The Social Science Research Council's scholarly work, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, is the result of three years of study. It looked at countries with a very high rate of access of unauthorised content, places like Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.
"Relative to local incomes in Brazil, Russia, or South Africa, the price of a CD, DVD, or copy of Microsoft Office is five to ten times higher than in the United States or Europe," it notes.
"Licit media goods are luxury items in most parts of the world, and licit media markets are correspondingly tiny. Industry estimates of high rates of piracy in emerging markets '” 68 per cent for software in Russia, 82 per cent for music in Mexico, 90 per cent for movies in India '” reflect this disparity and may even understate the prevalence of pirated goods."
And the study underlines the fact that while the globalisation of media culture has been a massive success, the democratisation of media access, in legal forms, has not accompanied it.
While legal media goods flood high-income countries, they constitute barely a trickle in most other parts of the world.
"In our view, the most important question is not whether stronger enforcement can reduce piracy and preserve the existing market structure '” our research offers no reassurance on this front '” but whether stable cultural and business models can emerge at the low end of these media markets that are capable of addressing the next several billion media consumers," the study notes.
"Our country studies provide glimpses of this reinvention as costs of production and distribution decline and as producers and distributors compete and innovate."
The study says neither enforcement nor creative digital distribution will succeed as well as a low-cost model involving local companies that compete both in price and services for customers.
"Such competition is endemic in some media sectors in the United States and Europe, where digital distribution is reshaping media access around lower price points,," the study notes.
"It is widespread in India, where large domestic film and music industries dominate the national market, set prices to attract mass audiences, and in some cases compete directly with pirate distribution.
"And it is a small but persistent factor in the business software sector, where open-source software alternatives (and increasingly, Google and other free online services) limit the market power of commercial vendors."