blog-hosting services soon.

That misses the main point: P2P networks were the largest and easiest means for casual users to download a wide range of music and video files. Their ease of access, and ease of distribution, made them an obvious target. The music industry knew that choking them off would stem the fileswapping traffic significantly. And so it did.

I argued that, from the start, the RIAA’s strategy didn’t depend on getting all the downloaders, but just enough of them:

The aim is not to take millions of people to court; the aim is to target enough of them, stick them with such onerous financial penalties (thousands of dollars worth), and publicize it extensively enough, that it gives the majority of other users pause enough to stop using the programs. Naturally, once enough people stop participating, the filesharing networks will be less usable, because there’ll be a lot less content on them; plus, when the active users dwindle to a relative few, it’ll be that much easier to target each of them individually. It’s like nailing people for speeding on the highway: The cops know they’re never going to get everyone, but by nabbing a few, that deters the majority from doing it (at least to an excessive extent).

Yes, most of the old services, like Grokster and BearShare are still around. But without a large user base, they’re fairly useless. As long as a big enough portion of the public is aware that using such services exposes them to possible legal action, they’ll be reticent to jump on them.

Naturally, the growth of online music stores like Apple’s iTunes helped. Many of those newly-minted digital music users reconciled themselves to “going legit” by paying for what they previously had to hunt out.

As for the new alternate means, like email and temporary file postings on blogs and other sites: These are relative trickles compared to the previous flood that P2P networks represented. The music industry’s not stupid; there’s always going to be some level of illicit fileswapping. As long as it’s low-level enough, it’s bearable. The P2P means made the scale of such copying high enough to represent a real threat to the business end (again, it’s all about distribution, and a 24/7 network of music files for the taking meant unimaginable free distribution). As long as that’s been radically reduced, more one-on-one swaps among splintered groups aren’t going to break the bank.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/27/2005 11:12:37 PM
Category: Internet, Media | Permalink | Feedback

So I’m driving to my friend Tommy’s house to have a low-key Easter dinner (even though it ain’t my Easter). The iPod, as always, is playing through the car deck.

A couple of songs in, the only track on the player that’s even remotely Easter-related comes up:

“Eggman” by The Beastie Boys. Y’know, Easter eggs? (Just making sure.)

Yes, I know this is the second “soundtrack-of-my-life” post in the last couple of days. Sue me.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/27/2005 10:09:02 PM
Category: Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback

dark knight, dark side
Both The Batman and Darth Vader are having their origin stories hit the big screen within a month of each other this summer. And the parallels sure don’t end there.

Since Mr. Dark Knight and Mr. Dark Force are so sartorially similar — not many can pull off the cape look so deftly — I think further crossover is in order. May I suggest:

- A Bat-Sabre addition to Bat’s utility belt

- A teenaged sidekick for Lord Vader (Jedi-Boy?)

- The Joker frazzling his Caped Crusader nemesis with the declaration, “I am your father!”

- The Vader-mobile

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/27/2005 12:09:53 PM
Category: Movies | Permalink | Feedback (1)