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April 12, 2004
Felten's Grand Unified Theory of File-Sharing
Ed Felten has posted his attempt at synthesizing the supposedly contradictory studies on how file-sharing affects CD sales:
The Grand Unified Theory explains the study results by breaking down the users of filesharing into two subpopulations, which I will call Free-riders and Samplers.
Free-riders are generally young. They have few if any moral qualms about filesharing, and they tend to assume that others feel the same way. They use filesharing to accumulate libraries of music, as an alternative to buying CDs.
Samplers are generally older and more risk-averse. They are highly engaged with cultural products of all sorts. They are morally conflicted about filesharing, and use it mostly to download songs that either aren't for sale, or that they don't value enough to pay for. They buy music that they really like, and filesharing causes them to find more music they like, so it tends to increase their CD purchases.
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