The claim that the best way to combat content piracy is to offer good legal alternatives and make them widely available isn't exactly breaking new ground. Case studies made out of several nations' piracy rates, such as in Australia and Norway, demonstrate the severe impact creating good digital marketplace alternatives to piracy can have. Techdirt's think tank arm, the Copia Institute, produced the definitive report highlighting this in multiple countries nearly two years ago.
And, yet, the copyright industries and their mouthpiece organizations typically choose to beat the punishment drum instead, going the route of litigation against pirates that ultimately ends up being a PR nightmare, or instead going the route of wholesale censorship on the internet that is equal parts ineffective and alarming to those of us that think such censorship ought to have a high bar to hurdle in order to be implemented. It's with that in mind that any new example that simply offering legal alternatives is a better route is useful to highlight.
Which brings us to the Netherlands, long assumed to be a hotspot of piracy. And, indeed, as recently as 2013 a study put out by Telecompaper indicated that 41% of the Dutch people were downloading copyrighted content for free. But that same study also suggests that this piracy rate has dropped all the way to 27% as legal alternatives have emerged.
In November 2013, when services such as Netflix and Spotify were still new, 41% of Dutch people were downloading illegal content. In January, that percentage fell to 27%. From this group, 77% say they plan to download less pirated content; the remaining 23% claim they will increase illegal usage.
Of the group that still downloads, 8% say they have reduced their activities because it is becoming harder to find what they are looking for. Of the people who have increased their pirate activities, 6% said in January that it was easier to find what they were looking for, compared to 13% in 2013.
Now, the post makes a point to note that BREIN, the anti-piracy outfit in the region, has also stepped up its efforts in this time. But if you look at the data in the respondents, it's clear that BREIN's attempts to make pirated content less available isn't much of a factor for those that have ceased pirating that content. Less than one in ten of the people still downloading content illicitly are finding it harder to do so. That's much less a factor than the piracy rate in the country dropping by a third.
Which leaves us with the wider availability of legal alternatives being the main impetus for the change. That jives well with what we've seen in other countries too. All of which leaves us to ponder once again why the content industries don't seek to ramp up the legal alternatives instead of going to war with them or, worse yet, trying to wage some unwinnable legal fight with all of piracy everywhere?