Music Copyright in the Digital Age

       A legal, economic, and cultural analysis of music piracy and its implications

International Piracy

In 2009, international sales of recorded music dropped a collective 10%. Global sales of the entire industry dropped from 17.5 Billion in 2008 to 15.8 billion in 2009. These numbers have been falling since 2001, and industry experts note that this problem is particularly problematic for the "development of local talent." One poignant example is France, where the number of domestic albums released fell by 60% in 2009 and Spain, where not a single domestic artist appeared in the top 50.[1] Spain has lost more music industry revenue, 14.3% between 1999-2009, than any other country in the world.

Western music was the most likely to be downloaded illegally worldwide. University of Texas Economics professor Aleajandro Zentner speculates this is because western is heavily downloaded by the younger generation, who are mostly likely to be downloading.[2] Zentner's predictions are supported by recent data, that shows that while the world global music industry revenue fell by 7% between 2009 and 2010, 80% of this decrease was accounted for by the music industries of the United States and Japan.[3]

Countries with low income and high unemployment are particularly prone to high levels of music piracy and counterfeiting. 31 countries in the world have music markets in which more music is illegally procured than legally downloaded. In 10 countries, namely Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Spain and Ukraine, illegal downloading accounts for 60% or more of all downloads.[4] In 2008, a study conducted by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry discovered that 40 billion files have been shared illegally worldwide.[1]

Using 5 years of data, collected from 1997-2002, from 65 different countries, Zentner finds a positive correlation between high Internet and broadband penetration and reductions in music sales over recent years.[2] This finding is hardly surprising considering the relative ease of obtaining file-sharing software after adequate Internet access has been acquired.


  1. Pfanner, Eric. "Music Industry Counts the Cost of Piracy." The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2010
  2. Zentner, Alejandro. " File Sharing and International Sales of Copyrighted Music: An Empirical Analysis with a Panel of Countries." Topics in Economics Analysis & Policy 21st ser. 5.1 (2005): 1-15. The Berkeley Electronic Press.
  3. Berezovska, Lina. "Epoch Times - Global Music Sales Decline, Industry Blames Piracy." Epoch Times - National, World, China, Sports, Entertainment News. 6 May 2010.
  4. "Top 10 Countries for Music Piracy: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine." Web log post. ZDNet. ZDNet Research, 8 Aug. 2005.