European Commission study finds no link between piracy and lower sales of digital content

Matt Sayer 22 September 2017 NEWS


So much for the assumption that pirates don't pay.

An in-depth study into digital piracy ordered by the European Commission has failed to find sufficient evidence linking illegal downloading with a reduction in legitimate purchases.

Conducted back in 2015, the study has only today been released to the public thanks to an official request by a member of the EU Julia Reda. Judging by the framing of the study, which set out to prove that piracy did indeed harm legitimate sales, it's clear that the EU was less than happy with the results and consequently made no effort to release them to the general public.

The study was carried out by economic research company Ecorys and covered four types of digital content: music, books, audio-visual material and games. Countries surveyed were Germany, the UK, Spain, France, Poland and Sweden.

According to the report, an average of 51% of adults and 72% of minors in the EU have pirated digital content, with Poland and Spain averaging the highest rates of all countries surveyed. Nevertheless, displacement rates (the impact of piracy on legitimate sales) were found to be negligible or non-existent for music, books and games, while rates for films and TV were in line with previous digital piracy studies.


Most interesting is the fact that the study found that illegal game downloads actually lead to an increase in legal purchases. The report concludes that tactics like video game microtransactions are proving effective in converting illegal users to paying users.

The full report goes in-depth regarding potential factors influencing piracy and the challenges of accurately tracking its impact on legitimate sales, but the researchers ultimately conclude that there is no robust statistical evidence that illegal downloads reduce legal sales. That's big news, which makes it all the more troubling that the EU effectively buried it for two years.

In other piracy-related news, Aussie telcos are being forced to crack down on pirating websites and 30% of Game of Thrones fans continue to illegally download the show.

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