Ian Condry’s paper on music piracy in Japan and the U.S.

I just read Ian Condry’s forthcoming publication Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan (pre-publication draft). A quote to illustrate the article’s (familiar) ring:

Finding some balance in copyright enforcement is extremely important, but we need to balance more than simply ‘property loss’ and ‘penalties.’ Digital rights management imposes costs that are too seldom acknowledged. Even if the lawsuits ‘succeed’ in reducing sharing, they are likely to fail in the larger goal of leading us to a healthy music future because the social dynamics that drive our interest in music depend on word-of-mouth discussions, friend-to-friend sharing, and convenience in accessing music.

As its title suggests, the paper also makes some interesting points about Japan (with which I do not always agree):

  • P.14: What is striking, however, is that as of the fall of 2003, no one in Japan was blaming the Internet for the loss in sales: this Japan Times article shows that the Japanese record industry asserted already in 2002 (if not earlier) that there is a link between online file swapping and the industry’s sales fallback.
  • P.15: Japan’s copyright law is largely harmonized with the US, yet no consumers have been sued in Japan for using p2p networks.: the arrest of two Japanese Winny users in November 2003 and the recent arrest of the developer of Winny show that recently there are legal actions against people involved with p2p networks. Also, the article RIAA(J) spams Japanese file sharers indicates that there is some legal threatening of Japanese p2p users going on.
  • P.15: Instead, the Japanese are far more likely to access the Internet via cell phone, and connection fees make the time spent downloading a song prohibitively expensive. Instead, unauthorized copying, especially with CD burners, is blamed for the drop in sales: based on an interesting paper by the RIAJ. It is worth noting however that the RIAJ also issued statements (e.g. this one) in 2002 about how the then popular filesharing software Filerogue was having a negative effect on record sales.
  • P.15: Japan’s record companies are experimenting with copycontrol
    [end of paragraph]: in my opinion, the Japanese record companies are already far beyond the stage of experimenting with CCCDs. Akio Nakamata even suggests that there is a link between the rise of such CCCDs and the recent move to a right of import for recordings.
  • P.27: Initially, I assumed that a cross-cultural study of music piracy would reveal
    differences between the U.S. and Japan in the treatment of ideas of copyright,
    creativity, and music. Instead, what I found was a convergence of attitudes
    among fans in the U.S. and Japan, but a divergence in corporate and legal
    responses to declining record sales.
    : that divergence might be not so big, considering my other remarks. Also, when looking at e.g. the developing ringtone market, we see a completely different picture. DRM encumbered formats are the starting point (not the remedy) and reveal that the music industry is determined to prevent their customers from sharing tunes.

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