Why Are Studies About Internet Piracy So Contradictory and Confusing?

Great question, especially after last night’s episode of The Simpsons.  This is from The Daily Dot.

Trying to figure out who’s telling the truth in the finger-pointing world of Internet piracy studies was a mess before we took note of who was actually paying for the research.Just look at these headlines, all published in just the past few years: Illegal downloading  is killing Hollywood, says an article syndicated by Reuters. Piracy is killing the music industry, say a bunch of big-name musicians. Piracy doesn’t actually hurt the music industry, says the Washington Post. Piracy is helping the entertainment industry, says Business Insider.

The debate over media piracy is neverending. There are a thousand different studies out there, each of which seems to prove any one nuanced point that industry lobbyists or “copyfighting” freedom activists care to make.

Research exists to support each of these claims, and every claim in between. Every one of these studies gets significant press coverage, but there’s rarely any attempt to resolve their competing conclusions. So I decided to look just a little closer at this heap of studies, searching for a pattern.

I found just one: If a study was funded by a company that produces online content—even if it was conducted by outside academics—it would find a correlation between digital piracy and lost sales. If there wasn’t that funding involved, it usually didn’t.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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