French anti-P2P law reduces piracy, but does nothing for music sales

There are plenty of horror stories about how piracy is costing musicians money. They're being robbed of the royalties for their music, and the pirates responsible aren't paying a dime. Not many people have thought to question this argument, since it seems very plausible at a glance. You would definitely be forgiven for trusting this to be accurate.

Except maybe it isn't. Ars Technica reports that it doesn't seem to be the case in France. The French anti-piracy laws are among the strictest in the world. If you're caught three times, you're finished with internet in the country. No provider will take you on as a customer. Private companies are paid to scan file sharing networks for copyright-infringing files, and then also to warn the pirates that they are aware of their practices. This law is enforced by an agency called Hadopi, and initial studies suggested piracy had increased since the French authorities cracked down on it, which would have been a bitter irony.

Now, it seems piracy levels have fallen considerably. Music sales are still declining though, so maybe these pirates weren't downloading for the convenience at all. Hadopi only monitors peer-to-peer networks, so it is possible the French pirates have simply set sail for torrents and other illicit methods of acquiring their materials. Hadopi's most recent study had the following to report:

"no indication that there has been a massive transfer in forms of use to streaming technologies or direct downloads."

Music and video agencies did not see any real increase in profit compared to 2010 during 2011. Instead, they saw a drop in sales of 3.9% within the recorded music market. The video market did not drop as far, at a decrease of 'only' 2.9%. Revenue for streaming and subscription services increased by 73%, so it seems people are beginning to rely on services like Deezer and Spotify to get their musical fix.

Video-on-demand sales have increased by 50%. This all goes to show a gradual transition from physical media among the French people, more than anything else. Despite all the claims piracy is causing chaos to the world of entertainment, it might not be doing nearly as much as has been said. Physical sales would likely have decreased regardless of piracy levels due to the increased convenience of clicking a video in Netflix, or a track in Spotify, over going and buying elsewhere.

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