There's nothing worse than pirates who steal and share content freely without repercussion. That's at least what the entertainment industry would have you believe. They want everybody to know just how despicable those who would share their content really are. Problem is - the people they vilify are actually their biggest customers.
A new study from the Dutch Institution for Information Law and CentERdata reveals some startling statistics that completely destroys any notion that pirates only steal. In fact, pirates buy more content than their non-pirate peers.
The study broke down the difference between pirates and non-pirates into four categories - music, films/TV, games and books. In digital media, pirates bought way more content than their non-pirate peers. The study found that pirates are actually three times more likely to buy or stream films and four times more likely to buy digital music. Digital game purchases see the biggest difference with pirates being five times more likely to legitimately purchase games.
As for physical media, it's still the same. The only difference is that the difference is less pronounced, especially in books. The amount of pirates and non-pirates who legitimately buy books is about the same. The same is true for music and film. Once again, games are the biggest difference with pirates buying way more physical copies of games than their non-pirate peers.
So what does it all mean? The author of the study, Joost Poort, told TorrentFreak that pirates "tend to be more heavy entertainment consumers." These people will do anything they can to get ahold of content. In a lot of cases, especially in European countries, that means obtaining them through illegal means. It's an unfortunate reality that entertainment companies are painfully slow in bringing their content to foreign markets.
It should also be noted that many pirates, especially those who illegally download games, have a "try before you buy" attitude. They don't want to drop that money on a product until they can be sure of the quality of the product. The entertainment industry makes it very hard to ascertain the quality of their products without buying it. Piracy affords them that quick look before making a decision.
Either way, the researchers say that the entertainment industry should back off of file-sharers, pirates and all other groups that they constantly attempt to vilify. These groups are their biggest customers and criminalizing them will only drive away most of their profit. The RIAA already saw that their heavy handed lawsuit tactics from a few years ago actually hurt their bottom line as less people bought from them.
This study comes just as ISPs are beginning to implement a six-strike warning system that will alert alleged pirates that their activities are being monitored. The plan was formulated by the copyright and entertainment lobbies to stop piracy. From the looks of it, their plans have only encouraged more piracy as people begin to move towards anonymous file-sharing via VPNs.