A study conducted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has uncovered some interesting facts about the effect of digital piracy on the music industry. For year “Big Music” has been crusading against piracy, telling everyone that will listen it’s costing starving artists millions of dollars per year and forcing them to make drastic changes in the way they approach the music business. turns out, they didn’t quite get their facts straight.
According to this new study, piracy may actually help “traditional” music sales. (Well, the new “traditional” of digital downloading — not actual CD sales.)
How, you ask? By stimulating legitimate sales through a sort of taste-test or sampling functionality. Pirates hear something they like and go looking for more. And, believe it or not, some pirates actually want to pay for things they like…whether the entertainment industry is offering them for sale or not.
Piracy Study Flies in the Face of “Traditional” Wisdom — Hard Facts Trump Sensationalism in the Music Industry
Researchers surveyed 16,000 Europeans and found 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…”
So, examining that statement closely, it seems that piracy actually increases legitimate sales–at least to some extent.
Additionally, legal streaming site like Spotify and Pandora Internet Radio did not monopolize the volume of digitally delivered music. In fact, a “complimentary effect” was discovered which researchers say had a “stimulating effect on sales of digital music.”
European Commission’s Findings Contradict the MPAA’s Own Assertions
Earlier this month, BGR reported on a study published by the MPAA that showed the shutdown of MegaUpload had dramatically increased legitimate digital sales of intellectual properties such as movies. That study alleged that the shutdown directly led to a (roughly) 12,000 unit increase in legitimate sales. The MPAA used this and other studies to extrapolate the effect across the digital delivery board and concluded that piracy had a direct negative effect on entertainment industries.
So What’s the Truth About Piracy and Industry?
While the European study authors do note that piracy does infringe upon copyrights and violates the sanctity of ownership, the actual monetary effect on the music industry as a whole is negligible and possibly even positive. In short, the big boys are belly aching but they’re still sucking up the majority of the cash even with digital piracy still running rampant.
In the words of the authors:
“Our findings indicate that digital music piracy does not displace legal music purchases in digital format…this means that although there is trespassing of private property rights, there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues.”