There's no case against file-sharing

New research states there is no proof that file-sharing has neither any negative, nor positive effects. A Viennese scientist performed a meta-study of 23 various studies concerning in order to discern if consumers substitute buying music by downloading a song using file-sharing software, or if file-sharing is a way of sampling music, leading to a later purchase. However, nothing certain could be said about the effects of file-sharing, due to the diverse methodologies and theoretical models employed in the 23 studies.

Fourteen studies claimed file-sharing had a detrimental effect, lowering sales by either four percent or 20 percent, depending on methodology. This would mean people substitute actual purchases of albums with copies, be they illicit or non-illicit, which depends on the legal situation in the country a consumer is living in.

Five studies declared people randomly downloading music using P2P clients had a positive effect. In the latter case, consumers simply download music to hear if they like the band and later buy an album. Youths and kids could display tendency not to buy much music due to limited budgets, however the older the consumer the higher the tendency to surf over to iTunes or Amazon or walk to HMV to buy the actual product, if the music is liked.

The remaining three studies stated file-sharing has no real and noticable effect on music purchases. File-sharing was seen to be statistically insignificant, the impact on sales was seen to be merely 0,7 percent.

One study sees a redistribution of purchases to the benefit of lesser-known underground artists, taking buyers away from pop stars. Another study claims there is a negative effect which record labels have to shoulder, yet the industry profits as a whole as demand for live concerts, ringtones and so on rises.

According to Professor Tschmuck, a conceptual framework is required which takes more things into account, in order to come to more viable conclusions, alongside quantative and qualitative methods of empirical research. Furthermore the current situation should be seen in its historical dimension.

Paradigms continuously shift, the advent of broadcasting in the 1920ies and of Rock ‘n Roll in the 1950ies led to revoutions which entirely shifted “the logics of production, distribution, and reception of music”.

Therefore, simple causalities do not work to understand the present developments in the music. In my understanding, thus, music file sharing is not the (single) cause of the digital revolution in the music industry but, rather, a by-product of altered consumer behavior in the age of digitalization”, states Tschmuck.

Tschmuck’s paper will hopefully put another damper on current legislation proposals being discussed at the European level, after England and France passed Digital Economy Bills which include repressive measures not fit for a democratic country within the EU and also ignore legal tradition.