Posted on 09 Oct 2017 by L Coulsen

So, About That Infamous EU Piracy Report

By now, I’m sure we’re all aware that the EU commissioned a study regarding potential impacts piracy might have on media. You know the deal, things like downloading music from BeeMP3 (is that even still going?) or the latest Disney film from the Pirate Bay. All that good stuff. A debate that has been going back and forth for a while as to whether it actually harms, helps, or is completely irrelevant. There are a few examples, here and there, or instances where there has been an apparent impact, both negative and positive, but there’s very limited solid information. Which was why the study was launched in the first place, to get some actual, hard data on the subject.

To that end, a pretty hefty €360,000 was paid out to a group of researchers to fund their investigations. Gathering as much data as they could, collating it all, compiling it into a final report and present it to the European Commission for their perusal, so as to better inform future copyright laws across the entire European Union. A report which stands at over 300 pages, packed full of graphs and data sources and showing that there’s absolutely fuck all link between piracy and lost sales. At which point the EU quietly quashed it, brushed it under the rug, and hoped nobody would find out about it.

Or so the story goes.

There have been a plethora of online news sites making each and every one of us well aware of this underhanded, intellectually bankrupt move. Filled with snippets and references to the report in question, applauding MEP (Member of European Parliament) Julia Reda for bringing this to our attention. Because, if true, this is a serious case of fraud committed on a near global scale. Suggesting that, as we’ve long known, most politicians are in the pockets of big business. But even further deeper in than we ever expected.


I do wonder though, how many of the people talking about this, have actually read the report? The entire report, not just the little tidbits people have picked out here and there. And I don’t just mean people who frequent these online resources, but the people who write for them as well. More importantly, I am left wondering how critically and, more importantly, impartial they have been upon these theoretical readings.

Is that your final answer?

In brief, the key points are as follows:

  1. There was a report
  2. It cost almost half a million dollars
  3. It found no discernible impact on media sales due to piracy
  4. Said report was presented to the EU
  5. The report was then cast aside

All of these things are, yes, entirely correct. That is a list of the facts. There is no real question that this was how the situation played out. And until MEP Reda published the report on her blog for the world to see, that was how the situation was destined to remain. So hell yeah, the European Commission didn’t want us to read it. But…does that mean they actually, actively, tried to suppress it? Well, maybe, I don’t honestly know. I’m not an MEP, and would probably not last very long if I was, because I’d be on my feet calling someone a cunt the moment they said something, well, cuntish. But you know what? It doesn’t matter if it was suppressed.

Frankly put, this report is total, fucking garbage. The conclusion it came to may, very well, be entirely correct, but the contents of this 307 pages of total bollocks does next to nothing to support it. Honestly, I’m all but certain that the EC just cast it aside because they took it for what it was. A complete waste of money. There is absolutely nothing of value to be gained by reading it. Believe me. I know. But at the same time, I do fervently urge you to take a proper look through for yourself. A real, close, critical look at what’s going on. Because it has all the fancy graphs, and uses all the right words, in all the right places. But that’s as far as it goes.

Gods, the grammar should be your first clue. It’s all over the bloody place. And whilst that may be a minor issue, several of the researchers almost certainly had English as a second, if not later, language. Such mistakes are to be expected. In a first draft. But a fully finalised report, issued to one of the largest political entities on the entire bloody planet? Proof reading dudes! Run it through Grammarly first. Or even bleedin’ Microsoft Word. Anything would be better than this. Geez.

Alright, I know, low hanging fruit. And if that was the only issue, it would be forgivable, but there’s so much more. Not least of which, though it’s supposed to be representative of the entire EU, only six countries were included in the study. Another thing which could actually be overlooked on its own. The EU is fairly homogeneous on large scales. However, the fact that only six out of twenty-eight member states, which consist of almost three quarters of a billion people…that alone should have made people a tad on the sceptical side.

Sometimes you just have to game the system.

