A doctoral thesis signed by Staffan Albinsson confirms what the music industry had been saying for more than a decade, that online piracy is bad for business. But the internet comes to the rescue in other forms, including music streaming services which, according to Albinsson’s findings, are a great and valuable source of revenues.
“Nothing New under the Sun – Essays on the Economic History of Intellectual Property Rights in Music” (the name of the thesis) starts by driving the reader’s attention towards the first major lawsuit of its kind – Metallica vs. Napster. The result of this epic battle is known by everyone, but here’s where things get really interesting. After the great fall of Napster and other file-sharing platforms, it was time for legitimacy; different services, including iTunes, made the first move by legitimizing music downloads.
“In 2011 their income from music streaming increased by 70 percent from the year before, and today downloads are generating more income than CD sales,” Albinsson said.
His study focused on Swedish statistics that covered a vast period of time (from 1980 until 2009), confirming that online piracy had indeed taken its toll on the industry’s revenues. Nonetheless, the same period of time recorded an increase in revenues from live concerts, radio broadcasts and TV. In addition, starting with 2010 music streaming services (the author mentions Spotify and Pandora as an example) had also contributed to the overall earnings of musicians.
“The consumer can access a lot of material without breaking the law, and the rights holders are getting paid. There is no need for a discussion until next time new technology is introduced,” Albinsson pointed out.
“I’m convinced that different forms of intellectual property rights have different qualitative implications,” he added, with hopes that the industry and all who are concerned about online piracy will consider the qualitative implications of IP laws.
“The most illegally downloaded music is probably also the most expensive music to produce, and if the high costs cannot be recovered, this music won’t be there to enjoy.”