david breese undergraduate dissertation
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DESCRIPTIONHow do audiences respond to issues surrounding digital music copyright law, in relation to peer to peer file-sharing? My undergraduate dissertation. Recieved first class honours for a BA degree in Media & Communication (2010)
How do audiences respond to issues surrounding digital music copyright law, in relation to peer to peer file-sharing?
MC601 - DissertationBA (Hons) Media & CommunicationBirmingham School of Media, Birmingham City University
How do audiences respond to issues surrounding digital music copyright law, in relation to peer to peer file-sharing?
David Breese BA (Hons) Media & Communication
Birmingham School of Media, Birmingham City University
This dissertation presents an investigation into audience responses and understanding of the legal issues surrounding digital music copyright. Using the notion of peer to peer file sharing (p2p) as a focal point, findings highlight the effectiveness of copyright in the online environment and for digital media rights management. Applying relevant theories and building upon previous audience research studies, this dissertation provides evidence supporting arguments against current copyright legislation. Using two different focus group studies of different aged participants, notable differing responses between the two support claims that digital copyright is ineffective and biased towards a monopoly for the major recording industry. This research further presents the potential implications current copyright legislation has on audiences and the potential effects that this has in turn for music distribution, industry and retail, now and in the near future.
Review of Literature 7 Music Copyright Law 7 Audiences 10 Online Cultures 13
Methodological Considerations 19
Research & Findings 25 Consumption & Listening Habits 25 Engagement with Peer to Peer File Sharing 31 Responses to Legal Issues & Industry Implications 37
Appendices 52 i. Research Participant Consent Form 53 ii. List of Participants 54 iii. Focus Group 1 Transcription 55 iv. Focus Group 2 Transcription 74
i. Andersons (2006) Long Tail Model 12
! This dissertation contributes to the extensive debates surrounding copyright
legislation regarding digital music, by examining audience opinions and behaviours to the
key legal issues of copyright, regarding online peer to peer file sharing. Music copyright
law is one of the most highly debated issues within music industries and digital media
spheres, with key thinkers like Negroponte arguing that Copyright law is totally out of
date (1995, p58). Some are arguing time for reform and leniency, regarding file sharing
(see Ku, 2002), others arguing tougher rules need to be put in place to counter the illegal
sharing of music (RIAA, 2009 & BPI, 2009). This debate is not necessarily new, it has
been raging for years, today we see arguments surrounding the issue of online sharing,
whereas in previous years, we were told it was our home taping that was killing music.
However, despite all the discussion and debate, very little scholarly attention has been
paid to the way audiences and consumers adhere to copyright, and the implications that
might have for online music distribution. This dissertation looks specifically into the
relationship music copyright has with its audience and the suggested implications that
presents, by focusing on the notion of peer to peer file sharing of digital music. I review
relevant literature and previous studies and discuss the benefits of focus group research
for the purposes of this investigation. The findings are then broken down into precise
themes, providing supporting evidence for the various claims for and against digital music
copyright. It is hoped that my findings will not only highlight particular areas of interest for
further debate; such as the effectiveness of new online music distribution models, but also
highlight the level of effectiveness and applications of copyright law in the digital age.
! In this dissertation, I present the results, and discuss the findings, of two separate
focus groups, of two different demographics; a younger group of 20 to 25 year olds and an
older group of 40 to 60 year olds. After establishing the subjects interaction with digital ! 5
music and specifically the extent of their familiarity with peer to peer file sharing services,
the groups discuss the effects that such activity has on the music industries, the recording
industry and the implications it presents for all parties. It is their understanding of the legal
issues and in turn, their reaction to them, that will provide the focal point of my research.
! The strength of this study, is in providing new analysis in a frequently debated, yet
under-researched field, supporting and challenging many of the current claims and
theories. The difference in age of the participants in the groups allows for a comparative
analysis of results, highlighting different schools of thought and perception between the
generations and any potential adaptive understanding of the convergence of new digital
and traditional forms of media consumption. The separated ideas are identified within the
different responses to the proposed surrounding issues of digital music copyright law.
Using previous theories and exemplar research findings, I aim to add support as well as
contradiction to some of the many, often opposing, theories within the field. In the next
chapter, I discuss some of these theories surrounding the specifics of copyright law, the
influence of online cultures, and relevant previous audience research studies, and show
how my research challenges or supports their arguments.
Review of Literature
Music Copyright Law
! The central argument of the illegalities of sharing music online surrounds the issue
of copyright infringement. Discussed here are some of the defining arguments for and
against strict copyright legislation for digital music. My research demonstrates some of the
general audience understandings of how copyright law affects them, and how they
understand it, highlighting effectiveness and the usefulness of such regulation.
! Organisations such as the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) and the RIAA
(Recording Industry Association of America) exist to represent the best interests of the
recording industry in terms of their copyright ownership.
Music copyright as defined by the BPI;
! Copyright is the foundations which the music business is built. In its simplest terms, ! it is a form of intellectual property and, as such, gives the creator or the owner/! author of that work exclusive rights over how it is published, distributed and ! adapted. (BPI - [online] 2009)
! Cause for debate has, naturally, sparked plenty of recent research; Kembrew
McLeod s (2005) article MP3s Are Killing Home Taping suggests the issue of copyrighted
material shared online, provides a real threat to the major music labels monopoly, yet
doesnt necessarily state this as a negative. Arguing against the side of the major record
labels, McLeod uses examples of various successes for little known independent
musicians, thanks to the development of peer to peer file sharing. In echo of McLeods
statements, participants in the focus groups demonstrated an understanding of such
benefits that new retail and distribution models bring to independent musicians, working
against the grain of the major recording industry.
! It is a discussion that almost completely removes legal discourses from its
investigation, however for the purposes of my research, it is noteworthy that not all the
issues surrounding my topic are presented from a legal angle, but their discussions still
present considerably important factors. McLeod (2005) argues that the legal aspects of
music copyright reinforce the powerful monopoly of the major recording industry. However,
he suggests popular music can continue to flourish and be financially sustainable to a
wider profile of musicians, regardless of the discourses that the major music labels present
to consumers. Contrary to the BPI (2009), who state that it is copyright which forms the
foundations of a successful music industry. In response to these claims my research
highlighted a tendency towards a belief that, whilst audiences seem to understand a need
for copyright legislation, they feel opposed to the domineering stance that is taken by
those who enforce it. According to McLeod, People will only stop supporting musicians
and other artists when the concept of community breaks down (p.530), hinting towards
ideas of fandom and suggestive of the culturally significant relationships that music has
with its audiences, rather than simplifying it to a more commercial operation of products
and end consumers. This notion, the research participants identified with most, siding with
support for musicians and artists, rather than that of the industry they are part of.
! Objective studies into the legal heart of copyright are equally important for a concise
understanding of the topic. Copyright is a large field within legal studies, with plenty of
evidence to support that there are considerable amounts of rules and regulations that the
music industries are expected to adhere to by law (see Sparrow, 2006 & Harrison, 2005).
Fisher (2001) says of intellectual copyright law, The economic and cultural importance of
this collection of rules is increasing rapidly (p.1). Fisher, a scholar in intellectual property
law, discusses the key theories behind the justification for copyright laws. He suggests,
that there are four key approaches to copyright law and why it is a necessary rule set. The
most notable of the four suggest that copyright law, particularly concerning creative works,
is there to protect the personable element of its creator (the artist) with no mention of
financial security benefits where commerce is concerned. Established here are the
comparative differences in opinion, not only in the reasoning for copyright, but seemingly
in what copyright law is there to achieve. Challenging the claims of the recording
industries governing bodies (BPI, 2009), this ambiguity was also identified in my findings,
with audiences unsure of what exactly copyright is there to protect, with arguments for
protection of finances, some for less tangible reasons. Garofalo (2003, p.33) suggests that
copyright should, rather than swaying towards either side of the argument, perform a
balancing act, weighing the legal protection of intellectual property against the public rights
of access to information and freedom of expression.
