Google: P2P and legal music sharing both getting more popular in UK

Research from the web giant and the PRS shows that unlawful file-sharing is getting more popular in the UK, but money is also flowing in from legal alternatives

Legal music services are doing very well in the UK despite the fact that P2P file-sharing is also becoming increasingly popular in the country, Google noted on Monday as it launched research conducted alongside a rights industry body.

The web giant, which has been under pressure from the UK government over the issue of linking to copyright-infringing material, issued a 'piracy' report on Monday that was compiled alongside the PRS — Britain's royalty-collection society — and consultants at Detica. The report reiterates Google's previously-made point that blocking access to funding for pirates' sites is preferable to censoring access to the sites themselves.

The report, entitled The six business models for copyright infringement, noted that 'P2P community' sites get as many as 2.1 million unique visitors a month from the UK, and had seen a 17 percent increase in page views in the 12 months running up to February 2012. P2P sites, largely supported by advertising, also account for the only significant copyright-busting services that are actually located in the UK, the report claimed.

However, in an accompanying blog post, Google UK policy manager Theo Bertram cited figures from the UK's own record industry body, the BPI, that suggested legal services were nonetheless in rude health.

"The UK is becoming an attractive place for legitimate online content businesses," Bertram wrote. "According to the BPI, digital music counted for 55.5 percent of record industry revenues in the first quarter of the year. Advertising-supported music services grew year on year by 23.6 percent to £86.5m."

"Paid-for subscription services are booming," he added. "Their income almost doubled year-on-year to just under £9 million. Advertising-supported digital services such as Spotify and We7 raked in revenues of £3.4m, an increase of 20 percent on Q1 2011."

Legal services winning?

Bertram also suggested that legal content options were negatively affecting at least one segment of the copyright infringement market, namely sites that actually try to sell pirated music.

"Sites selling unlicensed music tend to have low and declining volumes of users, suggesting that the ease of buying legal copyrighted music is having an impact on piracy. In contrast, sites streaming free live TV account for a third of all [copyright-infringing] sites and are increasing in number the fastest," he said.

Google has lately been very keen to show how diligently it is combatting copyright infringement, through actions such as the  publication of statistics about the takedown requests it fulfils . The requests come directly from rights holders, and Google is keen to keep such matters out of legislation and the courts.

The company has been calling for the blocking of funding for pirates' sites for a while. When it was fighting the doomed SOPA legislation in the US, it made the same point. Ironically, the measure was a key plank of SOPA itself.

"Instead of imposing blocks or filters that might damage fundamental freedoms, governments should construct coalitions with reputable advertising networks, payment processors and rights-holders. Together, these coalitions can crack down and squeeze the financing behind online infringement," Bertram wrote on Monday.


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