Studies on file sharing

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Evaluation of the effects of the HADOPI law

University of Delaware and Université de Rennes - 2014 - Graduated Response Policy and the Behavior of Digital Pirates: Evidence from the French Three-Strike (Hadopi) Law

Most developed countries have tried to restrain digital piracy by strengthening laws against copyright infringement. In 2009, France implemented the Hadopi law. Under this law individuals receive a warning the first two times they are detected illegally sharing content through peer to peer (P2P) networks. Legal action is only taken when a third violation is detected. We analyze the impact of this law on individual behavior. Our theoretical model of illegal behavior under a graduated response law predicts that the perceived probability of detection has no impact on the decision to initially engage in digital piracy, but may reduce the intensity of illegal file sharing by those who do pirate. We test the theory using survey data from French Internet users. Our econometric results indicate that the law has no substantial deterrent effect. In addition, we find evidence that individuals who are better informed about the law and piracy alternatives substitute away from monitored P2P networks and illegally access content through unmonitored channels.

M@rsouin - 2010 - Evaluation of the effects of the HADOPI law (FR)

This study from the M@rsouin laboratory, whose goal was to realize a premilinary evaluation of the effects of the Hadopi law on the practices of French Internet users, reveals that:

  • Barely 15% of the Internet users who used Peer-to-peer networks before the adoption of the Hadopi law, permanently stopped to do so since.
  • Among these ex-downloaders, only one third gave up any form of digital illegal downloading, whereas the other 2/3 turned towards alternative practices of illegal downloading, that are beyond the Hadopi law, such as illegal streaming (allostreaming,…) or downloading from file hosting sites (megaupload, Rapidshare,…).
  • Although the number of Internet users going frequently on Peer-to-peer networks decreased, the number of "digital pirates" has slightly increased since the Hadopi law was voted.
  • Among the Internet users who still continue to download from Peer-to-peer networks, 25% of them declared that they have changed their illegal downloading habits since the Hadopi law was voted.
  • Finally, the "digital pirates" turn out to be, in half of the cases, also digital consumers (purchase of music and video on the Internet). Cutting the Internet connection for Peer-to-Peer networks users could decrease the size of the digital cultural content market by 27%. An extension of the Hadopi law to all kind of illegal downloading would potentially exclude half of digital cultural content consumers from the market.

People who share files are people who spend most on culture

Munich School of Management and Copenhagen Business School - Piracy and Movie Revenues: Evidence from Megaupload

Abstract: In this paper we make use of a quasi-experiment in the market for illegal downloading to study movie box office revenues. Exogenous variation comes from the unexpected shutdown of the popular file hosting platform on January 19, 2012. The estimation strategy is based on a quasi difference-in-differences approach. We compare box office revenues before and after the shutdown to a matched control group of movies unaffected by the shutdown.

We find that the shutdown had a negative, yet insignificant effect on box office revenues.This counterintuitive result may suggest support for the theoretical perspective of (social) network effects where file-sharing acts as a mechanism to spread information about a good from consumers with zero or low willingness to pay to users with high willingness to pay.

The American Assembly (Collumbia University) - Copy Culture in the USA and Germany

  • 2012/10 - This study in the United States and Germany reveals that file-sharers buy 30% more music than their non-sharing counterparts:

US P2P users have larger collections than non-P2P users (roughly 37% more). And predictably, most of the difference comes from higher levels of "downloading for free" and "copying from friends/family." But some of it also comes from significantly higher legal purchases of digital music than their non-P2P using peers–around 30% higher among US P2P users. Our data is quite clear on this point and lines up with numerous other studies: The biggest music pirates are also the biggest spenders on recorded music. Our German results appear to confirm this finding–in fact, extravagantly so. German P2P users buy nearly 3 times as much digital music as their non-P2P using peers.

GFK (Society for Consumer Research) - Disappointed commissioner suppresses study showing pirates are cinema's best consumers

  • 2011/07 - A study commissioned to German Society for Consumer Research GFK concluded that those who share video files online treat it as a “try before you buy” service, and buy more DVDs and go to see films more often and spend more on average than the people who don't engage in file-sharing. Unfortunately, it is not possible to read the study as of now, the findings of the study being so contradictory to what the company which commissioned it was expecting that it has been put away in the “poison cupboard”. Source (en), source (de).

HADOPI - 2011 - January 2011 study on online cultural practices (FR)

  • During the MIDEM, HADOPI presented its own study showing that people who download the most are those are the cultural industries' best customers (see p. 45).

Long version (FR), short version (FR), English version.

University of Amsterdam - 2010 - Economic and cultural effects of unlawful file sharing

  • May 2010 - A new study by the University of Amsterdam claims that unlawful file sharing by broadband ISP customers appears to be considerably less harmful than Rights Holders maintain and could even be beneficial to music, film and video game sales.

