Friday , May 20 2022

Is File Sharing Down? Will It Stay That Way?

A new Pew study says that music file sharing is way down and paid online music services are way up. While this is clearly good news for the paid services in particular and the recording industry in general, it was entirely predictable that the RIAA’s lawsuit campaign against sharers would decrease usage, at least for a time – how could it not? A huge wrinkle in the results of the study is that it was completed on December 14 and, in Pew’s own words:

    on December 19, the previous Verizon ruling regarding the ISP subpoena process was overturned. The D.C. Circuit Court dismissed the previously issued subpoenas, arguing that they are not authorized under the language of the DMCA because Verizon was not storing infringing material on its network. The new ruling will impact the way the recording industry and other copyright owners pursue Internet users suspected of copyright infringement, forcing them to file lawsuits against anonymous “John Doe” defendants and acquire subpoenas from a judge in order to learn the names and addresses of file sharers.

Will file sharers feel less threatened if it’s significantly harder for the RIAA to track them down? How will the RIAA respond?

More from the study:

    The percentage of online Americans downloading music files on the Internet has dropped by half and the numbers who are downloading files on any given day have plunged since the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) began filing suits in September against those suspected of copyright infringement. Furthermore, a fifth of those who say they continue to download or share files online say they are doing so less often because of the suits.

    A new nationwide phone survey of 1,358 Internet users from November 18-December 14 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that the percentage of music file downloaders had fallen to 14% (about 18 million users) from 29% (about 35 million) when the Project last reported on downloading from a survey conducted during March 12-19 and April 29-May 20. On an average day during the spring survey, 4% of Internet users said they downloaded files. In the November-December survey just 1% said they were downloading files on any given day during the survey period.

    Furthermore, data from comScore Media Metrix, based on the company’s continuously measured consumer panel, show significant declines in the number of people with peer-to-peer file sharing applications running on their computers. In fact, comScore found that usage of each of the four applications sampled – KaZaa, WinMX, BearShare and Grokster – dropped in November versus one year ago. The declines in the user base of each of these applications from November 2002 to November 2003 were: 15% for KaZaa, 25% for WinMX, 9% for BearShare, and 59% for Grokster.

    Conversely, comScore has observed that in recent months a growing number of consumers have turned to a new generation of paid online music services. In November 2003, 3.2 million Americans visited, which re-launched as a paid online music service in late October. Apple’s iTunes, which expanded to serve Windows-based PC users in mid-October, drew 2.7 million such visitors in November.

    Furthermore, in the Pew Internet Project survey, the percentage of Internet users who say they share files such as music, video, picture files or computer games with others online dropped from 28% in a June 2003 survey to 20% in the November-December survey. Compared to music downloading, the drop in those who say they share music or other types of media files was less pronounced. This may reflect the large amount of media attention focused on the recording industry’s attempts specifically to curb music downloading and sharing, while efforts to target those who circulate copyrighted images or programs have been less visible. Additionally, there may be a fraction of Internet users who are simply less likely to admit to either downloading music or sharing files due to the negative media portrayal of the activity.

    While multiple factors may have contributed to the decline, every nook of the music downloading world has been affected, including the parts of the population that were the most prolific users of online file-sharing networks. Steep drops in downloading were recorded among students, broadband users, young adults (those ages 18-29) and Internet veterans. The groups that recorded the steepest plunges in the percentage of downloaders were women (58% decrease in the size of the downloading population), those with some college education (61% decrease) and parents with children living at home (58% decrease). The survey was conducted among those 18 and older.

I wonder if the numbers would be different had the survey included 12-17 year-olds.

Please see my overview of the online digital music scenario and predictions for 2004 here.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected],, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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