BPI: Illegal Music Downloads Far Exceed Legal Ones

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Piracy is robbing the music industry of its income, claims BPI, but rights activists dismiss this as ‘whinging’

Three quarters of all music downloads this year were accessed illegally, according to the British recorded music industry’s information organisation the BPI.

According to its research, Digital Music Nation 2010, just under 29 percent of the UK population are indulging in piracy and this figure has held true for the past year. The conclusion though is that the trend is rising as those of the 5,393 people polled said they were downloading more than before.

BPI ‘whinging’ about growth in a recession

This is costing the music industry £219 million a year, the BPI concludes, but its figures are extrapolated from the more reliable figures for legal downloading. The actual figure could be much higher or lower.

Even if the figure is close to the actual losses, it is still contentious. If the music was charged for, many of the downloads would not happen. This is because the quality of the, mainly, mp3 files accessed and downloaded may be discarded because of low quality or faults. Also, because of this, many tracks are downloaded in duplicate, triplicate or more to ensure a “clean” download of the correct bitrate quality.

Geoff Taylor, BPI’s chief executive, sees the illegal downloading as a serious threat to the music industry and calls for government action. He added that stealing is always wrong and suggests that society must ask itself about this abandonment of moral values it stands by elsewhere.

He said, “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.”

In response, Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said, “The BPI are whinging that massive growth in their profits in the middle of a recession isn’t good enough… and argue for measures that would curtail innocent people’s human rights in order to increase their profits. That is immoral.”

The “fledgling” digital sector appears to be growing rapidly with over 30 million tracks available worldwide through legal sources. In 2009, there were 152.7 million legal downloads of single tracks but, to September this year, this has mushroomed to over 500 million. If sales continue at this rate, the industry will be worth over a billon pounds sterling this year – and growing fast.

The research for the report was independently sourced from  Harris Interactive and UKOM/Nielsen.

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