No surprise that Limewire joins the ranks of former illegal download programs Kazaa, Napster and Grokster – all of which were shut down due to copyright infringement. The P2P site, which was closed by an October 2010 court decision, was a household name for music piracy. But a new NPD Group study suggests that this could be the first nail in the coffin of music piracy.
Limewire Shut Down Leads to Piracy Decline
Whatever the original intent of Limewire, the primary use became to illegally share and download copyrighted files for free. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade organization that represents various music labels, categorizes this as music piracy and reports that such behavior costs the music industry $12.5 billion in losses, globally.
Without spending too much time on statistics, the important part of the NPD Group study is that 12 million less people are using P2P software to steal music than in 2007, putting the number at around 16 million total. This is partially due to the void left by Limewire’s disappearance. Similar sites like Bittorrent and Frostwire have seen a small increase since last October, but have not seemed to draw in former Limewire users. Yet. Frostwire went up about 11% and Bittorrent about 4%.
“In the past, we’ve noted that hard-core peer-to-peer users would quickly move to other websites that offered illegal music file sharing,” entertainment industry analyst Russ Crupnick said in the press release from the NPD Group. “It will be interesting to see if services like Frostwire and Bittorrent take up the slack left by Limewire, or if peer-to-peer music downloaders instead move on to other modes of acquiring or listening to music.”
Making the Move to Legal Downloading
The argument has been made that the digital realm has allowed listeners to check out artists they are interested in without buying an entire CD and leads to more exposure to new music. Programs like Pandora are constantly generating suggestions based on the individual’s specified music preferences.
Seeing how accessible legal means of digital downloading are through iTunes and Amazon, the motivation of music piracy at this point is simply that it’s free. It is plausible that some users have moved on to legitimate sources of music online. In February 2010, iTunes reached their 10 billionth song download, which indicates some success on behalf of legal digital downloads. Unfortunately, the increase in digital sales has not made up for the significant drop of in-store sales.
It’s a little too early to tell whether another program will follow in Limewire’s footsteps and become the next big name in music piracy, or for how long they may remain viable. In the meantime, the music industry may have an opportunity to pull in paying users who have given up on P2P altogether.