Wonderful Wizard of Oz

UK STUDY: 40% Unable to Name Legal Online Music Service | March 10, 2010

Consumer Focus, the UK govt-backed consumer advocacy group, has long tried to illustrate the deficiency of the country’s copyright laws and the dramatic learning gap consumers have of them.

In fact, just last month it found that almost 3/4 of the population doesn’t know what they’re legally allowed to copy or record, and that’s practically impossible to not infringe copyright laws as part of their daily lives unless they don’t use digital technology.

Part of the problem has always been the music industry’s reluctance to offer consumers viable, legal alternatives as a means to fight online copyright infringement, but as it’s slowly begun to roll them out over the years new research from Consumer Focus shows how the music industry is failing to properly promote them.

Their research found that a staggering 20% are unable to name a single legal online music service at all, and that 85% could name only two – iTunes and Amazon.

“The music industry is shooting itself in the foot by not promoting legal online music services,” said Jill Johnstone, the group’s International Director. “If file sharing is causing the damage the music industry claims, why aren’t they putting more effort in to promoting the legal alternatives? Before we go down the enforcement road it is only fair to ask the music industry to do more to make people aware of the legal options.”

Consumer Focus, in addition to recommending reform of the country’s copyright laws, is also calling for reform of its copyright licensing system in order to make it easier to create more legal online music services with streaming, “all you can eat”, micropayment, advertisement or subscription based models.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) counters that claims of low brand awareness are a “fallacy,” pointing out that survey could’ve included people who don’t even have an Internet connection or interest in music.

This argument makes sense, but the BPI goes on to remind people that there are more than 35 legal online digital music services in the UK. That may be so, and I challenge even die-hard music fans to name more than 6, but it doesn’t mean they’re offering consumers what they want.

It also cites its own study from last November that found 96% of the Internet users surveyed knew of iTunes and Amazon among others (not stated is the actual number per individual).

“It’s just not credible to suggest that people who are downloading illegally haven’t heard of iTunes, Amazon or other legal music services,” countered Geoff Taylor, BPI’s Chief Executive. “Our much larger, more recent and targeted online survey shows that awareness of legal music services among internet users is almost universal. The measures in the Digital Economy Bill are precisely what is needed to encourage illegal downloaders to move across to those legal services.”

By “encourage” he means disconnecting households from the Internet via a “three-strikes” graduated response system proposed as part of the emerging Digital Britain Bill. So rather than figuring out what they actually want, or even conducting surveys to that end, it instead is focusing on a removing digital music customers altogether (disconnection), banning open Wi-Fi, and a proactive ban on websitessuspected of infringing copyright.

These certainly aren’t very effectives way to “encourage” people to become new customers, especially since “illegal downloaders” are most likely already adept at avoiding detection by copyright holders (VPNs/Usenet).

Finding out what they want and offering it to them, the mark of any good business, is the only solution.

Stay tuned.

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