Piracy, the quiet killer of the EU’s cultural industries

[Daniel Grosvenor/Flickr]

Piracy costs the European economy billions of euro every year. [Daniel Grosvenor/Flickr]

The European creative economy shrank between 2008 and 2011 due to inadequate measures to combat piracy. EURACTIV France reports

Slowly but surely, piracy is suffocating Europe’s cultural industries, according to a study entitled “The contribution of the creative industries to the EU economy in terms of GDP and employment” published on Thursday (16 October) by TERA Consultants and the Avignon Forum.

The study used statistics from Eurostat to measure the contribution of the industries to the EU economy, and to see how this evolved between 2008 and 2011.

The free digital revolution

Despite the explosion of online video and music services, the sector has seen a downturn in growth and employment since 2008. Europe’s cultural industries are suffering, especially in the major economies like Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The total output of the cultural industries across the 27 EU member states in 2011 was worth 860 billion euro, representing 6.8% of EU GDP, down by 0.28% on the figures from 2008.

The downturn in terms of employment was more severe. In 2011, the sector employed around 14 million people, 6.5% of the total European workforce. This was a reduction of 2.65% from 2008.

The decline has been the most severe for the European Union’s five largest economies (Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain). Between 2008 and 2011, the economic output of the cultural sectors in these countries fell by 3.2%, and employment by 2%. These countries now account for 72% of the total economic output, and 68% of employment in the European Union’s cultural industries.

Current regulations

The reason for this decline, according to the study, is the lack of effective anti-piracy regulation. The report stresses that there is “a correlation between the growth of creative industries and legislation that protects intellectual property”.

The authors point out that “regulation has not evolved significantly, particularly in the critical domain of the fight against piracy, on either an EU level or within the major countries”.

>> Read: French forum calls for increased funding for EU culture

France, the United Kingdom and Spain all passed anti-piracy laws between 2009 and 2011, but slack enforcement has led to very limited results.

The scourge of the cultural economy

The Avignon Forum had already sounded the alarm in a previous report on the economic risks posed by the absence of regulation, concluding that the European Union’s creative industries stood to lose between 166 and 240 billion Euro and would be forced to cut between 600,000 and 1.2 million jobs by 2015.

Piracy is thought to have cost the five largest economies of the European Union around 20 billion euros and over 189,600 jobs between 2008 and 2011.

The study makes for even more grim reading: TERA Consultants indicate that the cultural industries of the 5 major EU economies may have lost between 27.1 and 39.7 billion euros over this period.

The creative industries include both producers and distributors of content and creative products (films, videos, music, books and press) but also certain sectors that contribute to the cultural economy in other important ways, like printing presses or internet platforms for the distribution of content.

Creators of cultural materials are also taken into account: manufacturers of CD or DVD players, creators of video games, etc.

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