! Referring to the earlier definition of copyright, the statement; Music copyright
provides the foundations in which the Music Business is built (BPI online, 2009) arguably
constructs a discourse that the music industry equates to the recording industry.
Williamson & Cloonan (2007) cite this as a problem. They argue the music industry, is an
umbrella term for all the smaller industries all working within the field of music. The
recording industry, is merely one facet of these. It is the uses of words such as theft and
piracy (RIAA, 2009), plus the use of the term music industry for representative and
umbrella organisations (Williamson & Cloonan, 2003, p. 306) that are creating a false
understanding amongst audiences of what exactly the music industry is and how they are
interacting with it when consuming recorded music. In support of Williamson & Cloonans
arguments, there was a common misuse of the phrase music industry during the focus
group discussions, however understandings that file sharing has further implications for
supporting industries, seemed also prevalent, most notably from the older group. A false
understanding of the differences between music and recording industry practices amongst
audiences, may well indeed considerably affect responses to the issues surrounding peer
to peer file sharing, dependent on their perceived current understandings.
! It is clear that within the field of copyright law, there are discrepancies on what
exactly copyright is there to achieve, and particularly how it is relevant to new digital
models of distribution and consumption. Such discrepancies are bound to have a direct
result on the way audiences perceive such regulations, and therefore directly how they
respond to them. As each side of the argument uses their own rhetoric to convince them, it
is they who are caught in the middle. In the next section, I develop the ways in which such
an argument can be interpreted by audiences based on similar audience studies of digital
! Audience research is a highly developed field, but it is how audiences consume
specifically digital media, and the reasons for these consumption habits that are most
suited to my investigation. The following section aims to find and locate ways in which
some answers can be established to how audiences are consuming digital music and what
legal implications they are considering, if any. Similar studies discussed below, provide a
framework for which my own findings can build upon, strengthening their arguments as
well as my own.
! Longhurst (2007) states The most significant contemporary change to this
environment [music consumption] is coming through downloading. (p. 205). Despite the
debates around the significance of copyright in the digital age, one element of digital music
consumption is generally agreed upon; it has changed the way in which audiences are
consuming popular music. The discovery that the majority of the older focus group had
adapted their listening and consumption habits from sole use of more traditional, analogue
forms of consumption, to suit the digital environment, is certainly supportive of the vast
impact digital media consumption has on all audiences. Figures published by the RIAA
from a report (Siwek, 2007) conducted by the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) in
America, suggest that so called digital music piracy is responsible for $12.5 billion of
economic losses every year (p.14). Such data would lean towards a conclusion that
changing trends in audience consumption of digital music are having a profound effect on
the recording industrys turnover, but quantitative data like this contributes very little to
producing real answers to the surrounding issues.
! Tim Wall (2003, pp.167-176) provides three ways in which we can start to interpret
audience music consumption. These include fanaticism and mass culture; the mass
manufacture of media products for mass consumption and the excessive behaviour of
fans, subcultural practices; the relationship music has with social identity, and fan culture;
exploring the relevance of cultural capital (Bourdieu 1984, cited in Wall, 2003) and its
significance and importance to individuals. Throughout my research, all participants had
something to say about the significance of their own music tastes and consumption and its
reflection on their life, whether than be in their record collecting habits or what their music
preferences say about their identity.
! As a relatively new academic field, audience use of file sharing lacks extensive
academic research. Chun-Yao Huang (2005) however, has carried out research into the
specifics of file sharing as a form of music consumption. Conducting focus groups of
college students, she concludes that music file sharing has become part of music culture
from a social perspective and almost a way of life for some (p.48). My studies have some
support for this claim with the younger subjects describing extensive p2p use by
themselves and their peers during their time at school, even describing it as a fashionable
practice as teenagers. Huangs study did not consider the reasoning behind the use of file
sharing, but presented more of an overview into the common practices of the process. The
findings and suggestive behaviors of audiences in my own research will therefore add
further nuance to some of his theories. Huang suggests that from his findings, those who
file share more often, are those that have expertise in technology and see the social
benefits of sharing (p.49). Related work has also been carried out in Italy (Mascheroni et
al, 2008). Similarly, this research focuses on a younger audience, conducting ethnographic
studies of the way digital television media is consumed, alluding to the media shift
between analogue and digital forms of consumption. The study deduces that younger
audiences are presently redefining their relationship with media (p.29) and further
highlights the social benefits digital media has to offer, pointing the way into further studies
for reasoning why audiences do, or dont engage with such media distribution methods.
! Perhaps the above studies are suggestive that older audiences can be said to be
more institutionalised, in a sense that they have become used to the traditional means of
purchasing music. Comparing the television viewing choices of different aged audiences,
Harwood (1997) found that audience choices are representative of their own perceived
social identity and values. Similar processes may also occur in the choices different
audiences make concerning file sharing activities. My research directly draws from
Harwoods work, not only in its methods, but also in that it supports claims that
consumption choices are directly linked to the societal values of the consumer, therefore
similar claims can be made to the differing consumption habits of digital music and
engagement with online sharing between different generational demographics.
! With the convergence of digital media, user generated media, and the social
implications described above, mass media messages of copyright infringement and its
consequences could be described as having little, to no effect on new audiences.
Livingstone (2004) explores the idea that in the internet age and with new interactive
ways of media consumption more prevalent, the term users is more applicable than
audiences, as often, mass communication models (one to many) are replaced by new
models (many to many), such as file sharing. However, the discourses presented by our
ruling forces (the major record labels and representatives) are still trying to promote and
facilitate traditional models, encouraging moral panics surrounding the negative effects of
file sharing. A moral panic can be defined; A condition, episode, person or group of
persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests. (Cohen
1972, p.2). In this instance the threat is identified as online piracy and illicit file sharing.
! The consumption of music in subcultures is a highly theorised area (see
Hesmondhalgh 2002, Longhurst, 2007). Clarke et al. (1976) provide the definition, Culture
is the way, the forms, in which groups handle the raw material of their social and material
existence (p10). Application of basic subcultural theories to my investigation, would
therefore suggest that audience interpretations of legal discourses surrounding file
sharing, are indeed directly related to their sociological, subcultural practices. Walls
(2003) application of the study of subcultural audience behaviour can be applied to my
study. Such applications to my findings of digital music consumption habits amongst
different audiences, lead to interesting correlation between the social identity (Huang
2005, Macheroni er al. 2008) of peer to peer music distribution, and how audiences
approach the legal or moral considerations of copyright in different ways.
! Based on the previous studies identified above and the various theories they
present, the relationships that audiences or users have with the legal issues surrounding
peer to peer file sharing are different depending on their social perception and interaction
with the phenomenon. Different understandings between the two age groups studied adds
support to the claim that current copyright law for digital music is outdated and ineffective,
particularly in responses provided from younger consumers. Some of the ideas about the
different ways in which new online cultures have affected media consumption are explored
in greater depth in the next section.
! The online environment, and the practices that occur within it, form a key aspect of
my studies. The internet provides the platform which allows peer to peer file sharing to
function, allowing the connection between two or more computers over the internet
copying the files from one another. Many theories behind the way the online environment
has changed consumption of popular media, have already been mentioned in the previous
sections. Online culture lead to the facilitation of peer to peer networks, but in response to
the problems it has caused for the recording industry, using the same tools, new models
are being constructed to provide solutions.
