The majority of research undertaken shows that overall unlicensed P2P file-sharing has a negative impact on recorded music sales. Unlicensed P2P file-sharing is also a major obstacle to a thriving digital music market as it does not reward artists, creators or investors in music. Like other forms of piracy, it provides unfair competition to an enormous range of legitimate sites and services that music consumers have access to across the world.
IFPI has noted the American Assembly’s Copy Culture Survey, undertaken with “support from a research award by Google”, which has been trailed in some media outlets and could lead to some misunderstandings. The report’s author, Joe Karaganis, writes that: “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.”
While previous studies have shown that some unlicensed P2P network users also pay for music, and a few are serious fans who pay a lot, they are far outnumbered by the bulk of unlicensed P2P network users who pay little or nothing for music. Research by The NPD Group during 2010 in the US found that just 35 per cent of P2P users also paid for music downloads. P2P users spent US$42 per year on music on average, compared with US$76 among those who paid to download and US$126 among those that paid to subscribe to a music service. The overall impact of P2P use on music purchasing is negative, despite a small proportion of P2P users spending a lot on music. That finding was corroborated by a study in Europe by Jupiter Research in 2009.
A more recent review of studies on the impact of piracy, Assessing the Academic Literature Regarding the Impact of Media Piracy on Sales, by Michael D. Smith and Rahul Telang of Carnegie Mellon University, concluded that the vast majority of these studies found that piracy harms media sales.