French copyright enforcers: "Pirates are big spenders on legit content"

HADOPI, the French agency charged with disconnecting French Internet users who use the same Internet connections as accused copyright infringers, conducted a study on media purchasing habits by copyright infringers. They concluded that the biggest unauthorized downloaders are also the biggest customers for legitimate media. Just like every other study that's looked at the question, of course, but this time the study was funded and released by one of the most extreme copyright enforcement bodies on the planet.
Joe Karaganis, from SSRC, points us to the news that there's been yet another such study... and this one is from HADOPI, itself. Yes, the French agency put together to kick people off the internet for file sharing did a study on the nature of unauthorized file sharing, too. Not surprisingly (and consistent with every other study we've seen on this topic), it found that those who spend a lot of money on content... were much, much, much more likely to also get content through unauthorized means. HADOPI released the results in a somewhat convoluted way (perhaps trying to downplay this result), but Karaganis reformatted the results to make this clear.
Another Day, Another Study That Says 'Pirates' Are The Best Customers... This Time From HADOPI

Hadopi, biens culturels et usages d’internet : pratiques et perceptions des internautes français. (PDF)


  1. If I were heading an “agency charged with disconnecting… Internet users who share their connections with accused copyright infringers”, short-staffed and underfunded, I’d likely want to see if this mandate was called for before we leapt down the rabbit hole, cable nippers drawn and at the ready.

  2. Time and time again, pirates are shown to be the media companies’ biggest customers. Alienating them through 3 strikes and the collateral damage of guilt by accusation will not only reduce sales out of principle but also out of neccessity as both innocent and guilty take measures and additional expense to avoid accusation.

    Piracy will continue and owing to reduction in disposable incomes, legit sales revenue will continute to fall

  3. I would imagine that many people refuse to pay for media content now because they despise the companies that provide it. What kind of business strategy is that? It’s nearly as effective as trying to force people to be your friend.

    1. The internet has made this easy. In conjunction with CC licenses and GPL (etc.) software you can quite easily immerse yourself in content not associated (at least not directly) with the so-called big media companies. I “cut my cable” years ago… not because I was pirating things online, but because there was great content (blogs, web-series, music etc.) to take its place coming directly from artists not associated with those companies. And, let’s be honest, the great stuff that is online is much much better than the majority of content the big companies put out. The Humble Bundle ( going on right now is a great example of this. When the first one came out I was planning on buying a game from a big media company (until I researched and found out about the DRM, its incompatibility with Linux, etc.) Guess where that money went? Not to the big media company. It hasn’t since. I simply don’t partake of their meager offerings anymore. BTW: never been happier.

  4. Media companies are run by such idiots.  They had the opportunity to embrace digital tech 15 years ago when it started to explode.  Any one of them could have spent the same amount of time and money building digital libraries, creating downloadable and streaming content.  
    But they focused instead on pissing people off and trying to bust teenagers for using napster.  Dipshits.

  5. Did…did somebody over there grow a conscience or something? some form of integrity at least?

  6. DRM, just say no.  There is plenty of DRM-free music available on the web, of the same or high-quality than what the record labels are offering.  Why is anybody bothering to pirate they stuff?  Why steal a Volkswagen when you can get a free Maserati?

  7. I’m sure this is why so many pirates are so angry when they’re called thieves: “I already give you a hill of cash! What’s with the bad attitude?”

  8. It’s not just that big downloaders also happen to be big spenders on media. There’s often a direct causal connection between these two activites.

    I stopped buying music entirely some time in the mid 90s.  The last independent radio station in my area had just gotten bought out by a big conglomerate, so I was really unlikely to discover new music on the radio.  The cool independent CD store that stocked lots of indie and international labels and let me listen to the whole CD shut down.  A few times I’d hear a song somewhere that I liked, then buy the $20 CD to discover that that was the only song I liked.  The 20-second “preview” clips you can hear at online stores don’t jibe with the way I relate to music–I enjoy whole songs, whole albums even, so a mere hook tells me almost nothing.  From my perspective the musical world had dramatically shrunk.  Sadly, I stopped buying music altogether for a number of years.

    Then I discovered downloading, and the musical world opened up again.  I discovered tons of new bands and artists, liked them, and started buying their CDs.  I now spend more on music each year than I ever did, simply because there’s more music out there that I’m aware of and I want to buy.

    I doubt my story is very unusual.

    1. Are you from Maryland by any chance? I had the exact same experience around the same time as you: the awesome local indie station got bought out and run into the ground by big media, and my favorite independent music stores went out of business.

  9. Talk about an obfuscating infographic. It took me about three minutes to try to link the chart with the conclusions HADOPI came to from the data. Even then, I’m questioning whether the “Licit” bars correlate to the “Illicit” bars… forget it. I just looked at it, again, and still don’t understand the chart. Is the first column 12% Illicit and 25% Licit, or 12% Illicit and 13% Licit?

