The standard line from the RIAA--and by extension their cohorts in the MPAA--is that file sharing of music is not only theft, but theft that costs the entire music industry massive amounts of money every year. But parts of a study released yesterday from the American Assembly, a non-partisan public forum that works with Columbia University, leaves a substantial hole in that argument by revealing that file sharers, who apparently cost the music industry such massive amounts of money, are actually buying more music than their strictly legal counterparts.
The American Assembly study revealed that, on average, those engaging in file sharing buy nearly a third--30 percent--more music than those who do not engage in the practice. Basically, the study showed that, while the so-called "pirates" do have larger collections of music on average than those who don't engage in the practice, they also on average make more purchases. The study also revealed that those that engage in the most music piracy actually, in turn, buy the most music overall, as revealed in a comparison between United States P2P users and German P2P users.
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Of course, there are some flaws in the study itself. The study is based on telephone interviews with those who self-identify as P2P users, so it becomes something of a matter of honesty in the responses as opposed to those with agendas in any direction attempting to skew the survey results. Additionally, the number of P2P file-sharers identified in the German sample is low, so the statistical validity of same is somewhat questionable.
However, with other studies in play suggesting that pirates actually buy more than their non-pirating counterparts, it makes the recent issues of anti-piracy enforcement seem almost counterproductive by comparison. Why shoot the goose laying golden eggs? Why muzzle the ox that treads out the grain? It seems downright suicidal, from a business standpoint, to remove such a major component of sales in this fashion.
Admittedly, taking piracy out of the equation may not affect sales--there's nothing saying that the file sharers won't continue to purchase music at their current rate--but then, if the file sharers are, as some believe, attempting to pin down just what it is they like and don't like before they make purchases, removing the method by which they make that determination may have a chilling effect on sales.
The ultimate results of impending anti-piracy measures may or may not have a depressing effect on media sales, but with these measures steadily approaching, we'll all likely find out soon enough just what the ultimate impact is.