Live in interesting times

When it comes to concerns about digital book piracy, one of the more common refrains is, “We don’t want to have what happened to the music business happen to us ”.

There are a number of risky underpinnings to that statement. The book business is demonstrably different from the music business, in ways that could affect the instance as well as the impact of piracy.

There is also a gap – some say a large one – in determining the true impact of piracy on the music business. Judging from a recent ars technica report, this information gap persists.

In 2009, music sales actually grew in 13 major markets across the world, including several (Australia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and South Korea) where enforcement was either lax or nonexistent.

In France, the country most noted for its “three strikes” law, music sales actually declined.

Still, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a global trade group, trumpeted the news, which it felt showed “… how an improved legal environment can help impact on legitimate music sales”.

Borrowing from yesterday’s post, there’s a bit of confirmation bias taking place here: we look for markets where sales are up, select those countries in which enforcement is stronger and draw the conclusion that enforcement deters piracy and drives paid sales.

As with our research on the impact of piracy on paid book sales, there is a lack of data and a potential oversupply of conclusions. Of course, there’s no shortage of opportunities to live in interesting times.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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