Music Biz Warns: Piracy Is Not Just About P2P

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You could shut down all the P2P BitTorrent trackers in the world but web pirates would still find other ways to share files directly with each other.

At least, that’s the warning from the British Phonographic Industry which, in a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, found that, while P2P BitTorrent sharing in the UK is stabilising, the use of direct transfer sites and message boards is on the rise.

Of the 3,442 people aged 16 to 54 polled, 29 percent admitted downloading music from non-official P2P or direct transfer sites: 47 percent of those admitted using what the BPI calls “overseas unlicensed MP3 pay sites”; 42 percent used Usenet-based bulletin boards, or “newsgroups”; 28 percent used MP3 search engines and 18 percent used links to (legal) file transfer sites like Rapidshare and Megaupload.

P2P users said they intend to increase their filesharing activities by five percent in the next six months, compared to a 40 percent predicted increase for foreign, non-official MP3 pay sites and 32 percent for newsgroups.

This is proof that the music biz’s piracy headache runs far deeper than just P2P trackers: legal action may have shut down the massive Mininova tracker — and may yet kill off the Pirate Bay — but what can be done about users sending each other files through mostly legal means? It’s the digital equivalent of home taping, the bĂȘte noire of the BPI in the 1980s which ran a high profile campaign warning the practice would “kill music” (turns out it didn’t).

BPI CEO Geoff Taylor bemoans the fact that illegal downloading persists despite “35 legal online music services” being available in the UK. He’s calling on the government to include measures in the Digital Economy Bill to tackle non-P2P filesharing as well as the P2P menace. Swedish rightsholders have met with success by threatening pirates with fines and disconnection by forcing ISPs to hand over IP addresses — but how do you find out what private citizens are sending each other on a one-to-one basis?

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