! Monitoring the way in which people use the internet has lead to extensive scholarly
research but also a great deal of writing in general, some of the most referenced thinkers
within the field are not necessarily academics themselves, but their opinions are regarded
highly amongst academic peers. If we re-present the argument discussed earlier in the
chapter, discussing the potential for online commerce, Chris Andersons Long Tail (2006)
model provides an example of such work. The Long Tail model refers to a distribution
graph applicable for online commerce. The more popular and commercial, mass market
material at one end of the graph represents a high volume of sales. Yet the graph
continuously tails out to show the almost, whilst smaller, limitless potential for online sales
in niche markets.
Fig i. - Basic Long Tail Model (Anderson, 2006)
! Through the long tail, Anderson suggests the internet has opened up more
possibilities for promotion and distribution of media, in this instance for music. Were
entering an era of radical change for marketers. Faith in advertising and the institutions
that pay for it, is waning, while faith in individuals is on the rise. Peers trust
peers. (Anderson 2006, p98). Some of the comments made in the focus groups, I think
would challenge Andersons last comment of trust, with many of the group voicing fears
over potential security threats from anonymous online users, however, they were aware of
the alarming affect in which online distribution models had for the market place, some
members even drawing upon the long tail model in their own arguments.
! These same arguments are cited by Andrew Dubber (2007). Applying Andersons
long tail theory, it is suggested that the economics of the internet are different to the
economics of the offline world (p24). The amount of shelf space in the physical world only
allows for the popular to be stocked. Online however, limitless possibilities for space allow
for more sales of smaller quantities of the less popular items, increasing the potential for
commerce. Most notably for the purposes of this dissertation however, is the notion that
the economic environment of the two is different, yet the laws of copyright remain the
same. File sharing is legally viewed as a form of copyright infringement, however is often
referred to as a form of theft in the rhetoric of the recording industry. Audience awareness
of the crimes, if any, that are performed during the process of file sharing are likely to
affect their perception of right and wrong and therefore how they choose to participate in
such processes. In terms of digital technologies, music online being digital and not
physical, affects the way it can be reproduced. When digital music is shared, the original
remains intact and a carbon copy is generated. This is different to theft in the physical
sense, such as stealing a copy of a record that cannot be replaced.
! Looking at the social and economic impact that file sharing presents, we can look
specifically at one of the major instances of its debate, prominent in my own research, the
case surrounding the late nineties, peer to peer software, Napster. Menn (2003) and
Merriden (2001) explore the history and unique position in web culture and technology that
Napster presented as one of the first prolific cases of file sharing on a large scale. In his
case study of Napster, Wall (2003) describes Napsters closure as an example of the
demise of systems that benefit music fans (p223) and the type of practices that are
encouraged for the benefit of commercial operations. Court cases between the recording
industry and file sharing services are still prevalent today, highlighting the lack of change in
a decade of file sharing online. For example, the case in Sweden prosecuting major file
sharing service, The Pirate Bay (Johnson & Kiss, 2009) in which the defendants were
charged and the more recent case in the UK, where the operator of private file sharing site
OiNK was cleared of all charges (Rogers, 2010).
! The record companies proposed that the Napster system ripped off artists and ! would kill music, while they made the legal argument that Napster encouraged the ! infringement of copyrights they held. Napster countered by arguing that members of ! Napster were making fair non-commercial use of the rights already assigned with ! the original sale of the record that had been converted into mp3 files.! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! (Wall 2003, p223)
Interestingly, Napster was the p2p service most referenced to in my own studies, however,
its demise, also seemed to mark much of the disuse of peer to peer services, supporting
Walls claim that its closure was indeed beneficial to the commercial recording industry.
! Technological development governing the changing practices of digital music
consumption is often cited as the main scrutiny of scholars in the field (see Vale, 2009).
As a response to the growth in popularity of peer to peer music sharing, many new models
for online distribution have been suggested and put into operation such as flat fee
subscription services, like those discussed by Myka (2009). Incidentally, Napster provided
a similar model after it was relaunched as a legitimate download service. These models
along with the streaming models mentioned in the focus groups, such as those envisaged
by Last.fm and Spotify, are regarded by some, as a saviour to the recording industry for
the problems file sharing presents. Gerd Leonhard (with Kusek 2005 & 2008) is famed for
referring to such models as presenting a feels like free option to consumers, whilst
generating revenue streams elsewhere in the process, usually through advertising.
! The changes in music distribution online thanks to technological development,
harks back to the classic writings of McLuhan (1964), We shape our tools and thereafter
our tools shape us. Our development in online environments has completely reshaped ! 16
traditional models of retail and the way in which audiences listen to and consume music.
Jones suggests the internet needs to be approached on numerous levels, as a social
space, medium of distribution, and engine of social and commercial change: as a space of
interrelated practices rather than a text to be critiqued, or a technology in need of
assessment and control (2000, p22).
! As a social space, the anonymity provided by communicating with others online, in
our case, sharing music files, may provide users with a lack of concern about what they
are doing and a tending to acting like the normative behavior of others (Watt, Lea &
Spears, 2002). If others are doing it, why cant I? Responses from my own research
would tend to support such claims that users feel that their actions alone cant possibly be
having substantial economic effects. The internet and the modern notion and applications
in Web 2.0 (OReilly 2005), as well as its ever growing use for more social communication
(Boyd & Ellison, 2007), points towards a more open network of facilities and functions
oriented by the user, and facilitating user to user connectivity, perfectly exemplified by the
practices of peer to peer file sharing. As people start living in online environments such as
social networks, p2p could be said to represent the online version of exchanging tapes or
CDs face to face, which my results would suggest is generally accepted as common
! In The Future is User Led, Bruns (2008) describes this tendency towards an online
future of user led development and says of its relation to copyright;
! The community-based development of any form of content necessarily requires ! members of the produsage community to adopt more permissive approaches to ! legal and moral rights in intellectual property than is the norm in traditional, ! corporate content production. (p4)
This note, perhaps, describes the relationship users of peer to peer services are starting to
inherit as a direct product of online technological development.
! Many of the theories surrounding online culture displayed above, highlight
significant changes in retail and consumption of media presented by online technologies, ! 17
and the way users have come to adopt the various new models introduced. The idea that
the internet is not owned by anyone and should be viewed as a space for interaction rather
than a medium for media distribution, actually facilitates the production of file sharing sites
like Napster, in a way governing media bodies cant regulate. In summary, the key
argument presented here, is that traditional models of commerce and media regulation are
completely useless in an online environment where users have a greater influence on its
development. The case for online music distribution is unsettled, both industry and
consumers still seem to be jockeying for the best position to suit their needs.
! In this chapter I justify and examine the effectiveness of my chosen research
methods for the purposes of obtaining audience responses to the legal issues of peer to
peer file sharing. Using two separate focus groups of different aged participants; one
group of younger individuals aged between 20 and 25 years as well as a comparative
group, from an older demographic of consumers, of over 40 years of age. Based on
guidance and exemplar literature, I discuss the merits and disadvantages that focus group
research provides, and specifically what was effective for this study, as well as the
necessary ethical implications that had to be taken into consideration, and how they were
dealt with. Whilst only conducting two focus groups, definitive conclusions based on my
findings alone are difficult to ascertain. However, the strength of conducting the
comparative focus groups, is the provided overview of generalised responses,
strengthening and supporting some of the central arguments, discussed in the previous
chapter, of the legal issues with copyright and its relationship to digital music. This will in
turn open areas for further investigation.
