The Great Music Bailout


Forget the greed on Wall Street. A new study indicates it may simply be the downloading habits of the average peer-to-peer user that toppled the global economy.

According to a report commissioned by the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property, illegal file sharing in Britain costs the country 12.5 billion pounds ($19.4 million) and at least four thousand jobs a year.

How did they get these impressive numbers? The study took the average number of users (1.3 million) on a particular P2P network and assumed that each person would download one thing (whether it be a copy of the new U2 album or an old World of Warcraft game) each and every day. Which adds up to a lot of money over the course of a year.

Now imagine the total number of people in the world who use P2P downloading sites and apply the same formula. The Pirate Bay alone has 22 million users, according to Forbes. The resulting numbers would rival the stimulus package.

"[I]llegal downloading robs our economy of millions of pounds every year and seriously damages business and innovation throughout the U.K.," said David Lammy, England’s minister of state for intellectual property, in a statement. "It is something that needs tackling, and we are serious about doing so. However, it is also an international problem that needs an international solution through countries working together."

On the flip side, one economist offers the example of Australia, where an estimated 57 percent of the population uses peer-to-peer networks. The government owns a 17 percent share in the major P2P provider, Telstra, providing them with billions in revenue. (Ironically, Australia still has very rigid copyright laws, so they are actually prospering financially from something technically illegal). If countries relaxed their copyright rules, they could collect revenue from holding shares in these companies and also through the various accessories people buy to feed their downloading habits (external hard drives, portable music players, etc.)

Record companies have for years been trying to pressure peer-to-peer users to quit downloading so that record companies and musicians could prosper. Maybe they should switch to another efficient mantra: Stop it for the sake of your country.