Warner Music's S-1 filing includes a lengthy list of risk factors . Here are some of the more significant ones:
The recorded music industry has been declining and may continue to decline, which may adversely affect our prospects and our results of operations.
Illegal downloading of music from the Internet, CD-R piracy, industrial piracy, economic recession, bankruptcies of record wholesalers and retailers and growing competition for consumer discretionary spending and retail shelf space may all be contributing to a declining recorded music industry. Additionally, the period of growth in recorded music sales driven by the introduction and penetration of the CD format has ended. While DVD-Audio, DualDisc and downloadable digital files are thought to represent potential new avenues for growth, no significant new legitimate audio format has yet emerged to take the place of the CD. The value of worldwide sales fell as the music industry witnessed a decline of 4.9% from 1999 to 2000, 5.7% from 2000 to 2001, 6.7% from 2001 to 2002 and 7.6% from 2002 to 2003. Although we believe that the recorded music industry should improve as evidenced by the year-over-year growth in U.S. music physical unit sales in 2004 and the performance in overall (physical and digital) music unit sales globally in 2004, the industry may relapse into a period of decline as witnessed from 1999 to 2003. We cannot assure you as to the timing or the extent of any improvement in the industry or that the evidence of improvement in 2004 based upon U.S. sales through the one-year period ending January 2, 2005 and global sales in the first half of 2004 will continue. For example, as of April 3, 2005, year-to-date U.S. recorded music sales (excluding sales of digital tracks) are down 7% year-over-year. A declining recorded music industry is likely to lead to reduced levels of revenue and operating income generated by our Recorded Music business. Additionally, a declining recorded music industry is also likely to have a negative impact on our Music Publishing business, which generates a significant portion of its revenues from mechanical royalties, primarily from the sale of music in CD and other recorded music formats.
We may have difficulty addressing the threats to our business associated with home copying and Internet downloading.
The combined effect of the decreasing cost of electronic and computer equipment and related technology such as CD burners and the conversion of music into digital formats have made it easier for consumers to create unauthorized copies of our recordings in the form of, for example, CDs and MP3 files. A substantial portion of our revenue comes from the sale of audio products that are potentially subject to unauthorized consumer copying and widespread dissemination on the Internet without an economic return to us. We are working to control this problem through litigation, by lobbying governments for new, stronger copyright protection laws and more stringent enforcement of current laws and by establishing legitimate new media business models. We cannot give any assurances that such measures will be effective. For instance, the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004 introduced in the Senate on June 22, 2004 was not enacted in 2004. If we fail to obtain appropriate relief through the judicial process or the complete enforcement of judicial decisions issued in our favor (or if judicial decisions are not in our favor, such as in the recent file-sharing cases in the U.S. and Canada, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. et al vs. Grokster Ltd. et al, and BMG Canada Inc. et al vs. John Doe et al, respectively), if we are unsuccessful in our efforts to lobby governments to enact and enforce stronger legal penalties for copyright infringement or if we fail to develop effective means of protecting our intellectual property (whether copyrights or other rights such as patents, trademarks and trade secrets) or entertainment-related products or services, our results of operations, financial position and prospects may suffer. On March 29, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the appeal of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the Grokster case. The issue to be decided by the Supreme Court is the liability of file sharing software developers and vendors for the copyright infringement that takes place on their services. Both the district court and the Ninth Circuit had found that Grokster and Streamcast could not be found contributorily and vicariously liable for the copyright infringement committed by the users of their services.
Organized industrial piracy may lead to decreased sales.
The global organized commercial pirate trade is a significant threat to the music industry. Worldwide, industrial pirated music (which encompasses unauthorized physical copies manufactured for sale but does not include Internet downloads or home CD burning) is estimated to have generated over $4.5 billion in revenues in 2003, according to IFPI. IFPI estimates that 1.7 billion pirated units were manufactured in 2003. According to IFPI estimates, approximately 35% of all music CDs sold worldwide in 2003 were pirated. Unauthorized copies and piracy contributed to the decrease in the volume of legitimate sales and put pressure on the price of legitimate sales. They have had, and may continue to have, an adverse effect on our business.
The recorded music industry is under investigation by Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General for the State of New York, regarding its practices in promoting its records to radio stations.
On September 7, 2004, November 22, 2004 and March 31, 2005, Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of the State of New York, served Warner Music Group with requests for information in the form of subpoenas duces tecum in connection with an industry-wide investigation of the relationship between music companies and radio stations, including the use of independent promoters and accounting for any such payments. In response to the Attorney General's subpoenas. We have been producing documents and expect to complete our production in April. We also understand that this investigation has been expanded to include companies that own radio stations. The investigation is pursuant to New York Executive Law §63(12) and New York General Business Law §349, both of which are consumer fraud statutes. It is too soon to predict the outcome of this investigation, but it has the potential to result in changes in the manner in which the recorded music industry promotes its records or financial penalties, which could adversely affect our business, including our brand value.