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March 28, 2005
The revenge of Sapir-Whorf
One of the things the Cartel has most successfully done in this war is control the language, reporting, and thought around P2P music sharing.
One side effect of this is that there has been an almost complete shut-out of mainstream reporting on real research in the area. Why? I believe it's because every study that has been done since Napster has shown that music sharing has no negative effects on music sales (CD or downloaded). In fact, some show a positive effect. If that message got into the public consciousness the Cartel would be much worse off. Therefore, they've done all they can to frame the debate in terms of their scares, not science. So we have the scene - surely worthy of Beckett - in which a certified class of 27,000 songwriters and music publishers will argue against Grokster, as Tony Mauro put it on law.com "casting it as a life-or-death struggle over theft of their means of livelihood."
There's just one eensy weensy problem here - NOBODY's livelihood is being stolen. It's just not happening. There were no WMD in Iraq, there was no cocaine on that boat (*), and music sharing does not cost artists money.
How do we know this? Well, we do studies. Like, for example, the just-published Japanese study by Keio Universtity Economics professor Tatsuo Tanaka, who looked at the P2P application "Winny" and its effect on Japanese music consumers. Prof. Tanaka's original study is reported on here (Japanese HTML), but fortunately for people like me there's an English translation (17 page PDF).
In addition to a lack of negative effects, the study argues, there is evidence for a positive correlation between sharing music and purchasing more new music. Not terribly surprising, if you've been paying attention over the last half dozen years and not been deafened by the drums of the other side. Sadly, just about nobody has been paying attention. We've been soundly defeated in the propaganda war. Here's hoping Tuesday goes better.
(*) The Usual Suspects reference, in case you were wondering
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