Dutch Government: Net Effect of P2P Use is Positive
Excerpted from Ars Technica Report by Iljitsch van Beijnum
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs commissioned a study by research company TNO about how much Dutch Internet users download music, movies, and games, and what the social and economic effects of this downloading are. This resulted in a 142-page report that differentiates between paid and unpaid downloads and talks about file sharing.
According to the report, an estimated 1.5 billion to 2 billion songs are downloaded unpaid each year, which would be 7.5 songs for every song sold as a download or on CD. 35% of the Dutch population has downloaded music without paying for it, according to the study.
The report recognizes that for music, there is an important "sampling" effect where unpaid downloads are used to sample music, some of which is subsequently bought. On the other hand, the rates for buying content that was previously downloaded without authorization are rather low: the majority only does this a few times a year, in equal amounts for music, movies, and games.
On page 116, the report starts to dissect the societal effects of file sharing. The study concludes that the effects are strongly positive because consumers get to enjoy desirable content and also get to keep their cash to buy other things.
Because the consumers save much more money than the producers lose, the net economic effects are positive. The report also reinforces the truth that unpaid downloads do not translate into lost sales in anything close to a one-to-one ratio.
The report makes a number of recommendations that file sharers will be able to live with, such as supporting the development of new economic models for rights holders, not criminalizing file sharing for personal use, and so on.
The music industry especially has laid the blame for the years-long decline in revenues at the feet of online infringement, even though its own slowness to adapt to changing customer expectations and adopt new business in response is a major factor.