BBC - 2009 - "Pirates" spend more on music (EN)

  • 02 November 2009 A report by BBC news cites the results of a survey about piracy among more than 1000 people commissioned by Demos researchers. This online poll has found that people who admit downloading music through illegal file-sharing spend nearly twice as much as those who claim they do not and that current price of music files is far higher than what customers are willing to pay. Websites (including peer-to-peer systems and streaming services) visited by music listeners are also explored.

IPSOS Germany - 2009 - Filesharers are better "consumers" of culture (FR)

  • October 2009 - A study realized between January and March 2009 in 12 countries among 6500 Internet users by IPSOS Allemagne shows that French Internet users are not the World Champions of illegal downloading. This study also shows that in Germany "filesharers are better "consumers" of culture than the German Internet users who don't download illegally. Sources: 21/09/2009 21/09/2009 22/09/2009

Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc. - 2009 - P2P / Best consumers for Hollywood (EN)

Business School of Norway - 2009 - Those who share music spend ten times more money on music (NO)

  • A study conducted in 2008 by the Norwegian School of Management BI cited by ars technica on April 20th, 2009 shows that "the people who share music spend ten times more money on music than those who don't share for free".

Annelies Huygen, et al. (Dutch government investigation) - 2009 - Ups and downs – Economische en culturele gevolgen van file sharing voor muziek, film en games

  • "Commissioned by the Dutch government, a recently published report concludes That file-sharing has a positive effect on the economy, both on the long and short term. A massive 30% of the Dutch population uses file-sharing software to download music, games, movies and other forms of entertainment, Which Is Considered now to be a 'good thing'."

TorrentFreak: Economy Profits From File-Sharing, Report Concludes

M@rsouin - 2008 - P2P / buy more DVDs (FR)

  • This note realized by M@rsouin presents the principal results of a survey on video consumption (or on audiovisual content consumption in general) on the Internet. We'll take a particular look to the statistic vision of online video consumption. The conclusion of this study: "Those who download videos on P2P networks, also are those who buy more DVDs."

Canadian Department of Industry - 2007 - P2P / achètent plus de musique (FR)

  • This study commissioned by the Canadian Department of Industry in 2006-2007 finds "no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file-sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole" but that, on the contrary, "among Canadians actually engaged in it, P2P file-sharing increases CD purchasing"

Felix Oberholzer-Gee (above) and Koleman Strumpf - 2004 -File sharing may boost CD sales

  • "This is where we can not document any relationship between file sharing and Subsequent sales," says Oberholzer-Gee, calling the effect "statistically indistinguishable from zero."

Article by By Beth Potier

Economical effects of filesharing

European Commission – Estimating displacement rates of copyrighted content in the EU – May 2015

From Julia Reda:

In January 2014, the European Commission awarded the Dutch company Ecorys a contract worth €360.000 to conduct a study on the question. The 300-page study was delivered to the Commission in May 2015, but was never published. Until today – I have managed to get access to a copy: Estimating displacement rates of copyrighted content in the EU. The study’s conclusion: With the exception of recently released blockbusters, there is no evidence to support the idea that online copyright infringement displaces sales.

From the conclusion of the study:

«In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films. The results show a displacement rate of 40 per cent which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally. People do not watch many recent top films a second time but if it happens, displacement is lower: two legal consumptions are displaced by every ten illegal second views. This suggests that the displacement rate for older films is lower than the 40 per cent for recent top films. All in all, the estimated loss for recent top films is 5 per cent of current sales volumes.»

University of Kansas School of Business - Using Markets to Measure the Impact of File Sharing on Movie Revenues - July 2014

File sharing provides a useful laboratory for investigating the economic importance of intellectual property protection. There are two main empirical challenges: overcoming the non-random timing of the arrival date of illicit copies and dealing with low statistical power due to limited sample size. This paper uses markets to address these issues in the context of movies. I show forward-looking markets can be used to establish the unobserved counter-factual of how movie revenues would change on any possible file sharing release date, particularly those prior to the theatrical premier. Using movie-level tracking stocks in conjunction with the arrival date of illicit copies, I find that file sharing has only a modest impact on box office revenue.

Tulane University School of Law - Empirical Copyright: A Case Study of File Sharing and Music Output - December 2013

New research published by Tulane University Law Professor Glynn Lunney shows that online piracy is linked to the creation of more hit music. The increase in output can be attributed to existing artists, who make up for a decline in new hits from newcomers. This counter-intuitive finding suggests that file-sharing advances the core purpose of copyright, and that it should be permitted under copyright law.

See also: -

The London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE MPP Policy Brief 9 Copyright and Creation, September 2013

The London School of Economics and Political Science has released a new policy brief urging the UK Government to look beyond the lobbying efforts of the entertainment industry when it comes to future copyright policy. According to the report there is ample evidence that file-sharing is helping, rather than hurting the creative industries. The scholars call on the Government to look at more objective data when deciding on future copyright enforcement policies.