    1. Hey there, it seems pretty straightforward to me, and I believe I’m reading it correctly, so I’ll try to help clear it up for you. If you’ll check the axis labeling you’ll see that all the columns together are designed to add up to 100% (the total # of respondents). To see how each column works I’ll use the far left “No Expenditures” column to explain:

      “No Expenditures” is a column showing ALL respondents who claimed not to spend any money on the internet. That column has two subgroups, licit and illicit users. The total percentage of respondents claiming “no expenditures” is 25%. Of that total, about 9% (the darker bottom part of the column) can easily be counted as illicit users. 25 – 9 = 16 so 16% is the number of respondents who are licit “no expenditures” users.

      The graph shows two important pieces of information. Here’s what they are.

      First, if you look at proportion between the dark and light green column parts as they move from left to right, you’ll see a change. The dark green (illicit users) become a larger part of each column as the cost of use gets higher to the right. It’s showing you that, “those who spend a lot of money on content… were much, much, much more likely to also get content through unauthorized means.” That’s important because it confirms that low costs benefit not just users, but also the companies.

      It gets more interesting when you look at costs:

      If 14 people acknowledge theft at 20-30 euros, and 4 at >100, which is worse?
      Call it 14 x 25 = 350 vs. 4 x 100 = 400

      The higher prices actually negatively affect the companies and encourage theft. Yep, gouging customers encourages bad behavior and that’s lesson number one.

      The chart also shows, by totaling the number of respondents, that, “the biggest downloaders are also the biggest customers for legitimate media.” You can see this in the “20-30 euros per month column” where the most theft occurs – but that’s just due to the volume of transactions. In other words, if companies target “pirates” they’re really going after their own customers – or at least their disenfranchised customers. Pirates aren’t some fringe group, they’re real users, and a large percentage of them. So, the second lesson is that companies ought to learn to work with downloading rather than fight it. It’s in their own best interest.

  10. I’m pretty sure the reason business hate piracy is simply because they can’t get away with selling utter shit to the unsuspecting. This has been their M.O. for a very long time and the internet is making it near impossible for them to keep doing it.

  11. If it wasn’t for pirates –  there would be no legitimate industry. There is a symbiotic relationship. The pirates sell the same stuff at half the price or less. The legitimate industry cannot sell all they have got at the price they are asking, it remains in stock unless it is absolutely has to be sold out, the very company fighting against copyright violations, encourage it.

  12. The thing is…NO ONE believes in what HADOPI is doing, and that includes the people who actually run the thing. It’s all show. All they do is send vaguely threatening mails – the “first strike” – but I don’t think anyone’s internet connection was actually cut, and I doubt it will happen any time soon.
    It’s a really French way of solving the problem, really…just create an official-sounding organism and let them do nothing.

  13. I just can’t work it out: either Big Content is actually run by complete morons (albeit very highly paid morons)
    the Big Content Associations run by lawyers are deliberately trying to screw Big Content companies into the ground (and gain a bucket-load of legal fees in the process)… judging by their actions nothing else makes sense. Perhaps I’m getting confused as both are happening at the same time!

    1. Or Big Content is trying to use copyright laws to secure a monopoly.  They already have contracts with various radio and TV stations that they will only broadcast DRM music.  No doubt that they are trying to finesse copyright law so that only they can supply music to the world.

  14. Why is the “simpler graph” putting the procentages on top of each other? It makes the distribution of the “no illicit usage” extremely hard see. It seems a case where Part A made a bad graph to highlight their point, and then party B made another bad graph to highlight his point. 
    Just for kicks I’ve included my own bad graph highlighting well, no real point. I find it interesting that those who infringe show a peaked curve, while those who do not infringe are not. Ofcause this skewing most likely comes from the simple relation that those who do not consume (legally or not) much media will be much more likely to not infringe. While this does on the surface look like interesting data, you should remember that correlation does not prove causation, and it could be argued that adjusting for non-consumers, the curves will look similar simply proving that given a consumer it’s “random” whether they are infringers or not independent of spending. This would counter the conclusion that infringers are better costumers, and simply show that there is no relation between infringing and spending. Ofcause this does not change the fact that the most extreme arguments of the industry are wrong, not all infringers fall in the “no expenditure  category. However it has not been countered that those who are infringing could have increased expendatures if it was not possible to infringe, and this seems the reason that the industry is so agressively persuing the infringers. 

  15. It’s worth noting that Big Content does not want to provide a wide variety of choices — they would much rather sell 100 million copies of one CD by one artist than sell 200 million assorted copies 3000 different CDs by 2000 different artists. Less work for them, and more profitable. And for a long time they were able to essentially run a monopoly on music, which is not a commodity good. But they ran a monopoly on it by controlling all of the distribution channels. Local, regional and niche artists existed but were more or less locked out of the system. Your commercial radio stations would play maybe 10-15 artists on incessant loop.

    The Internet, and more specifically Internet Piracy changed that equation forever, and for the better.

  16. I’m gonna guess @Nosehat’s experience is pretty common.  I have pretty high hopes for Spotify as a legal place to go to hear new stuff – it seems to have the deepest catalog of any of the places I’ve tried, and has only crapped out on a few artists I’ve thrown at it.  Doesn’t solve the issue of people who just want to get music without paying, but it could potentially help with the large numbers who download because they can’t find good sources to just listen to new music legally.

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