Innovations on the tech side of music haven’t done much to curtail its piracy problem, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). The organization, which represents the interests of recording industries around the globe, released its 2018 consumer insight report on Tuesday, finding that 38 percent of consumers are obtaining music through illegal means.
The most popular form of copyright infringement is stream-ripping (practiced by 32 percent of all consumers), followed by downloads through cyberlockers or P2P (23 percent) and obtainment via search engines (17 percent); Those results come out of a study that the IFPI conducted, earlier this year, among a representative sample of 16- to 64-year-olds in 18 countries — including the U.K., U.S., Brazil, France, South Africa and South Korea — that make up the vast majority of global music consumption, according to the report. The annual study was also conducted in China and India this year for the first time, but results from those two countries are not included in the “global” figures.
Per the IFPI’s study, stream-rippers cite their primary motive as being able to listen to music offline without paying for a premium subscription. CEO Frances Moore said in a statement accompanying the report that the “evolving threat of digital copyright infringement” is one of the two most significant challenges facing the music industry (the other being the “failure to achieve fair compensation from some user-upload services”) as the music industry continues its path of regrowth. In short: Music is on the upswing again, but it’s still hemorrhaging money. Record labels are taking some legal action, with the most prominent example being the 2016 shutdown of Youtube-mp3, a popular stream-ripping site. Policymakers are also starting to peer more closely at digital music infringement issues this year, particularly in Europe where controversial copyright reforms could soon tighten the reigns on user-generated content platforms like YouTube — but there’s no panacea yet.
“Whilst the scale of copyright infringement has remained at a consistent level in recent years, the type of infringement has evolved alongside the global recording industry,” IFPI tells Rolling Stone, adding that stream-ripping in particular is stifling growth of the legal music market because those users are choosing between illegally scraping music and upgrading to a subscription streaming tier.
According to British anti-piracy company MUSO, 25 percent of all online piracy activity is music-related, accounting for roughly 74 billion visits to piracy sites in 2017, and the demand for unlicensed music is rising in double-digit percentages every year — “certainly not an audience that should be ignored,” MUSO’s CEO Andy Chatterley wrote in an op-ed this summer. Chatterley suggested that the popularity of music piracy might actually pose a “huge revenue opportunity” if artists, labels and distributors think of copyright infringers as “highly intentional and committed fans who are willing to go to any lengths to find the content they desire” and adjust their strategies accordingly.