John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Digital Music Sales Are Up. In Other News, Recording Industry's Whining Trend Line Remains Steady

Digital music sales are soaring, but that hasn’t stopped the recording industry from continuing to spin its long-running woe-is-me tale of piracy and declining revenues.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s 2008 Digital Music Report (PDF), global digital music sales rose to $2.9 billion in 2007, up from $2.1 billion in 2006.

Now that 40% increase isn’t nearly the doubling of digital sales we saw in 2006, but it’s not insubstantial, either. Especially when one considers that digital sales grew to account for 15% of the world’s music market, up from 10% in 2006. That means that almost a sixth of music sales already come through digital channels. This despite five or so years of the recording industry’s Keystone Kops approach to the digital music revolution.

All things considered, things aren’t going too poorly–even if the growth of digital music sales hasn’t yet offset declines in physical music. That being the case, it’s difficult not to look askance at the IFPI’s calls for governments and Internet service providers to take a hard line against file-sharing.

“Copyright theft has been allowed to run rampant on [ISP] networks under the guise of technological advancement,” IFPI Chairman and CEO John Kennedy wrote in the report. “Some estimates say no less than 80% of all Internet traffic comprises copyright-infringing files on peer-to-peer networks.”–80%? Does the IFPI suffer from the same math disability as the MPAA?–“ISPs have largely stood by, allowing a massive devaluation of copyrighted music. This in turn–and despite all the positives about our digital growth–has prompted a crisis in recorded music that has wide implications for the whole digital marketplace and all those businesses to whom music is an important ingredient. … Today, however, a sea-change is happening. The whole music sector, governments and even some ISPs themselves, are beginning to accept that the carriers of digital content must play a responsible role in curbing the systemic piracy that is threatening the future of all digital commerce. After years of discussing and debating, I am convinced it is no longer a question of whether the ISPs act–the question is when and how.”

And the answer? Five bucks and a copy of the latest Britney Spears album says it’s network-level filtering.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik