License to Steal?
By Richard Morin
Sunday, June 27, 2004; Page B05
"There's no minimizing the impact
of illegal file-sharing. It robs songwriters and recording artists
of their livelihoods, and ultimately undermines the future of music
-- Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association
of America, in an op-ed piece
last year in USA Today
"It's called stealing."
-- Lars Ulrich, drummer for Metallica, testifying before Congress
in 2000 about music file-swapping
on the Internet
Your Unconventional Wiz stands second to no one in the belief that Metallica Rules! But it's my duty to report the findings of a new study that suggest that Ulrich, who led the fight to close down the Napster file-sharing service, music association exec Sherman and a small army of music millionaires are probably wrong when they predict dire consequences from the ubiquitous practice of downloading music for free from the Internet.
Downloading music has no appreciable impact on CD sales, assert economists Felix Oberholzer-Gee of the Harvard Business School and Koleman S. Strumpf of the University of North Carolina in a paper presented last month at a conference in Cambridge, Mass., sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research. (It may be the only scholarly paper that formally acknowledges "aural support" from the music groups Massive Attack, Sigur Ros and the Mountain Goats. "Of course, we bought the CDs" and didn't swipe them off the Net, Oberholzer assured us.)
If anything, the two scholars claim, downloading tunes may actually increase sales of popular CDs and more broadly benefit the music industry by introducing listeners to music they would not otherwise hear or buy.
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