April 06, 2004

File Sharing Could be Harmless

by Nick Morgan

From the New York times, big news on the file-sharing front:

    "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero, despite rather precise estimates," write [an economic study's] authors, Felix Oberholzer-Gee of the Harvard Business School and Koleman S. Strumpf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This doesn't surprise me, having read this interesting bit from Lessig's new book:

    In the same period that the RIAA estimates that 803 million CDs were sold, the RIAA estimates that 2.1 billion CDs were downloaded for free. Thus, although 2.6 times the total number of CDs sold were downloaded for free, sales revenue fell by just 6.7 percent

(My emphasis.) Apparently the RIAA is throwing a hissy fit, and has attacked the study's methodology, noting, among other things, that it hasn't been peer reviewed. I admit to being a little confused. If it is in fact the case (perhaps a big if) that file-sharing as now practiced has virutally no impact on record sales, isn't that precisely the sort of information the RIAA would like to have, for its own purposes?

I suppose such information, if true, might raise some slippery-slope concerns (once everyone thinks it's harmless, there will be much more sharing, then we'll really lose money), but those arguments are not being made. Insofar as confirmation of this new study would embarass the RIAA (and it would definitely do that), it will continue to impulsively lash out against potentially legit studies with its quasi-rhetoric, all the while missing the important point that suing hundreds of powerless individuals in the name of artists' rights wouldn't make a lot of sense if artists aren't actually taking a blow. But their reaction manifests virtually no interest in finding out the truth about file-sharing harm. Somebody go peer review that study already.

(Link thanks to Copyfight)

April 6, 2004 10:29 AM | TrackBack

While it might be difficult for RIAA to quantify an economic loss in file sharing, it is still a copyright infringement.

Posted by: raj at April 7, 2004 10:31 AM
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