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The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis

  • Felix Oberholzer-Gee
  • Koleman Strumpf
Registered author(s):

    For industries ranging from software to pharmaceuticals and entertainment, there is an intense debate about the appropriate level of protection for intellectual property. The Internet provides a natural crucible to assess the implications of reduced protection because it drastically lowers the cost of copying information. In this paper, we analyze whether file sharing has reduced the legal sales of music. While this question is receiving considerable attention in academia, industry, and Congress, we are the first to study the phenomenon employing data on actual downloads of music files. We match an extensive sample of downloads to U.S. sales data for a large number of albums. To establish causality, we instrument for downloads using data on international school holidays. Downloads have an effect on sales that is statistically indistinguishable from zero. Our estimates are inconsistent with claims that file sharing is the primary reason for the decline in music sales during our study period.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/511995
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    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

    Volume (Year): 115 (2007)
    Issue (Month): ()
    Pages: 1-42

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:115:y:2007:p:1-42
    DOI: 10.1086/511995
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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    1. Rob, Rafael & Waldfogel, Joel, 2006. "Piracy on the High C's: Music Downloading, Sales Displacement, and Social Welfare in a Sample of College Students," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 29-62, April.
    2. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
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    4. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
    5. Zentner, Alejandro, 2006. "Measuring the Effect of File Sharing on Music Purchases," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 63-90, April.
    6. Takeyama, Lisa N, 1994. "The Welfare Implications of Unauthorized Reproduction of Intellectual Property in the Presence of Demand Network Externalities," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(2), pages 155-66, June.
    7. Varian, Hal R, 2000. "Buying, Sharing and Renting Information Goods," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(4), pages 473-88, December.
    8. Richard A. Posner, 2005. "Intellectual Property: The Law and Economics Approach," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 57-73, Spring.
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