Music Piracy May Be Going Away But It's Not Dead Yet

A recent study suggests that the music industry has done such a good job pushing people toward legal services (iTunes, Rdio, Spotify, etc.) that online music piracy has all but disappeared. While it’s probably true that the proliferation of legal alternatives has made illegal methods less attractive—why run the risk of contracting malware trying to download the new Sei A album from a shady source when you can just as easily download it from iTunes?—the idea that music piracy has “disappeared” is probably a bit overenthusiastic.

The problem with the study, which, as TorrentFreak notes, is generally robust, is that it’s weighted toward marginalizing smaller files. It looks at “popular” public BitTorrent trackers, but defines popularity by looking at the number of leechers a site has. Albums are generally under 100MB, and even people with slower Internet connections shouldn’t be leeching too long.

Meanwhile, the files most found to be traded on public BitTorrent trackers, pornography and movies, are several typically hundred megabytes in size, larger still if we’re talking about high-definition rips. In other words, people downloading these type of files will necessarily be leeching for a longer amount of time than people who are downloading music. That gives the impression that nobody is downloading music anymore, and that movies and pornography are the pirates’ new favorites.

That may help explain why the adult entertainment industry has now turned to suing end-users for pirating, often via BitTorrent, its content.

Not that this means anything, but I genuinely don’t know anybody who still downloads anything from public BitTorrent trackers. You’d be a fool to do so in 2011. That’s not to say that private BitTorrent sites aren’t still popular—they are, and they’re generally of a very high quality—but the days of the public BitTorrent tracker being the “go-to” place to grab your “stuff” surely has fallen out of favor within my sphere of influence.