The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (which is part of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre), Digital Music Consumption on the Internet: Evidence from Clickstream Data, April 2013

“It seems that the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them,”

“The complementary effect of online streaming is found to be somewhat larger, suggesting a stimulating effect of this activity on the sales of digital music,”

“Taken at face value, our findings indicate that digital music piracy does not displace legal music purchases in digital format. This means that although there is trespassing of private property rights, there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues,”

“From that perspective, our findings suggest that digital music piracy should not be viewed as a growing concern for copyright holders in the digital era. In addition, our results indicate that new music consumption channels such as online streaming positively affect copyrights owners.”

Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf, File-Sharing and Copyright, National Bureau of Economic Research Series, February 2010,

"As our survey indicates, the empirical evidence on sales displacement is mixed. While some studies find evidence of a substitution effect, other findings, in particular the papers using actual file-sharing data, suggest that piracy and music sales are largely unrelated. In contrast, there is clear evidence that income from complements has risen in recent years. For example, concert sales have increased more than music sales have fallen. Similarly, a fraction of consumer electronics purchases and internet-related expenditures are due to file sharing. Unfortunately, we know little about the distribution of these impacts."

U.S. Government Accountability Office - 2010 - Intellectual Property: Observations on Efforts to Quantify the Economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods (EN)

  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report in April 2010, as directed by the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (PRO-IP Act), about the quantification of the impacts of counterfeit and pirated goods. This report shows that "some experts and literature also identified some potential positive effects of counterfeiting and piracy" and that "three widely cited U.S. government estimates of economic losses resulting from counterfeiting cannot be substantiated due to the absence of underlying studies."

Dutch government - 2009 - Illegal downloading = Positive effect (NL)

  • A new report (2009) commissioned by the Dutch government, about the economical and cultural consequences of filesharing on music, film and video games industries concludes that illegal downloading has a positive global effect on the economy. - 2005 - P2P = Balance between small and big actors of the music market (EN)

  • This article from explains that a balance between small and big actors of the music market is already being reached thanks to P2P networks.

D.Blackburn - 2004 - "Small" sales are not affected by downloading (EN)

  • This tendancy seems to be confirmed by a 2004 study of D. Blackburn, Ph.d. student of Harvard On-line piracy and Recorded Music Sales. This study, although it doesn't take into account the rise of CD sales in the US for 2004 (after the prices were slightly lowered), is quite acurate on the dynamic of CD sales. A figure page 32 is quite explicit on the fact that the 75% "smaller" artists on the sales scale would absolutely not be affected by downloading, and only the 25% more sold could potentiallt suffer from it.

UFC-Que Choisir - 2005 - Null impact of copy on purchasing behaviour (FR)

Harvard Business School - 2004 - Effect of sharing on discs sales (EN)

  • These results seem to confirm those from this 2004 study of the Harvard Business School, "The effect of file sharing on record sales - An empirical analysis", that has been criticised since, because it only compared downloading in a given week, with the CD sales data of that same week. Other studies are more pessimistic: the one done in 2003 by the FNAC (if someone can find a link to this study...) based on interviews of many actors of the music industry, shows that on the 15% fall of the French market in 2003, P2P would only be responsible for 2 or 3 of them.

Éric Boorstin - 2004 - P2P = Different impact according to age / Reasons for fall of CD sales (EN)

  • The Economics M.A. of Eric Boorstin, Princeton University, "Music Sales in the Age of File Sharing" pushes the analysis very far. It concludes that peer to peer would have a negative impact on younger people when it comes to buying CDs, but in the other hand it would have a positive impact on older people, and that both effects put together could result in a neutral effect, if not positive. E. Boorstin also gives many figures of discs sales (it's intersting to notice how the turnover doubled between 1983 and 1993 for instance, as well as the life cycles of the different media.) and states the different causes that might be at the origin of the recent fall of CD sales: end of the CD as a medium, last sales of audio tapes, news social habits, artistic choices of the majors less and less risky,...

OECD - 2004 - Hard-to-establish cost of illegal file-sharing (FR)

  • A report from the OECD in November 2005, "Broadband digital content : Music" sets a very complete picture of the history of the music industry, its economic models, the place of the Internet and peer-to-peer.
    «"Downloading music through P2P networks does not compulsorily lead every user to choose this method over another way of consumption. It is therefore difficult to measure "the cost of illegal file-sharing". This difficulty is mirrored in the results of studies on this subject and in the appreciations of these studies (low answer rates, flaws in the conception of the studies, problems of model definition for empirical works...) Some studies show that unauthorized file-sharing has a negative impact on music sales, but others show that it has a positive effect ; and some others conclude that it has a null impact. According to some people, users substitue legal purchase to downloading, which lower sales, but others argue that file-sharing allows to discover new musics before buying them.. Most studies confirm that both these phenomenons happen in the same time depending on the users : unauthorized file-sharing leads some people to increase their consumption and others to decrease it."

