Pirates buy more music than legal downloaders, study shows

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Here is a not-so-far-fetched irony. Music pirates that pilfer and plunder music from file-sharing websites actually buy 30 percent more tracks than people who only download music legally, a comprehensive study into the media sharing and consumption habits has found.

The American Assembly, a non-partisan public affairs forum affiliated with Columbia University, carried out the Copy Culture Survey with thousands of phone interviews in the U.S. and Germany. The group released part of the results, which show that people who download music illegally also buy more music than those who don’t.

The research found that in the U.S., people who download pirated music have larger music libraries, around 37 percent larger than those who download only legal songs. “But some of it also comes from significantly higher legal purchases of digital music than their non-P2P using peers–around 30 percent higher among US P2P users,” Joe Karaganis from American Assembly explained in a blog post.

He added: “Our data is quite clear on this point and lines up with numerous other studies. The biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music.” Compared to the U.S, in Germany the figures stack up even higher, with pirates buying nearly three times as much digital music as the legal downloaders, the study found.

While peer-to-peer sharing of files is the most prevalent form of illegally acquiring music files, in the U.S., according to the survey, 29 percent of those under 30 listen to most of all of their music via streaming services. However, only 11 percent of those have a paid subscription, which would indicate that music streaming services play a similar role to pirated music: try before you buy.

A satirical comment on the antipiracy effort.

Although studies indicated that music sharing can actually lead to more sales, the music industry has been trying to curb this behavior with internet-based enforcement proposals, or cracking down on cyberlocker sites ( latest example being Megaupload). This doesn’t deter copying, but is likely to increase as people shift toward less exposed forms of exchange.

“And that’s a problem,” Joe Karaganis explained. “There is ultimately no solution to copy culture that does not lead toward a wider war on general-purpose computing–a lockdown of personal computing. If absolute spending is the metric, then P2P users value music more highly than their non-P2P using, digital collecting peers, not less. They’re better digital consumers.”

However, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) believes that such piracy is a big problem. It says on its website that “although use of peer-to-peer sites has flattened during recent years, other forms of digital theft are emerging, most notably digital storage lockers used to distribute copyrighted music.”

“While downloading one song may not feel that serious of a crime, the accumulative impact of millions of songs downloaded illegally – and without any compensation to all the people who helped to create that song and bring it to fans—is devastating,” the association claims.

This story, "Pirates buy more music than legal downloaders, study shows" was originally published by TechHive.

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