Music industry blames piracy on newsgroups & search engines

Pressuring lawmakers to swiftly pass strict anti-piracy laws in the United Kingdom, the music industry is arguing that while peer-to-peer file sharing stagnates, other ways of downloading music illegally are blooming.

Among them, claims the British Phonographic Industry, are newsgroups and unlicensed overseas MP3 pay sites, whose usage rose 42 percent and 47 percent, respectively, over the last six months. The BPI commissioned Harris Interactive for the survey, which also found that use of MP3 search engines rose 28 percent and use of online links to digital storage lockers grew by 18 percent over the last six months.

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The U.K. government is considering a digital economy bill that would require Internet service providers to suspend service for illegal file sharers. Some ISPs have objected, pointing out that the cost of enforcement would be passed on to all consumers, to the tune of 24 pounds per year.

But the music industry is pressing on, using this study to actually call for even stricter enforcement measures. “The growth in other, non-P2P methods of downloading music illegally is a concern, and highlights the importance of including a mechanism in the Digital Economy Bill to deal with threats other than P2P,” BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said. It’s not clear what that mechanism would be, but if it involves peering into packets, the U.K.’s Internet policy would truly be headed down a nasty path.

And of course, there’s no guarantee the enforcement would work. It could just extend the Whac-A-Mole theory, which holds that every effort to snuff out piracy is thwarted by a new threat that pops up elsewhere, resulting in an endless cycle. Maybe Big Music is right that these new methods of downloading bootleg music are becoming more prevalent, but that just reinforces the belief that some people will always find a way to cheat the system.

That may not be so bad according to a survey from Ipsos Mori, which found that people who pirate music actually purchase more than those who don’t. But who needs reports like that when the BPI can come up with evidence that better suits its lobbying efforts?