Digital Music

EU Youth Just Aren’t That Into Stealing Music

While organizations like the IFPI and the RIAA have been claiming that piracy is still an endemic problem among music consumers, some new data out of the EU suggests that young people living there are in fact pirating music less and less. Here we look at what some of the reasons behind this dip might be.


Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

It’s possible that they are an anomaly against the rest of the world, but young people in the EU are less likely to steal music these days. This is according to the 2019 Intellectual Property And Youth Scoreboard by the European Union Intellectual Property Unit that surveyed people ages 15 to 24. This study flies in the face of what’s been recently preached by label organizations like the IFPI and RIAA, which claim that music piracy is still a huge problem.

The study found these four factors as central to why piracy was decreasing.

Quality matters, and cost is also a main factor but has declined in importance.

Young people care about quality when it comes to shopping online for digital content or physical goods. Furthermore, they are concerned about making purchases in a safe online environment. Affordability arguments are ranked highest among the reasons to stop engaging in IP infringing behaviour, but fewer young people in 2019 agree that this is a primary reason to stop.

Legality appears to be resonating slightly more with young people.

When it comes to young people and intellectual property infringement, there is a big difference between buying fake products and accessing digital content from illegal sources, as was the case in 2016. Only one in five had bought counterfeit goods whereas twice this figure had accessed digital content from illegal sources. An indicative finding of the 2019 Youth IP Scoreboard is that there has been a slight decrease (4 percentage points) in the proportion of young people who have intentionally accessed digital
content through illegal sources and an increase in the proportion who have intentionally not used illegal sources (11 percentage points). This shift is not reflected in young people’s propensity to buy fake goods, although this behaviour is far less common than accessing digital content through illegal sources.

The market has changed.

The idea of subscription-based business models for digital content appears to have gained traction, with a 9 percentage point increase in those saying that paying a subscription to access all content is important. Furthermore, the patterns in what young people are accessing have shifted significantly since 2016, with a 17 percentage point decrease in the number of young people saying they used illegal sources to access music and a 7 percentage point decrease in the number saying they used illegal sources to access films.

The reasons for using illegal sources are less likely to be about the lack of a need to register and access content by item. Together, these findings suggest that the trend towards subscription service legal offers, at least in some markets, may be influencing young people’s online behaviour towards these legal offers and subsequently reducing the attraction of illegal offers. Young people think twice if they sense a risk to their personal safety, but are increasingly convinced by moral arguments

Young people are sensitive to the risks to themselves if they choose to engage in behaviour that infringes the IP of others online.

The risk of their credit card details being stolen or their computer/device being infected by viruses/malware are the biggest reasons for young people to think twice about purchasing digital content from illegal sources or counterfeit goods. Nevertheless, it is some of the more ‘moral’ arguments that have become more convincing for young people. Young people increasingly think counterfeit goods are ‘not cool’ and are concerned that the ‘artists/creators and the team behind them may be harmed’.”

The study also found:

  • “Young people who intentionally use illegal sources are more likely to be male than female, to be over the age of 17, and to have a higher-than-average level of education and be students.”
  • “Young people from the Baltic countries are most likely to say they intentionally use illegal sources.”
  • The main reason of pirating music by quite a margin continues to be price, with over half (56%) mentioning this. The next most common are: that desired content was only available illegally (30%); a larger choice of content was available (26%); the content was for personal use only (24 %); there was no need to register with the source site (24%); and the content was available quicker (24%).

No doubt there will be a similar study on people of a similar age in the U.S. It will be interesting to see how closely the results match their EU counterparts.

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