Illegal Music Downloading Effects


The music industry sees illegal music downloading as a big problem. In recent years the industry has pushed for stricter copyright laws and harsh punishments for music pirates. Studies, however, are divided as to whether illegal downloading decreases legal sales much.

Decreased Sales

  • In 2002, 803 million CDs were sold. This was 80 million fewer CDs than 2001 and raised fears in the recording industry about the effects of illegal downloading.


  • A 2001 study by Peinz and Waelbroeck concluded that illegal downloading decreased legal music sales by 20 percent from 1998 to 2002. A 2007 study by Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf, however, found that illegal downloading decreases sales by only 0.7 percent.


  • A correlation between decreased CD sales and illegal music downloading does not mean that one caused the other. Alternate explanations include increased sales of DVDs, computer games and other entertainment and the availability of legal MP3 downloads of singles rather than entire albums.


  • Illegal downloading may be a benefit to the music industry because it increases exposure, especially for lesser-known artists.

Legal Consequences

  • The consequences for music pirates can be severe. In July 2009, a downloader was ordered to pay $675,000 to the RIAA for the illegal sharing of 30 songs.

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