! Findings from the previous research of Huang (2005) and Macheroni et al (2008)
advocate that younger audiences are more open and relaxed about the notion of peer to
peer sharing, as well as any suggested implications of their actions. Using similar research
methods I am able build upon their work, highlighting and supporting such claims by
providing evidence and similar findings. Huangs (2005) use of focus groups highlighted
specific areas of interest with direct feed back from audience members, whilst
Mascheronis (2008) research adopted ethnographic studies of online, as well as off line
interaction, that their subjects were having with digital media. Due to the nature of peer to
peer sharing, online ethnographic study of users in certain environments could be directly
applied to researching users of file sharing services. However, the anonymity in this type of ! 19
online interaction, alluded to by Watt, Lea and Spears (2002), would allow very little data
to be extracted about the type of demographic using the service. Whilst it would, perhaps,
allow for a clear insight of how the audiences share music online, it would be difficult to
ascertain why, and the reasoning they have behind their actions, providing very little
evidence to justify audience behaviour.
! The common attention paid to younger audiences in the above similar studies, also
presents an interesting aspect of age relation. Particular interest in my research, aimed at
conducting comparative studies to different aged audiences, will allow for further analysis
of not just how audiences are interacting with new digital forms of media, but specifically
some of the reasons why they choose to act they way they do regarding file sharing, and
whether or not the central debate of copyright infringement carries any influence.
Conducting focus groups with pariticipants of similar age, worked not only well for the
purposes of the investigation but also allowed the subjects to respond respectively of each
other, removing any underlying social hierarchies that would perhaps hamper responses in
a group of varied ages.
! This particular area of research could be carried out in numerous ways and on
varying levels of detail. My own study, affected by time constraints and available
resources, limited the use of extensive one on one interviews for example, coupled with
the nature of online sharing proving difficult to conduct ethnographic studies of its users.
Therefore, one of the more effective ways in which I could have conducted such research
was by conducting these focus groups. Based on the guiding of Bertrand and Hughes
(2005, p81), focus groups, conversely to individual interviews, benefit from inciting
discussion between participants and relieves pressure on those involved. As an
established method for audience research, focus groups can be effective at inciting
natural responses involved in group discussion and participation. Whilst using focus
groups is the most useful method to encourage this type of discussion, it must be taken
into consideration that the participants are not in an unmonitored environment. They will be
aware that what they say is being recorded and documented, as well as the fact they are
being guided by a questioning moderator.
! Focus groups have in the past, and continue to be, a widely used method for
market research, however in many instances they are now used for a variety of academic
study. Morgan (1997) describes the recent history of the academic use of focus groups or
group interviews. Whilst originally used as an effective research method within the fields of
social sciences, Morgan describes the early use of focus groups for media audience
research. Of particular notice are, its early use by Lazarsfeld (1942) as a method for
qualitative responses to a number of radio broadcasts, and more recently Lunt and
Livingstone (1996) explain how the method was used in the early 1980s by British
communication researchers, examining how audiences interpreted media messages.
Since these early studies and the development of focus groups for audience research, the
process has become widely used for a number of applications. Highlighted by the vast
array of guidance material available, carrying out focus groups for my own primary
research, it would suggest, would therefore be a suitable and effective method.!
! The legal aspect of my research may discourage research participants to shy away
from full, honest answers, yet the focus group environment should allow participants to
open up to sensitive issues whilst also encouraging candour and more unforced
responses than that of one on one interviews for instance (Boubour 2007, p27).
Participants are also able to react to each others contributions, with the discursive nature
and group influence of focus groups easing participants, generating more inherent
responses to the topics at hand (Fern 2001, p137). Such influence could be seen as
having a negative effect on realistic responses, providing a false consensus and
generating a more uniform response than would ordinarily be obtained (Bertrand &
Hughes 2005, p81). However individual answers from any means, would not allow any
reaction for any agreements, or disagreements, within the group providing interesting
responses to issues surrounding the topic. One of the main unique and useful features of
focus group research, for this investigation, is the generation of discussion between the
participants, which empowers those taking part, leaving participants more likely to provide
fuller contributions (Kitzinger, 1994). Certainly in both of the focus groups, leaders in the
conversation soon emerged and therefore, mixed contributions were received. The
behaviour of these leaders encouraged further conversation as members reacted to their
! Regarding the legal concerns of my research, ethical considerations need to be
taken into account, particularly regarding the anonymity of the subjects. Bertrand and
Hughes (2005) name three reasons in which ethical considerations are necessary when
conducting audience research. In this case, anonymity is paramount to ensure that the
research subjects are not placed at any risk of physical, emotional or financial harm (p15).
In this case, by way of legal repercussions to any unlawful activity mentioned. To facilitate
such measures, all subjects are referred to under false identities throughout this
dissertation and all participants were required to sign a consent forms agreeing to their
free will of participation (see appendix i.) before taking part in the discussions.
! Just like any research method, focus groups naturally have their drawbacks.
Focusing on such a small section of the public, the participants used are not
representative of a wide cross section of the public and therefore results wont be fully
representative of wider society. However my investigation, in the comparative examination
of results between the two different age groups, highlights some of differences in social
values and responses to the surrounding issues of digital music consumption and peer to
peer file sharing.
! Gathered data on the occupation and background of the participants may also
provide useful in identifying noticeable responses (see appendix ii.). Within the younger
group, all the participants were either full time students or employed in low income jobs,
limiting the amount of disposable income they have to spend on unessential purchases,
including music. This will in turn likely affect their decisions when deciding how to source
music. Conversely, all the of the participants of the older group, were either in full or part-
time employment, with most supporting families, and earning a far greater amount
disposable income. Various social factors of the participants may also have influence on
their responses, for example, their job roles and in the case of the students, what subjects
they are studying. The two focus groups, provide a snap shot of comparative findings on
which to base my own conclusions. Using similar structures and discussion topics within
each, comparative analysis of the answers and discussions of both will highlight
differentiating ideas and responses to the presented issues of file sharing and its relation
! When structuring the groups, Krueger (1994) notes that the common misconception
that ten to twelve participants are needed for a focus group, is a largely unworkable
amount for complex topics. In light of this, the older group consisted of six participants and
there were five in the younger group. Recruitment for both groups proved problematic at
times, having to cancel various arranged meetings due to last minute drop outs. Generally
the most effective method of recruitment was by relationship chains, encouraging
confirmed participants to bring a partner, or friend, who was also willing to contribute. In
the cases where participants were familiar with one another previously, it also helped to
ease any apprehension and flowing conversation was generated more rapidly. The groups
were both held in informal, relaxed surroundings and recorded discreetly as possible.
Reducing any major awareness of the recording equipment and a feel of formality,
avoiding placing participants under unnecessary pressure. Both conversations within the
groups produced consistent responses and both were able to formulate concise opinions
on all of the prior formulated questions and conversations topics. The audio from the focus
groups was recorded and full transcriptions are available in the appendices (iii. & iv.).
Research & Findings
! The following chapter presents the findings of primary research investigating
audience responses to the legal issues surrounding online file sharing of music. The
material presented here is the product of the two separate focus groups. The discussion
taking place in both instances revolved around the same various themes including the
participants own consumption of digital music and listening habits; raising discussion in
areas surrounding their own personal issues presented in downloading music via peer to
peer services, and how that affects their interaction and understanding of the process.
Most notably for my research, of these implications, particular attention is paid to any
responses they may or may not have had towards legal discourses surrounding the notion
of file sharing. These themes will form the basis of the structure of this chapter in aim to
discover any differences noted between behaviour, opinions and responses of the two
Consumption & Listening Habits
! Before we can start to establish any responses to the legal issues surrounding the
usage of peer to peer file sharing, we need to establish exactly how, and if the participants
interact, use and listen to digital music, whether or not it be acquired through p2p. The
following section examines the participants personal music consumption habits and in
particular their digital music consumption habits. Based on the responses, I challenge the
preconceptions that older audiences are less likely to interact with new forms of media,
whilst identifying suitable comparisons between the groups in other traditional forms of
! On first introduction of the idea of use of digital music with the older group, it was
evident that most participants were familiar users of the concept, most either using mp3
players or their mobile phone to consume digital music. When the group was asked if they
owned mp3 players the response was as follows,
!! Harry: Of course (laughter). How many?... Ive had mp3 players for going on, Must ! be ten years I should think.!! Pete: Ditto...!! Harry: Way before the iPod came out!! Pete: I had a Creative Labs 10GB one, which was about the first one to have a hard ! drive.!! Rachel: Creative Labs was the first one that I had but it was much smaller than that. ! Then it took me a while to go down the iPod route and I went nano. Now Ive got an ! iPhone and thats brilliant because it does everything.
