Tag Archives: music

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.

 

 

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.

How “Going Global” in New Zealand Hurts Legitimate Internet Providers

Last month we examined the issue of Internet providers in New Zealand being warned by the country’s broadcasters to take action against subscribers who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around geographical licensing restrictions. With these services, viewers around the country can access and view website content that might otherwise be restricted to other nations or regions.

Although this can sound harmless enough on the surface, when it comes to valuable content like movies, television, and music, there’s every chance it could mean the difference between business and bankruptcy for legitimate Internet providers in New Zealand.

 

Once you delve deeper it becomes clear just how intentional this practice is at a business level, not one driven by individual users. Several non-facilities based telecommunications companies – i.e. those with no central offices to pay for or networks to maintain – from New Zealand are engaged in the resale of broadband connections to residential subscribers. On its own this is of course a legitimate business model, much in the same way that non-network mobile providers in the U.S. make use of the main carrier networks to repackage and sell cellular services.

It’s the next step that has the major telecoms providers and rights holders up in arms, and with good reason.  As this article on Tech Policy Daily explains, the resellers are attempting to gain market share by bundling a DNS geo-block defeating mechanism into their broadband services. Essentially, they’re saying to customers that they can provide them with a way around those pesky viewing barriers, or “legal regional licensing agreements” to those of us who have some degree of respect for creative rights and control of content.

Where this particular article departs from fact is in suggesting that there is any argument that these non-facilities based resellers are promoting. One look at the marketing literature from these companies, or even the comments from those in charge, shows exactly where their intentions lie.

Take Slingshot, for example, who make no bones about their “Global Mode” sales pitch:

Slingshot Global Mode Plan

This marketing push is enough to assure customers that they will gain access to overseas content services such as Netflix simply by signing up with services like Slingshot.

What’s more, the offering is pitched in such a way that it makes it sound like this level of access is not only legitimate, but something they should expect from all providers. When those who have invested in networks, offices, and content licensing agreements specific to their country fail to offer such a global service, it perversely reflects badly on the legitimate provider, rather than the likes of Slingshot who are skirting the rules and riding on the infrastructure of other businesses.

The bottom line is that established and respected service providers spend more than US $300 million every year for rights to the content they bring to New Zealand. Add this to the cost of providing a variety of traditional and Internet-based services to customers, with all the infrastructure and capital costs that brings, and it’s a significant investment in bringing that content to the country in the many ways viewers and listeners want to consume it.

While there may be some lag between release windows, the fact is that legitimate services are constantly evolving to meet customer demand and the licensing agreements in place ensure that creators are rewarded for each new market in which their work succeeds. This is the basis for continued revenue to the most in-demand creative talent, wherever it is in the world, and a keystone incentive to keep production flowing. Free riders, in this case the businesses who trade on the back of other providers’ networks and promote unlicensed content as a competitive advantage, only detract from that carefully constructed ecosystem.

An important point to note is that this is a battle against unfair business practices, not taking legal action against individual consumers who pursue their own viewing practices. John Fellet, CEO of Sky New Zealand, confirms this point, explaining that “this is a business-to-business issue; it’s about creating a fair playing field.”

When resellers are able to contribute little but gain a lot in terms of market share, it reduces the incentive for those providers with a major capital investment in the country, like Sky New Zealand and Telecom New Zealand, to continue bringing licensed programming from overseas and, more crucially, investing in home-grown creative talent. In that scenario the large American services like Netflix have an easier time dominating, even if they their revenue streams are diluted by geo-dodging, as they cut by far the biggest slice of the global pie.

In the long term this inhibits innovation and limits production diversity, which is exactly what customers want, and how free-riding resellers play on their trust to promote access to content that hasn’t been paid for.

BBC Store Hints at a Drive to Greater Global Access

BBC world logo

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Often held up as a paragon of broadcasting virtue,  where the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) leads, other programmers tend to follow – – by way of a timely example, it just won two Emmys here in the U.S.

So the news that the public service organization will next year introduce its own version of a digital content store is sure to  have broadcasters around the world considering where their own service offerings stand, by comparison.

The idea that the next evolution of entertainment will be based on accessibility and reliability is not a new one, but the international question remains a crucial sticking point to one of its key tenets. Anyone who spends a standard amount of time online looking for content knows that running into geographic restrictions – the dreaded “not available in your country” warning – is a common barrier.

Although the first iteration of the BBC Store will serve only British audiences, a further hint at the desire to “go global” lies in the tentative steps towards bringing iPlayer, the corporation’s streaming service, to an international audience. The radio wing of iPlayer is already edging out into the wider world, while its TV offerings are facing a slower but steadily popular rise through international arms like BBC America and the World Service.

The corporation clearly wants to expand the audience for its vast archive as far and wide as possible, but to do so must avoid stepping on the toes of many other parties in individual countries, from rival broadcasters with their own content agreements to digital retailers that include some of the biggest technology brands in the world.

Although that’s no mean feat, if anyone can accomplish international access the BBC is perhaps the most well placed to do so.

As a public service (to the British public, admittedly, but nonetheless driven less purely by revenue than most) the corporation has more of a focus on serving its audience with deep, diverse content than broadcasters who rely on advertising revenue. Even with the first step of the BBC Store the service has confirmed that links to purchase content on other major digital services, such as iTunes or Amazon, will be integrated into the system.

And as the Hollywood Reporter article above explains, BBC Worldwide president Marcus Arthur confirms that this move is “as much about the archive as it is about current content.” Only six percent of BBC content is currently available to buy, meaning that this play could expand audiences for all manner of titles both at home and abroad. Even if an early work-around is to link users outside of the UK to services in their own country that do host the desired content, it’s still a small step towards greater international access, and one that major digital content providers would surely embrace as a new source of traffic and custom.

Eventually it seems likely that intellectual property restrictions based on geographic location and release exclusivity will have to recede.

Audiences around the world are increasingly connected and aware of what their peers in other places are watching, reading, and listening to,m making it all the more desirable to search them out.Whether or not the BBC ushers in a new era of access, it’s in the best interests of entertainment company and consumer alike that they find a legitimate service to pay for when they reach out beyond their own borders.