Site-Blocking Shows No Sign of Being a Quick Fix for Piracy
-- Ordering Internet service providers to block access to file-sharing websites doesn't appear to be a quick fix for piracy. But that's hardly a surprise. Campaigns against piracy are not quick fixes; they will last entire careers and won't be for the faint of heart.

A major, unnamed UK Internet service provider saw its P2P activity return to normal just one week after site-blocking measures were installed, according to BBC News. The ban is said to have decreased P2P levels by over 11% compared to normal levels.

Six major UK Internet service providers were ordered to block their subscribers' access to the Pirate Bay in April. The court's decision was heralded as a confirmation of the music industry's fight against piracy on a massive scale. "Sites like the Pirate Bay destroy jobs in the UK and undermine investment in new British artists," BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said in a statement at the time, adding, "We urge anyone using The Pirate Bay to explore the many digital music services operating ethically and legally in the U.K."

The BPI is unlikely to be moved by these new reports, however. "We intend to bring more such cases," BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said in a speech two weeks ago. "And we will continue to press Government to create a faster and less costly mechanism to block such site in the Communications Act White Paper next year."

Site blocking has seen similar results in the Netherlands. The XS4ALL Internet service provider revealed that BitTorrent traffic has increased since the a court-ordered block of the Pirate Bay commenced.

But paying too much attention to short-term changes in traffic and consumer behavior misses the point. As Taylor's statements indicate, trade groups are dedicated to fighting piracy over the long haul. Site blocking is merely a tool in a toolkit. Legislation and new business models will also affect file-sharing traffic over the next many years.

It's only natural for people to track anti-piracy efforts' progress, but gauging results of anti-piracy efforts brings mixed signals. For example, a Hadopi report explains that France's legislative efforts to fight piracy have reduced illegal downloading while evidence out of Sweden shows file-sharing activity at historic highs (in terms of active file sharers).

Yet digital revenues fared very well in both France and Sweden as piracy went in opposite directions. Digital revenues rose 25.7% in France and 65.1% in Sweden in 2011, according to the IFPI. Subscription services experienced strong growth in both markets. Comparisons between the two countries are made difficult by their different consumer characteristics and anti-piracy efforts, of course.

One common thread running between France and Sweden is the presence of new business models being adopted by consumers. Sweden was an early home to Spotify and France has both Deezer and Spotify. But it's clear new business models alone aren't always the trick: Spain has also had Spotify for years - not to mention iTunes - but is a digital-revenue backwater.

All this is a long way of saying there are no easy answers in piracy and digital music revenue. Each country is unique and will have its own results. But in no instance should short-term results be interpreted as a final statement on a country's efforts to curb piracy and grow digital revenues. It's a long game and we're in the first inning. ( BBC News)

Sony Closes Distribution Center in Georgia
-- Sony Music has closed a distribution center in Georgia and has laid off 127 workers, according to reports. The cuts are due to "the continued challenges posed by economic conditions and the current competitive landscape," the company said in a statement. In other words, people are not buying enough CDs to support all the manufacturing and distribution facilities that exist in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The closing of the Sony operation is the latest evidence that falling CD sales requires changes in manufacturing capacity. CD and DVD manufacturer Cinram filed Chapter 15 bankruptcy papers last month in a Toronto court. The company announced http://www.cinram.com/news-events/ last week that a court has approved the sale, announced last month, of "substantially" all of Cinram's assets and businesses in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany to newly formed subsidiaries of Najafi Companies. Cinram was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday. ( Atlanta Business Chronicle)

SonicNotify Raises $4.5 Million
-- Startups and investors are finally concentrating on apps for the concert space. SonicNotify has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding led by Raptor Ventures and also including Digital Entertainment Ventures, Advancit Capital and A-Grade Ventures, the venture capital fund led by actor Ashton Kutcher and artist manager Guy Oseary.

The New York-based startup has created a platform that delivers media to a smartphone through sound. Here's how it works: data is communicated in an ultra-high frequency, inaudible range over the venue's PA system. The smartphone app - an artist's app, for example - decodes the signal and extracts data. Artists can send MP3s, messages and other items to fans who have installed the pertinent app on their smartphone.

This is not entirely a new idea. Bands have previously used Bluetooth servers to communicate with their fans' smartphones inside venues. And text messaging continues to be a way to engage with fans at live events. But there has been a need for an easy, turnkey solution such as SonicNotify.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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