Piracy At Work in Streams and Downloads

July 26, 2008

One critique of my previous post was that it doesn’t account for streaming, such as from YouTube and MySpace.  Ok, here goes:

First, to clarify, YouTube music is generally unlicensed and posted illegally, so it should probably go in the pirate column.  (The DMCA gives protection to YouTube so long as it removes pirated material, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s pirated in the first place.)

MySpace is a great example of legitimate streaming, though.

So even limiting the discussion to just streaming, I wonder about the ratio of pirated tracks streamed from DMCA-protected providers, versus legit tracks from MySpace/webcasting/etc.  Do you have any data on this?

PC World suggests over a *billion* videos per day on YouTube.  Let’s say, what, half of those include unlicensed songs that aren’t protected by fair use?  25%?  Even at 10%, that means 100M pirated songs per day streamed from YouTube.

Now, how many legit songs are streamed from MySpace?  Somewhere I saw 4.5B daily page views.  How many of those have songs on them?  I really have no idea — I’m not a MySpace user.  I’m going to guess 25%.  Furthermore, my understanding is every page automatically starts playing music, so that would suggest like 1.1B legitimate songs started every day from MySpace — dwarfing YouTube.  Then again, how many of those pages actually play the whole song, rather than playing a few seconds before the next click?  Again, no real idea, but I’d wager there’s a lot of clicking going on, to the tune of 1 in 10 songs started actually being listened to for real.  That would put us down to about 110M legitimate streams from MySpace a day, or roughly on par with YouTube’s piracy.  (In YouTube’s defense, I wager most videos are actually played to completion.)

Oh, and to put it into context, my previous estimates put the number of songs bought from iTunes at 5.8M per day, suggesting about 116M downloaded per day from pirate networks.  So the number of songs *streamed* per day is in the same ballpark as number of songs *downloaded*, despite the downloaded songs presumably being played again and again.

Anyway, this is all guesswork — I’d love real data.  But by my guesses I’d say piracy accounts for 95% of music downloads and maybe 25-50% of streaming downloads.  Furthermore, the download market (which piracy unquestionably dominates) results in far more actual songs listened to.

If we said that Toyota accounted for 95% of cars and 25-50% of trucks (with cars outnumbering trucks 10:1), we’d probably say they dominated the auto industry.  And thus I still think it’s pretty safe to say piracy dominates all online music, streaming and downloaded alike.

-david

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