Robot 6

Pirates spend 300% more on content than the rest of us do


According to a survey commissioned by U.K. communications regulator Ofcom, the classic Pareto principle is in full effect for people who use pirated versions of copyrighted material. The top 20 percent of copyright infringers account for 88 percent of all infringements (with the top 10 percent being responsible for a whopping 79 percent).

What’s surprising, however, is that the top 20 spent £168 (about $253) on content during the six-month monitoring period. That’s not just more than the amount spent by the lower 80 percent (£105, or about $158), it’s significantly more than the £54 ($81) spent by the average person who never pirates anything. In other words, the worst pirates get the vast majority of their stuff for free, but they take in so much media that they end up spending 321 percent more than people who never pirate.

It’s a fascinating study, and not only because it turns expectations about pirate behavior upside down. The goal was to classify and predict pirate behavior, with an eye on figuring out how best to curtail it. What wasn’t a surprise were the top factors that would encourage copyright infringers to stop: better pricing and increased availability.

(via TorrentFreak)

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This news isn’t surprising at all. Or rather, it can only BE surprising if you follow the narrative made up by content owners that pirates never pay for anything. A narrative obviously composed by someone with an extreme bias that people choose to believe anyway.

Question: Is it referring to the pirates who facilitate the material or the people that take advantage of it afterward?


May 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Not surprising at all. None of it.

Mark Kardwell

May 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Next: surveys discover that bears sh*t in the woods and the Pope’s a Catholic!

Math is hard.

I’m not surprised by this either. The media powers that be paint the negative picture because they’d prefer that the masses didn’t know this truth, because its not as news worthy or frightening.

Piracy at most for many is a service problem, which technology has jumped over, eliminating hoops of stuff that gets in the way. Its always best to buy and support what you love, but there’s also much stuff out there that’s getting lost in the digital transition, languishing on tapes forgotten.

Does that make it right? Overall no, but each person must decide for themselves what is more good or evil. A work that disappears from our world completely is more of an evil for some.

A big part of this is that the rhetoric around piracy is based on a pre-digitally networked model, where the majority of piracy was performed with a profit motive. Piracy nowadays still suffers from the legacy left for it by VHS and DVD bootleggers in the 90s, and the game console modders of just a few years ago. It’s hard to stand behind a free-speech model of argumentation when your forebears were pirating to turn a buck. Which is not to say that this rhetoric isn’t valid anymore: it’s not hard to find a bootleg DVD booth in any major metropolitan Chinatown, and outside of North America and western Europe such merchants are even easier to find. Still, the profit motive is becoming increasingly marginalized, especially with surveys like this; now we just need to wait for these facts to be acknowledged by the MPAA (yeah, right).

It’s worth noting here that as far as comics-specific piracy goes, the profit motive has basically never existed in terms of English-language comics, so there’s an argument to detach it from the greed and copying-for-resale rhetoric established by media conglomerates.

And of course this is a totally flawed study that compares pirates to the ‘average person’. There is no ‘average person’.
What they call an average person is a mix of a big number of people who NEVER buy content outside of watching TV (and I’m sure it’s not counted in that study) with a very very small number of people who actually buy content. What you have to know is that the majority of people out there don’t buy books, they don’t buy DVDS and they don’t see movies. When a movie does huge numbers in the US like 300 mil it’s still less than 10% of the population actually watching it. When a comic does huge numbers it’s still only 1% of the population buying it.

If this study was fair it would only compare people who buy legitimate content and don’t pirate, with the ones who pirate and sometimes buy content. The numbers would be hugely different. I know some ‘pirates’ and they practically never buy anything.
I’m sure my book was downloaded more times than it sold in comic shops.

Page 25:

“5.1 Overview and summary of non-infringing segments
As well as segmenting the infringers, we segmented consumers who downloaded or streamed all of their
content legally. This exercise was intended to help generate a wider understanding of all digital
consumers. The four segments are summarised as follows10
5. Simple Streamers (34% of legal consumers, 27% of total digital consumers11):
This group was primarily defined by the fact that they streamed content but didn’t download any.
This content largely consisted of TV programmes and music and they were generally consuming for
entertainment and convenience purposes.

6. Simple Downloaders (17% of legal consumers , 13% of total digital consumers):
They were defined by the fact that they only downloaded and didn’t stream. They consumed less
content than the other non-infringing segments, and largely downloaded books and music. They had
the largest proportion of paid-for content.

7. Paying Consumers (34% of legal consumers, 27% of total digital consumers):
This group paid for the majority of the content they consumed, while also spending a lot on offline
(such as physical) content.

8. Free Opportunists (14% of legal consumers, 11% of total digital consumers):
100% of this group claimed to download because it is free, and indeed they consumed the highest
volume of free content within the legal segments.”

Ofcom and Kantar Media do good research and they shouldn’t be faulted for quantifying what those few of us in the know claim to already know. What’s more important is ensuring that the industry bodies eager to protect copyright take the data to heart and understand that current models for the tracking, interpretation of behavior, and prosecution of digital theft are not entirely adequate. Different types of media suffer piracy in different ways, and to different degrees. Not everyone understands this (e.g., Department of Justice). As a result, we get lopsided legal pursuits and insufficient or ill-advised industry movements that are out of focus. How can they better their focus? Cluster the infringing consumers in a way that sufficiently weighs the offense; look at the type of infringement, the content infringed, and the frequency and volume of the behavior.

The study does provide a lot of interesting material, though. A huge amount (44%) of justifying infringers are jobless and don’t even care to look for a job; pretty much all of Table 4.7, which documents the sometimes viable and sometimes idiotic logic of copyright infringement (“If everything I wanted was available legally online as soon as it was released elsewhere” isn’t in any way practical for most media enterprises, but 44% hold to that opinion, for some reason); or that, quite frankly, ease-of-use/convenience always ranks at the top, which says a lot more about the disposition of the infringing consumer than about the content they’re stealing or even the context in which they claim to steal it.

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