Illegal Music Download Dropped 17 Percent in 2012, It Wasn't Because of the Lawsuits

The rise of alternative legal ways of listening to music is the main culprit

Music sales are on the rise, or rather record label revenues. For the first time since 1999, a year-to-year growth was reported in 2012. At the same time, another report shows that illegal downloads, in the US at least, are dropping, by a significant margin.

According to NDP, the number of people using peer-to-peer (P2P) services to download music dropped by 17 percent between 2011 and 2012. The amount of content downloaded via P2P dropped by an even larger 26 percent.

Of course, you could argue that people just aren't using BitTorrent all that much anymore and have moved on to other means of pirating stuff.

But NDP saw a 44 percent drop in the amount of music ripped from borrowed CDs, a 25 percent drop in the music copied from friends, and a 28 percent decrease in downloads from cyberlocker sites.

All of this should be music to the recording industry's ears. It could also serve as a justification for the unrelenting pursuit of pirates, pirate sites and companies.

But the report makes it very clear that it wasn't the lawsuit, the MegaUpload shut down, or anything of that sort that got people to stop pirating, it was the availability of legal alternatives, namely streaming services.

While Spotify may come up as the prime example of such a service, it's very likely that this has more to do with the availability of music on YouTube than anything else.

No one can afford not to "be" on YouTube, small bands and huge pop stars alike. And, while some or even much of the music on YouTube may have been uploaded illegally, it stays on YouTube with the approval of right holders.

YouTube's Content ID technology is very effective at discovering infringing videos and removing them if that's what the owners of the copyright want.

Increasingly though, labels have found that they stand to profit by leaving infringing videos in place and reaping the rewards from the ads run next to them.

Don't expect any of this to sink in with the recording industry any time soon, the six-strikes anti-piracy scheme in the US is just getting under way. The record labels have also fought against YouTube and Spotify for years and will continue to do so.

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