Leaked RIAA report: Digital piracy is only 19% of total music theft

The report, obtained by TorrentFreak, also admits that the controversial SOPA and PIPA copyright bills would have been "ineffective" in protecting the music industry.


Kevin Collier


Published Jul 27, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 1:48 pm CDT

A leaked report from the music industry shows that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which heavily lobbied to pass the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts (SOPA and PIPA), reported that digital piracy accounted for only 19% of illegal music acquisition in 2011.

Even more damning, under the heading “SOPA/PIPA debate,” the report admitted that “legislation [was] not likely to have been an effective tool for music.”

The report, dated April 26, is credited to RIAA Deputy General Counsel Vicky Sheckler and was obtained by Torrentfreak. The RIAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the report’s many charts is one that shows the percentage of music acquired “from illegal sources.” Only 19% came from users giving each other files for free—15% from peer-to-peer filesharing services like BitTorrent and 4% from digital lockers like MegaUpload. Surprisingly, almost two thirds of illegal music acquisition—62%—came from physical sources like vendors hawking personally burned CDs and friends ripping each others’ CDs onto their hard drives.

The report indicates the RIAA saw Congress’s refusal in January to pass SOPA and PIPA as unqualified defeats: “bills are essentially dead,” it says, and “Anti-SOPA sentiment in netizens being used by opponents to oppose other copyright protection measures.”

It’s noteworthy that the report doesn’t credit the coalition of websites that went on strike for leading a populist movement against those bills on January 18. Instead, it only credits Google for the fact that “opposition to [those] bills … went viral.”

Photo by Michigan Municipal League (MML)

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*First Published: Jul 27, 2012, 11:46 am CDT