File Sharing – Killing or Saving the Creative Industries?

File Sharing – Killing or Saving the Creative Industries?

UPDATE: Yesterday, official sales figures showed the success of Adele’s album 21 has outsold Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, becoming the 5th best selling album in UK history! The singer from London, whose album has currently sold 4,274,300 copies, 500 more than Thriller, is continuing to sell at an average of 20,000 units a week. Thriller was unquestionably one of the biggest albums ever to grace to music industry, bringing joy to millions of fans and hundreds of millions of pounds to the record company. Thriller was released in 1982, long before the internet and where pirated music came from recording a song off of the radio onto a casette. There were no fast and easy ways to send a song down a cable across the world in a matter of minutes. Piracy involved mass production of copied tapes, a process which would have taken a long time as tapes had to be played in real time to record them. As for CD’s, they became commercially available in 1982. As a new technology they were not widely available like most new technologies as people did not have the hardware to play them, and to add to that, CD copiers and burners were not available like we are used to in our computers today. Some people will remember a technology called Vinyl! Enough said about that, it was widely purchased and could not be copied! One point to be taken from this is, if Adele’s album has outsold one of the greatest selling albums of all time in a period where industries are claiming to be losing so much money from piracy and illegal downloads, just how much money are these record companies actually losing?

The UK High court has ruled that The Pirate Bay, an internet hub for file sharing must be blocked by UK internet service providers.

The Pirate Bay acts as a search engine similar to Google or Bing, allowing users to search for creative works such as films, music, pictures and games. Although the site itself does not host any illegal material, Mr Justice Arnold, who issued the order, claims it encourages the sharing and distribution of illegal downloading.

Record companies, film companies and publishers have been fighting and looking for ways to censor file sharing for several years, and for them, this ruling will be a small step towards what they want in order to protect their industries which are allegedly losing millions of pounds annually.

So far, ISP’s such as O2, Talk Talk and London based mobile network operator ‘Everything Everywhere’ have publically agreed to begin measures to restrict their users from accessing ‘The Pirate Bay.’

In January this year, the biggest file sharing site ‘Mega Upload’ was shut down by officials in the United States, with the site owners charged for violating privacy laws. ‘Mega Upload’ had huge celebrity support from musicians Kanye West, Diddy, Chris Brown and Will.i.Am. Many celebrities have come out in favour of file sharing sites, with their reasons mainly being that the service is fast and economical. Of course, these celebrities might be praising Mega Upload because the majority of its content was legal, and there is no law against sharing legal files, but none have come out and openly defended sharing illegal material (and why would they?). Lily Allen was one celebrity who discussed her displeasure of file sharing though. Many are divided on the subject, many creative artists are happy for the ruling to go ahead and continue to eventually halt all file sharing whether it be illegal or not, yet some do not mind, claiming it helps as it’s free marketing which boosts legitimate sales and helps promote their personal profiles. A study by Wellesley College and the University of Missouri has found that services like ‘Bit Torrent’ (a piece of software used to download content that sites like ‘The Pirate Bay’ direct you to) did not have much of an effect on US Box Office figures. The study can be read here.

But will shutting down file sharing sites, or sites that provide a gateway to certain files actually make a difference to the film or music industries?

In the late 90’s there was a piece of software that took the world by storm for music sharing for free called Napster. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against the service. The suit attracted a lot of public attention and increased the amount of users of the music sharing platform, soaring past the 25 million users mark. By 2001, Napster had to end its services, but at a cost of agreeing to pay music creators and copyright owners $26million for unauthorized use of material.

In 2002 EMI offered Robbie Williams a record breaking offer of an £80million recording contract. If the music and/or creative industries are really taking a blow from downloading, how is it justifiable to pay someone that amount of money? The £80million record deal would not include any money made from touring either!

10 years on from that record breaking contract, music consumption has entered a new age. Long gone are tapes and CD’s are most certainly on their way out. It’s all about mp3 files and portable music players. Sites like iTunes and Amazon sell individual tracks from 59p to 99p. Buying a CD single which would have other songs on it, possibly a B track or a couple of remixes of the other songs would cost an average of £2.99. Take into consideration the costs of having to mass produce hundreds of thousands of CD’s, photo shoots for CD covers, distribution of those CD’s etc. Now that record companies have eliminated those costs by selling through online retailers in downloadable format, just how much money is the music industry really losing?

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