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Michael Geist - Harvard Study Finds Weaker Copyright Protection Has Benefited Society



Dr. Michael Geist is the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa., harvard paper on file sharing
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Overall production figures for the creative industries appear to be consistent with this view that file sharing has not discouraged artists and publishers. While album sales have generally fallen since 2000, the number of albums being created has exploded. In 2000, 35,516 albums were released. Seven years later, 79,695 albums (including 25,159 digital albums) were published (Nielsen SoundScan, 2008). Even if file sharing were the reason that sales have fallen, the new technology does not appear to have exacted a toll on the quantity of music produced....

Similar trends can be seen in other creative industries. For example, the worldwide number of feature films produced each year has increased from 3,807 in 2003 to 4,989 in 2007 (Screen Digest, 2004 and 2008). Countries where film piracy is rampant have typically increased production. This is true in South Korea (80 to 124), India (877 to 1164), and China (140 to 402). During this period, U.S. feature film production has increased from 459 feature films in 2003 to 590 in 2007 (MPAA, 2007).
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As these results show, income from the sale of complements can more than compensate artists for any harm that file sharing might do to their primary activity. We are not aware of empirical work that has looked at these effects in industries other than music. But the potential of complements to provide ancillary income is certainly not unique to the music industry. In film, for instance, the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA) estimates that Hollywood derives $16 billion annually from sales of entertainment merchandise, a figure that exceeds the value of ticket sales (Film Encyclopedia, 2008).

The role of complements makes it necessary to adopt a broad view of markets when considering the impact of file sharing on the creative industries. Unfortunately, the popular press -- and a good number of policy experts -- often evaluate file sharing looking at a single product market. Analyzing trends in CD sales, for example, they conclude that piracy has wrecked havoc on the music business. This view confuses value creation and value capture. Record companies may find it more difficult to profitably sell CDs, but the broader industry is in a far better position. In fact, it is easy to make an argument that the business has grown considerably. Figure 7 shows spending on CDs, concerts and iPods. The decline in music sales -- they fell by 15% from 1997 to 2007 -- is the focus of much discussion. However, adding in concerts alone shows the industry has grown by 5% over this period. If we also consider the sale of iPods as a revenue stream, the industry is now 66% larger than in 1997.... Technological change will often lead to changes in relative prices and shifts in business opportunities. Focusing exclusively on traditional streams of revenue to arrive at a sense of how new technology changes welfare will typically be misleading.

Summary of study from:

Michael Geist - Harvard Study Finds Weaker Copyright Protection Has Benefited Society

PDF of study:

http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-132.pdf