The government of Switzerland has issued a statement declaring that it will not take action to alter current copyright laws allowing the downloading of music and movies for personal use. The statement is the result of a lengthy study conducted by the Swiss government into the impact of so-called “piracy” on the entertainment industry.
The entertainment industry has been complaining in Switzerland – as in the US and elsewhere – that the unauthorized downloading of music and movies has harmed their business. The situation in Switzerland is somewhat unique, in that current copyright law considers the downloading of content for personal use as acceptable and legal. The entertainment industry has been lobbying the Swiss government to change the law. This study is the government’s response.
Despite the industry’s claims that downloading undermines their business, this study shows that the effect of unauthorized downloading on the industry’s bottom line is negligible. One key finding of the study is that downloaders spend as much if not more to acquire content legally as those who do not download. Researchers found no change in amount of disposable income spent on music and movies, despite the fact that roughly one third of Swiss people engage in some form of downloading. The government concluded, then, that no change to the current legal structure was necessary, and urged the entertainment industry to grow and adapt with the changes in technology and in consumer habits, rather than trying to suppress progress.
Switzerland’s findings are just the latest in a series of reports showing that the downloading of music and movies is far less harmful than the entertainment industry would have us believe. In July Douglas C. Merrill, formerly of Google and then EMI, one of the three main record labels, said in a keynote address that his research while at EMI showed that users of torrenting service LimeWire were among the best customers in the iTunes music store. Around the same time, Telepolis published a report (Google Translation) stating that users of the recently raided kino.to website tended to pay more at the box office than the average moviegoer. Meanwhile, another study conducted by Northwestern University (PDF) showed that users of peer-to-peer client software – i.e., BitTorrent users – bring in a substantial amount of money for the large ISPs.
A Google Translation of the Swiss press release may be found here. A PDF of the government study, which is in German, may be found here.
What do you think? Does downloading really harm the music and movie industries? Let us know in the comments.