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Piracy doesn’t hurt sales, says withheld EU study

Just two weeks on from relatively extreme plans proposed for the EU’s new anti-piracy measures, an old study ordered by the European Commission has been revealed stating that there are no explicit links between piracy and sales. Findings from this study were revealed last year, however, albeit paraphrased to suit the intentions of the study in the first place.

The study, ‘Estimating displacement rates of copyrighted material in the EU’, was commissioned in 2013 for €360,000 ($430,000), aiming to establish a connection between piracy and the possibility of diminished sales of copyrighted material such as film & television, video games, music and literature.

Conducted throughout 2014, details of the study eventually came to light in 2016, with a very short segment of the 307-page document concluding that blockbuster movies can be negatively impacted by piracy. This specific part of the study estimated that ten downloads were leading to four less cinema visits, reducing sales for specific films by up to 4.4 percent. This went on to claims that cinema was being damaged by piracy.

What wasn’t revealed at the time, is that while 51 percent of adults and 72 percent of minors have illegally downloaded or streamed a copy of copyrighted material, “no robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online piracy.” Regarding games specifically, it was concluded that unofficial access to the title might actually lead to sales down the line.

These details were kept hush by the European Commission until EU parliamentarian Julia Reda submitted a freedom of information request in July. The commission initially delayed this act twice before finally revealing the information. Reda notes that the EU has been pushing its agenda, trying to implement spy filters via ISPs to monitor user-uploaded content which could explain the lack of forthright disclosure on such a study, deeming that the results were inappropriate for the outcome it wished for.

“That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect,” according to the report, but the study does definitively conclude that “willingness to pay” does not change in relation to decreased price. People are either willing to pay or they aren’t.

The report is now available to the public, coincidentally coinciding with the body’s obligation to release it to Reda a year and a half after the study was conducted. If you wish to read it, you can find it here.

KitGuru Says: It’s understandable that the EU body still has an obligation to protect copyrighted material for the copyright holders. This is integral for continued revenue for both the creators and the countries but if sales are mostly unaffected then it should be re-evaluating its aggressive and frankly, intrusive approach.

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