Sweden has long been a central figure in the file-sharing phenomenon, not least due to its associations with the The Pirate Bay. As a result, for more than ten years sharing files has been a popular pastime with many young Swedes, much to the disappointment of the world’s largest entertainment companies.
The Cybernorms research group at Lund University in Sweden has been in the news several times during the past few years as a result of its work with The Pirate Bay. On more than one occasion the infamous torrent site as renamed itself to The Research Bay in order for researchers to collect information on the values, norms and conceptions of the file-sharing community.
Cybernorms have now revealed more of their findings which suggest that after years of escalation, online sharing by those in the 15-24 year-old bracket could be in decline.
Survey responses from around 4,000 individuals suggest that the number of active file-sharers has dropped in the past two years. Those who share files daily or almost daily has decreased from 32.8 percent in 2012 to 29 percent in 2014.
“It is a small but significant decrease,” Måns Svensson, head of Cybernorms at Lund University told SVT.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the decrease is the mechanism through which it was encouraged. Historically, entertainment industry scare tactics have been employed to try to reduce unauthorized sharing, but the researchers believe something much more positive is responsible.
“What is interesting is that this is the first time we have been able to see that file-sharing has gone down but without that being associated with a conviction, such as the Pirate Bay ruling,” Svensson says.
“If you listen to what young people themselves are saying, it is new and better legal services that have caused the decrease in file-sharing, rather than respect for the law. There has been a trend where alternative legal solutions such as Spotify and Netflix are changing consumption patterns among young people.”
Also of interest is the apparent effect on up-and-coming youngsters who might otherwise have begun file-sharing themselves. The researchers found that between 2009 and 2013 the percentage of young people who never share files illegally increased from 21.6 percent to 30.2 percent, a boost of well over a third.
Interestingly, in that same four-year period, the percentage of young people who said they believe that people should not share files because it is illegal dropped from 24 percent to 16.9 percent. So, even while young people are sharing files less often, their acceptance of the standards presented by the law appears to be dropping too.
In this case it does indeed appear that the carrot is mightier than the stick.