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Is the Use of Sites Like MegaUpload Sinking the Arts Ship? Not So Fast, Says New Advocate Study

A new study argues that artists are thriving and companies that adapt to new methods could thrive also.

From the dramatic MegaUpload takedown to draconian legislation like SOPA, it is easy to assume that commercial art profits (such as from album sales) are a sinking ship.

Not so fast, argues a new study from self-proclaimed open market advocates Computer & Communications Industry Association and Techdirt founders floor 64. Called The Sky Is Rising, this January 2012 study provides compelling case after compelling case to prove that artists are actually thriving. It also shows that, when they trust the artists and the consumers, the corporate entities actually win, too.

The proof is in the numbers, and the group pushes the point home with a cool infographic, shown below. The viral visual shows that the consumption, sales, and growth of video games, music, books, and film and video have been skyrocketing over the past few years.

The report itself has a solid essay on these growth areas, as well as 10 case studies. Great examples range from the game company Valve successfully dealing with piracy to comedian Louis C.K. grossing a million-plus dollars on a DRM-free special he put up for sale on the Internet. In each example, it comes down to a simple concept: Consumers want to support their artists.

Use New Rules

In the report, the argument here isn't that piracy hasn't affected the aforementioned industries--it obviously has affected business models. Instead, the report pushes commercial art businesses (not artists themselves, but businesses) to stop whining about the new challenges today and learn how to make a stronger profit using new rules.

As the study’s summary states:

“We hope that this report will help shift the debate away from a focus on a narrow set of interests who have yet to take advantage of the new opportunities, and towards a more positive recognition of the wide-open possibilities presented by new technologies to create, promote, distribute, connect, and monetize.”

Was MegaUpload a uniquely illegal enterprise? It allowed people to house their larger media and share it with other people, but the same description could be used for Silicon Valley darling Dropbox, and Box.net, and so on.

Would the passage of SOPA actually have helped the music industry get back to the good ol' days of piracy-free music? It's doubtful, but it definitely would prevent the kind of rampant, viral sharing that helped indie artists like Soulja Boy and Drake become stars and, later, made literally tens of millions of dollars for these same companies.

The Recording Industry Association of America was not available for comment, but on its site it argues that $12 billion is lost annually to piracy. The real question is: Is getting rid of MegaUpload the best way to combat digital theft?

In light of the increasing creation, revenues, and opportunities available today, it's hard not to see the MegaUpload takedown as the digital equivalent of a televised drug bust. The move is great for show, but it doesn't really help in the long run.

We can expect piracy numbers to continue at their same level until the music companies themselves change their strategy. Based on this new report, some are already reaping the benefits.

Follow Damon Brown and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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