Monthly Archives: July 2015

Spain Is the Latest Nation to Make Progress Against Piracy

It’s always a rough ride for national governments trying to curb content piracy within their borders. Trying to promote legitimate streaming and download services while punishing illegitimate platforms is tough enough,m but the challenge is even harder when it comes to balancing punitive measures with education for end consumers.

For all the setbacks, though, 2015 is showing signs of success for anti-piracy initiatives at the national level. 

 

Earlier this year we were happy to report on Norway’s progress against piracy. Now, at the halfway point, it’s Spain’s turn to trumpet some positive results, as Spaniards turn towards legal channels, especially on the streaming side.

As a little background, as recently as last year, Spain was Western Europe’s black sheep of the family in terms of content theft. A report commissioned by the Coalition Against Piracy found that a massive 88 percent of all digital content accessed by Spanish consumers came was unlicensed. That was only a four percent rise on the previous year, demonstrating just how established and brazen these illegal players had become in Spanish society.

At an estimated cost approaching $2 billion lost to rights holders, Spain was clearly a piracy hotspot.

Thankfully, the country’s government took that slight to heart and enacted some serious legislation to tackle the problem, including greater attention to intellectual property complaints by the authorities and the potential to block Internet service providers (ISPs) who facilitate access to illegal sites.

These efforts began back in 2012, so there has been some overlap, but now the country’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports is reporting signs of success at every level.

The highlights include:

  • 98% of all content removal requests, covering 247 sites, have been heeded, while 95% of 444 creator complaints against unlicensed content have been resolved satisfactorily,
  • Annual music revenues returned to positive growth in 2014, following a historic low the previous year, reaching $150 million dollars and posting a further 11% growth in year-on-year spending for the first half of 2015,
  • The number of pirate sites in the top 250 visited websites in Spain has been cut in half since 2012, partly due to ISP blocks but also as a result of changing consumer behavior.

As is believed to be the case in the many Scandinavian success stories, streaming music services are driving a return to legal consumption for many Spanish music fans. The movie industry will hope to see similar results in the coming year, as Netflix gets ready to launch in Spain and bring all the competitive attention that its presence in a market tends to catalyze.

In such a piracy black spot, this news represents a positive development that creators and rights holders will hope can move from short-term trend to long-term habit.

After all, the more nations that can successfully balance education with enforcement, while at the same time introducing the kind of legal content services that consumers enjoy, the more chance we have of seeing this national progress turn into a global phenomenon.

 

 

Influential Coalition Calls for Global IP Protection

A coalition of 85 think tanks, advocacy groups, and organizations has written to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to push home just how vital copyright is for vibrant economies around the world. The collective spans 51 countries and represents a significant request to develop intellectual property respect on a global scale.

The group, headed up by the Property Rights Alliance, reaffirmed their support for strong IP laws in a letter to the Director General of WIPO, Dr. Francis Gurry (pictured below, right, with actor Javier Bardem).

 

The communication covers eight key areas that the collective organizations believe cut to the heart of copyright’s social and economic benefits. These are:

  • Rule of Law, Property, and a Transparent Political Environment are the Foundation of Fair and Prosperous Societies
  • Intellectual Property Rights are Affirmed in International Treaties as a Human Right
  • Intellectual Property Rights Promote Free Speech and Expression
  • Intellectual Property Rights are Integral to Consumer Protection and Global Security
  • Strong Intellectual Property Rights and Contractual Freedom Promote Free and Competitive Markets
  • Intellectual Property Rights are Vital to Economic Competitiveness
  • Intellectual Property Rights Must Be Protected Through Effective IP Provisions in Trade Agreements
  • Intellectual Property Rights Must Be Respected and Protected on the Internet

As a set of guiding principles and touchstones for a stronger society, this is a compelling list. It’s all too easy to limit our thinking around copyright and intellectual property to piracy of music and movies, but the reality is that IP lies at the heart of our culture.

This is because strong copyright law drives creativity.Local access, global network

Knowing that what we create is protected by law and, accordingly, that we can leverage it for economic gain if a market exists, develops an environment in which creative minds can flourish.

They understand not only that their work will be respected, but that it will be protected so that they can build a career upon it, rather than just dabble as a hobbyist.

The letter echoes this sentiment in its conclusion:

“Advanced societies have long understood that by protecting the proprietary rights of artists, authors, entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors, they were promoting the greater public welfare. “

Urging the maintenance and development of intellectual property safeguards for the next generation, the letter neatly sums up the challenge facing creators on a global scale. With such rapid advancement of technology as we have seen in the last few decades, protecting the core concepts of IP becomes more important than ever.

Doing so on a global scale is even more challenging, but equally offers enormous potential for developing and developed markets alike.

The World Intellectual Property Organization is uniquely placed to guide treaty discussion and policy on the international stage, and it can aid creative minds everywhere by heeding the guidance laid out in the coalition’s letter.

 

Will International Appeal Give Apple Music the Edge Over Spotify?

Apple Music launched last week with less fanfare than expected, perhaps a victim of early holiday travel ahead of U.S. Independence Day.

Regardless, it is the long haul that matters most to Apple, as the world’s most valuable brand attempts to claw back the early-mover advantage that Swedish rival Spotify has enjoyed – and exploited  – to date.

Part of that strategy is likely to be played out on the global stage, as Apple’s new streaming service is available in significantly more markets than its peers. 

 

For a quick comparison, Apple Music has launched in more than 100 countries, which is almost twice as many as Spotify currently operates in. Furthermore, there are a number of territories in which Apple has launched its service where neither Spotify nor any other notable competitors currently operate.

Perhaps most importantly of all, these are not all smaller territories with limited market potential.

Among the territories in which Apple Music will beat Spotify to the punch are India, Russia, Japan, and  Nigeria. Between these four alone, the number of potential consumers could stretch into the billions, although activating them inevitably poses a major challenge given prevailing levels of piracy and, with the exception of Japan, less mature streaming markets. This provides a stark contrast to the reverse situation for Spotify, wherein the only markets it will now operate without competition from Apple Music are Turkey, Taiwan and smaller European nations like Liechtenstein and Andorra.

The importance of this advantage cannot be overstated. For many consumers in these countries, which potentially hold the key to the global expansion of streaming music, Apple’s platform will be their first experience of the phenomenon. Given the game-changing nature of digital streaming, not to mention the fact that many hold it up as the long-term solution to piracy, the potential for Apple Music to take giant strides into these territories is just as crucial as its need to build a customer base in the United States, Europe, and Australia.

In June, Spotify announced that it has passed the 20 million mark in terms of paid subscribers, while its overall active user base now numbers more than 75 million globally. Although that growth rate is increasing quickly, Apple Music is not competing from a standing start. The hundreds of millions of active iTunes accounts the Cupertino company has on file provide a solid base to convert to its new service, in addition to the Beats Music users that it hopes to bring across from the service it purchased last year.

All of this sets the stage for an intriguing evolution of the streaming music space. The market, although relatively young, has been waiting for some time for Apple to enter the fray and challenge Spotify’s dominance. It is clearly a battle that Apple intends to win, if the brand’s commitment to pay artists for all streams during its three-month free trial period is anything to go by. That will cost Apple a pretty penny, but the company clearly believes the long-term pay off in terms of brand awareness and the associated loyalty will be worth it.

For artists, the hope has to be that Apple can use its extensive resources to raise awareness of streaming music services and increase . It this really is the piracy killer that many believe it to be, making streaming subscriptions a truly global trend will have everyone involved in the music business singing Apple’s praises.