In total, five out of the six participants, owned mp3 players for use in various instances. A
similar proportion of participants in the group of younger people also used similar devices;
!! Steve: 90% of the time, if Im listening to music, its off my phone!! Mark: I only really listen to it on my laptop now, my phone can have mp3s on it, but ! my phone is nearly four years old. the headphones are long broken. !! Katie: I use my iPod all the time.
Overall, despite no input from one or two of the participants, most interacted with digital
music on a regular basis in some fashion or another. This goes some way to disproving
any preconceptions that may be had that older generations are out of touch with new
technologies and new forms of media, hinted at by the studies of Mascheroni et al (2008).
However, whilst here we have acknowledged the similarities between the groups in their
music consumption habits of mobile music listening, in the form of portable mp3 players or
mobile phones. We are yet to establish other listening and consumption habits or even
where the participants source their digital music collections.
! In the older group, the idea that mp3 and digital music consumption provided the
main part of their listening produced mixed responses, the most notable from the men in
! Pete: For home, physical music is always my first choice.
! Elli: (to Frank) I think you would say the same, wouldnt you?!! Frank: Yeah the same, exactly the same (pause) and vinyl for choice.
Throughout the conversation held in this group, it was clear that physical music collecting
was still a process they engaged in, whether this be in the form of CDs or vinyl records.
Of the three women in the group, only one, Rachel, demonstrated an active consumption,
and collection, of music. The other two women, present in the group alongside their
husbands, tended to let their spouses talk about their collections, evident in the example
!! Rachel: Yeah I mean, Ive got it [my music] on the computer. Ive still got all my CDs ! I havent got my vinyl any more.
! Harry: I must admit thats the way I tend to buy things. Ill buy a CD then immediately ! rip it onto various machines and then Ill stick it in a cupboard and occasionally it ! comes out.
In the extract above, despite the purchase of music in a physical sense, interestingly,
some members of the group tend towards consuming it digitally, rarely using the physical
medium, in a CD player for example. Whereas other members described still playing vinyl
and sitting down specifically to listen to records. Despite the usage of physical CDs, it
must be noted that the effort is still taken to purchase the music physically rather than
obtaining just digital files, either from a digital retail store or other means. Interestingly the
record collecting habits and the listening habits of the men in the group supports Will
Straws (1997) observations that record collecting tends to be a phenomenon normally
carried out among men.
! Such observations are not necessarily present in the second group of younger
participants. In this group, there was no apparent common method of music consumption.
However, comparatively to the older group, almost all the members consumed music on a
regular basis and it was almost always in a digital format. Most music consumption in this
group came from either listening to digital forms of music straight from a computer source
or from a portable device. Despite the consumption habits there was still small elements of
commodity collecting evident as well. Katie describes that she finds owning a CD really
important and keeps CDs as an identification of her music tastes and personality.
Whereas for others, Mark, for example suggests that CD purchases will only come with a
specific connection to an artist. Steve even mentions a small collection of vinyl,
!! Steve: So it is almost all about novelty with that. I dont even have my turntable ! plugged in at the moment because have everything on mp3 that Ive got on vinyl. ! So you dont even have to play it.
! Largely it can be said that members of both the groups choose to expose
themselves to, and regularly consume digital music, just in different ways. Conversely,
differences in the methods in which the different groups went about obtaining access to
digital music was quite noticeable. As mentioned, the elder group, whilst they are
consumers of digital music, they preferred to consume digital versions of their own
physical music collection, making their purchases online via sites like Amazon. One
participant even expressing the fact he digitizes his extensive vinyl collection.
!! Pete: One of the things about Amazon, it definitely demonstrates the different ways ! which you can buy things.
! Harry: Amazons been very very useful as far as that goes. People whove bought ! this might also be interested in that. Ive bought so many CDs on that basis over ! the years and got into several bands that perhaps otherwise I wouldnt of heard of.
Within the younger group, however, extensive different ways of obtaining music were
referred to, including plenty demonstrable of Leonhards (2008) feels like free music
streaming services such as Spotify and Last.fm. Other sources. as well as a peer to peer
file sharing, included hosting platforms, such as Rapidshare and blog search engine tools
for hosted downloadable mp3 files like Hype Machine. The following extract is taken from
the beginning of the focus group;
! Mark: Umm, I only really use Spotify, and youtube, um because, Spotifys just ! simple and if they havent got one thing well theyve got a bunch of other stuff. And ! so you can just go on that, and if you cant find it on Spotify, odds are you can find a ! sort of dodgy replica of it on Youtube. The only thing thats mildly annoying about ! Spotify is that you get adverts on it, but its not worth paying the 140 quid a year to ! get rid of them. Im not really bothered by it, its just like listening to the radio without ! having to listen to a tedious DJ. !! Steve: I think the thing with Spotify, and Youtube as well, is that it is just that ! browsing factor. Its that browsing factor isnt it, you dont have to actually make any ! real decision.
! Clare: (interrupts) You dont have to commit to buying a CD.
! Steve: You dont have to commit to buying a CD, you dont even to commit to ! buying an mp3, you dont even have to download a whole album or wait an hour, ! your just on it and its there in front of you. But, I dont personally use it at the ! moment, because Ive had to switch computers bout three times, because I keep ! breaking them. But um, yeah it would be preferable [Spotify]. That said, its nice to ! find some some stuff that you cant find on there sometimes. You just have to dig ! that little bit deeper, but it depends what it is. I reckon a large amount of the ! conversation is going to be based on Spotify.
It should be noted at this point, that all the members of this group were full time students or
employed in low income positions, therefore perhaps disposable income may have a
considerable effect on where they decide to obtain their music. Services such as Spotify
and Last.fm are music streaming services which allow users to freely stream music over a
web connection without actually downloading a digital music track to their computers hard
drive. One notable feature of these kinds of services is that music cannot be transferred to
personal portable mp3 devices. Spotify presents a new and unique distribution model in
that it can fit both into the categories of Mykas (2009) subscription service models
discussed by Mark in the extract above, where a fee can be paid to remove adverts from
the audio stream and have access to more features such as offline listening, as well as the
feels like free model (Leonhard, 2009), that is financially supported by the
! From the findings displayed above we are able to deduce that interaction with digital
music is not limited to younger generations of consumers, challenging the suggestions of
Huang (2005) and Mascheroni et al (2008). Both of these studies, solely focused on media
consumption of younger demographics, yet hinted towards a reluctance to engage with
new media models from older generations. Whilst, my findings would tend to disprove this
initial aspect of consumption habits, they go a considerable way to reaffirming
Mascheronis (2008, p29) statements that young audiences are in the process of
redefining the relationships they have with digital media. This is particularly evident in the
varied identified methods in which the younger group were listening to digital music, and
seemingly on a more regular basis than the older group as well. Whilst the elder
participants did demonstrate an interaction with digital music, much of their music sourcing
was still rooted in purchases of physical music artefacts, as was the practice of record
collecting. Of the various methods of consumption identified, extensive use of new digital
music consumption models, like Spotify, demonstrate a lack of reliance of peer to peer
networks, unlike the recording industry would suggest (Siwek, 2007) and tend to support
the claims of Leonhard (2009) that these new, legitimate models, provide a real alternative
to go some way to relaxing recording industry fears. The seemingly quick acceptance of
these models by the younger, less affluent participants would also go someway to suggest
they are keen to find alternative methods of sourcing music, rather than having to resort to
controversial peer to peer downloading sites.
