Friday, 29 March 2013

If you are intending on pirating season 3 of Game of Thrones...

 ... it's 36% likely that you will.

Well, that 36% comes from your intention, anyway. There's a whole host of factors out of reach from researchers' predictions.

As confused as Khaleesi when she lost her dragon eggs? Read on...

A recent article which you can access here neatly ties together two (inter-related) recurring themes in the short history of this blog:

(Healthy) skepticism over self-report methodology


The difficulties in actually measuring  piracy

Taylor (2012), who has written extensively on digital piracy, firstly explains how: 'the predictive validity of behavioural intentions on subsequent behaviors is not absolute and varies across domains of inquiry' (p. 472). He then goes on to demonstrate a novel way of unobtrusively measuring participants' file-sharing activity - whilst retaining participants' anonymity.

The result? Taylor shows that intention to pirate does indeed predict actual frequency of piracy behaviours, suggesting that intention accounts for some 36% of observed file-sharing behaviours - slightly higher than previous analysis suggests.

Whilst the methodology (click the link and read 'C. Measuring digital piracy behavior') introduces new limitations, by the authors own admission, it does reveal that innovative ways to measure actual piracy behaviour exist. Ethically questionable, it also shows such approaches are a time-consuming pain-in-the-ass.

Ultimately (and perhaps ironically?) Taylor's (2012) research will live to serve future research employing self-report methodology; now resting upon these findings to justify the approach.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog where I have finally figured out how (but perhaps not when) to use hashtags..


Taylor, S.A. (2012). Evaluating digital piracy intentions on Behaviors. Journal of Services Marketing, 26(7) 472-483.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A call for more critical thinking: The example of studies showing 'piracy does not harm legal sales'

I feel compelled to add my two cents on the ongoing trend that is the findings of a recent report by the European Commission which suggests that piracy has no impact on legal digital sales.

Firstly, and importantly, it is crucial to acknowledge that this might very well be the case. Other research has made similar claims. However, many more studies (some of which are reviewed in a previous blog entry here) arrive at the opposite, more intuitive conclusion.

They can't all be right.

The methodological approach to measuring this phenomenon is the likely source of the lack of uniform findings, and that's what I want to talk about (though I welcome healthy skepticism over 'hidden agendas').

Digital piracy is difficult to measure. Just a few reasons for this include, to draw from Hargreaves (2011): it leaves no physical trace; survey respondents are often confused over what is legal and what is not and may be motivated to deny or exaggerate piracy behaviours; free downloads are not always illegal nor are paid downloads always legal; what is legal in one country may be illegal in another; not all P2P is illegal; studies measuring piracy using internet traffic are unable to take into account various factors when drawing conclusions.

This final one is most relevant for the study under question here, where IFPI condemns the methodology used, quite rightly drawing attention to some of the particular shortcomings in the approach.

In all likelihood, you, dear reader, may have 'made your mind up' on piracy long ago but regardless I urge you to be more critical when interpreting such studies.

Who is saying what? Why? How did they arrive at their conclusions?

It's so rare to see informed debate on research methodology in piracy research in the mainstream, so congratulations Music Week for publishing that article. I hope you, dear reader, will consider taking that extra few minutes when you stumble upon some research to ask some important questions about how the results you are confronted with came into passing.

Think of it like that extra few minutes to make sure your food is cooked thoroughly. Without it, the truth might taste bad for a particular reason: it just ain't right.

As a sidepoint, I'm sure you can also think of plenty of other difficulties which confront the digital piracy researcher (I know I can).

 Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Aguiar, L. and Martens, B. (2013). Digital Music Consumption on the Internet:Evidence from Clickstream Data. Working paper.

Hargreaves, I. (2011). Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth. London: HM Treasury

Pakinkis, T. (2013). IFPI slams EU piracy study as 'flawed and misleading' [online]. Available from:  [21 March, 2013].

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Do pirates spend more on music?


Is what the literature on this topic appears to conclude.

Studies by Zentner (2006), Thun (2009) and Huygen et al (2009), amongst others, paint a clear picture of this. This trend has also been found across different cultures, most recently in Karaganis (2012) who observed this amongst both US and German samples.

They conclude: "if absolute spending is the metric, then P2P users value music more highly than their non-P2P using, digital-collecting peers, not less. They're better digital consumers".

There's loads of research on this, with several news articles including BBC (2009) reporting these findings from different studies.

Given the previous blog post proposed that piracy offsets legal sales, how is it that pirates can also spend more on music legally?

While this remains unclear, it is likely that live music has alot to do with it. A relatively under-researched phenomenon (in the field of digital piracy), we do know, for example that demand for live music is reduced where piracy is prevented (Gayer and Shy, 2006).

Have a look at the links below and make your own mind up.

Tweets between major life events @musicpiracyblog


BBC (2009). File-sharers are big spenders too [online]. Available from: [Accessed November 4, 2009].

Gayer, A. and Shy, O. (2006). Publishers, artists, and copyright enforcement. Information Economics and Policy, 18, 374-384.

Huygen, A., Rutten, P., Huveneers, S., Limonard, S., Poost, J., Leeheer, J., Janseen, K., van Eijk, N. and Helberger, N. (2009). Ups and downs: Economic and cultural effects of file sharing on music, file and games. Commissioned by Ministries of Education, Culture and Science, Economic Affairs and Justice [online]. Available from: [Accessed October 17, 2012].

Karaganis, J. (2012). Where do you music collections come from? [online]. Available from: [Accessed October 17, 2012].

Thun, C. (2009). Introducing Hollywood's Best Customers: Vuze User vs. General Interest: Comparative Data [online]. Available from: [Accessed October 21, 2012].

Zentner, A. (2006). Measuring the effect of file sharing on music purchases. Journal of Law and Economics, 49(1), 63-90.