Circulations of Culture: Mashup
A research report
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It won't be easy to eradicate bad behaviours in the thievish Polish nation. We have been stealing for centuries: first, from feudal lords, then invaders, at last – from communists.
Hirek Wrona, Polish music journalist and producer
For me, everyone who picked up something stolen is a bitch.
Kazik Staszewski, Polish rockstar, commenting on the internet leak of "Hurra" album of his band, Kult
We all recognise this tone. Statements about internet thieves, losses in the music and movie industries, stories about the battle against piracy as the most important obligation of the state towards the copyright system.
One may understand the rage of artists and publishers, but does independent research confirm the one-dimensional picture of the world of culture destroyed by downloading files from the web?
It's hard to say.

Why? Because the conducted research usually does not account for new types of practices, concentrating on the market circulation and using public cultural institutions. The online activity is being neglected, and the influence of the internet on the culture is reduced to the blurring of the boundaries between the audience and producers.
We decided to change it. We would like to make this discussion less emotional and more concrete, based on facts.
Until it is run on the one hand by „thieves” and „pirates”, and by „bad corporations” on the other, there is no chance for developing constructive solutions. That is why we have analyzed the social circulation outside the market of content such as books, music and films. We wanted to throw a light on the contemporary Polish „second circulation”.
The research was conducted in two parts - between 19. and 26. May 2011 (pilot) and between 20. September and 2. October 2011.
Our research is not a study of piracy.
Wanting to become familar with and understand new practices one may not assess them in advance, let alone condemn them as illegal or wrong. Only knowing their scale, character and consequences may we assess the influence of new circulations of content on the sphere of culture. Therefore we do not talk about „piracy” – we prefer to talk about a social exchange of content and its informal circulation.
Also, informal does not necessarily mean "illegal".
The domain remaining out of control of the state and the market is very varied. We lend and borrow books and records. We watch films uploaded to YouTube, but also we download them from websites and p2p networks. Usually we do not think whether we do it legally or not. And the facts of the case may be varied – there is content made available on the web illegally, but we may also use many materials in accordance with the law.
Only 13% of Poles buy books, music or films. As many as 33% get hold of them in digital form, in a non-formal manner and for free. This number increases to 39% if we include also the „physical” forms of exchange into informal circulations, such as lending CDs. That is three times more than the market circulation, based on purchases of content.
Informal circulation is not marginal. It appears that it is larger than the official circulation.
At the same time, it appeared that almost only internet users take part in the informal circulation, also the exchange going on outside the web. Because of the fact that they have more opportunities to obtain and exchange content, but also because – as we will show in a second – they are that group of Poles who are avidly interested in culture. That is why further we will be dealing only with them.
But let us stop for a moment. Who is an internet user then?
In research most frequently an internet user is a person who has used the internet at least once during the last month. But is such an “internet user” really an internet user? Does the Internet affect his or her views or behaviors?
We decided that we are interested in persons who use the web much more intensively.
So we asked almost 1300 active internet users to fill in the surveys, making sure that the demographic structure of that group was representative for Polish web users in terms of gender, age, place of residence and education.
What have we learned of those people? It turned out that as compared with the rest of the Polish society they are very active culturally.
But also – which may but does not have to surprise – that they buy a lot of books, music and films. Despite the fact that they take advantage of the free content available online.
Hey, who are you?
It's us, active internet users!
Let us take a look at the statistics concerning readership in Poland. According to a research conducted by the National Library, in 2010 only 44% of Poles declared that they had a contact with a book (not even that they read a book) within the last 12 months.
When we asked active internauts about their reading habits, it appeared that in the past year as much as 89% of them read minimum one book.
Another example – films. According to the data of the Polish Main Statistical Office, 29,80% of Poles go to the cinema minimum once per year.
And among the active internauts who we have surveyed that percentage amounts to 82%. In addition, the most active portion of this group are those who download movie files from the web.
Only 5% of persons not using the Internet declared that they bought a book within the past 12 months.
In the case of non-internet users, the fraction of those who paid for music amounted to …1%. And it is not within the last 3 months, but the entire year.
For the entire year as few as 2% of people not using the web have paid for access to films or series (e.g. by buying a DVD or a Blu-ray disc)
Among active internet users – although we asked them not about the last year but the last quarter – as many as 68% of persons surveyed declared having bought a book. Huge difference, don’t you think?
29% of active internet users have bought a CD in the last 3 months.
And how about active internet users? Within a quarter almost every fourth person has bought a movie DVD for himself or herself.
Active internet users! Indeed, you are very cultured! And you buy a lot! And it is said that you mainly download illegally…
One thing does not exclude the other!
How many of you participate in the informal circulation of content?
declare downoading files from the web?
if we add to it using Internet sites offering file streaming, and file sharing between friends,
having added borrowing, exchanging and copying content on physical storage devices.
And we're on the verge of a statistical error!
Why do active internet users so often choose the informal circulation? For three fourths of them the most important reason is the price and the wider choice, two thirds point out to more up-to-datedness.
Additionally, persons from smaller towns and villages very often refer to difficulties with having access to the official circulation – to shops, cinemas or video rentals.
only approx. 3-4% of persons from cities with a population of over 100 thousand reported having such difficulties
in cities of 20.000 to 100.000 inhabitants as many as 14% of persons surveyed pointed out to that problem
in towns of a population of up to 19 thousand inhabitants – as many as 28%
in village boroughs – as many as 38%
We know already that Poles willingly download, copy and find content online. But what do they think about it?
Two extreme approaches are the fans of the informal circulation (8%), thinking that "everyone is downloading anyway" and its strong critics (11%), according to whom downloading is a theft, and law should be stricter for persons downloading unauthorized content from the internet. In the opinion of the third group (13%) "downloading is easier" – it is not the price that discourages them from the formal circulation, but the nuisance which they do not see in the informal circulation. The last group (50%) thinks that the informal circulation simply widens their horizons. The key issue for them is that owing to the internet they see more and know more – and not the fact that they can obtain content for free.
The ecosystem in which the cultural content circulates is varied. There may be different reasons behind the decisions concerning reading, watching or listening to music. Sometimes it is about money, sometimes – comfort.
However, primarily the fact that you borrow something from someone or download from the web does not mean that in effect you stop buying.The formal and non-formal circulation are not an alternative against each other – they rather complement each other.
If you want to look for "pirates" on the Internet, you will find them there. But, as we have shown, the very same people are book lovers, fans of music and cinema. As well as the best clients of culture industries.
The End

Like to know more? Read the full version of the report.

Authors of the report:
Mirosław Filiciak, Justyna Hofmokl, Alek Tarkowski

Research team: Mirosław Filiciak, Justyna Hofmokl, Agata Jałosińska, Paweł Stężycki, Alek Tarkowski, Przemysław Zieliński

Mashup of the report – design / development: Michał Szota

Report - DTP: Błażej Chwoła

Centrum Cyfrowe

The report mashup (except for the materials listed below) is available under theCreative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Poland license. Some rights reserved by the authors and Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt: Polska.

The content of the licence is available at

The project has been funded by the Polish National Center for Culture (NCK) in the framework of the Observatory of Culture (Obserwatorium kultury) grants.

This website uses the following Creative Commons-licensed work: stallio, plastique, and also brightmix.
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