An influential 2007 academic paper that found a positive link between file sharing and CD purchases has been debunked after a professor from Australia has taken the same data set and come to an opposite conclusion.
As blogger and lawyer Barry Sookman explains, Professor George Barker of the College Of Law, Australian National University took the same data, corrected for "two fundamental errors" and found a "negative association between P2P downloading and CD demand." In terms of damages done, Barker estimates a 10% increase in P2P demand reduced CD demand around 0.4%.
The original 2007 paper's author, Danish academic Birgette Andersen, issued a revision in 2010 that claimed file sharing is not to blame for the drop in CD sales.
Barkers' study will probably fall on many deaf ears. Both P2P supporters and opponents selectively tune into those academic studies that match their views on public policy. Nevertheless, the correction is important. As Sookman implies by noting the Anderson study's reference during Canada's Legislative Summary of the Bill C-11 to amend to Copyright Act -- bad research can result in bad policy.
And as for the policies of tomorrow, it appears they are likely to be informed by academic research that shows a near consensus on the harm file sharing has brought to the recording industry. The obvious answer has been staring people in the face for over a decade. Now most of the research agrees.
Barker's conclusion jibes with that of economist Stanley Liebowitz after he looked at studied that predated even that of Andersen. "This conclusion, preliminary though it might be, should not be much of a surprise," Liebowitz wrote in a 2006 paper. "Common sense is, or should be, the handmaiden of economic analysis. When given the choice of free and convenient high-quality copies versus purchased originals, is it really a surprise that a significant number of individuals will choose to substitute the free copy for the purchase?"
Case closed, right? Not exactly. By just about any measure piracy is as popular as ever. Anti-piracy efforts continue in the U.S. and have been codified into law in South Korea, New Zealand and - where the laws are now under attack - France. All those anti-piracy efforts combat downloading rather than streaming. Although legal streaming has taken off beautifully in recent years (witness the growth of Vevo, Spotify, Deezer and Muve Music), illegal streaming abounds, too. Soon-to-be old anti-piracy laws will need to be updated and they'll need a new set of academic research on the impacts of illegal streaming.