Our friends at Kahua Music, recently ran an article on how to fight music piracy which we thought would be relevant to readers of this blog as well. The advice is aimed mainly at record labels, but there’s information that will also be relevant to artists and publishers.
The impact of music piracy is a topic that has been done to death over the last few years, so we aren’t going to weigh in with our opinion; but we will gladly provide a few pointers as to how to fight it if that’s the approach you’ve decided to take.
The war on piracy is now mostly against ‘cyberlockers’ such as zippyshare and mediafire; who will pay money to anyone who hosts a file on their sites that achieves a certain amount of downloads, whether it is legal or not. Because of the high volume of traffic going to these files, they are highly rated by search engines, so any member of the public searching for a new piece of music is likely to see matches for illegal download links in among the results for legitimate download stores. Often the links to these cyberlockers will appear on multiple websites and blogs, so by tackling the problem with the host you can render the links on individual blogs useless
A range of services are available to record labels and artists that can help track the physical music files, and ultimately help remove illegal links. We’ve provided a brief overview:
For the UK, the BPI is the representative voice of the UK recorded music business – 90% of all recorded music in the UK is sold by BPI members.
Members have access to the BPI’s anti-piracy unit (among many other services), which can help to take down material that is being distributed illegally. As well as being able to inform BPI directly of new releases and promos, if your music is registered with PPL then BPI use their database when their software is crawling the web for illegal links
For independent labels, annual membership costs £67.50 plus 5% of PPL UK distribution, plus VAT. Members of other industry associations in the UK (such as AIM) can often access the BPI’s services for free as part of their membership.
While the BPI is UK based, the IFPI is an organisation concerned with the global policing of recorded music. The IFPI works in partnership with national associations like the BPI – see all of the associations that come under IFPI’s umbrella.
Audiolock specialise in the watermarking of tracks. In short, to ‘watermark’ a track is to embed a unique code within an mp3/wav file – this can then be automatically tracked afterwards. The aim is to protect your music at source form piracy – identify the pirates and remove them from your distribution. The most obvious use for this would be for a record label, who could assign a watermark to each file they send out during the promo stage… if this file then re-appeared illegally the label would be notified of the pirate and the file would be removed immediately. Of course watermarking doesn’t effectively deal with piracy once the music is on general release to the public.
Ripblock provides a similar service to Audiblock but instead of using automated watermarking, they employ staff to manually check for all instances of pirated music which would apply to music once on general release as well as in the promo phase.
As well as being one of the major online dance music retailers, Trackitdown operates a successful anti-piracy service. Like Ripblock, it has a dedicated team of people searching for illegal copies of their clients’ music, and will request that the offending site removes them immediately.
MUSO offers a few different grades of service, tiered depending on the number of file removals allowed and how actively managed the removals are. See: http://www.muso.com/home/overview/
There are several more services out there, so it’s worth doing a bit of research. It is also worth weighing up the relative amount of time and money it will take to police your music – while piracy is without doubt a frustrating and negative part of the industry, if you have limited resources we think its always worth considering whether your time and money could be better used to persuade more people to buy your music in the first place.