Survey Finds Declining P2P Usage in Canada

The Copyright Board of Canada conducted hearings today on the private copying levy.  Included as part of the evidence was a major survey (not online at the moment) on music copying conducted for the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) by Reseau Circum.  The CPCC, which counts CRIA General Counsel Richard Pfohl as one of its board members, has tracked music copying habits since 2001-02. 

The headliner in the latest survey is that file sharing activity is in steady decline in Canada.  The survey, conducted in June 2006, finds that just 14 percent of Canadians have downloaded music in the last 12 months, down from 15 percent in 2005, 19 percent in 2004, 21 percent in 2003, and 21 percent in 2002.  It goes without saying that this finding comes despite the absence of lawsuits, the absence of copyright reform, and the continual (yet questionable) claims that Canada is a world leader in file sharing.

As expected, file sharing activity is higher in the younger demographics – 39 percent of 12-17 years olds have downloaded in the past 12 months, 29 percent of 18-25 year olds, 13 percent of those in 26-45 age bracket, and only 3 percent of those over the age of 46.  Contrast those numbers with CRIA-commissioned Pollara data from earlier this year which misleadingly asked whether survey respondents had ever used file sharing services.  Unsurprisingly, that question resulted in a positive response from 69 percent of 12-17 year olds and 64 percent of 18-25 year olds – numbers that provided CRIA with the opportunity to claim that file sharing continues unabated when in fact the numbers are shrinking.

The survey included several additional noteworthy findings:

  • When respondents were asked how many songs downloaded from the Internet reside on their computers, 35 percent said zero, 26 percent said between 1-50 songs, 17 percent said 51-250, and 17 percent said 251 or more.
  • When asked about the number of songs obtained from P2P services in the previous month, 29 percent said none, 54 percent said between 1-50, and just 9 nine percent said more than 51 songs.  That contrasts with 2002 data when 14 percent said zero, 71 percent said between 1-50, and 11 percent said more than 51 songs.
  • When asked about the use of commercial download sites such as iTunes, 67 percent said they had no songs from such services on their computers and 19 percent said they between 1-50 songs.  That contrasts with data in 2002 when 84 percent said they had no songs from such services on their computers and 12 percent said they had between 1-50 songs.
  • Respondents who have purchased less music in the last 12 months were asked to explain the change.  Just nine percent of respondents cited P2P as the reason for fewer purchases.

So we have yet another survey, this one indirectly backed by CRIA, that points to the fact that file sharing simply isn't the concern that CRIA claims.  When combined with the Pollara study (top source of music is burned CDs, not P2P) and the Canadian Heritage music report (continued gains for Canadian music), the evidence continues to affirm that legal reforms targeting P2P are wrongheaded solutions in search of a problem.


  1. I don’t suppose any of the other reasons for purchasing less music were cited in the report? Personally, “nothing worth buying” ranks pretty highly. Sadly, also nothing worth the time it takes to download.

  2. Any way to tell if the
    respondents were telling
    the truth about their
    downloading habits. If
    somebody phoned me up
    and asked, I’d sure tell
    them “no downloads here!”.

  3. Senior
    In other news:

    A new survey finds that 75% of all Canadians lie during over-the-phone survey’s, in order to protect their rights online.

  4. Music Pirate
    And besides, I’ve already made up for the 6% decline personally; by downloading and helping to make distributing music easier than ever, with methods that are much harder to single out.

  5. Nothing worth buying is an answer… What about all the big sharers collections are now complete and they can now listen or produce?
    Or maybe broadband maxed people’s capacity (HD) and time (to burn to cheaper media) to care about music? I mean, once you get the whole Pink Floyd collection, you’re all set 😉

  6. PEng
    I listen to most of my co-workers music in my office using iTunes. Apart from 1 or 2 bands (which I have purchased CDs for), I don’t hear a whole lot that I wish to buy.

    I do not use iTunes, since I refuse to used DRM’d files.

    Lately however, I’ve discovered ACID Loops, and the whole industry of Virtual Sythesizers.

    I now make a lot of my own music (and I’m not a musician). I’ve purchased over $400 of sound samples with which to make my music. Its simple… anyone can do it.

  7. Browsing through contemporary jazz releases, at the local record store, I left empty handed and in disgust over the pricing: 23 euro (USD 29!) for 2006 releases of major artists.
    I ran straight to the 2nd hand store and picked up a handful of CD’s for +- USD 4,50 a piece.

    Why I only rarely buy a new CD? Well, not because of my very fast internet connection, but: USD 29, is simply unacceptably expensive for a single CD!

  8. Burning from friends
    I’m a big contributor to the CD levy. Most of my music is shared via sneakernet. I lend my friends CDs and they lend me their CDs. I have tons and tons of burned CDs which I may point out is still currently considered fair use (in Canada) as long as I’m sharing and receiving individually and making only one copy from original CD to a burned disk. Most of my downloads have come from Indie band websites and the like. Myspace too is a great place to search for Indie music from your own neighbourhood. Also there are many bands just starting out in YOUR area that deserve support. For my part, I listen and I go to their shows and I buy off the stage.

