A Tidal of Illegal Music Downloads

By Stuart Fuller


The music industry has been plagued by the threat of illegal downloads and copyright infringements for decades, and with advancements in technology, the story is no different today. Just in February, we saw Kanye West's new album "The Life of Pablo" illegally downloaded 500,000 times on its first day of release alone, according to TorrentFreak. A growing issue echoed throughout the industry, and a costly one for the musicians who don’t see a penny from these downloads. The cost of digitally pirated music, films and software is said to cost $75 billion per year.

Advancements in technology which allow faster, better quality streaming of data, has caused music and video sharing to rise dramatically. Music fans want to get their hands on the latest albums and tracks as soon as they become available, and often before they are officially released. This has seen many fans seek out illegitimate sources to download content.

In a bid to shun Apple, Kanye chose not to host his latest album on iTunes, and instead make it solely available on Tidal. This presented a problem for fans, as the content hosted on Tidal is only available through a monthly subscription. Frustrated fans have taken to social media to protest against this decision, hinting that the album is easier to illegally download than purchase through official channels.

Social media has opened the door to a different type of content sharing, giving users easy access to material without even having to leave their homepage. Social media allows anyone with an internet connection to access content through applications such as Twitter’s live streaming platform, Periscope, and also enables illegal content providers to advertise their services, including links to illegal music streaming sites.

This represents a lack of control or ability to monitor infringements on their property, causing serious issues for digital rights holders. There has always been the threat that illegal content streaming can lead to the user being punished, and Internet Service Providers have a duty of care to the content and rights holders to take action against known infringers.

Digital music streaming and downloads demonstrates a clear need for brands to take a proactive approach to protecting their digital content online. Businesses must take advantage of the marketing and sales opportunities that online, mobile and social media offer, but at the same time, ensure they are aware of the dangers, and how to monitor them.

For the music industry, a proactive approach is even more critical. In order to address the issue, brands should think carefully about the content that is being released for legitimate use, and the secondary illicit sharing that might occur. By having a thorough understanding of platforms and user behaviour, brands can more accurately monitor for and target infringements. It is by no means an easy task, but brands that experience the problem, or are at risk of doing so, should implement a clear brand protection strategy and tackle the issue head on.