EU Research Study: Music Sales Unharmed by Illegal Music Downloads

Now is this the type of headline that will make people in the industry cringe, or what?

There have been a countless number of people who have tirelessly argued that piracy kills traditional sales. However, according to a new study conducted by researchers at The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, a part of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), illegally downloading music does not have a harmful impact on music sales.

“It seems that the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them. If this estimate is given a causal interpretation, it means that clicks on legal purchase websites would have been 2 percent lower in the absence of illegal downloading websites.”

This means that, yes, legal downloads are actually boosted by illegal downloads.

“From that perspective, our findings suggest that digital music piracy should not be viewed as a growing concern for copyright holders in the digital era. In addition, our results indicate that new music consumption channels such as online streaming positively affect copyrights owners.”

Findings from this study claimed that illegal downloaders were active in music consumption, even from legal sources, twice as much as consumers who only consumed music legally. Another way of saying this is that people who listen to a lot of music will listen from a variety of sources, whether legally or illegally, while consumers who only listen to music legally don’t listen to or download music from legal sources very much. However, if the option of downloading music illegally were no longer available, would these music lovers consume music as much as they do now?

However, as expected, every study has its critics. Taking the role of official anti-piracy critic this time was The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which issued a rather harsh response to the Joint Research Centre about this study.

“IFPI believes the [Joint Research Centre] study is flawed and misleading. The findings seem disconnected from commercial reality, are based on a limited view of the market and are contradicted by a large volume of alternative third party research that confirms the negative impact of piracy on the legitimate music business.”

So, what do you think? Should piracy be continued to be viewed as a problem that must be severely dealt with, or should copyright holders stop focusing so much attention on trying to pass laws that would attempt to stop illegal music downloads?

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