Digital pirates have long been the bane of the music business, those in the music business say. No longer interested in buying songs when they can get them for free, pirates are the reason behind the recording industry's falling revenue, the argument goes.
Turns out, it may be pirates who are keeping the music business alive.
According to a Columbia University study published this weekend, frequent users of peer-to-peer "piracy" networks in the U.S. legitimately purchase 30 percent more music than non-P2P users.
The study, called "Copy Culture In The US And Germany," also found a slew of other findings that might upset recording industry players. Top of the list? Internet users surveyed have a widespread dislike of current copyright enforcement practices, including bandwidth throttling, Internet access suspension and "criminal prosecution and fines."
TorrentFreak points out that the survey is merely one in a long list of studies that show pirating doesn't harm the music business, including a study showing that filesharers are more likely to buy physical CDs than non-sharers.
But as Timothy B. Lee of Ars Technica points out, pirates are not necessarily good for the industry just because they buy more music. "It's possible, for example, the most avid music fans are also the most likely to be drawn to peer-to-peer networks," he writes. "Perhaps without those networks they would have purchased even more music from legitimate services."
Even so, the music industry likely should not ignore the news that pirates are some of its best consumers -- and thus perhaps a bad demographic to alienate.
In recent years, organizations backed by the American recording industry have taken more steps to curb piracy, including asking Internet service providers to take action against pirates. In January, The Huffington Post reported that Verizon is considering slowing down the Internet of repeat pirating offenders, while Time Warner reserves the right to cut off Internet access "even for a single act of copyright infringement."