Further, there were only 30,000 people, total, included in the study. A study which was conducted as a questionnaire, over a period of two months and during the autumn no less. That’s it. The rest is all assumption, even stated as such within the report itself. There are references to work done by other people, to support assertions such as the broad strokes the EU is painted in, but those other reports already speak for themselves. And were they comprehensive enough to provide answers regarding the displacement of sales due to piracy…then this report wouldn’t have been needed in the first place.

It’s frankly ludicrous to think that you can throw out a questionnaire, no matter how well worded, and hope to get anything of significant meaning out of it. Especially not one built solely around self-reporting, as this was. It’s a very, very bare bones first step. A study like this, to be truly comprehensive, needs to span years, if not decades. For example, another report which made waves online last year, regarding the potential dangers of fracking on water supplies, looked at data covering a period starting at least as far back as the 90s. And they spent years compiling all of the information and verifying figures.

To see something like “how does piracy affect legitimate sales?” taken over a period of only two bloody months, based solely on what people are willing to say about their own habits, is asinine. Even though there are sections detailing how wording was changed to avoid people making the immediate connection with fessing up to doing something illegal, people are not as stupid as the internet would have you believe, and they will know when they’re being asked if they did something to circumvent the law. Some people are going to lie, others just aren’t going to remember all of the details.

More importantly, there just isn’t enough time taken into consideration for a study like this. Time of year is an important factor in a lot of ways. More people are likely to be downloading cam rips of films, for example, during the blockbuster season. When there are more high profile movies at the cinema, because that’s when there’s going to be the highest financial investment to see all of them. Same with video-games around the end of the year, when all the big titles arrive. Or what about at the beginning of the year? When money is tighter because of the Christmas rush.

Speaking of money, there was nothing in the way of information regarding effects due to income. Minors (14-17) were included in the study, in larger numbers interestingly enough. But there was nothing in the way of ascertaining if, for example, someone working minimum wage is more likely to download a new game because they don’t have enough money for anything beyond essentials and an internet connection. Also, though there were questions regarding multiple viewings of films, to learn about whether multiple viewings in the short term involved piracy. But that’s a very skewed perspective as I know from personal experience.

It's all about the numbers. Even if they make no sense.

I am not pure as the driven snow, I’ve downloaded all sorts of stuff in the past. My own experiences are not, in any way, representative of anyone other than myself, nor am I claiming such. But in my case, and I’d wager a great many others, people download films to check them out when they can’t afford them, and frequently go on to make the purchase later. Crysis is a perfect example of this. One of the most pirated games ever made, millions of people downloaded it not because they wanted to play it illegally, but because they wanted a chance to see if their system could run it before they committed to the purchase. And that went on to be a rather successful, if increasingly shit-tastic, franchise. A solitary, but compelling piece of evidence that piracy very well can be good for you.

Then there are those people who go to see a film at the cinema, then want to watch it again, at home, before DVD’s and the like are available. Or download songs because they don’t want to deal with something like YouTube and its advertising. Meanwhile, what about films or songs that are not currently available elsewhere? And whilst we’re on the subject, what about people who borrow from a friend? Though it is (quite rightly I say) not considered piracy, it’s still a factor that could, potentially, affect total sales volumes.

I think I’ve made my point. But there’s still a lot more that should have been very basic information. Usage figures for a lot of file sharing websites aren’t the easiest thing in the world to come by, I’m sure, but there wasn’t even any attempt. Nor was any consideration for legitimate screenings, like a film being on the television and recorded. Something which, let’s not forget, was also considered piracy not so very long ago. But that’s a whole other story, we’re not here to take an in depth look at the morality of piracy. I might come back to that though.

The only point I’m trying to bring up here, is that you should look with your brain, not your biases. This report is a pile of shite. The conclusions drawn are actually, probably right, but that doesn’t make it any less useless. It is simply not worth the paper it’s printed on, and I read it as a PDF. So as I said earlier, whether the EU tried to suppress it or not, it’s completely irrelevant.

    No tags.
Related news
No related news.
Related articles
No related articles.

Comments (0)