Engagement with Peer to Peer File Sharing
! Under the previous heading, I provided an overview to the general consumption
trends the subjects were following with digital music. In this section, I develop this theme
closer to my investigation, with specific findings of the participants interaction with peer to
peer file sharing facilities. I uncover reasoning behind the participants decisions whether or
not to engage with peer to peer networks and present the case that they may not
specifically be linked to any legal concerns.
! As the conversation developed, unexpectedly within the older group, many of the
participants had used peer to peer services in the past, whilst perhaps their usage was
limited, responses seemed mixed.
! Harry: Ive downloaded about 3 or 4 albums, ever, and those have all been in the ! last 6 months. Because Id never actually purchase an mp3 download. I have got ! some illegal ones, not ones that I listen to particularly often, but Ive got some. !! Rachel: Yeah. Ive got some illegal. I suppose Ive got, I use iTunes a lot, I have ! used Napster.
Here, Harry, reinforces the fact he would rather purchase music in a physical format.
Whilst rachel mentions her use of Napster, the file sharing service.
! Sarah: Ive used Limewire in the past...! Yeah. I did subscribe to Limewire. We didnt download without the subscription, but ! now its deleted, I dont know what my sons use (laughter) but yeah, Limewire I ! used to get a lot of my music. DVDs too, because you could download films too, ! so it was really good.
From above extract, Sarah understands Limewire as a file sharing service, yet seems to
emphasise the fact that she used the subscription service, apparent that, she feels by
paying for the subscription version of Limewire there are no copyright laws being broken.
In fact, the subscription service offered by Limewire just enhances the type of service they ! 31
provide, in terms of download speeds and availability of some files, it goes no way to
ligitimising any copyright infringing downloads. This reinforcing of the fact that she paid for
the service however, whilst demonstrating a misunderstanding of what she was actually
paying for, shows a conscious effort to pay for something that she feels she should. Similar
thoughts were highlighted by Frank,
!! Ive only ever downloaded one album, and I have to admit to feeling slightly ! guilty because it was an illegal one.(chuckles) Which is stupid I know but (pauses) ! perhaps Im a dinosaur, I dunno.
!The idea of guilt suggesting a thought of wrongdoing. Throughout the conversation within
this group, any mention of downloads obtained from peer to peer networks were referred
to as illegal in the same way that representative bodies (RIAA, 2009 & BPI, 2009)
constantly refer to such online sharing, presenting the idea that their understanding of
what is legal and what is not, is representative of the discourses of the major recording
industry. Following this Pete, one of the more vocal members of the group, announcing his
support of bands by financially backing them and purchasing their records and claiming
not to download music, admitted,
! ! Im not sure if I should mention this, but a friend of mine who is in the states, ! somehow got hold of a copy of a hard drive from an american radio station. Which I ! now have a copy of (laughs), which is about 500GB of assorted albums. But most of ! it, is now stuff that if I hadnt got it that way, that I wouldnt even consider buying. ! Some of it has just saved me digitising bits of my vinyl collection.
In this quote, Pete feels the need to justify his acquisition, claiming that he already owns
some of the records in other formats or that he would not have purchased some of the
music anyway. Apprehension is certainly identified in the opening statement, Im not sure
if I should mention this. Whilst not providing evidence of interaction with peer to peer file
sharing services, it does provide evidence of copyright infringement. Voicing an avoidance
of peer to peer networks, he seems at ease receiving extensive amounts of digital music ! 32
without payment by other means. Demonstrable in all the responses within the elder
group, was some sort of understanding that by engaging with peer to peer networks, they
were involved in a criminalised activity. Whether or not they knew exactly which laws they
were breaking was uncertain, or if indeed, it was they who were breaking them.
! As expected, within the younger group there was a greater mention of interaction
with p2p networks, however only one member of the group, Pat, referred to extensive use
and demonstrated a detailed understanding of how the process worked. The rest of the
group, tended to state that they had previous experience of using p2p services, but had
since stopped for a variety of reasons. Pat describes,
!! Its more of a community, youre encouraged to share back. Rather than just ! download it and leave, youre encouraged to seed it. So if you download 100 songs, ! you seed 100 songs, so your sharing with other people.
Clearly the most active in peer to peer networks from the younger group, evident in the
above quote, he provides an example of the social element of online sharing, also
identified in Huangs (2005) studies in the idea of community. Conversely to the recurrent
idea of the social element that online sharing provides, the older participants also alluded
to a similar social element of physically sharing records. A practice that they state they
performed when they were younger, and to some extend still do now, by borrowing and
lending CDs to one another. Applying the theories of Boyd & Ellison (2007), the above
example supports the idea that the online environment is tending towards facilitating user
oriented connectivity and cannot facilitate top down commercial models easily. However,
after Pat placed emphasis on p2p as a community of likeminded sharers, as a Computer
Science student he was able to describe the mechanical functioning of p2p exchanges
and described (see extract below) the lengths that he goes to avoid any potential legal
repercussions. A practice, suggestive that despite his regular engagement with peer to
peer sharing, he understands there is threat of legal implications, yet remains undeterred. ! 33
! I understand that its very easy to find someone on the internet, you can literally ! find exactly where their house is, so I take a precaution so its a bit harder to find ! me. I mask my IP address, so it looks like its somewhere else and not your ! computer, somewhere else in the world.
! As described earlier, for the rest of the younger group, the discussion surrounding
p2p centered around past experience of using such services. Both Mark, Clare and Katie,
on separate occasions described interacting with the peer to peer service, Limewire. The
following extract shows the three participants in a discussion over why they no longer use
peer to peer services.
!! Mark: I downloaded Limewire once, and it broke my mums computer and never ! went near it again.
! Katie: Same here.
! Clare: But like sometimes when you download the file, you get the file but then you ! have to download a programme to unlock the file. I just dont understand it. So I buy ! things of iTunes or I steal them from my friends or I just use Spotify, yeah. Then it all ! just goes my iPod.
In this instance, the participants are displaying that it is not necessarily any legal
implications that deters them from using p2p but fear of risking personal computer security.
Katie describes that after purchasing a new computer, she would not engage with any
illegal downloading activity. Other factors, highlighted in the above extract included a lack
of technological understanding of how to download from bit torrent, peer to peer sites.
However Clare states, Its a technical thing for me. If someone taught me how to use it,
then Ill download, similarly to Pat, she is evidently not put off by any legal implications.
Likewise, in the older group the participants provided similar reasoning for not using p2p;
! Pete: Im computer savvy enough and have encountered enough genuine horror ! stories to steer well clear, I would never be part of a peer to peer network....! I think its a real threat to computer security.! 34
! Frank: Thats the thing thats always worried me I have to say.
Coupled with the fact that earlier in the discussion Pete described obtaining free digital
music elsewhere, through the above he also supports the idea that a major factor in not
engaging with peer to peer file sharing comes from a fear of the threat against personal
! Presented below are extracts taken from the focus group of the younger
demographic. The participants, were all in their teenage years and at school when the first
prolific file sharing service, Napster, was increasing in user popularity.
!! Mark: But then when you were younger, when everyone started downloading, when ! I was about 12, when Napster was still like starting out and everyone was ripping ! stuff off that, yeah. It was the cool thing. Everyone was always banging on about ! how much music theyd got for free and stuff.
! Clare: Yeah and then it was all about myspace when you were 15.
