Needs Help From Clever People – Downloading trends in Iceland…

10 Apr

OK here’s the thing…..

I don’t mind crunching numbers when they’re in ENGLISH, but i think i may be needing some help when it comes to the ol’ Islenskur numbers on this one.

Last year I was asked by the Grapevine to write-up a feature about STEF, music royalties, file-sharing, and the copyright group’s proposals to parliament to greatly increase their powers to shut down websites they deemed were illegally sharing copyrighted files. I spent a few months on it, only for it to be put on ice and will now likely never see the light of say. Probably for the best – it suffered badly from proper lack of focus/scope and it was way too dry and boring to read. Not enough swear words.

But it was fun to do nonetheless. It got me looking into the workings of copyright societies in Iceland as well as talking to a lot of people about it, including the exalted head of STEF, Jakób Frímann Magnússon. It went OK –  he was his usual charming self, as we talked about STEF and other things, like Yoga. Some of his comments ranged from insightful (“iTunes is one of the worst things to have happened to music.” I agree heartily with this), to the slightly bullshitty (“95% of all downloads are illegal you know…”)

That last comment is interesting, as according to the Hargreaves report for the UK Govt on Intellectual Property and Downloading, most of the circulated stats about the levels of illegal downloading have no empirical basis (i.e. they just pulled the figure out of their arses). But this asks a bigger question – just how do we find out how big is the scale of downloading is in places like Iceland and beyond?

Well STEF and the other agencies produced a report compiled for them by Capacent in 2011 about the downloading habits of Icelanders, that they have since released on the Tonlist Og Myndir website (You can download the report and the calculations HERE & HERE).

The report is fairly extensive in its own scope, asking about people’s listening and buying habits, downloading habits, and breaking down results by age, gender, and sometimes even occupation. The crux of the whole report for STEF is question 24 – Asking people, with regards to music they’ve received without paying for it. how much of a percentage (in their own opinion) of that music would they have bought had they not downloaded it illegally. The report states that on average people said that 19% of the music they illegally downloaded they would have bought. Using this figure, STEF have extrapolated this to determine that Iceland is losing 200 Million ISK a year to illegal downloading.

Now while the math they’ve used for this figure looks all correct, the extrapolation feels a little flimsy to me, but the problem is I’m struggling to make sense of this report and any major trends it brings up. For example, I can’t see if there is a breakdown or question asking for those who download illegally, how much music or band merchandise they actually bought – A question that was looked into by a recent  European Commission’s Joint Research Centre study on the financial implications of illegal downloading. I’ve asked a couple of friends, one of whom has a big interest in digital rights in Iceland (Thanks Berglind!), but they got rather confused by the report as well!

So calling any Icelanders who has knowledge of stats and other interesting numbers shit. Can you help us make sense in parsing what are the major issues that we should be looking at with this report. I think it would be really interesting to chew on this with the likelihood of the internet and digital rights coming more ot the fore in Iceland over the coming year… 

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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Iceland, music, Uncategorized


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