Online piracy impact ‘unclear’ says new study

THE true impact of unauthorised online file sharing is unclear, with far more research done into its effect on music than on any other form of media, according to a study by a Glasgow University-based research group.

More research is needed into the reasons behind file sharing, according to academics at CREATe. Picture: Johnston Press

CREATe, the UK research centre on copyright, studied over 200 academic papers on the behaviour, attitudes and intentions of file sharers.

Report co-author Professor Daniel Zizzo, an economist at the University of East Anglia, said: “Most evidence is based on the unlawful file sharing of music, which has been subjected to far more research than movies and software, which themselves have been studied far more than videogames, books or TV.

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“This means there is a real risk of designing policy which meets the needs of a specific industry, possibly at the expense of other creative industries which are less well represented in the literature.”

Focus on ‘lost sales’

Prof Zizzo said current research tends to focus on hypothetical sales ‘lost’ as a result of files being shared between users, rather than looking at the behaviour of those sharing the files.

He wrote: “Focussing on ‘lost sales’, and examining people’s hypothetical willingness to pay with and without the possibility of unlawful file sharing is insufficient.”

Professor Martin Kretschmer, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the University of Glasgow, and Director of CREATe, said: “Legislating without understanding behaviour produces lop-sided policies.

“The most useful evidence increases our understanding of how to turn infringers into customers”.

The report identifies five possible reasons for users to pirate files - financial, experiential, technical, social and moral - and calls for more research into the impact of these “utilities”.

CREATe is based at the University of Glasgow, with researchers at Strathclyde, Edinburgh and St Andrews universities. UEA, Nottingham and Goldsmiths are also involved in the centre’s research.