Pew Internet and American Life Project - 2004 - Artists views on illegal downloading (EN)

  • Concerning the connection of artists (at least those who are not influenced by their producers) to information technologies, a study of Pew Internet and American Life Project, called "Artists, Musicians, and the Internet", shows that 3% of the polled artists over 2755 think that "the Internet would make it difficult to protect their art against illegal donwloading ou non authorized uses", against 79% who think that it would have no effect (see p.24 of the study). However, they are many to see distribution through the Internet as an other source of opportunities, of promotion, and even of remuneration.

Julie Holland Mortimer, Chris Nosko and Alan Sorensen - October 2010 - Supply Responses to Digital Distribution: Recorded Music and Live Performances

While file-sharing may have substantially displaced album sales, it also facilitated a broader distribution of music, which appears to have expanded awareness of smaller artists and increased demand for their live concert performances. [...] Changes in technologies for reproducing and redistributing digital goods (e.g., music, movies, software, books) have dramatically affected profitability of these goods, and raised concerns for future development of socially valuable digital products. However, broader illegitimate distribution of digital goods may have offsetting demand implications for legitimate sales of complementary non-digital products. We examine the negative impact of file-sharing on recorded music sales and offsetting implications for live concert performances. We find that file-sharing reduces album sales but increases live performance revenues for small artists, perhaps through increased awareness. The impact on live performance revenues for large, well-known artists is negligible.

Testing the Lost Sale Concept in the Context of Unauthorized BitTorrent Downloads of CAM Copies of Theatrical Releases ; Marc R. Milot ; APAS Laboratory

This study investigated the concept of lost sales at the box office related to the unauthorized downloading of CAM copies of widely released movies at a popular BitTorrent website. The findings of this study are the first to support using behavioural (versus self-reported) data the commonly held notion that pirates at BitTorrent websites download copies of a number of movies that they would likely not have otherwise viewed in theatres, thereby representing downloads with a reduced probability of equating to lost ticket sales. It is important to note however that these findings do not imply that the unauthorized downloading of CAM movies has no important effects on the box office sales of individual movies, but serve to caution against the use of download statistics in calculations of losses to avoid overestimations.

Adapting to new technologies

OECD - 2004 - Commercial applications thanks to technologies (EN)

  • This OECD study "Peer to Peer Networks in OECD Countries", especially based on the measurement of the number of P2P users in different countries, and other factual measurements (numbers of sharing users, evolution of this number...), seems quite objective. Although it stays neutral on the impact that P2P could have on the music industry "crisis", this study outlines many commercial applications made possible through these technologies.

Marc Bourreau et Benjamin Labarthe-Piol - 2004 - Weeping of the music industry (FR)

  • At least, in order to take a little bit of perspective about the weeping of the music industry, a wonderful job of Marc Bourreau (Economist, lecturer à ENST, , Département EGSH / Department of Economics et CREST-LEI) and Benjamin Labarthe-Piol, "Peer-to-peer and the music industry crisis: a historical perspective" shows that since its creation and on many occasions, the music industry has been yelling that "XXXXX is going to kill the music industry" (replace XXXXX by "music on the radio", "audio tape", and so on...). The study explains that if the industry is still here, it is because after a certain amount of time it always manages to adapt to technological innovations.

Others documents

Cybernorms Research Group - 2013 - The Survey Bay, a searchable database covering the Pirate Bay community

In 2011 we at the Cybernorms Research Group decided to try an interesting way to deeper understand the file-sharing community. In cooperation with The Pirate Bay they did a study called “The Research Bay” targeting their user-base.

The study

Impact of IPR

2009/06 DanChurchAid - Intellectual Property Rights: Blocking an equitable solution to the climate crisis

"Although stronger IPR protection may have some beneficial effects on technology transfer, investment experience andinnovation in middle-income and larger developing countries, there is no evidence of Such positive effects inthe poorest countries. On the Contrary, the Evidence Suggests That it may even have negative effects onresearch and innovation. This may hamper the development and deployment of locally adapted technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation. "

The Study

2004 James Bessen and Eric Maskin - Intellectual Propertyon the Internet: What's Wrong with Conventional Wisdom?

"The Internet In particular is a highly interactive environment with sequential innovation, and Attempts to impose new intellectual property protections or to Extend existing protections on the Internet may ask Inappropriate Because They Fail to Consider the value of creative imitation."

The Study



Jean Cedras' report (in French) on graduated response, hushed up by Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres' advisers when he was Minister of Culture.