! Steve: I remember downloading so much stuff off napster that I just never listened ! to. Just for the sake of having complete albums on that little page you had at the ! beginning. (Laughs) But, its true, theres a lot of people who were like that, that just ! wanted to have collections and stuff. And illegal downloading does open the door to ! being just able to do it right away, those are probably the people who download the ! most Id say.
The group, describes their interaction and understanding of Napster in their school years.
The trends of peer to peer usage, among their age group, at that time in their lives is
demonstrable of the normative behavioral activity theory of Watt, Lea and Spears (2002),
perhaps facilitated by the anonymity of online communication. The emergence in
popularity of Napster, evident in the actions of Steve described above, allowed users to
compile music collections with relative ease (Menn, 2003). Building on the work of
Bourdieu (1984) in fan culture, Matt Hills (2002) suggests that such fan behaviour can be
labelled as commodity-completism and presents a startling contradiction against the
tendency towards a fans anti-commercial beliefs. This idea is also representative of the
contradictory digital music consumption habits and opinions of Pete, of the older
demographic, in that he also, voiced extensive anti-commercial remarks regarding the
recording industry, pronouncing his support for artists and bands, yet demonstrates such
commodity completist practices in his extensive record collecting habits.
! The findings in this section of my investigation bear upon many of the issues
highlighted in previous academic works, yet do not necessarily support them entirely. Pats
technical proficiency backs the idea that those who have greater technological expertise
are more likely to see the social benefits of p2p and actively engage with it (Mascheroni et
al, 2008), as he was the only participant that described it as a regular activity. Contrary to
this, other responses seem to demonstrate a more complex situation. Pete from the older
group, who works in I.T. and is professedly computer savvy, mentions his reluctance to
file share, due to the computer security threats it presents. Whilst casting doubt on the
theory, this reaction could also be considered to exemplify the differences in attitudes from
the separate demographics. The security threat was fairly widespread in both groups, yet,
no participant was particularly clear on what exactly the security threats were from file
sharing, suggestive of a moral panic (Cohen, 1972) where the perceived threat presented
is based on the effects to the user instead of the financial effects to the recording industry.
These results therefore are more suggestive there is little to no consideration of legal
implications by the majority of users. Of the suggested social benefits of online sharing,
the practice seems more in line with a feature of subcultural music consumption (Wall,
2003) common within only particular groups of people, particularly noticeable in the
younger groups usage of p2p while they were at school age.
Responses to Legal Issues & Industry Implications
! Surmising the responses to the legal implications of file sharing, based on the
subjects actions and interaction with p2p discussed above, can only go part of the way to
providing firm conclusions based on the thinking that their actions may demonstrate. In this
section, further weight is added to some of these initial suggestions by highlighting some
of the direct responses to what the participants believe are the surrounding legal issues of
file sharing, as well as what they understand as the potential implications for the music
industries. Particularly noticeable in these findings are the differences in thought between
the two age demographics.
! As mentioned in the earlier chapters, there have been a number of recent legal
cases of current providers of peer to peer facilities, such as the well documented trials of
The Pirate Bay and OiNK in the media. Whilst many of the participants of both the focus
groups appeared to have no particular awareness of such cases, some limited knowledge
from Harry in the elder group and Pat from the younger group was demonstrated;
!! Harry: Yeah, Ive got a reasonable idea... Of course the pirate bay have been ! prosecuted havent they? Allegedly they have been making a lot of money by ! selling advertising, alongside their download stuff. So thats one clear way its ! done. ! ! ! !
-------!! Pat: Pirate bay was a major name. It was one of the big torrent providers and ! people just sort of targeted it. They thought theyd take the big one out, but as soon ! as people see they cant use that one, theyll just go to another one, they dont ! disappear. People just didnt want them giving away free stuff.
! Steve: Yeah, what actually happened, what was the resolution?
! Pat: Theyve shut down.
! Steve: Oh they have shut down.
! Pat: I think someone took over, or someone bought the website or at least a share ! of it and decided they would try and do some sort of legal activity with it.
In the end, the case was settled with the founders of The Pirate Bay sentenced to one year
imprisonment with substantial fines for copyright infringement. In her studies of the Pirate
Bay case, Irmak Ertuna (2009, online), suggests that The Pirate Bay was more than just a
torrent site, it is instead a symptom of the inherent contradictions embedded within a
capitalist society, echoing the similar opinions of Wall (2003) surrounding Napsters case.
! Of the specific responses to the legality of digital piracy and sharing music online,
the clearest difference in collective thought of the the two groups was generated. Below is
an extract from the older group.
! Harry: Well, illegal means you havent paid for it...
! Moderator: Is it stealing then?
! Harry: Theres lots of debatable points about that, you can argue either way.
! Elli: I suppose theoretically, it is.
! Frank: Strictly speaking it is stealing.
! E: Yeah, theoretically it is.
Here the elder group, used to traditional models of retail consumption of media and music,
understand digital music piracy through file sharing as an illegal activity because no
payment has been made, despite the differences in all other areas of production and
distribution cost between digital music and physical music. To them, even obtaining a
digital music file without paying for it, is a form of stealing. Of course theft and copyright
infringement are two different criminal acts, but perhaps the labeling of such forms of
activity as theft by the RIAA (2009) and the BPI (2009) and mainstream media has helped
reenforced these opinions and understanding. Of course similar discourses would also
have been encountered by this group, during the home taping is killing music campaign
of the early 1980s (McLeod, 2005). The blurring of the lines between copyright
infringement and theft is what McLeod suggested was used as a tactic to reenforce the
monopoly of the major recording industry. These findings add particular support to this
claim, suggesting that older audiences who have had more exposure to recording industry
campaigns denouncing piracy, are more likely to think of copyright infringement as a form
! Moving on to the group of younger participants, similar thoughts of theft were
echoed, with Clare stating, if you pay for it [digital music] then its legal (laughter) and then
if you dont, its not. However a greater degree of apathy towards the legal issues
surrounding digital piracy was also evident, noticeable in the earlier identified interaction
with peer to peer facilities also, reiterating the facts for not downloading through peer to
peer amounted to technical and security reasons not legal reasons (see the last page of
transcript, appendix iv.).
! The generational differences in opinions towards the issues was also mentioned by
some of the subjects without any prompting. Harry states, citing the example of his own
Children, The kids dont understand. Well, a. they dont understand that its illegal and b.
they dont care its illegal. Its getting it without paying for it isnt it?. Based on the
responses from my research, this seems to be largely untrue, there is some understanding
of the legal issues surrounding digital music piracy, but the responses given tend to be one
of apathy. Steve, from the younger group suggests a reason for the differences of opinion,
! Theres an age issue here too. Because obviously, there are people who are over a ! certain age who have not gone through the same system and their buying habits ! have stayed the same as they were when they were younger.
It could be said that these different social and economic environments from physical to
digital consumption trends between the two generations, demonstrate similarities with
Harwoods (1997) findings between different aged audiences. And therefore the changing
trends and following of normative social behaviour (Watt, Lea & Spears, 2002) play a big ! 39
part in the polarising of opinions and difference between generational responses over
digital piracy and peer to peer sharing. The different system described by Steve during
the focus group, highlights an understanding that he and his peers have had a different
experience to those of an older generation, in support of Livingstones (2004) suggestion
for the term users over audiences or consumers as they are more likely to interact than
consume online media.
! Of their believed significance file sharing has for the music industry, the groups
displayed an array of responses. The following extracts are taken from the older group;
! Elli: I dont understand the legal stuff
! Pete: The danger is, particularly with smaller bands, is that at the end of the day ! you are depriving them of the income they need to record their next album or do ! their next tour... you can effectively end up killing that band off.
! Elli: But somebody must be making some money somewhere then, surely?