  9. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    Commented on this over on Slashdot
    My personal habits have declined, but my son’s and daughter’s have no doubt taken up the slack. Depending on how the survey questions were crafted, this change in demographics may be slipping past the percentages.

    “Songs you have downloaded in the last month” – I answer that as a “none”. My daughter would never talk to the survey guy in the first place. Result is the appearance of a net decline in downloading … not sure I believe it.

    I DO however, believe that it isn’t the drain on the industry that the CRIA/RIAA goons complain that it is … neither of us would buy anything if we weren’t downloading it. DRM (for me) and price (for both of us) are the contributing factors.

  10. \”And the Survey Says..\”
    … At least after 8 years there is some proof that the system is doing EXACTLY what it was set up to DO – i.e. IT IS collecting from those who INDEED are exercising their right to make a personal copy of a selection of entertainment.

    One of the most interesting items of learning from the report that perhaps gets overshadowed by all the emphasis CRIA wants to heap on P2P and downloading, is the fact that private copying of music works primarily is an act of copying from a prerecorded CD and NOT er, from the Internet, or P2P downloads. Copying from a CD has consistently remained the primary source of personal copying by Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

    The other consistency over 7 years of reporting by this firm is that the size and scope of a phenomenon today remains the same as it did at the outset of the levy/tax… More specifically, the # of occasions of making a personal copy has remained at approx 1 billion tracks per year, waivering down by only 20% and back up again over 7 years of tracking. In 1999 the total # of tracks noted as copied in the survey was a hair under 1 billion (989 million). The # dropped a little in 2000, and little more in 2001 & 2002, and again in 2003 to just under 800 million. Then in 2004 and 2005 the number popped back up to approx 1 billion tracks again. So, over the course of now 7 years of tracking – of btw the single largest sample survey that occurs annually in Canada – Circum reports that Canadians as a population make private copies of music at a consistent rate of 1 billion occasions (tracks) per year. With all the music industry claims of increasing P2P usage and Canadians quickly becoming the world\’s WORST pirating nation. The amount of personal copying going on north of the 49th parallel hasn\’t changed AT ALL.

    In turn, the MONIES collected by the CPCC have remained pretty much constant year/year over the 8 years since the tax was put in place.

    What is MOST telling and what as Canadians paying this tax we should be concerned about is WHERE THE MONEY IS GOING. The costs to administer this levy have increased each year of the 7 years. In the Oct 24th Copyright Board Hearing the CPCC\’s own Executive Director and inhouse General Counsel stated that the collective now employs no fewer than NINE(9) private investigation firms and no fewer than FOUR (4) forensic audit firms as part of its annual overhead and the Collective is actively engaged in litigation against more than a dozen companies that allegedly have not collected and/or have understated collections of the levy on blank media product. As a result the CPCC\’s investigation, audit and legal enforcement processes have become increasingly MORE cumbersome and financially burdonsome year/year over the CPCC\’s existence through 2005 and actually through a full 8 years operations the end of 2006.

    Investigation, audit and enforcement issues impacting a process burden along with the related increasing CO$T burden have mounted at the CPCC to the extent that THIS is the reason the CPCC had come before the Copyright Board on October 24th in the first place. The hearing was to address CPCC\’s request of the Copyright Board to Amend Section 9 of the Tariff itself, changing the Administration Sturcture of the Levy to ALLOW the CPCC increased ACCESS to INFORMATION and DATA at the companies it (the CPCC) chooses to investigate, audit and take legal action against.

    AT THE SURFACE this might be a logical request. However when one does the math and learns that costs to recover each estimated $1.0 million dollars is in excess of +/- $165,000 only to discover that so far most judgements have resulted in reporting companies filing for bankrupcy and in fact NO monies are recovered… One MIGHT question whether the whole investigation process – albeit legally justifiable – whether it is WORTH the energy or the effort (!) OR WHETHER all of that money would be better used if fowarded to the artists, creators, and producers it was INTENDED to go to at the outset /establishment of the levy back in 1998.

    Alas trying to apply some logic to what is without a doubt an illogical system in the first place would simply not be Canadian would it?

  11. Tremendous comment, TB! All I\’d like to say is that the concept of P2P is very much like a library – unrestricted & unlimited free distribution of copyrighted material. Anyhow, I download all the music I like. Yet I still go out and buy most of the CD\’s, for a few reasons:
    – I like to support indie bands
    – Gotta have the liner notes, art, etc.
    – I like to fill up my CD display boxes with SOMETHING 😉
    …the only exceptions being one-hit-wonders, huge rich bands (mostly) and ones I just cannot find. Having voiced my opinion, I agree with the survey that shows most piracy occurs through physical loaning/copying, whether through friends etc. or, for example, buying CD\’s on eBay then burning many copies to sell elsewhere. I\’ve seen plenty of that myself, though I\’ve never partook in that personally.

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