EDRI condemns actions against European file-sharers

By EDRi · April 7, 2004

European Digital Rights condemns action taken by the international phonographic industry association (IFPI) against European users of file-sharing networks. On 30 March IFPI announced legal actions against a total of 247 file-sharers in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Canada. Similar actions were announced by the French and Swiss music industry shortly after.
Following previous actions in the United States, European internet users will be charged with illegally making available hundreds of music tracks for copying, transmission and distribution via file-sharing services.

In Italy 30 file-sharers are accused, mostly users of ‘Opennap’. At the request of FIMI, the Italian music industry federation, financial police has raided the houses of these file-sharers and seized their computers, hard disks and CD’s to secure evidence. The German section of IFPI has announced lawsuits against 68 users. In response, the German Chaos Computer Club (by far the largest usergroup in Europe), announced a campaign to boycott the music industry.
IFPI argues there are enough legitimate download services in Europe, with 300.000 titles available for download in Europe from 50 different websites. According to EDRI these services do not live up to consumers’ expectations because of the limited choice, the high cost, and DRM-features that prevent format-shifting.

Limited choice: The 300,000 songs available for legal download are only a small fraction of the millions of songs peer-to-peer networks offer. Non-mainstream music is often only available from these file-sharing networks.

High cost: when each downloaded song costs around 1 Euro, a whole CD will cost about the price of the CD itself in a store. If consumers want to burn the downloaded songs to a CD, they have to pay the price for the raw CD in addition, which in many countries contains a levy that goes to the music industry as well. The prices for CDs containing music are very high already, and are one of the reasons for the reduced sales of the music industry.

A scan of the CD-sector by the Dutch Competition Authority in April 2003 indicates for example that CD-prices in the Netherlands are among the highest in Europe, but no proof was ever given to correlate dropping CD-sales to file-sharing. An empirical analysis of the download behaviour of internet users in the USA also demonstrates that the decline in record sales over 2000-2002 is not primarily due to file sharing. According to the survey, file trading led the average user to purchase an additional 8 albums.

Incompatible formats: with a few exceptions, the industry’s download services offer songs in the Windows Media Player, Real Media and Quicktime formats. These files have so-called Digital Rights Management (DRM) features, with numerous limitations. Very often, it is not possible to burn the songs to a CD, to play them on MP3 players or to shift them to a different format in order to be able to play them on a program other than the one foreseen by the rights holder.

European Digital Rights calls upon the media industry to develop services that are attractive to users of the Internet. Only then will the industry succeed in getting rid of the P2P problem. If it should continue with its current strategy of backing unattractive services with legal threats, the result will be further alienation in particular of young users.

EDRI press release (31.03.2004) http://www.edri.org/cgi-bin/index?id=000100000146

IFPI press release (30.03.2004) http://www.ifpi.com/site-content/press/20040330.html

CCC campaign ‘Boycott the music industry’ http://www.ccc.de/campaigns/boycott-musicindustry

Empirical analysis: the effect of file sharing on record sales (March 2004) http://www.unc.edu/~cigar/papers/FileSharing_March2004.pdf

French music industry announces similar actions (in French, 30.03.2004) http://fr.news.yahoo.com/040330/85/3q2cg.html

Swiss music industry announces similar actions (in German, 30.03.2004) http://www.blick.ch/PB2G/PB2GA/pb2ga.htm?snr=68462