On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Oh crud, The Economist!

In file-sharing, Internet traffic, music, p2p on November 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Open letter to The Economist, regarding their misleading article on the supposed “decline” of p2p-based file-sharing, where they use Sweden as a key example, however basing their interpretation on wildly misleading data. Also in their leader they uncritically continue said argument.


It saddens me that your otherwise so respectable publication has chosen to uncritically put forward biased and badly supported evidence for your assertion this week that 60 % of Swedish file-sharers would have “cut back or stopped altogether”. The information you refer to is from a web survey conducted by the Swedish wing of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). These are by no means independent, nor statistically valid findings. In fact, the same report states that 40 % of Swedes between 15 and 74 would illegally share files every day, a higher figure than any earlier estimate and a similarly unplausible suggestion.

Swedish researchers at Lund University are mapping young Internet users’ attitudes to the emerging legal frameworks and conclude that while illegal file-sharing has dropped in the age group 15 to 25, over 60 % of this demographic keeps sharing copyrighted material online. And those who refrain from file-sharing do more so out of fear than out of changing social norms and habits, the researchers conclude.

Moreover, there are a lot of indications that file-sharing remains a central part of online activity. While p2p’s relative share of Internet traffic might be lower due to the recent explosion of online video traffic, the absolute figures remain strong. As Janko Röttgers recently put it;

One conclusion of the analysis of all this data is that P2P isn’t as dominant as it used to be. In 2007, it accounted for 40 percent of all Internet traffic, according to Arbor. Fast-forward two years, and it’s down to 18 percent. However, that doesn’t exactly mean that P2P is dead. It’s just not growing as fast as web-based video streaming, which has been largely responsible for a huge overall growth of net traffic. In other words: A smaller piece of a much larger pie can still be a whole lot of pie.

Music files are only one element of global file-sharing. Spotify is not a be-all and end-all for music, and its index of files only covers a percentage of the range of music available on the Internet at large. We are still waiting to see similar commercial alternatives to illegally shared movies and games; services like Voddler for example.

Here is the actual IFPI report (PDF, in Swedish).

Further articles:
Peer-to-peer passé, report finds
Is p2p dead? Not so fast
Illegal file-sharing sites up 300 per cent
IFPI: 2.8 million file-sharers break law daily in Sweden

In Swedish:
Fildelningen ökar igen
Är fildelningen tillbaka på samma nivåer som före Ipredlagen?
Hur relevanta är siffrorna på P2P-trafikens ökningar och minskningar?
Ipred har inte förändrat ungdomarnas inställning till fildelning

  1. I had similar feelings when reading that article, which sounded more as a Spotify plug then some real analysis.
    Speaking about the Swedish situation, without establishing the context of IPRED legislation, and without recent information how the situation developed:

    So sad.

  2. […] one of the best articles on the new media landscape in a good while. Backed by solid statistics, for once, this article observed a tendency that I and many others have suspected for a long while now: […]

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