Harvard research "misguided": music piracy body

The Australian music industry's piracy investigations body has slammed new research on digital file sharing as "misguided", saying the survey fails to take into account the "property rights" of music owners.Released last Monday, the survey conducted by professors from Harvard Business School and the University of North Carolina concludes that "file sharing has no effect on the sale of popular CDs" according to statistics taken from the second half of 2002.

The Australian music industry's piracy investigations body has slammed new research on digital file sharing as "misguided", saying the survey fails to take into account the "property rights" of music owners.

Released last Monday, the survey conducted by professors from Harvard Business School and the University of North Carolina concludes that "file sharing has no effect on the sale of popular CDs" according to statistics taken from the second half of 2002.

Michael Speck, general manager of Australia's Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) unit, says the research does not "deal with the fact that this [the music files] are someone else's property".

Speck says the push by Sharman Networks -- owner of the popular file-sharing software Kazaa -- to circulate the research is a "desperate attempt to justify the stealing of other people's property", as the survey fails to acknowledge the illegal obtaining of music files.

"One critical flaw in the survey is that you can't compare the statistics of one person buying the product to those who are getting it for free," said Speck, adding "It doesn't matter what product it is, if your company is stealing it and giving it away, the legitimate vendors can't win."

According to the research, in its most "pessimistic specification", it takes approximately 5,000 music file downloads to reduce album sales by a single copy. The professors also claim that file sharing "primarily serves to increase the total consumption of music".

Yet, the research notes that the number of CDs shipped to the USA fell by 15 percent from 2000 to 2002, equating to around 140 million units. The drop followed the take-up of popular music file sharing after 1999, reaching more than half-a-billion shared files on the FastTrack and KaZaA systems alone in 2003.

However the researchers have indicated the "sales decline from 2000-2002 was not primarily due to file sharing," saying that while downloads increased during this period, most of the users in question "are likely individuals who would not have bought the album in the absence of file-sharing".

Sharman Networks has stated that they "welcome" the research, with Sharman chief executive officer Nikki Hemming saying "the findings certainly support the vision we've always held for Kazaa and crystallises our vision for the future of content distribution."

Hemming claims the record industry has refused to work with the company for nearly two years, saying it continues "its narrow minded strategy of litigation and legislation".