! Frank: But its not the band
This passage provides evidence that members in this group, believe that the majority of
income for musicians, particularly less prolific artists, is provided by their record sales. This
may be true in some instances, but the younger participants contributions suggested
otherwise with Steve stressing;
!! Things are going to change if everyone wants them to. You cant just make what ! everyone does criminal. Theres a lot less people telling you its criminal, than the ! people that do it and think they should be allowed to.
In the above quote, Steve displays greater acceptance to commercial change in music
than that of the older participants, suggesting that how consumers act regarding their
consumption trends is unalterable by regulation. The younger group also particularly
identified with the idea that file sharing presents greater financial opportunities elsewhere
for music, contrasting entirely with the thoughts of the older group. Pat believes, ! 40
! The artists dont actually get that much money from a CD sale, they make their ! money from other means like merchandise and concerts and things. Like you said ! before, if you had 300 people in Germany, who would come to a show if you were ! there. Theyre still going to make money from it.
These are findings that would support McLeods (2005) sentiments of anti-commercial
copyright legislation and the greater benefits that freely available music brings. The extract
below shows that members of the younger groups discussion; in support of a particular
band or artist, they are more likely purchase a ticket to see them perform, rather than their
! Clare: If i want to buy something though, ill buy a gig ticket instead or something ! like that and Ill think that Im supporting the band that way.
! Steve: There another point right there. I think live music has gone up massively in ! the last 10 years.
This understanding of the wider income channels available in the music industries also
demonstrates a more up to date understanding of exactly what the term music industry
entails. Williamson and Cloonans (2007) arguments against the wide spread use of the
term, based on my findings, suggest older generations are indeed more inclined to
understand the term equating to the recording industry as displayed in the extract below.
!! Pete: I was going to say that I think the music industry is a dead dinosaur and it just ! doesnt know it yet.
! Harry: Well thats right yeah, they are definitely missing a trick though, its this long ! tail thing, [to moderator] which no doubt youve heard of. Everythings concentrated ! up here right in the peak of sales, then theres this massive distribution curve, with ! stuff at the end where you might sell two downloads a year or whatever and theres ! millions of songs like that.
Also evident above in Harrys comment, is an understanding of the benefits for music
retail, online commerce can have, even referencing the Long Tail model (Anderson, 2006)
discussed in the earlier chapters. Harry was however the only advocate of this type
understanding, and the rest of the group leant towards their more traditional forms of
music consumption as comparison, describing that when buying physical music from
websites such as large online retailers like amazon, there was widespread use of the
amazons recommended items facility promoting music for sale based on purchases they
had already made.
! This phenomenon of the recording industries actions and the following responses
from consumers could be described to be an prime example of Michel de Certeaus idea of
strategies and tactics (1984). The strategies of the structures of power in the
relationship, in this case, the recording industries retention of traditional retail models and
the discourse that it equates to the music industry (BPI, 2009), verses the tactics of their
consumers. This investigation finds that between the two age demographics studied, the
response tactics are identifiably different. Whilst the older group do create their own space
to an extent, through their skepticism of recording industry practices, their consumption
habits and opinion demonstrate stronger ties with the recording industry discourse of
illegality and theft. The younger group however, seemed much more separated from these
strategies, demonstrable in their greater endorsement of file sharing, anti-commercial
remarks and greater reluctance to trust media and government regulation and law
regarding copyright infringement.
! Based on the focus group responses identified above, they suggest audiences are
completely aware that there are considerable legal issues surrounding file sharing,
however their opinions and responses to the legitimacy are separated between the
generations. The evidence provided by the younger demographic provides plenty of
support for the theories of McLeod (2005) in particular in their justification for copyright,
whereas the older demographic, whilst understanding of the complaints against incorrect
applications of copyright law, demonstrated a much more accepting response for its
necessity against the prevention of theft. Applying the theories of music retail and
commerce presented by Anderson (2006) and Dubber (2007), many of the pariticipants
seemed aware of the changes online commerce was having and should have, yet there
was an apparent reaction that the recording industry is reluctant to develop along with
them. If as Fisher (2001) suggests, copyright is there to protect the personal element of
artistic creations and not necessarily the associated financial assets of such work, industry
applications of copyright sending the wrong messages to audiences about what it is there
to achieve. The noted differences of opinion in the application of copyright between the
two groups add considerable weight to the arguments presented by Garofalo (2003),
performing the balancing act between the two sides of the debate, preventing the financial
exploitations of free music, whilst managing a freedom of access to consumers.
! One thing that can be said in confidence based on the results of this investigation,
is that audience opinions on the justifications for copyright law, in relationship to digital
music are certainly divided. Whilst there is a widespread adaptation to digital media
consumption trends, there is a distinct generational difference in the ways in which
different demographics source music digitally. Older generations seemingly fall into line
with traditional models of commerce, purchasing music in physical formats and
understanding online copyright infringement as a form of theft. New, younger audiences
however, having grown up in a time when the internet was becoming more accessible to
more users, with online sharing increasingly prevalent, display a more relaxed attitude
when it comes to obtaining digital media files. Whilst they understand they are potentially
going against the grain of the recording industrys wishes, they seem to show a distaste
and rebellion against their ideals.
! This paradigm shift in music consumption in the online environment is something
copyright has, and is, failing to adapt to. During the process of writing this dissertation, a
number of developments have occurred concerning the legal implementation of copyright
for the digital environment. Based on the contents of the Digital Britain Report (DCMS &
BIS, 2009), a new government bill was drafted in an attempt to reform copyright legislation
regarding digital media. The bill entitled The Digital Economy Bill (DCMS & BIS, 2010),
after little debate and scrutiny in the House of Commons, was pushed through in the wash
up before the election of a new government in the UK. Despite all the calls for digital
copyright reform, there has still been mass opposition and criticism for the new law, and
what new legal implications it presents for digital piracy and the users of file sharing
! Organisations such as the Open Rights Group are actively campaigning against the
new laws in the bill stating that disconnecting peoples internet connection is a
disproportionate response to alleged copyright infringement and will breach citizens
fundamental human rights, including their freedoms of expression and association. (2010)
! Online infringement is the result of the absence of legitimate markets and licensing regimes. The legal market has failed to satisfy the desire of music fans to use new technological possibilities to access music as easily as possible. Illicit use of peer-to-peer technologies has filled the gap. (Open Rights Group, 2010)
Such a reaction to these new legal measures, along with the findings of this investigation,
further support the argument, that an overhaul of copyright for digital media is imperative,
and this new bill fails to adhere to these needs. Indeed many of the theories discussed
throughout this dissertation display an overwhelming agreement that the recording industry
has failed to adapt to the online environment successfully, paving the way for audiences to
develop their own ideas.
! As time moves on and older audiences are replaced by current younger audiences
and online users, the gap between industry and audience will only increase, unless
copyright is suitably adjusted to perform the necessary balancing act between the two
(Fisher, 2001 & Garofalo, 2003). The current use of copyright seems structured around the
need to protect the income of the recording industry, arguably responsible for the division
and cause for debate in the first instance. The aggressive tactics proposed in new
legislation can only furthermore enhance this drift.
! It is incredibly hard to predict the future based on the past, widespread use of new
feels like free models may perhaps produce noticeable changes in audiences music
consumption, reducing the use of illicit file sharing in the near future, and todays children
will grow up with a completely different set of music consumption habits. This study opens
up plenty of areas for further investigation, particularly in the way different generations are
introduced to new models of consumption. A wider more comprehensive study of a bigger
audience quota, would also strengthen and challenge many of the presented arguments to
a greater degree. Whilst no one really knows what future changes and the implications
they will have for recorded music consumption, change will, and must happen.
Anderson, C. (2006)! The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand, ! London: Random House
Baker, C. E. (2002)! Media, Markets and Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Barbour, R. (2007)! Doing Focus Groups! London: Sa