Are you a teenage boy/downloading fiend worried about stereotypical portrayals of your media habits? We can at least partly alleviate your concerns. It’s not all teenage boys. We find no significant gender differences in participation in copy culture (using our broadest definitions).
But if you are a teenage German boy/downloading fiend, you are not quite out of the woods. In Germany, there are significant gender differences in what gets shared, and how, and how much.
German men are more likely to use P2P services and appear much much more likely to share TV and movies (small sample size warning on this last part). Why? Casual copying in Germany is very widespread and comparable to the US. But heavy copying and sharing of the kind correlated with P2P use is much more concentrated, in Germany, among young men.
And again, why is this the case? Our data consistently shows lower rates of adoption of digital media in Germany, from streaming services to music file purchases to device ownership. This is matched by slower or less successful roll out of many types of digital media services, such as all-you-can-eat Internet streaming music and film. We explore this comparative history of digital media markets in slightly more detail in the report, touching on the stronger tradition of public media in Germany, state promotion of physical media over digital (in the book market, for example), legal protections for sharing within personal networks, and stronger private enforcement against P2P users, which has arguably left that particular channel to a predominantly male, hard core, music and movie sharing subculture.
The end result is not just lower levels of piracy than in the US, but also lower levels of adoption of all forms of digital media. And here lies a dilemma. As many have argued over the years (including us), the piracy of old media is almost always the first use of any new media–and also a major driver of adoption of that media. As we argued in our Media Piracy report, in developing countries where broadband is very expensive relative to local incomes and there are few legal services, piracy is the primary high-value service that justifies consumer broadband adoption.
So while there is plausibly a negative dynamic between piracy and the sale of certain kinds of recorded media–with secondary effects on the types of services that are offered–there are also positive dynamics that have gone largely unexplored by researchers. If we think adoption of digital media is a goal, then we should take piracy seriously as a driver. This also has implications for enforcement. The new French minister of culture, Aurélie Filippetti, has weighed in against the French online enforcement agency HADOPI not because it has failed at enforcement (we think it probably has, but opinions differ. More on this, too, in the report), but because “HADOPI has not fulfilled its mission of developing legal content offerings.”
For my part, I suspect it’s too early to say what HADOPI has accomplished. Given the alternatives to P2P use and the particularities of the French digital market, probably not much of consequence one way or the other. We do know that, after three years, it has only just now sanctioned its first Internet user, who, in tragicomic fashion, almost certainly did not share files. He blamed his ex-wife.