The EU's copyright commissioner, Maria Martin-Prat, was formerly a lawyer for the at International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the parent organization of the U.S.'s RIAA, Canada's CRIA, and Britain's BPI. She once argued [PDF] that backups have "no reason to exist", and for years vigorously argued that piracy was killing traditional sales. But ironically her own peers in the EU have just announced that government-funded research proved her and the IFPI wrong; traditional music sales don't suffer from piracy.
Pirates Download More Legal Music
The study was conducted using data on more than 16,000 European Union internet users. Researchers at The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies -- a part of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre -- examined what the affect on a user's behavior by first removing the correlation of level interest in music, then comparing subjects with similar expressed level of interest in music who pirate, versus those who did not.
The results were intriguing. The researchers write, "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."
Legal streaming websites -- which the music industry has often attacked -- were found to have a "somewhat larger" complementary affect, increasing clicks on legal sites by 7 percent -- according to the correlation.
No Evidence Piracy is killing Music
The researchers say it is puzzling why the music industry is so obsessed with pursuing pirate punishments. While they declined to make any specific policy recommendations, they conclude:
Taken at face value, 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.
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.
Of course, correlation does not prove causation, but it appears that even the poorly evidenced claim that piracy is correlated to lower sales is thoroughly wrong. Further, this is not the first work to show that. A 2009 study by the UK government found filesharers to spent, on average, £77 ($126), versus a mere £44 for non-pirates ($72). So much for piracy "killing music", eh?