Does "Piracy" Explain Music Sales Decline? Maybe Not

Music piracy does not harm the commercial music business, a new study by the London School of Economics and Political Science argues.

The evidence does not support claims about overall revenue reduction due to individual copyright infringement, the study claims.

Some will contest that claim, as there is no getting around the fact that recorded music sales, as have sales of video content in packaged good form, have declined.

The point is not so much that piracy “does not matter.” Perhaps the more important implication is that punitive measures against individual online copyright infringers does not have the impact claimed by some in the creative industries.

The study notes that concert revenue and now mobile contributed revenue is offsetting the decline in recorded music sales.

One needn’t endorse content piracy to believe that in a digital era, new forms of monetization already have arisen, though.

And though one might argue “piracy” accounts for the dramatic decline in sales of recorded music is “caused” by piracy, one might argue that what has driven the change is a preference for renting rather than owning.

In essence, both buying an iTunes song and listening to Pandora are forms of renting rather than owning music.

One might further claim that piracy is killing the print content business, but that business was in decline at least a decade before the Internet was commonly used by most people. And some now say consumer attitudes about owning real estate or automobiles also are changing. Piracy certainly is not involved there.

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