File-Sharing and Copyright


Oberholzer-Gee, F. & Strumpf, K. (2010). File-Sharing and Copyright. First Vienna Music Business Research Days, June 9-10, 2010. Vienna: International Association of Music Business Research. Retrieved June 22, 2010 from

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Type of work: Working Paper


Intellectual Property


file sharing, p2p


The advent of file sharing has considerably weakened effective copyright protection. Today, more than 60% of internet traffic consists of consumers sharing music, movies, books and games. Yet, despite the popularity of the new technology, file sharing has not undermined the incentives of authors to produce new works. We argue that the effect of file sharing has been muted for three reasons. (1) The cannibalization of sales that is due to file sharing is more modest than many observers assume. Empirical work suggests that in music, no more than 20% of the recent decline in sales is due to sharing. (2) File sharing increases the demand for complements to protected works, raising, for instance, the demand for concerts and concert prices. The sale of more expensive complements has added to artists’ incomes. (3) In many creative industries, monetary incentives play a reduced role in motivating authors to remain creative. Data on the supply of new works are consistent with the argument that file sharing did not discourage authors and publishers. Since the advent of file sharing, the production of music, books, and movies has increased sharply.