Artists Don’t Think Piracy Hurts Them Financially, Study Shows

When anti-piracy outfits and Big Media speak out against file-sharing they often claim to be standing up for the interests of the artists. However, a new survey among nearly 4,000 artists has revealed that nearly a quarter are pirating the works of fellow artists. Contrary to popular belief among higher level execs in the entertainment industry, the younger generation of artists believe that file-sharing helps them to gain an audience.

Yesterday, the Dutch Government announced plans to outlaw downloading of all copyrighted material and measures to make it easier to block websites that facilitate copyright infringement. An interesting move, particularly since a survey they published on the same day shows that artists’ views on file-sharing are not all that negative.

Through an elaborate survey the Government wanted to find out more about the views of artists on piracy, DRM, and other opportunities and challenges they face in the digital era. The questions covered in this article were answered by nearly 4,000 artists of all ages, including musicians, filmmakers, authors and photographers. The results give a unique insight into the position of artists on this controversial subject.

One of the results that stands out directly is that artists are pirates too. Not all of them of course, but a healthy percentage. Of all the respondents surveyed on the subject, 22% indicated that they had downloaded copyrighted works without the owners’ permission in the last 12 months. Another 71% told the researchers they hadn’t downloaded anything without permission during this period, and the remaining 7% didn’t know, or didn’t want to answer the question.

A follow up question among those who admitted to downloading others’ copyrighted works, found that music is by far the most downloaded media type. Over 80% of the downloaders downloaded music, and little over 40% also downloaded movies. Other categories such as E-books and games were less popular, with around 5% downloaders interested in these works.

Aside from their own ‘piracy’ habits, the survey also asked the respondents about their role as ‘victims’ of unauthorized file-sharing.

One of the questions dealt with whether the artists think they are being financially harmed by file-sharing. Interestingly, only about 12% of artists completely agree with the statement that file-sharing hurts them (~16% agree). The majority of the artists are not convinced that file-sharing is doing them any financial harm, and some actually think the opposite is true. What’s worth nothing is that higher educated artists in particular believe that file-sharing is doing them no financial harm.

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Instead of hurting their wallets, the majority of the artists believe that file-sharing helps to promote their work. Little over 50% of those questioned responded affirmatively to the question of whether file-sharing helps to get their work known among the public, while only 5% completely disagreed with this statement. In particular the younger artists (< 25yo) recognized promotional benefits, as more than 80% thought file-sharing increases the popularity of their work.

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Moving on to DRM, the survey found that 30% of the artists believe that DRM is hurting legitimate customers through access restrictions. Despite this negative view, 70% of all artists still believe their work should be protected by DRM. With regard to DRM there appears to be quite a large generation gap. More than 40% of the artists younger than 25 years old say DRM is hurting their relationship with the public, while none of the artists over 75 years old believes it does any harm.

Finally, the artists were also surveyed on whether individual file-sharers should be treated more harshly. Interestingly, close to 60% indicate that they should, with an even higher percentage among the older artists. Even among the people who admitted that they were downloading without permission, nearly one third said that harsher measures are needed to deter file-sharers.

All in all it can be concluded from the survey that the majority of Dutch artists don’t believe that unauthorized file-sharing is hurting them financially, and that it may actually help them to gain a larger audience. Despite these liberal views, a majority of the artists support harsher measures against unauthorized file-sharing and for DRM to ‘protect’ their works.

A mixed message, but one that’s hopeful, especially since the younger generations recognize the benefits of sharing, even when it’s without permission.

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